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Game Design

Final Fantasy 13: Story Games Gone Wrong

Final Fantasy 13 is the only Final Fantasy game I've played. I'm not surprised that a JRPG has a crappy combat system, but I think this one is a particularly good example of a point I'm going to make. First, let me lay out the problems with FF13's battle system:

Low depth

Depth in games

All the player can do is set which mode the three fighting characters are in, which gives them access to different abilities and AI, and pick specific actions for the party leader; but all of this is a really easy job. Due in part to the backward difficulty progression of the fights (see below) and the infinite mana, most often you just want to leave one party member in medic mode (or two if that's what it takes to sustain health) and the others in attacking mode; you'll win eventually. Getting fancier than this basic strategy can make you win faster but it can rarely change which fights you're able to win.

Busywork

This isn't really a design problem, just a quality of life one. There's no way to set any kind of default action for the party leader. If you want Lightning to stay in Commando mode and just spam attacks, you have to continually press the "auto-battle" button. I think someone doesn't know what the word "auto" means...

The fight puts the wrong half first.

When you fight several enemies at once, the most dangerous part of the fight is when they're all still alive. That means that if you don't die early in the fight, you know you won't die later; the brunt of the time spent fighting is just a formality. In a game like Lost Odyssey, battles still drain your mana even if you always win, so it doesn't feel quite as much like a waste of time (even if in practice you never run out of mana herbs). But due to the way FF13 handles healing (it doesn't cost any scarce resource), there's no such effect and battles are nothing but slog once you know you'll win.

Lost Odyssey

In some boss fights, they fix this by having the boss cast Doom - essentially a time limit. Time limits do solve the fundamental brokenness of this combat system. But they don't fix the problem of how little your play matters compared to the level your characters are at.

Little numerical information revealed

Typical RPG blind choices bullshit.

Enemies have way too much health

Cheap difficulty

Some bosses took me as much as 20 minutes!

When it comes to normal enemies, this also compounds the third problem above.

The combat in Final Fantasy 13 was never anything but a drag on the story; I was never *not* thinking, "I just wish I could get through this already and get to the next story event". My point is that *this story would have been better released as a movie*. Don't force something to be a game just for the sake of it. The designers clearly didn't understand the value of games, so they didn't understand when a game was *not* valuable.

FF13 storty retrospective

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