Previously only available as a pre-order promotion, A King’s Tale: Final Fantasy XV is now available to everyone for free.
Available to download via Xbox Games Store, A King’s Tale: Final Fantasy XV takes place 30 years before FINAL FANTASY XV, featuring retro-style graphics and a fast-paced combat system. The action centres around King Regis and his faithful companions (Weskham, Cid and Clarus) defending the royal capital from raiding monsters.
This retro RPG is set to feature:
•Deep Combat System – Combos, counters, and Regis’ signature “Warp Strike” combine for lightning fast real-time combat that rewards fast reflexes and smart tactics.
•Companions – Three distinct companions offer unique and new ways to attack as well as tailored super moves that deal massive damage.
•Magic – Ignite the battlefield, freeze your enemies, or electrify your foes with Fire, Ice, and Lightning magic.
•Summons – Call upon epic Astral entities to decimate your foes in jaw-dropping ways.
Whilst we wait for the Season Pass DLC to start releasing, we have plenty of other content to enjoy thank to the limited time Moogle Chocobo Carnival which starts January 24th.
The carnival will take place in Altissia and includes a bunch of mini-games to indulge in, including: chocobo racing, skilled shooting challenges, and photo with mascots. It looks silly and fun, we’ll definitely be there for whatever digital treats the carnival may provide.
After 10 years of uncertainty and ‘back to the drawing board’ moments, Final fantasy XV has finally been released. And behind it are huge amounts of hype and hope that this title will be grand enough, comprehensive enough, and impressive enough to inject new life into the franchise. And remarkable, with such a burden on Square Enix and all the individuals that worked so hard and long on this RPG, Final Fantasy XV is close to achieving its lofty ambitions, providing a title that’s occasionally spectacular, often marvellous, but occasionally disappointing.
Final Fantasy XV welcomes you to the world of Eos and the struggle between the kingdom of Lucis and the empire of Niflheim. The empire has forced its rule on the majority of Eos through their magic and tech fused military might, leaving the Lucis city of Insomnia as the only remaining bastion of the Lucis kingdom, thanks to a powerful crystal that grants the king the power to erect a magical energy shield around the city protecting it from outsiders. The two sides have negotiated a peace accord, with an arranged marriage between the Lucis prince Noctis and the Oracle Lunafreya set to finalise the peace. You play as Noctis, travelling with your body guards and friends Gladiolus, Ignis and Prompto, to your wedding.
Of course, things don’t go smoothly, and soon you and your party are pulled into a quest of duty, destiny, loss and victory, as you fight against the empire, the monsters and daemons of Eos, and the Astrals, great slumbering gods that can grant you favour and power in the coming fight to reclaim the throne of Lucis.
It’s very much in line with traditional Final Fantasy tales; a magical crystal, monarchies, the melding of magic and technology. It feels familiar. However, behind the traditional setup are some new, enhanced and tweaked mechanics that make the adventure far more unique. Indeed, Final Fantasy XV features a modernised take on combat and exploration that make for a title that’s more accessible to newcomers and pleasantly refreshing for veterans.
Within a few minutes of the tale kicking off, you’re released out into the wild, with a host of places to visit and a vast landscape to run around in. Monsters roam the wilderness; get too close and they’ll engage you in real-time combat, meanwhile, your main quest awaits to further the story but plenty of side quests can keep you amused if you’re in the mood for exploration and combat. Before long, the map opens up even larger and reveals an open-world you can travel within, explore and complete quests. It’s a refreshingly non-linear start to your adventure, and helps you acclimate to the new mechanics.
Exploration can be done through walking, running, and later on riding everyone’s favourite feathered friends, chocobos, but for longer trips it’s your fancy car that’ll do most of the work. This attractive beast of a vehicle can be driven by you, in a fairly on-rails manner with the ability to stop in car parks and by the side of the road, or it can be driven by your party member Ignis, allowing you to relax and let the journey unfold. Through upgrades you can purchase and find, you can tweak its cosmetics as well as add additional features to it, such as brighter headlights for keeping daemons away, unlimited fuel, and even turning it into an airship. It’s a key part of your party, almost as crucial as the living and breathing ones.
