submit to reddit
Pin it

This review was originally published 09/14/2010 on Game Observer (now defunct as of 05/13/2014). It has been republished here for archival purposes.

Final Fantasy XIII

By the time I was done with 'Final Fantasy XIII's 25-hour long tutorial, I was done with the game

In a Nutshell

  • Graphics: 98
    Games don’t get much prettier than this! Gorgeously detailed characters and environments, and lots of fancy special effects will give you a non-stop supply of tasty eye-candy.
  • Gameplay: 20
    Everything works, but the game could be played through by a "drinking bird" toy. And some of the gameplay mechanics just flat out don’t make sense in context of the story.
  • Production: 95
    Production values are through the roof. Just about anything you could ask for that doesn’t directly relate to gameplay is here!
  • Sound: 85
    The voice-acting and soundtrack are both top-notch. Some of the sound effects are a bit jarring and irritating though.
  • Value: 10
    The game could keep you busy for weeks, maybe even months, but only if you haven’t given up on it within the first day.
  • Overall Score: 62
Final Fantasy XIII cover art

Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360
ESRB rating: T
Genre: RPG
Players: 1
Official site:

Ico - dragging Yorda
This game makes me feel like poor Yorda.

The "Final Fantasy" name is synonymous with "quality." The idea that any FF game could ever be bad is tantamount to gaming blasphemy. The reputation is well-deserved, as the franchise has consistently provided incredibly compelling characters and story with rich, interesting worlds, and deep customization and character development options. The franchise has completely reshaped the fantasy role playing world. With Final Fantasy XIII, the developers took some radical new directions in every aspect of the game.

Unfortunately, these changes severely hurt the game, since they practically take away the need for the player to do much of anything. It reminded me of being Yorda, being grabbed by the hand and dragged around by Ico all over the castle. In fact, the game could be considered a whole new genre: the "On-Rails RPG."

Brings finality to gameplay

Visually, the game is stunning. Character models and environments are incredibly detailed and lifelike, the special effects are undeniably gorgeous (and in full 1080p on PS3s!), and the visuals on-screen are matched with quality voice-acting. But pretty visuals and nice voice acting can only go so far. After all, we’re still playing a game, and Final Fantasy XIII does itself no favors by giving the player virtually nothing to actually do when playing. Battles typically devolve into tapping the X button to "Auto Battle" when your turn comes up, occasionally stopping to change paradigms. You only control one character, so all the other characters are completely AI-controlled, and you have absolutely no say in what they do at any given time, aside from assigning them generic roles based on pre-created "Paradigms."

And even if you do want to manually control your character, the combat speed is so fast, that you’ll just end up wasting a whole turn’s worth of time scrolling through the menus. It would also be nice to have a chance to read some of the descriptions for actions and abilities when selecting them in battle, but doing so just might get your character killed. However, this can be somewhat alleviated by switching the Battle Speed to "Slow" in the Settings screen. Or at least, it WOULD, if not for the fact that target times for battles don’t increase to accommodate this setting. So setting Speed to "Slow" will net you a lower average rating, and less rare loot and Technical Points. Some people argue that this is a "punishment" from Square-Enix since the game is not intended to be played at a slower pace. I guess that’s a valid argument, but I think the slower pace makes the game more enjoyable since you can actually see what’s going on, so it all comes down to preference. I think not adjusting target times up for the Slower speed is a point against the game, as the developers seemed to do everything possible to make the game as non-interactive as possible.

Final Fantasy XIII - battle
The battle system is full of sound and fury, but signifies nothing.

The battle system is further hampered by being overly simplified. Every character’s HP is restored after each battle, so you don’t have to worry about keeping your party healthy during combat. Only alive. The AI-controlled party members do a good job in their roles, although the Medic character seems to focus too much on casting cure and never bothers to revive a KO’d ally unless both surviving characters are at 100% health. But then again, the game doesn’t have MP, and health doesn’t carry over, so the AI party members are free to do whatever attacks or use whatever magic they want without risking using up available resources. So yeah, the AI does a good job, but the combat system is so "dumbed-down" that they really don’t have much to think about to begin with.

