I’m sure by now you’ve seen the videos, read all the previews, and gobbled up every salacious headline that’s crossed the webs. For our last hands-on preview before the game ships on March 9th, I present to you the final thirteen things you need to know about Final Fantasy XIII.
Final Fantasy XIII International Trailer
I. Not just a pretty face… but still pretty cute. - Our little excursion took us to the grand prairies of Pulse, a world filled with lush vegetation and exotic enemies. The guide pointed out the little details that you could only catch on an HD screen – the design and texture in Lighting’s outfit, bit of her hair being tossed by the wind, mammoth creatures moving in the distant background. We can only hope that the rest of the game looks this spectacular.
II. Wild Wide World – As you may have already read by now, many of the Final Fantasy maps allow very little wiggle room for exploration. We’re not talking about a straight shot down the center, but some are pretty close to that. On Pulse, however, the world opens up to exploration. Freedom of movement also allows for more strategy and the ability to pick your battles.
III. Very Active Time Battle – So we all know what an active time battle system is by now, right? Square plays around with the tried and true system by allowing you to add multiple attacks as the bar fills. You can even stack your next series of attacks before the bar fills all the way. Interestingly enough, they use this idea to do away with another Final Fantasy staple – MP. Spells now take up a longer piece of the gauge in order to execute. No ether required here.
IV. Staggering Revelations – Each enemy now has a stagger gauge. Hit them enough times and they’ll fall into a mode where each of your next attacks will cause more damage. The trick here is finding their weakness. Attacking with what hurts the most raise the stagger gauge even faster. Our demo showed a creature take punishment from a couple of sword strike but go down easily to a couple of spells.
V. A Summons of My Own – You only get one, but sometimes that’s all you need. Each of the characters gets their own summons to call down from the sky to dish out some much needed pain. When called upon, the summons or Eidolon takes the places of the other two characters in your party. They’ll dish out damage by your side until transforming into their Gestalt Mode. Lighting’s Odin, for example, transforms into a horse that our heroine rides into battle.
VI. No Levels Needed – Taking a cue from FFX’s sphere grid, the Crystarium system doesn’t depend on straight leveling to evolve the characters. Instead, special points awarded from battle can be put towards any number of roles in the system. Adding more points to a specific role may give the character new abilities, raise a certain stat, or open up new roles. While any character can learn any role, some characters have advantages in certain roles than others. Lighting’s quick hands make her ideal for attacking roles while Snow’s higher health stats let him take the punishment required for the role of a Sentinel.
VII. Know Your Role(s) –While in previous titles you could as easily cast a spell as swing a sword, roles dictate the abilities of each character. Healers, for instance, can only fling around Cura and couple of other healing spells. Don’t expect them to pull out a sword once the going gets rough. During the demo, we found ourselves switching several times during battle depending on how things were going. If things got rough, we would fall back to a team with healers and buffer, switch to debuffers and offensive magic to raise their stagger, and then finish them off with an all out onslaught of attackers.
VIII. Remember the Fans – With all this talk of change, we were assured that fans will see many of their favorites returning to the series. Like any Final Fantasy game, there will be airships, Cid, and chocobos. There was also a mention of hidden bosses. Anyone familiar with the Ruby and Emerald Weapons from Final Fantasy VII will know that they will have a fight ahead of them.
IX. No Room At the Inn – Instead of having to use up precious potions or hot footing it over to an inn, FFXIII heals you instantly between battles. Keep moving. There’s no time to waste on potions. We have monsters to kill.
X. Newcomers Welcomed – For players getting used to the new systems (roles, paradigm shifts, the bright flashing colors), Square lets you ease into everything with an auto attack option. It’s not a “get out of battle” free card, but it will pick the best attacks from your given options. Auto attack won’t pick the right roles or let you know when you need to switch. That’s still up to you.
XI. A Swift Death – Die and you just get to try it again. Yes, it’s that easy. Instead of throwing you back to where you last saved, FFXIII gives you a second chance to learn from your mistakes. Try it again with a different strategy, or try to avoid the fight. Once again, it’s all about pushing you forward and keeping that momentum going as much as possible.
XII. The Thing About No Towns – Towns are sticky. Once you find one, you get into a comfortable pattern of fighting and fleeing back to an inn for a little healing. The developers behind FFXIII don’t want you to get stuck in any one place for too long. It honestly breaks my heart a little to see the towns disappear. Square always manages to give these little burgs a personality all their own. It makes sense in a grander scheme, however, if you want the player to constantly move forward with not only the fighting but the story.
XIII. Final Thoughts – From out demo, you could sum up everything into two words: flow and strategy. Square seems determined to keep players moving and thinking while trouncing around some beautiful vistas. Will it work? You’ll have to wait and see our review.