But the car does more than just moving you from location to location, it also helps facilitate the bonding between your characters and for you and the cast. Conversations, jokes and banter are common as you drive the open road. In fact your party natter away frequently throughout your adventure, whether you’re stalking enemies in dungeons, running across the plains on a chocobo, or walking through a town buying items and fulfilling quests. It’s largely good banter too, although there’s plenty of repeated conversations and occasionally the voice actors lose all self-control and overdo the accent and parlance of their character a bit. For the most part though, the English voice work manages to grow on you and fits the character’s personalities, with the performance by Darin De Paul of Ardyn Izunia absolutely stealing the spotlight whenever that character is present.
And indeed, the bond between the main cast of characters – Noctis, Gladiolus, Ignis and Prompto – is very well-done, and establishes a feeling of brotherhood and dependability that helps the party feel whole when everyone is together and getting along, and fractured when apart or at odds with each other. It’s a pleasure to get to know them.
When in combat the brotherhood also plays a big part. Whilst you only have direct control over Noctis, you party will aid you independently and perform team attacks with you depending on the situation – such as blindside attacks if you and a member of your party are attacking a foe from behind. Furthermore, as you fight you fill a gauge consisting of three parts, and you can spend these on actions performed by individuals in your party, before following up with an enhanced attack of your own. It’s a clever team-based system and one that only grows as you level up.
Combat is also remarkably simple yet strategically deep. You essentially hold a button to attack, and hold another to defend, but it’s there’s a breadth of tactics you can employ. When an enemy attacks you can phase, allowing attacks to pass through you, meanwhile, add a direction whist defending and you can dodge and move around the battlefield with that same phase advantage. Furthermore, a shield icon alerts you to a block and parry opportunity which can stagger your foe as well as save your life. Additionally, enemies can often be temporarily disabled by knocking them off their feet or by destroying or decapitating limbs, giving you the ideal opportunity to focus your attacks, and those of your party, on your enemy whilst they are vulnerable.
Magic and items also play a big part in combat. Magic is crafted by Noctis and stored in flasks. As you explore you’ll come across sources of ice, fire and lightning in the open-world which can be absorbed, with some additional energy coming from defeating enemies and from using specific weapons. This energy can then be combined to create elemental spells, with options for items to be added to the crafting to add additional properties. Once again, it’s a clever system with plenty of depth but it’s easy to fathom. Once crafted, you can equip the magic to one of yours or your party member’s’ weapon slots and they can be used as a consumable. Casting results in an area of effect splash of whatever elemental force you combined, dealing immediate damage as well as additional damage to anyone who wanders into its sparks, flames, or ice.
It is pretty easy to hurt yourself and your party with your magic, but fortunately items and curatives are easy enough to activate and keep everyone fighting fit. A press of the right trigger pauses the action and throw up your list of your available items. Pick the one you want and the character who needs to use it, then the action starts up again and the item is used. Meanwhile, animations such as using items, performing team attacks, performing individual special attacks, as well as immediately after being put in a state of danger with your HP reaching zero, are place you in a state of invulnerability, allowing you time enough to perform your action, move to relative safty and assess the situations. It’s splendidly fair. Add to that the ability to learn the flow of combat thanks to telegraphed attacks from your foes, and once you do master all the mechanics of combat your can fell the majority of foes you face without having to grind.
Indeed, this aspect of Final Fantasy XV can make it feel a tad easy where the main story is concerned, but with this title aiming to bring in new comers as well as satiate the thirst of veterans, it feels very well-balanced. If you want more of a challenge, it’s there to find in the side quests, but otherwise the story is more aimed at allowing you to experience it than throwing up any sudden barriers that requiring a high level.
