Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII PS3 Review

Publisher: Square Enix  Developer: Square Enix  Genre: RPG  

Players: 1  Age Rating: 16+  Other console/handheld formats: Xbox 360

One common theme in RPG narratives is the world being under threat from imminent destruction, but this often doesn’t prevent you from carrying out the most menial tasks for the inhabitants and there’s no penalty for doing so as the primary antagonist seems all too happy to wait whilst you journey around the world, reaping the rewards and in turn getting stronger for the showdown with him or her, it’s like he or she is just waiting to be obliterated by your ultimate weapons and such. With a clock that is constantly counting down in Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, however, the threat feels real for once.

The game takes place in a world that is heading towards destruction. As with all Final Fantasy XIII games, the story is often a load of nonsense. It has some good ideas but all too often they are lost behind incomprehensible dialogue, whilst Lightning herself with her rose coloured hair and elaborate selection of outfits is visually striking, but a bit too boring and one note personality wise to truly warm to.lightning-returns-final-fantasy-13_2

The world has just seven days until it’s destroyed, but you’re able to extend this to up to seven days by collecting Eradia, gained by helping people out through traditional monster killing and item fetching. The time limit adds a layer of tension, but some people will find it too restrictive to be any fun. The only occasions when time stops flowing is during battles, cutscenes, when you’re in menus, and when you use the ability that temporarily freezes time.

Inhabitants in the world have a strict routine, for instance only appearing at a certain timeframe within a day, and the game has a freeform structure, so it’s left up to you to choose what you do with your remaining time in the ailing world.  It’s impossible to complete everything within a single play though and, as such, replay value is a strength of the game.

It’s a game of consequences, for instance escaping from battle will see you losing an hour of precious time, encouraging you to vanquish even the toughest of enemies. The game is split into four contrasting locations, each with their own distinctive visual styles and quests, and you must hop on a train to travel between them of which will cost an hour of time, though later on in the game you’ll get access to a teleport ability which has its own cost to take into consideration.

The combat system has the same basic concept of exploiting enemy weaknesses to stagger them, leaving them open. For the majority of the game, Lightning is the only character in combat, though you can equip up to three Scematas, which allows Lightning to essentially be three characters in one.

These all allow you to equip an outfit, weapon and shield, and often have built in skills as well as slots, where you can freely choose what skills to equip. It’s a very flexible system and it can be enjoyable playing around with it to discover the most efficient combinations. During combat, the three Scematas can be switched between to make use of their abilities, and they all have their own ATB gauge, limiting the number of actions you can perform with them before they have to go through a recharge process. Combat is fast paced and is an excellent blend of action and strategy that never gets boring for the duration of the game.

Lightning doesn’t level up in the traditional fashion, instead you’ll gain stat increases through the completion of quests and through your equipment. Abilities meanwhile can be upgraded by combining two of the same type.lightning-returns-final-fantasy-13_4

For a non online Final Fantasy game, there’s a surprising amount of aesthetic customization that can be carried out on Lightning. You can change the colours of her numerous outfits and there are countless adornments that you can equip, like masks, rabbit ears, and such. You can even go to work saving the world whilst wearing a comedy beard, which sort of jars with the moody tone of the story and Lightning herself, but is nevertheless fun, amusing and very Japanese.

You have EP (short for Energy Points) which can trigger a number of actions both in and out of battle and is gradually replenished through victory in battle. Enemies can be slowed down and perhaps most crucially time can be stopped for a while outside of battle, giving you the opportunity to carry out more tasks within a single day

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is one of those games that will split opinion. The combat system is wonderfully executed, while the side quests will be too repetitive to satisfy many. That time limit on the other hand will be an annoyance to those that want to take their time in exploring the world, whilst others will find it grants a welcome layer of tension and invention to Lightning’s last adventure.