After three outings, the Final Fantasy XIII series will probably be remembered for introducing elements which did not quite gel with long-time fans of the epic game series. It divided fans with its new and, at times, confusing game mechanics and battle systems, and introduced dull characters who never quite stood out.
This second, and presumably final, sequel to the Final Fantasy XIII sub series sees lead heroine Lightning return during the end of days. She is tasked to save humanity. In return, she gets to resurrect her sister Serah.
As always, it is better to ignore the storyline in the Final Fantasy series. Otherwise, you might be confused as to where Lightning has been all this time and why almost everyone you know from Final Fantasy XIII is still alive 500 years after the previous game. In fact, you would be better off treating this as a completely new game, as the developers seemed to be using this outing to correct some of the mistakes of the previous two.
The Active Time Battle system is now more streamlined.
Lightning gets new abilities based on the outfits, weapons and shields that she dons. These are known as Schema. Players can buy or find them and play around with different configurations to determine which combo is the most effective.
Unfortunately, killing creatures will not grant you experience points that boost Lightning's stats. Instead, you have to complete main and side quests to level up. This move to a reward-based quest seems logical, except that players are subject to a countdown clock which limits how long they can spend to complete main quests.
Certain areas of the game, while massive and ripe for exploration, are open only at certain times in a day and it is only during this time that players can seek out the side quests.
And when the world is about to die, the game sends you out to help folks find missing items and defeat monsters. If you succeed, you also get nourishment which staves off the end of the world.
Some of these quests can take time so players have to choose if they want to level up or complete the main story. Granted, having several days to do the quests is good, but for those who love grinding and boosting stats before progressing in a game, this timer will be a deterrent.
What is even more puzzling is that Lightning has the ability to freeze the timer countdown several times in a day, for when players need the extra few minutes to complete a quest.
If the game's developers are prepared to counter the use of a countdown timer, why bother implementing it at all?
Lightning Returns is the type of Final Fantasy game that wants you to return to the game after you beat it, so that your previous knowledge of the game allows you to better schedule your quests.
This might appeal to hardcore players. But for most players, it is time to move on to a newer chapter.
Platform: PlayStation 3 (disc, $69.90; download, $59.90); Xbox 360 ($69.90)
Genre: Role-playing game
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