Speaking of which, levelling is also a very different beast this time around. You, of course, collect experience points for felling foes and finishing quests, but this accumulates until you rest at a caravan, hotel, or camp site. When you rest the experience you’ve collected is tallied and levels your characters, enhanced by a modifier granted by the location you stay in. Furthermore, you can eat meals at restaurants or at your camp site, cooked by Ignis, which adds buff to your characters, such as enhanced health, elemental resistance, and even experience modifiers like the hotels. It all comes together to offer interesting combinations for levelling faster – if you ca afford the hotels – and deciding what food to eat to better prepare you for your next step on your adventure. Additionally, the food looks extremely good, almost edible, with high quality textures really bringing the dishes to life.
In fact, the whole game is visually stunning. Particle effects flow from weapons and magic frequently and looks tremendously inviting and colourful. Character models are intricately detailed and superbly animated, and enemies are equally finely crafted. The world itself is drenched in beautiful natural splendour, with the open-world offering up a breadth of locations from dusty deserts to lush green forest, imposing mountains, and dark and damp swamps and dungeons. Additionally, the day and night cycle makes the world feel more real, and facilitates roaming monsters during the day and magical daemons during the night. NPCs are less impressive, with many copy-pasted models and low textures, and occasionally the world will suffer a dodgy texture that looks entirely out of place with the detailed ones surrounding it. Additionally, things can look hazy and out of focus from a distance, a side effect of its dynamic resolution and draw distance, fortunately it’s not too distracting, and it does mean frame rates are kept high and fast.
The presentation continues to impress with the musical score, in particular the battle themes. Location and exploration music is less memorable but nicely varied and thematic to the world, but those battle themes strike precisely the right cord in getting your adrenaline pumping. Furthermore, whilst cruising around in your car you can play in-game CDs featuring the soundtracks of previous Final Fantasy titles, which is a nice touch. Additionally, level design is a strong point, with the many dungeons featuring rich architecture, and impressive labyrinthine mazes full of treasures, enemies, and the occasional puzzle. And with the handy mechanic of returning to the beginning of a dungeon from the map menu, and enemies staying dead, exploring every inch of each of these is fun and intriguing, largely avoiding any frustration. However, as splendid as this RPG is mechanically and in its presentation and level design, the story has some glairing issues.
Much of the political state of the world and the key character’s driving force is explained in the CGI film and anime rather than the game, putting you at a disadvantage if you’re coming to the game fresh. Flash-backs, cut scenes and dialogue help fill some of the gaps but it’s still confusing and feels incomplete. In fact, the story going forwards feel very much incomplete.
Many of the supporting cast, villains and allies, are introduced and then dismissed so cavalierly their presence makes little or no sense. Meanwhile, there are hints in the late game that point to encounters with characters that never happened, as if entire chapters of the story were left out. The game also feels like a game of two halves, with each feeling as if they were developed entirely separate from each other. The second half is strictly linear and completely at odds to the open structure of the first. Its bewildering. A time travelling features at least allows you to return to the open-world and its quests but it takes away from some of the fun and exploration when you know the future is set. There are also some odd scenarios that unfold within the main story that feel detached from the rest of the experience, such as a forced stealth section and horror section.
It’s also disappointingly short, with the story clocking in at around 25-30 hours, and it doesn’t approach the grandeur or complexity of it’s previous titles. However, despite the story feeling underdeveloped and badly constructed, the finale is appropriately epic and grand, and being able to return to the past and experience the side quests and the rest of the content the open-world provides, is enough to keep you entertained for dozens of hours. Ultimately, the aspects of Final Fantasy XV that are great are strong enough to immerse you and keep you coming back, even after completion, which speaks volumes about just how great the overall experience is, because where Final Fantasy does slip up, it falls completely flat on its face.
Exploring Eos, battling the monsters and daemons that the open-world is hiding, finding legendary weapons to wield, and levelling your party and discovering the many secrets on offer, is more than enough to keep you entertained. In its exploration, combat, and main character development, Final Fantasy XV is spectacular. The fractured, incomplete story and inconsistent experience of the two halves, is often frustrating and occasionally entirely broken, threatening to undo all that is good about the title. But fortunately, the good does outweigh the bad considerably enough to make it feel special, unique, and compelling. With a little luck, future patches and DLC will fix the bad, but even if it doesn’t, there’s still a lot to love about this exceptional RPG.
