Friday, 13 February 2015

Kill Monsters - Get XP - Go Up Levels

Final Fantasy XIII has three leveling systems. You earn points at the end of each battle to spend in the Crystarium to increase your stats and learn new abilities, you find components that you use to increase the level of your items and to transform maximum level items into new items, and there is an element of story based progress.

Basically, you kill monsters, earn experience points, and go up levels, which increases your stats.

The Crystarium superficially resembles the Sphere Grid from FFX, but there are some very important differences. First of all, each character has their own fixed Crystarium - there is no overlap or crossing over to other people's areas of the grid. Second, while there are branching paths, they are extremely limited - there is one main path and the branches only go one or two nodes off of the main path. Third, as you go further on it requires more and more points to buy each node, a price which is fixed by the node, not by how many nodes you've already activated. Fourth, there is no cost to going back to a node you've been to.

If the cumulative effect of these changes isn't immediately apparent, I'll spell it out: This just a linear leveling system. Sure, if you are a little dumb you could keep going up instead of picking up the branching paths, or go up for one job when you could be spending points to max out your other jobs, but basically you'll just be spending more points to get the same stat bonuses. There is one correct way to get the most stats out of your points, and while I don't know exactly what that way is, it is easy to approximate.

The item leveling system is similar in its apparent complexity but actual simplicity. There are a whole bunch of different components you can use to level up your items, but really all they are is different experience values. Low experience value components, when used in large numbers, will add a bonus to future experience earned by the item and high values ones will take that bonus away. So it matters which order you use the components in, but ultimately getting higher level items just means grinding monsters to get components.

Story based progress is a concept I am extremely disdainful of. When its something like learning new summons it makes sense because encountering the summonable entity is a big event, but in FFXIII the Crystarium starts very small and expands only as you hit certain places in the story. The practical effect of this is extremely small as there is certainly no need to grind monsters to get through the early game. It may even be nice because it means that you don't start the game by looking up and down the whole grid like you did in FFX, but rather you max out each section before seeing the next for the first little while.

All of this is just a dressed up system of fighting for experience, getting levels, and spending gold to buy new weapons and armor. The dressing is a little bit annoying because it takes more button presses to achieve the same result. I think this is more than balanced out by the combat system that takes fewer button presses to achieve a similar result, but the unfortunate thing is that I don't think the game will have much replay value. Choice in leveling - well, and just being fun to play -is what makes games replayable. Ultimately there is very little of that.

1 comment:

  1. It does eventually open up quite a bit, mostly when you unlock the late-game Hunt system, but essentially everything before that is a 30-40 hour forced tutorial section where they hold your hand and only give you a couple characters to have to manage at a time.

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