Final Fantasy XIII was perhaps the most divisive main line Final Fantasy game of them all (excluding the MMO titles). Some found it boring with its battle system that almost plays itself, 12 hour tutorial and a world made up largely of narrow corridors that funnel you from cinematic to cinematic. Others thought it was the game that finally brought the Final Fantasy formula to the modern era with its real-time ATB (Active Time Battle) system combining the strategy of the classic games with impressive fantastic real time visuals.
Anyway, this isn’t about Final Fantasy XIII, this is about the Final Fantasy XIII-2 demo. Now, a demo is supposed to offer you a decent chunk of the gameplay mechanics and some story to try and convince you to buy the full game and I think this demo does a good enough job with that. By the end of the demo you should know if you want to play the full game when it releases.
The demo opens at the beginning of Episode 2 Unseen Intruder and you are immediately thrown into a small boss fight against a hand connected to an invisible giant named Atlas. Right away the battle system should seem familiar to anyone that played FFXIII. I through, from previous trailers that the combat would require you to pay more attention by throwing in quick time events during the battle but it does not. The battle system is pretty much the exact same as in FFXIII except at the end of this boss fight there is a QTE (called a Cinematic Action) to finish it off. QTEs only appear to come into effect in cut-scenes or Feral Links (which I’ll get into later) meaning the combat is still pretty boring and mashing Auto-Battle is still a valid (and often optimal) option. You still only control one character in battles but now you can change leader during combat between Noel and Serah, allowing you much more strategic control if you’d like.
Speaking of Noel, he has maybe one of the silliest swords I’ve ever seen in gaming. It just looks so weird and ineffective. It does seem to transform and can be used as a thrown spear though so I guess it’s got that going for it. Serah returns but this time as a controllable character and uses a shape changing moogle called Mog as her weapon. Mog and Noel aren’t explained in this demo (at least not in during gameplay. I didn’t read any of the in game encyclopaedia) so I can’t say much about their characterisation.
One of the biggest changes comes after the fight. You can actually walk around a town and explore! And Jump! Ok, yes, FFXIII did open up for a while but only after a bug chunk into the story and only for a little bit before you were forced down corridors again (but at the end you could go back if you wanted to). In this game though we’ve got an HD town to walk round that is full of NPCs that converse with each other as you walk past them. That’s pretty cool and makes the world feel a lot more alive and real. The dungeon area also has multiple paths and places to explore rather than a string of corridors with branches that go off the critical course for a few meters before a dead end.
After a fight just outside of the town you gain the ability to use monsters in your party. This looks to be the biggest change to the battle and party system and there are a bunch of different monsters you can use and level up that use one of the roles in the
game (the same ones as in FFXIII, like Medic for healing and Ravager for magic damage). You can’t control these monsters directly but can unleash a Feral Link attack when the Feral Link gauge is full. A Feral Link is basically a special attack unique to the monster, for instance the Cait Sith has a weak cat scratch attack that attacks the enemy multiple times and the Zwerg Scandroid has a multi-hit electric attack. To pull these off you have to perform a QTE unique to the Feral Link. Cait Sith’s input was always Y then X (on the 360).
The levelling system has been revamped from FFXIII. Instead of getting individual levelling boards for each role you just get one per character now. You choose what role you want to level up at each node and you get new skills and abilities at level landmarks.
The demo also contains some side quests to do including a hunt where you need to find and defeat a Cie’th and a treasure hunt like quest where you have to get back two medical capsules for a guard. Hopefully the full game has a bunch of these sidequests to do with decent rewards. The only other major thing is that it appears the enemy encounters are random but give you the chance to escape or attack before the battle has begun to gain an advantage at the start of combat. This is pretty cool as it lets you just ignore enemies if you want to.
To be honest I’m not interested in FFXIII-2 at all. From what I played it felt too similar to FFXIII and I didn’t really enjoy that too much apart from the visuals and music. If you enjoyed FFXIII though then I’d say you’d probably enjoy FFXIII-2, and if you didn’t like XIII then you should give XIII-2 a miss.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 releases the 3rd of February this year