The final conference we’re covering is Square Enix, and this is a first for them at E3 so let’s see how they do.
First up is Just Cause 3, showing off the destructible buildings, retractable grappling hook, and adrenaline fuelled action amongst explosion filled gun fights, wing suit flying, two-handed weapons firing from a stable parachute, and physics based carnage. It looks terrific and we can’t wait to play it when it releases on December 1st this year.
Next up Platinum games have something to tease. Concept art with subtle animation and a quick, animated character reveal is all they can show us before the title Nier New Project appears. More information is due in the fall, and for now all they’re saying is it’s coming to PS4, hopefully it’ll hit Xbox One as well; we’re big fans of the original.
Rise of the Tomb Raider makes an appearance next, showing the same gameplay footage seen at the Microsoft conference before a short behind the scenes look at developers, Crystal Dynamics, showing us the level of detail on Lara and her clothes, which get dirty and blood stained during combat, and collect snow in snowy environments. It’s certainly a superbly detailed looking game, and if it’s half as good as the first one then we’re in for a treat, and with the promise of far more tombs to explore we’re pretty excited to play it.
Square Enix aren’t done with Tomb Raider reveals yet, as Lara Croft Go is revealed, a turn based exploration games similar to the Hitman Go title. This is coming soon to mobile.
After a montage of game footage including a look at Final Fantasy 14, Life is Strange and Dragon Quest Heroes, a missing translator adds some confusion as to what’s being said on stage before the same Final Fantasy 7 remake trailer from the Sony conference is shown. More information on the remake is due in the Winter, but they were quick to point out it’s only just started development, so it’ll be a while off. As for the PS4 version of the PC port of the original FF7, that will released this Winter, and by the end of the Summer for iOS. Hopefully we’ll see it on Xbox One as well, same goes for the remake which is currently only being talked about on PS4.
Next up was footage of a new Kingdom Hearts game, Kingdom Hearts X Unchained, coming to mobile, before some gameplay footage of Kingdom Hearts 3, looking as detailed, fast paced, and fantastic as we’d expect.
A new Final Fantasy game was revealed next, World of Final Fantasy, an incredibly cute looking title with a toy figurine aesthetic. You must defeat and then recruit Final Fantasy monsters to your party, and can shrink them and yourself to ride each other. Depending on how characters and monsters are stacked determines their strengths, abilities and weaknesses. It’s scheduled for release in 2016, and once again they’re talking about PS4 and PS Vita, but here’s hoping the Xbox One gets a release too.
Another montage shows off a bunch more titles, some of which we’ve already seen as well as some footage from the highly anticipated Final Fantasy 15.
Next up was more information on the new Hitman title. New content will be frequently created and released based on player feedback. Meanwhile, the player created contracts from the previous title return, as well as new persistent outcome mission where you get one chance to play it and whatever happens can’t be changed.
Square Enix next announced a partnership with Tri Ace on PS4 exclusive title, Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness, due for release in 2016.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided was up next, showing off some gameplay footage and claiming multiple endings dependent on your actions throughout the game. Once again you play as Adam Jensen, and can play through the game with stealth, brute force, or a mixture of the two. It looks visually impressive, with large areas teeming with physics-based objects. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is scheduled for release early 2016.
The conference closes with the announcement of a new JRPG focused studio, Tokyo RPG Factory, who are working on a new game called Project Setsuna, due for release in 2016, but with only concept art to tease us, information in thin on the ground.
Marred by poor structure, dodgy translations and confusion, the Square Enix conference was certainly the weakest from this year’s E3. But amongst the awkward was some great footage of some great games, so there’s still plenty to be excited about coming from Square Enix this year and next. It was a shame to only see some titles in montages, though.
