Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII Review - world's end generates wonderful RPG changes

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Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII

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Lighting Returns takes to the end of the world with vivacity and conviction, reshaping the way that RPGs can and should be in many great ways. Even if the game engine is well past its prime and the voice acting is weak at times, the overall package is an entanglement of nostalgia and intrigue for fans of Final Fantasy XIII and the RPG genre.

We like

  • Large zones are almost open-world.
  • Strong conclusion to series.
  • Innovative questing and combat systems.

We dislike

  • Somewhat dry voice acting at times.
  • Game engine still dated.

See PSU's review on Metacritic & GameRankings

The world itself is impressive on a grand scale, but it becomes a bit too much for the engine at times. While out in the field, monsters appear from across vast horizons; but when navigating between areas in a city, non-player characters tend to be represented with an exclamation sign until they fully load. At the same time, the game itself doesn't lag anywhere near as much as XIII-2 did, so the enhancements that allow Lightning to run from a village directly into an open world are quite impressive on the older hardware.

Sharing has become part of the game in a big way, but the feature itself doesn't necessarily hold much relevance to the game as a whole. Screenshots can be taken of anything outside of cutscenes, and they can be sent to both Twitter and Facebook through a service called the Outerworld. It's interesting that screenshots taken by other people can be left in the world where those people took them, but the ability to share in game what you've done is nothing more than that. Doing so is not required, and sharing on Facebook is a cinch if the user's Facebook account is already linked on the PlayStation 3; screens can be sent to Twitter, but the workaround to link to Twitter accounts isn't favorable.

All encompassing, the look and feel of the game is a testament to the series as a whole. Apart from the opening sequence and a few short clips, the entire game is delivered through the game engine alone which creates an ambience that's engrossing. The musical score is effective, enhancing what's taking place in the game wonderfully; and the cast of voice actors such as Troy Baker and Ali Hillis return to play their roles perfectly. The only drawback to the voice acting this time around is that both Hope and Lightning are the more stoic characters, so their voice work ends up being rather uneventful, even if it makes sense in the overall plot. Still, when emotions run high, the acting delivers - creating consistent emotional highs, somber lows, and humorous comic relief.

Perfection is hard to reach, but the major con of perfection - much like how it is with people - is that it doesn't have the same character as a game like Lightning Returns, where the gameplay is engrossing and the narrative is such that it forces players to hold their own hands. Tutorials only explain so much, which has been a negative for the entire series; but this time around, the game instigates more challenges and scenarios that help make players try new things instead of expect them to learn on their own time. Coupling that with Hope's guidance makes for a perfect combination of hand-holding and user freedom.

The entire experience of Lightning Returns is rewarding to those who have been along for the ride that the Final Fantasy XIII series has taken, but even though it does well in backpedaling in order to explain what took place in the other two titles, Lightning Returns really requires both of the previous games to be played to fully appreciate all the major and minor references made continuously throughout the game. 

Lightning Returns makes some great decisions not only to the role-playing genre but to the franchise as a whole. The aggressive nature of the combat and the way it goes about questing feels refreshing in a way that the genre has needed for a long time. Still, tutorials and engine limitations leave the game a little rough around the edges. Nonetheless, fans of the Final Fantasy XIII series will revel in the end of the world as Lightning leads humanity to a new template for role-playing games.

PSU was provided a copy of Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII by Square Enix North America for the purpose of this review.

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