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Final Fantasy XIII Progress Report: A Primary Concern

Final Fantasy XIII has a lot of problems. This should come as no surprise to anyone.

The Internet overfloweth with reports of this title’s many misfortunes. From a cast of characters filled with one too many jackasses to a difficulty curve overly fond of the comforting right angles of the good old brick wall to a level designer seemingly infatuated with tubes, Final Fantasy XIII is, shall we say, less than perfect.

My final verdict on the game will have to wait, and it will have to wait quite a while because this is a long, difficult game.

But I have discovered something recently. As per my usual habits, I had gotten distracted from my Final Fantasy-ing for a few days, having briefly put it aside to play some Super Street Fighter IV online, play around with some Rabbids that arrived from GameFly, and even do a couple of things that didn’t involve holding a controller.

I picked it back up today after deciding that, with so many terrific games coming out right around now, I needed to get Final Fantasy XIII out of the way so I could move onto something else with a clear conscience.

So, in an effort to clear my calendar (and just to get it out of the way) I put Final Fantasy XIII back in my PS3 and got back to the grind.

That’s when it occurred to me. I now know what my biggest issue with this game is, and it isn’t any of the things I thought it would be.

I thought its difficulty might do me in. Perhaps its linear nature might be its undoing. Maybe the cast of characters would prove to be just a tad too unlikable. 

All of those are certainly valid concerns, with the difficulty in particular remaining a constant threatening shadow over my playing experience. As it turns out, none of them represent the game’s most potentially deadly shortcoming. 

What I discovered upon turning the game back on again for the first time in a few days was that it wasn’t just the other distractions keeping me from playing FFXIII or the apparently monstrously hard boss I’m fast approaching. The game’s well-manicured fingers are red with guilty blood as well. 

Simply put, at a measly 22 hours or so into the thirteenth Final Fantasy game, I find myself bored. 

It’s not that the individual components aren’t interesting. When it’s not annoying me by kicking my ass I’m enjoying the battle system more and more. Most of the characters are growing on me. The graphics keep my jaw continually agape. 

The problem is that the game desperately lacks variety. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it takes one hell of a game to support an investment of time as great as 40 to 50 hours or greater. Few games are actually capable of this. Many RPGs in particular shoot for the high hour count, perhaps out of devotion to tradition or player expectation. 

Because of this, I’ve started a number of great RPGs that hooked me in quite thoroughly but fizzled out long before I ever saw the credits. This is primarily due to game designs that become horribly repetitive when stretched so thin. Even a great story has trouble sustaining gameplay that has long worn out its welcome, and if your game has a mediocre story too then you’re pretty much screwed.

Final Fantasy XIII doesn’t have a mediocre story, at least not if you have the stubborn patience necessary to give it 15 hours, but it does have even less variety than your average JRPG. There are no minigames to be had here, no stopping at towns to catch a break and chat with the townsfolk, and, at least until far too late in the game, no side quests or distractions from the main mission either.

For at least twenty hours, and from many reports at least 30 or more, Final Fantasy XIII consists of absolutely nothing more than an endless loop of cutscene/battle/cutscene/battle. I’ve put in enough time already to have played through two other average games and I’m less than halfway through, yet the endless story/battle loop is already beginning to wear thin. Couple this with an occasionally frustrating difficulty and prospects for finishing the game look rather grim.

It seems that Final Fantasy XIII is a game practically begging for a good editor to bring in his pair of cutting scissors and chop the game down to a more manageably concise length.

I plan to solider on for as long as I can. I’ve gotten far enough in at this point that I genuinely do want to see it through to the end. I also hold out hope that when the game eventually opens up a bit that might help relieve the repetition. 

But I also believe that, no matter how noble the intention, it’s not worth forcing yourself to play a game if you’re not having fun anymore. Games are, lest we forget, supposedly about having fun after all. 

I’m not to the point of fun cessation just yet, but I feel the fatigue setting in. I hope the relentlessly monotonous pace gets shaken up before I’m forced to set my controller down.

Or throw it across the room at the wall, as the case may be.

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