Final Fantasy Type-0 originally saw release solely in Japan on PSP but it quickly gained a following in the west, thanks to its real-time, fast paced combat, intriguing characters and narrative, plus its overall different take on the Final Fantasy formula. Finally we see the title hit our shores, along with an HD polish and a surprising leap to home console, but can this unique Final Fantasy meet the high expectations of series’ fans?
Final Fantasy Type-0 HD focuses on Class Zero, a band of 12 teenagers, highly trained in combat and magic so to counter any attack on their nation. A surprise invasion thrusts the group into action and an intriguing tale unfolds about nations going to war, and just how far people are willing to go to achieve victory. It’s a more grounded story than many of its Final Fantasy predecessors and a good one at that, and despite the presence of magic, crystals, and L’cie due to its tie-in with the Fabula Nova Crysallis series, it’s a more relatable drama overall.
However, it certainly isn’t the best structured and delivered tale. Awkward dialogue fails to inform and serves to unnecessarily lengthen what little coherent explanation there is. Meanwhile, poor voice work and odd scene switching and cuts in cut scenes makes the narrative hard to follow. It’s also structured in a way that requires two playthroughs to fully grasp what’s going on, and with an average completion time of 25 hours, it asks a lot from its audience. It is worth the slog in the end, if you’re at all invested in the narrative, and the characters are deeper and more interesting than they first seem, it’s just a shame there’s so many barriers to break through before you see Type-0’s more impressive story aspects.
It’s a similar story with the rest of the experience. Type-0 boasts a unique, fast paced, real-time combat system that wonderfully balances tactics and strength to achieve a very different style of combat to what series’ fans are used to. It’s far less about grinding levels and a lot more about analysing your enemy’s style of combat, looking for opportunities to attack, and exploiting weaknesses. Furthermore, it’s not only about the strength of your magic and attacks but also about moving around the battlefield swiftly and taking your time, choosing which character best suits the enemy, which attack or spell to use, then which angle. It’s brilliantly strategic. However, as refreshing as the combat is, camera and lock-on problems get in the way a bit.
The camera is very sensitive, whether moving your character around in the world or in combat it spins at a blistering speed at the slightest nudge of the analogue stick. If objects or walls get in the way it’ll dash around to try and avoid them, and as it does so a nauseating motion blur effect kicks in. It’s intractable and frustrating, and the omission of any options to reduce sensitivity is baffling. Meanwhile, the lock-on mechanic has a tendency to get stuck on enemies, and whilst another mechanic which has you draw energy from fallen foes is no doubt the reason for this, it’s still frustrating when you mean to switch to a different target.
Type-0’s presentation is also a mixed bag. Whilst main characters look great, the rest of the cast look wooden and featureless. There’s a noticeable difference between the 12 Class Zero cadets and other NPC, and when they’re in the same cut scene together the comparison is shocking. Environments and enemies also run the gamut from detailed to bland, the new musical arrangements, however, are stunning, with several catchy pieces that burrow away into your brain. Certainly there’s a lot of visual let downs but there’s a clever aesthetic consistency with it all that helps hide the worst of it, such as filters during cut scenes. Even the aforementioned motion blur serves to hide some of the rough edges. Fortunately, the overall experience fairs a great deal better.
Type-0 is separated into eight chapters that progress the story, however, in-between chapters you can explore other avenues. You can to talk to NPCs and your fellow cadets, learning more about the world, the war, and your comrades. You can also conduct side missions, raise chocobos, or train your characters. Each activity takes up a chunk of time, of which you have a limited amount of between each story missions, so you have to be selective over what you choose to do. And if you don’t fancy doing any of the side activities you can talk to your commander and carry on with the main story. It’s a varied set of options to keep you busy, and with several secrets hidden away it’s worth exploring them. However, thanks to the tactical combat style, grinding isn’t as necessary so you’re free to push on with the story if that’s what you’d prefer.
The majority of the chapters place you in linear locations where you travel between fights on foot. Up to 3 characters from the set of 12 can be chosen to form your party and you can switch control between them as you fight. Each character sports a different style of combat, abilities, and magic and whilst certain skills will prove more effective against particular enemies, you’re pretty much free to pick your preferred characters. During chapters Special Orders crop up that challenge you to complete an objective or your party leader dies. It’s a risk to accept them but the reward in buffs and bonuses is almost always worth it. In addition to the on-foot combat, RTS style missions task you with commanding troops on the world map, offering a very different experience.