The combat also suffers from the fact that once your character (the party leader) is KO’d, the game is over. Granted, you just start over right before the same battle, but it’s annoying. Especially considering that it just doesn’t make sense within the context of the story. In a very large chunk of the first part of the game, your party is split up into 2 or 3 parties of just 1 or 2 characters. You take turns controlling every character as they pair off and develop a rapport with one another. So every character has a turn at being the "party leader." Every character demonstrates that they are fully capable of leading the party and healing/reviving other characters. But yet, if at any time, the leader is KO’d, none of the other characters are able to revive him or her. It makes NO sense. What is the point of making every character lead the party if they’re not going to be able to use what they’ve learned to aid the party when not leading it?

Also, defeating enemies often requires you to chain combos together in order to "stagger" them and create a damage multiplier. This is a nice addition, and adds depth to combat, but you never have to worry about YOUR characters being staggered, which I think is a huge missed opportunity, as it would have given a lot more strategy to the game’s combat.

It’s half game, half tutorial

The majority of the game is VERY easy, but with very sudden and very sharp spikes in difficulty (i.e. Bosses). Unlike the hordes of enemies who claim to do so, Bosses really do deliver "devastating attacks." But the strength of the bosses isn’t the thing that really makes them hard. The real problem is that they have very powerful area-of-effect (AoE) attacks, and your whole party (even if they know what attacks the boss uses) insists on always grouping very closely together, effectively maximizing the amount of damage the party as a whole receives. It’s one element of the game’s battle AI that is VERY poorly implemented, and you as the player have absolutely NO control over where your character stands. Even attempting to cast Cure (a ranged magic ability) usually causes your characters to walk towards each other, opening them up to being hit with an AoE spell once again.

Final Fantasy XIII - level up
Character development is capped in each chapter, so you can't power-level. Not that you'd need to...

Character development doesn’t require much more effort from the user either. Characters have only TWO attributes. That’s right, just TWO: Strength and Magic. No Agility. No Stamina. No Intelligence. No Accuracy. No Wisdom. Not even Luck. Just Strength and Magic. Well, and Hit Points. OK, so maybe 3 attributes. For the first half of the game, development is capped in each Chapter, and only a few roles for each character are available at any given time. I often have enough CP (experience points) left over from the last area that I’m able to instantly go through half of the newly added development skills and attributes at the beginning of a chapter.

All these problems combine to make the first half of the game very boring and uninteresting. It is essentially as if the game contains a 25+ hour tutorial before opening up any freedoms to the player. After then, the game does get a bit more fun, but not by much. The story is only mildly interesting, and none of the characters are really all that likeable. In fact, Vanille is pretty irritating most of the time. So even if the game does get better, by that time, it’s already too late. And by then you’ve probably decided whether you like or hate the game, and no amount of enhancements are going to change your mind. It’s a shame too, because the game does do a lot of things very well.

Production values are very high. The world is very detailed and there is a well-crafted backstory and mythology. The Datalog is a convenient logging system that stores enemy stats, character bios, world mythology and history, and even a handy Events Log that recaps the story up to now (in case you haven’t played for a while and forgot).

In terms of gameplay features, the Libra spell is significantly more useful than in previous games. In fact, it’s almost necessary. Once you have used Libra to scan an enemy’s stats and weaknesses, you can recall that information any time (even in battles) with the press of a button, rather than having to scan the enemy again. And, of course, all the accumulated Libra scans get added to the DataLog.


In the end, this game gave me the same feeling that I got from playing Devil May Cry 2 many years ago. I played through the game relentlessly, waiting for it to get good. In the case of DMC2, that never happened, and I was left with a horribly sour taste for a long time. But in the case of FFXIII, the game did (eventually) start to get good. The problem is that it took 40 hours to do so, and by that time, my opinion of the game had already been set. I’m sorry Square-Enix, but I’m going to have to mark this one down as a lost cause…

