I liked Final Fantasy XIII . I didn’t love it. …and being a lifelong, die-hard franchise fan, it was a strange feeling. I put my hundred hours in – as I tend to do with every installment – but I remained vexed at a lack of standard role-playing elements. Now, I hold no illusions: I know some of those elements – like being able to manually control all members of your party during combat, like a normal RPG – won’t show up in the sequel. But Square Enix may be implementing a few changes and upgrades that will bring the fans back. There’s no guarantee, of course, but let’s have an open mind, shall we?
The FFXIII-2 presentation at E3 garnered a boatload of attention, as you might expect. Square Enix offered different looks at the game in progress, as you may have already seen on YouTube. But the one demonstration that most sources are looking to for previews is the one that involved Noel, the new lead character who for some reason has a vested interest in Sera. Lightning’s younger sister is Snow’s beloved but we haven’t seen Snow…so we don’t really know what’s going on there. Anyway, Noel and Sera – the latter was unplayable in FFXIII, remember – team up to battle a particularly large and intimidating boss called Atlas.
Firstly, it’s quite obvious that the core combat mechanic remains unchanged. The Paradigm system is back, as is Auto Battle (‘wretch’) and for the most part, it appears that battles will feel quite similar. However, I did note one positive alteration: the Paradigm shifts don’t feature that brief pause with a close-up on each character; the shifts happen in real-time. I think . If you recall, this would happen in FFXIII once you got the first shift out of the way, but that first shift always featured the annoying pause, in which enemies could move but you couldn’t. Now, I’m not entirely sure that little eccentricity is gone but I’d like to believe it is.
Then there are the QTEs, which are going to be called “Cinematic Actions” in FFXIII-2. Despite the name change, these don’t require any explanation as they’re the same as any QTE you’ve come across in the past. The button prompts show up and you press the button. That’s it. It’s typically a functional and even crowd-pleasing feature, primarily because the game gets very cinematic during such sequences (hence the term, “Cinematic Action”). However, I really have to say- I don’t see why this is included in a role-playing game . But anyway, let’s try to ignore that more action-oriented aspect and focus on the good stuff.
It has been reported that FFXIII-2 will boast more exploration and more choice. You might even catch glimpses of this more open-ended approach in some footage. As you’re wandering around, you’ll see the enemies on the map as you did before, but here we come to another new feature: the Mog Clock. Come on, every FF has to have a reference to Moogles! Basically, the clock appears when you approach a foe; it counts down going from green to yellow to red; if you nail the enemy when the clock is green, you get cool buffs. If you encounter it during the yellow part, it’s just a normal battle. If you wait until it’s red, though, that’s basically an enemy ambush. This does feel too “action-y” as well but at least it gives us more control over what’s happening. That's something.
Here’s another interesting element: enemies have to be “caught.” See, after defeating an enemy, you’ll sometimes snag its crystal, which lets you summon that enemy into battle as an ally. For the FF veterans, it’s sort of like Blue Magic on steroids. These monsters will also have a sweet Feral Link ability when helping you out, and you can bet the completionists will be scouring the map for super powerful rare monsters for the sake of defeating and using them in battle. Lastly, there’s one element of the E3 demo that sparked a lot of debate: Noel and Sera come upon a weird machine that can be used to fight Atlas. But its effect depends on how it’s used…
This is where the player is given multiple choices and depending on your selection, the Atlas fight will be a tad different. For instance, choosing Alyssa’s advice and activating the device essentially casts Slow on the boss. And lastly, it’s clear that Lightning has returned, but she’s coming back with a whole lot more power…ala Gandalf when he returns as Gandalf the White. One section of the presentation showed Lightning battling Bahamut from the back of her horse (Odin) and it was a definite highlight. Anyway, that’s about it…as for towns, we’re still not sure. We’d like to assume they’ll be back but we didn’t actually see them. Cross your fingers.