The original’s multiplayer isn’t present isn’t this HD port, however, replacing it is the option to have special AI controlled party members with the names of the development team join up with you instead. It’s a neat replacement but still a shame the original multiplayer component couldn’t make the transition.
It’s visually rough around the edges and the lock-on can prove a nuisance, but the tactical combat is superb and the depth of its large cast of 12 main characters is impressive. The story is also intriguing just hidden a bit behind bad structure and storytelling techniques. Certainly it’s one of the most refreshing Final Fantasy titles in quite some time, and builds oodles of excitement for what might be with Final Fantasy XV. Don’t let the flaws put you off, this is a great action RPG.
Thanks to Xbox & Square Enix for supplying TiX with a download code
Square Enix has announced that the online servers for Final Fantasy XI on the Xbox 360 will be coming to an end in early 2016.
The popular MMORPG launched back in 2006 on the Xbox 360 and launched to a relatively popular reception from both critics and players.
The game has consistently received content updates to keep its monthly paying subscribers entertained. If you’re looking for one last ‘hoorah’ you’ll be pleased to hear that the final Rhapsodies of Vana’diel scenario will be launching in May, which will hopefully keep players busy until its unfortunate closure next year.
Don’t be to sad though, the PC servers will still be available! It’s just the console servers being disconnected.
A new video from Square Enix. This time round showcasing a turbulent war of nations threatening to tear the land apart. Fuelled with propaganda, this show of power from the Militesi ruling incumbent, Marshal Cid, attempts to justify the Empire’s actions and discredit Class Zero, Rubrum and the other states.
A new type of Final Fantasy game is coming to Xbox One next year. With the launch of Final Fantasy Type-0 HD just a few months away , Square Enix Ltd., today premièred a brand new trailer to celebrate the opening day of Paris Games Week.
The latest trailer for the upcoming blockbuster transports viewers to the dynamic and enthralling world of Orience, where a turbulent war of nations threatens to tear the land apart. The brand new “Enter the Fray” trailer has been embedded below:
In Final Fantasy Type-0 HD – step into the fray as Class Zero, an elite group from a military academy whose country is attacked by an aggressive neighbouring Empire. In the brutal and harrowing struggle that follows, you must engage a range of powerful magical and combat abilities using a new and exciting battle system, to defeat the Empire and uncover the secrets behind the war.
Final Fantasy Type-0 HD will be available on Xbox One across Europe and PAL territories on 20th March 2015, and will include a downloadable playable demo of the highly anticipated Final Fantasy XV as a special bonus – titled ‘Final Fantasy XV -EPISODE DUSCAE‘.
I have been a fan of Final Fantasy games ever since Final Fantasy VII completely changed me as a gamer. Final Fantasy, is a series that is as much about big story telling, characters you get connected to on an emotional level as much as it is about gameplay and giving you an experience what will be unique to you as a player, but one which others who enjoy Final Fantasy games will resonate with. When the first chapter of the Final Fantasy XIII was released back in March 2010, I had high hopes that the Xbox would finally get to have its own Final Fantasy legacy. Sadly, they got just about everything wrong you could get with a Final Fantasy game. It was on-rails, limiting how much freedom you to explore its world and the main character and hero of the story Lightning who had all the personality of a cement brick! Fans were less than pleased with this game, so when its sequel and middle chapter of the trilogy, Final Fantasy XIII-2 was released in 2011, it was a refreshing change to find they had moved the story this time to the sister of Lightning, Serah who now three years after the climatic ending to the first game was now in search of Lightning as well as trying to save the world using time travel – it was a much better gaming experience.
The question is, can the final chapter of the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy live up to the last game, or will the failings of the first creep back into the series as we once again return to the story as Lightning, on a journey of redemption?