Tags:, , , , , ,

Other Game Reviews I've Published

>Observer_>Observer_12 Minutes12 Minutes
35mm35mmAce Combat 7Ace Combat 7
ADR1FTADR1FTAlan WakeAlan Wake
Alien: IsolationAlien: IsolationAmnesia: a Machine for PigsAmnesia: a Machine for Pigs
Amnesia: RebirthAmnesia: RebirthAmnesia: The BunkerAmnesia: The Bunker
Amnesia: the Dark DescentAmnesia: the Dark DescentAmong the SleepAmong the Sleep
Assassin's Creed IIIAssassin's Creed IIIAssassin's Creed IV: Black FlagAssassin's Creed IV: Black Flag
Assassin's Creed: OriginsAssassin's Creed: OriginsAssassin's Creed: ValhallaAssassin's Creed: Valhalla
Atomic SocietyAtomic SocietyAxis Football 18Axis Football 18
Axis Football 2019Axis Football 2019Axis Football 2020Axis Football 2020
Axis Football 2021Axis Football 2021Axis Football 2023Axis Football 2023
Axis Football 2024Axis Football 2024Back to the Future Episode OneBack to the Future Episode One
Backbreaker FootballBackbreaker FootballBanishedBanished
Batman: Arkham CityBatman: Arkham CityBattlefield 1Battlefield 1
Blair WitchBlair WitchBloodborneBloodborne
Bloodborne: the Old HuntersBloodborne: the Old HuntersCall of Duty World War IICall of Duty World War II
CatherineCatherineCities SkylinesCities Skylines
Cities Skylines: After DarkCities Skylines: After DarkCities Skylines: AirportsCities Skylines: Airports
Cities Skylines: CampusCities Skylines: CampusCities Skylines: Financial Districts + World TourCities Skylines: Financial Districts + World Tour
Cities Skylines: Green CitiesCities Skylines: Green CitiesCities Skylines: Hotels & RetreatsCities Skylines: Hotels & Retreats
Cities Skylines: IndustriesCities Skylines: IndustriesCities Skylines: Mass TransitCities Skylines: Mass Transit
Cities Skylines: Natural DisastersCities Skylines: Natural DisastersCities Skylines: ParklifeCities Skylines: Parklife
Cities Skylines: Plazas & PromenadesCities Skylines: Plazas & PromenadesCities Skylines: SnowfallCities Skylines: Snowfall
Cities Skylines: Sunset HarborCities Skylines: Sunset HarborCities: Skylines: Match Day & ver. 1.4Cities: Skylines: Match Day & ver. 1.4
CitiesXL & Cities XXLCitiesXL & Cities XXLControlControl
Crusader Kings IIICrusader Kings IIIDark SoulsDark Souls
Dark Souls Artorias of the Abyss DLCDark Souls Artorias of the Abyss DLCDark Souls IIDark Souls II
Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First SinDark Souls II: Scholar of the First SinDark Souls IIIDark Souls III
Dark Souls III: Ashes of AriandelDark Souls III: Ashes of AriandelDark Souls III: the Ringed CityDark Souls III: the Ringed City
Darker SkiesDarker SkiesDawn of ManDawn of Man
Dead Space (2023)Dead Space (2023)Dead Space 2Dead Space 2
Death StrandingDeath StrandingDeath's GambitDeath's Gambit
Deliver Us The MoonDeliver Us The MoonDemon's SoulsDemon's Souls
Demon's Souls (PS5)Demon's Souls (PS5)DepravedDepraved
DeracineDeracineDevil May Cry 5Devil May Cry 5
Disco ElysiumDisco ElysiumDmC (Devil May Cry)DmC (Devil May Cry)
DOOM (2016)DOOM (2016)DreadOutDreadOut
Elden RingElden RingEndling: Extinction Is ForeverEndling: Extinction Is Forever
Event [0]Event [0]F.T.L. (Faster Than Light)F.T.L. (Faster Than Light)
Fallout 4Fallout 4Fallout ShelterFallout Shelter
Far Cry PrimalFar Cry PrimalFinal Fantasy VII RemakeFinal Fantasy VII Remake
Final Fantasy XIIIFinal Fantasy XIIIFinal Fantasy XVFinal Fantasy XV
FirewatchFirewatchFive Nights at Freddy'sFive Nights at Freddy's
Game of Thrones (Telltale series 1-2)Game of Thrones (Telltale series 1-2)Ghost of TsushimaGhost of Tsushima
God of War (2018)God of War (2018)God of War IIIGod of War III
Gone HomeGone HomeGran Turismo 7Gran Turismo 7
Grand Theft Auto VGrand Theft Auto VGreen Hell VRGreen Hell VR
Hell Let LooseHell Let LooseHellblade: Senua's SacrificeHellblade: Senua's Sacrifice
Her StoryHer StoryHumankindHumankind
Imagine EarthImagine EarthKayak VR MirageKayak VR Mirage
Kingdom Come: DeliveranceKingdom Come: DeliveranceL.A. NoireL.A. Noire
Layers Of Fear 2Layers Of Fear 2Legend BowlLegend Bowl
Letters To A Friend: FarewellLetters To A Friend: FarewellLifeless PlanetLifeless Planet
Lollipop ChainsawLollipop ChainsawMad MaxMad Max
Madden NFL 11Madden NFL 11Madden NFL 12Madden NFL 12
Madden NFL 13Madden NFL 13Madden NFL 15Madden NFL 15
Madden NFL 16Madden NFL 16Madden NFL 17Madden NFL 17
Madden NFL 18Madden NFL 18Madden NFL 19Madden NFL 19
Madden NFL 20Madden NFL 20Madden NFL 21Madden NFL 21
Madden NFL 22Madden NFL 22Madden NFL 23Madden NFL 23
