Wow, Square|Enix really pulled a fast one on their fans. They released a Final Fantasy game for people who hate Final Fantasy. Or at least that’s what I thought after my three hours with the game.
Let’s start with the pros. The combat system just feels right. It is intuitive, well organized, and customizable to suit all tastes. If you are a control freak like yours truly, you can turn off the controversial Gambits (Character AI, look them up), and if you need time to carefully decide where to move your characters, and how to attack, then you can set the battles to pause whenever you are on a menu. The CG’s, as we have come to expect from Square|Enix, are top notch. I was skeptical after the first CG – I thought it seemed a bit… off — but every CG sequence after that blew me away. They are still long, which some people might not like, but at least they are not boring.
For those who played Final Fantasy Tactics, you will feel right at home in the world of Ivalice. And those who have not, well, go play Final Fantasy Tactics! It is a most incredible world, where a number of unique species live and interact with one another, and even get PO’d at one another. It is a world filled with political intrigue and tensions between the races, classes, merchants. Those who like steam punk (me included) will find much to their liking: Flying ships in a world with swords and arrows, fighter planes that fire magic projectiles, magic and technology used to shield entire cities. It is apparent from the start that the world is living and breathing, and in my opinion, the general atmosphere is what makes this game great.
I do have some major grievances, though. My biggest is the fact that the camera controls are Japanese! When you move the right control stick, the camera moves in the opposite direction! And there is no way to change it! I ended up leaving the camera controls to the game to handle, and although it is satisfactory, I really enjoy seeing where I am walking ALL the time, and the game just does not do that.
Taking into consideration that I am writing this with only three hours of play time, and Final Fantasy games always start slow, I do not like the plot. The game starts after a major war, and by the time you are Vaan (the main character) the war is already two years over. It creates for some nice interactions with the invading army, but I just don’t like it when the battle has already been lost by the time you start! Hopefully, the game will pick up shortly, but I just do not like where it is going.
I am interested to see how this overall theme of forced order is going to pan out; you are a citizen of an occupied country, and I have read somewhere that judges come into play sometime in the game, just as they do in Final Fantasy Tactics (they create some interesting rules that you must follow in combat, with dire consequences if you ignore them, just to make things interesting) though I cannot confirm that they are in the game yet.
My first impression of the game is mixed: I love the gameplay, and the graphics, both CG and in game, are way more than anyone could expect on a Playstation 2. But on the other hand, the game is very different when it comes to the plot. You are no longer a central actor in an epic quest, but rather you are only an orphan thrown into an unfortunate situation. Also, the main character is way too pretty to like.