Not that I want to spoil the ending of Final Fantasy XIII-2, but kind of need to do so in order to introduce Lightning returns; the third and final chapter in the story is set five hundred years following the end of the last game. Believing the world had been saved, Serah died during the closing moments of the story. The price for killing the villain Caius in the story was the release of the Chaos energy, which threatened to kill all of time and the world. The game opens with the return of Lightning, now known as ‘The Saviour”, who has been tasked by God to guide the souls to the new world which will be created once Chaos has consumed and destroyed the world.
As a fan of Final Fantasy I am no stranger to the big story telling concepts used in the game’s, and in Final Fantasy XIII as a trilogy, the story has had a continuation through the three titles although each game has had its own story. The use of God sending Lightning back to the world in order to save and guide the souls of people to the new world even for me was a tad much. The story telling style is quite theatrical and can get long winded at times which slowed down the game to almost a painful crawl as cut scenes of characters talking to set up the story consumed the first three hours of game time with Lighting Returns. Not helped by the voice acting for Lightning which suffers the original game’s problem of just lacking the personality needed to have a player connection with the character. Whenever Lightning would go into a speech to move the story along it felt more like a drone which combined with similar voice acting for the many other characters you will need to interact with in the world when using shops or for gathering information for main quests and side quests can really grate after a few hours.
Not only has the main character changed but also the gameplay style has changed too. Final Fantasy is most known for using a Party system, whereby (especially in combat) you would control a group of characters. For Lightning returns you instead only have the control of Lightning for the duration of the game. Final Fantasy XIII-2 used a Paradigm system where you would have control of Noel, Serah and a Monster to create combat profiles to mix up melee, magic and ability attacks or defense. This time the game uses fully custom made Schemata with three beings equipped and usable in battle. Whilst in combat, you can hot switch between the three Schemata’s at will. Each one has its own ATB bar, which depletes every time an ability is used either melee, attack, defense, magic use. As you use the ATB of one Schemata the ATB’s of the others replenish. How you custom make the Schemata’s is key in combat as you can use one for example to do maximum physical damage or one to do magic damage or one for defense.
How you create the Schemata’s is also new. Everything from the outfit or ‘Garb’ you pick, to the sword, shield and accessories is fully open to customization and will give Lightning her health and ability boosts. There are many different options as you can see from the image above, some can be bought via outfitter shops as you travel the world, some will be rewards for completing main or side quests. DLC will add new outfits and weapons such as the Cloud outfit from Final Fantasy VII and in true Square Enix style, you can even give Lightning a Lara Croft look from 2013’s Tomb Raider game.
Once you have put a ‘look’ together, you will then be tasked with added the options you will use in combat from attack to defense and magic use. These can be bought from stores or found as rewards again for completing quests and for winning in combat and can be upgraded as you progress in the game. It took a while for me to get used to this style of gameplay as usually you simply choose the weapon and then what abilities and magic will be used. To have such a deep level of custom creation for me even though I know the series and the Final Fantasy XIII games well was confusing at first. New comers to the trilogy if picking up Lightning Returns for the first time could be overpowered by such choice and attention to detail required for such a key part of the gameplay. Experimenting with different combinations often left me changing how I would usually handle the combat, as I fine tuned the choices I had made.
The ability to hot switch between Schemata’s in combat does allow you to have a more personal connection with the combat as it is reliant on how you have built each one and what abilities you have given for attack or defense that will determine victory or not. Not only has the style of combat changed but also the way in which you can use recovery items during combat. Traditionally you can store multiple potions and items that you can use in battle to keep your health or magic levels up. Lightning Returns forces you to only be able to carry up to six recovery items to use in combat. Once used you will need to find a store or merchant to top up your supplies rather then carrying around large amounts of each all the time. This adds a level of care to the combat as you can no longer rely on having 100 health potions to keep a fight going. Some may call this cruel, but for me I actually found it added a nice challenge and made recovery items more of a fall back use rather then as a crutch to always rely on.