Madden NFL 24Madden NFL 24MADiSONMADiSON
Mars Rover LandingMars Rover LandingMarvel's Spider-ManMarvel's Spider-Man
Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles MoralesMarvel's Spider-Man: Miles MoralesMaster of Orion: Conquer the StarsMaster of Orion: Conquer the Stars
Maximum Football 2018Maximum Football 2018Maximum Football 2019Maximum Football 2019
Maximum Football2020Maximum Football2020Metal Gear Solid V: the Phantom PainMetal Gear Solid V: the Phantom Pain
MiasmataMiasmataMiddle-Earth: Shadow of MordorMiddle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor
Middle-Earth: Shadow of WarMiddle-Earth: Shadow of WarMonster Hunter: WorldMonster Hunter: World
Moons of MadnessMoons of MadnessNCAA Football 11NCAA Football 11
NCAA Football 12NCAA Football 12NCAA Football 13NCAA Football 13
NFL Pro EraNFL Pro EraNiohNioh
No Man's SkyNo Man's SkyObservationObservation
Outer WildsOuter WildsOuter Wilds: Echoes of the EyeOuter Wilds: Echoes of the Eye
OutlastOutlastPapers, PleasePapers, Please
Portal 2Portal 2Red Dead RedemptionRed Dead Redemption
Red Dead Redemption IIRed Dead Redemption IIResident Evil 2Resident Evil 2
Resident Evil 3Resident Evil 3Resident Evil RemasteredResident Evil Remastered
Resident Evil VII: BiohazardResident Evil VII: BiohazardResident Evil VIII VillageResident Evil VIII Village
Return of the Obra DinnReturn of the Obra DinnRock Band 3Rock Band 3
Room 404Room 404Sekiro: Shadows Die TwiceSekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Settlement SurvivalSettlement SurvivalShadow of the Colossus (2018)Shadow of the Colossus (2018)
Sid Meier's Civilization VSid Meier's Civilization VSid Meier's Civilization V: Brave New WorldSid Meier's Civilization V: Brave New World
Sid Meier's Civilization V: Gods & KingsSid Meier's Civilization V: Gods & KingsSid Meier's Civilization VISid Meier's Civilization VI
Sid Meier's Civilization VI: Gathering StormSid Meier's Civilization VI: Gathering StormSid Meier's Civilization VI: Rise and FallSid Meier's Civilization VI: Rise and Fall
Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond EarthSid Meier's Civilization: Beyond EarthSid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth Rising TideSid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth Rising Tide
Silent Hill 4: the RoomSilent Hill 4: the RoomSilent Hill HD CollectionSilent Hill HD Collection
Silent Hill: Shattered MemoriesSilent Hill: Shattered MemoriesSilicon DreamsSilicon Dreams
Sillent Hill DownpourSillent Hill DownpourSimCity (2013)SimCity (2013)
SimCity BuilditSimCity BuilditSomaSoma
Song of HorrorSong of HorrorSpider-Man: Edge of TimeSpider-Man: Edge of Time
Spider-Man: Shattered DimensionsSpider-Man: Shattered DimensionsStar Trek ResurgenceStar Trek Resurgence
Star Trek TrexelsStar Trek TrexelsStar Wars Battlefront IIStar Wars Battlefront II
Star Wars Jedi Fallen OrderStar Wars Jedi Fallen OrderStar Wars SquadronsStar Wars Squadrons
StellarisStellarisStellaris mod: New HorizonsStellaris mod: New Horizons
Stranded DeepStranded DeepStrayStray
TacomaTacomaThe Amazing Spider-ManThe Amazing Spider-Man
The Amazing Spider-Man 2The Amazing Spider-Man 2The Callisto ProtocolThe Callisto Protocol
The Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimThe Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimThe Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim DLCThe Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim DLC
The Evil WithinThe Evil WithinThe Evil Within 2The Evil Within 2
The Last GuardianThe Last GuardianThe Last of UsThe Last of Us
The Last of Us Part IIThe Last of Us Part IIThe Outer WorldsThe Outer Worlds
The SaboteurThe SaboteurThe SwapperThe Swapper
The Witcher 3 expansionsThe Witcher 3 expansionsThe Witcher 3: Wild HuntThe Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
This War of MineThis War of MineThis War of Mine: the Little OnesThis War of Mine: the Little Ones
Tomb Raider (2013)Tomb Raider (2013)Total War: AttilaTotal War: Attila
Total War: Rome IITotal War: Rome IITotal War: Shogun 2Total War: Shogun 2
Total War: Shogun 2: Fall of the SamuraiTotal War: Shogun 2: Fall of the SamuraiTrineTrine
Tropico 5Tropico 5U-BoatU-Boat
Ultimate General: Civil WarUltimate General: Civil WarUncharted 3: Drake's DeceptionUncharted 3: Drake's Deception
Until DawnUntil DawnVirginiaVirginia
VisageVisageWhat Remains of Edith FinchWhat Remains of Edith Finch

