Somewhere around Final Fantasy XIII-2's seventh or eighth final battle -- there are so many of them, it's hard to keep track -- I had to save the game and quit playing for the afternoon..
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Uh oh Tom be ready for fanboy invasion from Metacritic.
I'm sorry to see you didn't ultimately like 13-2 that much, Tom! I've basically loved it -- up until the final dungeon, at least. It does look cool, but the central mechanic is a bafflingly frustrating design decision.
I think the pacing issues you mention must be a response to the criticism of FF13, which was a very deliberate game. It's easy to see that Square-Enix decided everything needed to be front-loaded; indeed, I've only clocked about 25 hours to get to the final dungeon, versus about 70 for FF13. I'd say this is another point of comparison to Pokemon, a series whose real substance lies in the post-game, though I can't say for sure how FF13-2 might hold up in that regard just yet.
While I also noticed the disparity between party members on skills, I really kind of like it. I like deciding how to compensate for Serah's lack of Cura and Noel's generally poor magic. It's frustrating, at times -- I seem to have gone most of the game without a really solid Medic -- but I enjoy that your success in the game is mostly determined by your preparation, particularly as the game has moved so much closer to real-time.
I don't know where I put 13 and 13-2 into the quality spectrum of Final Fantasy games, but I'm really glad they took a chance with this combat system and even gave it a follow-up. That said, I hope they return to the more traditional turn-based system in the future.
I actually found that once I made sure to always have a strong medic along, the challenge level dropped precipitously. I feel there's a real balance issue here. I sometimes switched over to a synergist to buff my party, but I mostly just kept the medic on deck and powered easily through encounter after encounter with a ravager/commando combo for the main characters. And I never once used the debuff class. I don't even remember what it was called. Chaoser? Debaser? Wait, no, that's a Pixies song.
Did you try any of those clock puzzles? Good lord, what an awful thing to do to the player, although I seem to recall it was optional. I actually googled my way through that horrible bit of gameplay, and ended up using an online calculator where I couldn't read any of the text because it was in Japanese. Eff you, Final Fantasy XIII-2 for putting me through that ordeal! :)
this mirrors my sentiments to a tee, and therefore, i *approve* of this review.
This reflects my experience with the other entries in the series which I've devoted any substantial time to - namely, that interest drops precipitously at the end. Knowing I won't care enough to finish the game by the time I get to the final boss(es) is for me as integral to the "feel" of the series as having a character named Cid.
Final Fantasy XIII players should be so lucky as to have a character named Cid. We get Lightning, Snow, Fang, and Hope.
Tom, please try to play FF12 when you get a chance. I really feel that will tip you over the edge for JRPG'ing. It's 3 bucks on Amazon!
I liked the clock puzzles, if only because they made me start thinking about math. The clock puzzle can be transformed into a problem in combinatorial geometry, and since the puzzles seemed to be randomly generated, it made me wonder about how the puzzles were generated and whether or not there's a good algorithm for solving them. (It's a version of a computationally difficult problem called the Hamiltonian cycle problem.) I did groan when I saw the third set of puzzles had 12 numbers on them, though.
I couldn't agree more with you about the balance issues, though I seem to remember FF13 making more use of the buff/debuff classes for some of the side content. I hope so, anyway! If that was the intent -- an easy main story, then a bunch of extra content at a higher difficulty -- I kind of appreciate it, but it's just too bad that they blew it before they got you to the good stuff. (I agree about the Wild Artefact stuff you mentioned on the podcast -- it might have been a stopping point for me, too, if you hadn't mentioned it.)
Wait a minute, are you defending RPGs having combinatorial geometry, whatever that is, in them? I'm pretty sure I hate you.
There's Xenoblade Chronicles too, which has the added advantage that it hasn't yet come out in the USA, so reviewing it is still relevant.
I will defend whatever gives me something to think about during the World's Longest Meeting. :(
How dare you, sir? Ha! That's a good point. Is that only through GameStop Pre-order or some such crap? Man, I dislike giving them money.
I disagree, Len. I enjoyed my time with FF12, but I felt that the amount of combat grind did damage to the pacing of the game, and I'm sure that's only gotten worse with age.
I do kinda wish you had played some FFXIII. The combat system there is very engaging because even the standard fights could be hard. Even common enemies could be quite difficult to stagger which required you to be incredibly active as you construct and juggle your paradigms. It sounds like they've softened the difficulty in XIII-2 to the point that it blunts the system's impact.
heres the problem with this review. I haven't played a single JRPG that wasn't tedious thats the pull to the genre. Grinding and more grinding then even more grinding. If you don't like that you shouldn't be reviewing a game like this. You won't like it and your review will make it look like your confused as to why a game would be that way. The thing is while not great FFXIII-2 is a good JRPG and fits that genre to a tee and your expectations for the game to be something else aren't at the core design of the game and frankly never will be in a Final Fantasy game.
PS: you really missed out on a lot of depth with the character progression aspect of the game. Leveling up roles randomly will make your characters weaker. There are specific ways to increase bonuses that they don't tell you about intentionally to make people think and maybe play through it once or twice. IF you go through it again, pay attention to the large and small nodes and what roles you level on each node
I don't think reviews should be limited to fans of a genre. I like RPGs. I have even liked some JRPGs. I, at times, quite liked FFXIII-2.
What makes you think I leveled up my characters randomly? I maxed out Serah as a Ravager and Noel as a Commando. From there, I added Commando and buffer, respectively. From there, I added Sentinel and Medic. I got the class bonuses, extra accessory capcity, and maxxed out ATBs. There was nothing random about it. So what depth did I miss?
Yeah, there's almost no challenge in XIII-2 once you figure out the basic system. I wonder if that was also a reaction to complaints about XIII.
Oh man, Tom, DON'T play FF12 if you respect yourself.
It's an offline MMORPG in every sense of the word, where the challenge comes entirely from fiddling with script commands (that you must buy or discover) between battles; you don't even get the "choice" of swapping things out mid battle.
Pay no attention to those who laud the plot. It is a jumbled shot for recreation of Star Wars squeezed through the JRPG filter. I stopped playing when the rogue for hire and his non-human co-pilot were betrayed and turned over to The Empire by his supposed long time friend, the head of a mining settlement floating in the clouds.
Yeah, the "production values" (not a good term: should be "art direction") are almost good enough at S-E to make up for the inept designers who don't understand which features of previous S-E games and other JRPGs were good, and what was bad. They must have been shocked, simply shocked, that some people didn't just want to ride the XIII roller coaster all the way to the end without making a single meaningful choice, but XIII-2 is at least a playable game with some fun elements, so that's something.
I agree it's mystifying that Bioware art looks so bland in comparison, especially the dull Dragon Age, but in all their other games too. Bethesda has gotten brown rubble down to a science, but everything else they do is mediocre, and their characters are awful. Same thing applies to most other western RPG-makers.