The game does have an open world feel to it. Destinations can be traveled to on foot, the traditional Chocobo later in the game or by using the Monorail system to move between the cities. You have the freedom to travel to these locations when available, and because of the main aspect to the game, The Doomsday Clock, you may not get to visit all locations in your first playthrough. The Doomsday clock is the real time duration of the story and world. When you start the game, you are told that you only have six days in order to save the souls of the world before Chaos destroys them. Each day lasts twenty four hours, although time stops during combat and cutscenes. Both main and Side quests are at times restricted by the clock. Some quests will require you to be at a certain location at a certain time in order to do that quest and some stores will not be open until a certain time. If you arrive early the game will give you the option of speeding up time to get to the earliest point the quest will require to be completed, if however you are too late you will have to wait until the next day to try again. Inns and hotels can also be used to stay in to replenish health in whilst you skip forward a few hours during your ‘stay’ to also get to complete quests.
The other aspect of the Doomsday Clock is the Ark. At 06:00am everyday, no matter what you are doing or where you are, you will be instantly transported back to the Ark in order to give your “offering of collected souls” to God or in this case Idrasil Tree. You collect these souls from completing side quests, the purpose of which is that should you offer enough, the Idrasil Tree will grown a new branch thus adding another day to the Doomsday Clock. A maximum of thirteen days can be achieved enabling you to spend more time in the world and delays the end of the world. It is an interesting addition to the story narration and makes the need to complete side quests more important. There are many side quests to complete. Some are the usual “go here get this and bring it back” to the collection of components a person suddenly has a need for before the world ends. Chocolina herself, the strange woman dressed as a chicken, who acted as a shop for you in Final Fantasy XIII-2 returns. She now looks after a message board, filled with side quests that you can complete if you have the right number of components and will earn upgrades, money and souls to add to your offering. Side quests can also be obtained by talking to the characters on the street as you travel the world, some even form part of main quests. Tedious at times but necessary in order to extend the Doomsday Clock, I found it became somewhat of a chore to run around towns to complete the side quests at times, but some were actually entertaining. I even got the chance to go on a date as Lightning, never thought I would be doing that in a Final Fantasy game!
Lightning Returns also brings a new social media network to the game series in the form of Outerworld Services. Completely optional, a player can link their game to their social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter. Doing this enables the player to be able to take snapshots of the game and share them across social media and the Outerworld service in game. You can even attach an item and sell it using this method. In the game itself, random non playable characters will represent the players using Outerworld service, you simply interact with them as you would any other character like a shop keeper by talking to them. Their screenshot will then download and you will have the chance to buy their item, read their message and look at their picture. You can even cheer the message on. I found this service to be incredibly poorly implemented. It took ages for the service to ‘download’ the message and broke up the gameplay when I tried to use it. It is an interesting idea but the system they used is far too slow to be of any real use, and I just found it to be intrusive and ended up turning it off in the options menu.
Overall my experience with Lightning Returns Final Fantasy XIII was not as much fun or enjoyable as FFXIII-2. I have never been a fan of Lightning as a main character, just never managed to warm up to her and for me her best use was as the narrator in FFXIII-2. The constant ‘in service of God’ got a little thin very quickly, the narration early on slowed the game down that I was almost willing to skip main story points just to end the painful babbling of Lightning talking to Hope on board the Ark. The new combat system does change things up and requires some time to get used to and the game throws up battle situations which are both challenging and fun. It took a good few hours before the game and its story really picked up momentum for me, and the cutscenes are as beautifully animated as Final Fantasy is known for. The Outerworld services was a let down, an interesting idea but poorly executed. The story is a good way to end the trilogy but I do wish they had chosen to go with another lead character then Lightning who for me, and taking into account the whole end of the world theme to the story, very cold and unreachable. I do like this game but I do not love it as much as I did the last game and would recommend that only the committed Final Fantasy XIII fans pick it up right now to play. I would advise waiting for a price drop on the game for the experience it gives you. The first chapter failed to deliver, it got much better with the middle story but with Lightning Returns I really hope that she will not return again to Final Fantasy.