Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy 13 Review: Lightning Strike-Out

Looking back on it now, those reloads were unnecessary. The game gives you plenty of time to complete all of the main quests to the point where the time limit doesn’t even feel necessary. Unless you stubbornly and continuously try to take on an enemy that’s obviously too strong for you, you should never feel like you’re short on time. The game also gives you an ability called Chronostasis, which can be used to stop the passage of time at the cost of what’s known as an energy point.

The bigger frustration with the time system in Lightning Returns comes from the time-locked gates, which prevent you from reaching specific areas during certain hours of the day. It’s incredibly annoying to be one step away from completing a sidequest, only to find out you won’t be able to get where you’re going it until midnight rolls around. And by the time midnight does roll around, chances are you’re already knee-deep in another quest and will have to wait until at least midnight the next day in order to complete the sidequest and claim its reward.

Completing sidequests is vital in Lightning Returns, even to the point where it feels strange to call them sidequests. You see, there is no traditional leveling system in the game. Instead, Lightning gets stronger every time she completes a quest. Completing a quest will net her a slight permanent boost to her hit points, strength, and/or magic, with larger quests reaping more substantial rewards.

The problem is that the vast majority of sidequests in Lightning Returns are awful.

In fact, you can replace the word “sidequests” with “errands” and it would feel more appropriate. Some exciting examples include: Checking the 14 clocks in Luxerion to make sure they’re still running; corralling six sheep back into their pen; eating at each restaurant in Yusnaan; or picking six flowers that grow in the day time and six flowers that grow in the night time. These already bad sidequests are made even worse by the fact that there are no waypoints that show you to where you need to go, nor are there waypoints to tell you where you can pick up new sidequests. What this leads to is a lot of aimless wandering, hoping to eventually find either a treasure chest, a shiny on the ground, or a new person to talk to in order to either pick up or complete a sidequest.

It wouldn’t be so bad if the reasons why you were doing these errands were interesting, but they’re not. You’d think that with a premise of people living for 500 years, it would be a fertile ground for delivering some intriguing and emotional stories about survivors who were mentally strong enough to keep on living for centuries.

But that’s not the case here; hardly anyone outside of the main cast speaks like they have the weight of 500 years of experience on their shoulders, and most of the time just ask you to do things that they really could’ve done themselves.

Fortunately, Lightning Returns fares much better in the combat portions of the game. Battles offer players full control of Lightning’s movements and are less reliant on menus than in previous installments — the only time you’ll see a traditional RPG menu is when you pause the action to select either a restorative item or a special ability. Your abilities are mapped to the four face buttons of the controller and with a simple press of the right or left bumper, you can switch to a new “schemata” for a completely new set of four abilities.

Schematas are fully customizable sets of equipment that are made up of a costume, a weapon, a shield, two accessories and four abilities. By mixing and matching various pieces of equipment, you can essentially create classes that are dedicated to a specific role. There is a lot of depth to the schemata system and you’ll likely spend a lot of time experimenting with different combinations to find something that you like. Generally, you’ll want a schemata focused on strength, one for magic damage, and one to tank big attacks and/or debuff your enemies, but the fact that the option is there to create something completely out of the ordinary is very welcome.

Once you’re actually in battle, things should start to feel familiar rather quickly for Final Fantasy 13 vets. At the core of the combat system is still the stagger mechanic. By exploiting your enemies’ weaknesses repeatedly, you’re able to “stagger” them, making them extremely vulnerable to your attacks. The challenge is that some enemies recover very quickly from our attempts to stagger them if you don’t keep up the assault, requiring a balance of aggressive offense, while still being ready to switch to a defensive schemata to avoid taking big damage or getting stunned out of your offensive push.

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6 Comments on Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy 13 Review: Lightning Strike-Out

Michael

On February 11, 2014 at 8:26 pm

Alright I will say this only once. Square Enix RPGs are getting worse and worse. They are never going to pull off a successful RPG’s the likes that have been done in the 90′s. They just keep damaging a product that’s already been damage once too many times. This is by far one of the worst Final Fantasy games ever made. Why would they keep adding content to this horrible game? They had to redo FF14 which was a waste of time, money and resources. They are releasing FFX and X2 HD soon which in fact will probably sell better than all there recent games put together. What they need to do is go back to the old formula of RPG’s. They really need to play and understand what made those games awesome and what makes there games garbage. Then and only then will they start releasing great RPGs.

SupremeAllah

On February 11, 2014 at 9:10 pm

Hey Mike, if you want a good SquareEnix RPG, look towards Bravely Default. Just came out last week on 3DS, and is basically a traditional Final Fantasy game. It is very good.

chase

On March 3, 2014 at 9:57 am

so tired of haters. the game is not that bad, the story is not that bad. I don’t understand where the hate comes from. Time moves on, not every game can be final fantasy 6 or 7. Many people like more action oriented gameplay. IMO final fantasy 15 looks to be the BEST GAME THEY HAVE EVER RELEASED. from the story, graphics, and gameplay I have seen to me it looks like it could beat every final fantasy ever in terms of quality. So that would make their games getting better, not worse. Final fantasy 13 was the first final fantasy in the current age of gaming, consider it a test if you will, for the absolute MASTERPIECE that final fantasy 15 will be. All three final fantasy 13′s are worth playing while you wait on that GEM of a game to come out ;)

Hyren

On March 3, 2014 at 12:04 pm

@chase – I hope you’re right, because FF13 was awful. Completely linear and unintuitive gameplay, nonsensical story with no relateable or sympathetic characters etc. It’s not just a case of liking the older games better, it was a shallow and tedious experience even ignoring the history of the franchise.

Sephiroth

On March 13, 2014 at 12:57 pm

I think that this game is ok, 3.5/5 maybe. The best thing about the game is the battle system, Ive only seen this in FFX-2, but not nearly as customizable as LRFF13. The clock is your worst enemy in this game, but once you beat the game the first time, you start a New Game+, and as long as you have somewhat of a decent memory its much easier. I ended up getting almost all of the side quests done within the first 8 days, the other 5 I had were used to explore and collect Canvas of Prayers objects. I agree with most that it could have been much better of a game, but it could also be a lot worse.

wolfe

On April 14, 2014 at 2:32 pm

@Chase, you’re a totally a moron… We know back in the days how Final Fantasy game was, do research.