Contribute Comment


We'll incarnate your avatar from the services below.
PlayStation Network Steam Xbox LIVE Facebook MySpace Pinterest Twitter YouTube deviantART LiveJournal

  • Comment
  • Preview

Grid Clock Widget
12      60
11      55
10      50
09      45
08      40
07      35
06      30
05      25
04      20
03      15
02      10
01      05
Grid Clock provided by trowaSoft.

A gamer's thoughts

Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

Check out my YouTube content at

Follow me on Twitter at:


If you enjoy my content, please consider Supporting me on Patreon:

FTC guidelines require me to disclose that as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made by clicking on Amazon product links on this site. All Amazon Associate links are for products relevant to the given blog post, and are usually posted because I recommend the product.

Without Gravity

And check out my colleague, David Pax's novel Without Gravity on his website!

Featured Post

The Humanity of NCAA Football's In-Season RecruitingThe Humanity of NCAA Football's In-Season Recruiting08/01/2022 If you're a fan of college football video games, then I'm sure you're excited by the news from early 2021 that EA will be reviving its college football series. They will be doing so without the NCAA license, and under the new title, EA Sports College Football. I guess Bill Walsh wasn't available for licensing either? Expectations...

Random Post

Legend Bowl's pass rush succeeds where Madden's failsLegend Bowl's pass rush succeeds where Madden's fails04/08/2022 Readers of my blog and viewers of my YouTube channel may be familiar with my series on "How Madden Fails To Simulate Football". In the second and third episodes of that series, I discussed how Madden's binary blocking logic, and the ability of QBs to hit any receiver anywhere on the field with the push of a button, leads to...

Month List

Recent Comments

Comment RSS