Game Log: Final Fantasy XIII, Disc 1

I’ve finally made it back around to Final Fantasy XIII in my semi-epic queue of games to play. As a huge fan of the series, I thought I’d play it straight through, calling out sick and receiving my fluids intravenously as needed. Obviously that was not so, but yesterday I cracked down. Now that I’m through disc 1 (of 3), I thought I’d check in with some impressions, as I’m sure they’ll change radically over the course of the next two discs.


The very beginning of the game was agonizing. It really was. A lot of unexplained jargon (Fal’Cie! L’Cie! Sanctum! Something!) flew around for a boringly linear few hours while I hit things and then they died. Now, at hour 10 or so, there’s still is nary a town or black mage in sight, but somewhere around the 4 or 5 hour mark, I think I started getting it. I found myself enjoying FFXIII, in spite of the heft of my emotional baggage, largely tied to nostalgia of games of yore. I desperately want to love Final Fantasy XIII. And while I don’t know how I’ll feel in the end, I can say that what I’m getting out of the game around the 10 hour mark is very, very different than a series loyalist would expect. But now that my expectations have shifted, I can enjoy it.


The combat system really is the focus of FFXIII, just like the creators said. Now I get it. It’s a very dynamic, fast paced experience (well, for an RPG– It’s no FPS obviously) where rather than selecting individual spells, attacks and whatnot for each character, you instead select the role you want your team members to fulfill. Want a physical damage dealer and two healers? Check. Oh shit, now three seconds later (literally) you might want a mage, a buffer and a debuffer. Paradigm shift!

These roles all combine to form some cleverly named team assignments (DOUBLE DOSE! WAR & PEACE! RELENTLESS ASSAULT!), and you’ll shift these roles into team arrangements called paradigms constantly throughout battle. They shift very fluidly, and it does feel more like you’re directing the flow of the fight rather than nitpicking each and every turn based what-have-you. If that sounds easy, and like the game plays itself (it does for the first 2 hours or so), you’ve got the wrong idea.


So, onto Disc 2. Still can’t for the open-world exploration that I think I’ll hit in another 15 (oh my god, 15) hours. Or for Fang to finally join my party (hello alternative lifestyle haircut). But now that I’m enjoying the game, the story of Cocoon, Pulse and all this L’Cie nonsense is starting to make more sense now, after poring over the data logs for a little while. I could do with fewer cut scenes of Snow statutorily raping that irritating Serah girl (and her side ponytail– ew), but we’ll see what happens. If I put it down I may fall into the pits of moogle-less, overworld-less despair, so I’ll try to keep on truckin’. But hey, my characters are headed to a place called “Palumpolum”, so that probably can’t go wrong.

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Taylor has written 136 articles for us.


  1. Fair warning: it expands a bit around hour 25 (if you’re powering through–it took me about 35 hours to get there since I spent a lot of time leveling up), but it’s nothing like the other Final Fantasy games. That being said, once I got past the idea that this isn’t like the other FFs, I found myself really enjoying the game. As you said, the combat system is infinitely more fluid, and it’s a lot of fun trying to figure out which paradigms will work best for each fight. I love that the characters who aren’t in the fight get CP, and though it took some getting used to, I like that the other characters in the fight do their own thing so I am free to strategize for myself.

    I managed to finish the main storyline in about 50 hours (again, I spent a lot of time amassing CPs to level up later on) and am now taking a break–complete with Bioshock 2, Bayonetta, and Star Wars: Force Unleashed–before turning back for some hunting. Stick with the story; at first I was also massively confused, but as the whole thing unravels, it actually becomes a fascinating epic. And I promise there will be less of Snow and more of the other characters (especially Vanille and Fang) later on.

    Oh, and Fang is a total badass. As much as I like Lightning, she got a little too emo for me sometimes. Meanwhile, Fang is walking rage and snark, complete with a smirk. The cut scenes where she and Lightning were working together were def my favorite, haha.

    • can’t.wait.for.pulse.

      i need to go back to bayonetta too! but also, i have dragon age and mass effect 2 to start, so that will take most of the next decade probably.

      • Yeah, Pulse is def better. The enemies are bigger and badder, and there are wild chocobos!

        I actually gave up on Bayonetta; despite the general appearance of Bayonetta herself, the crazy gun-fighting, and the overall storyline, I just didn’t like it. The camera never stayed where it should have, the button prompts were obnoxious (I kept dying on that one stupid dragon), and I got so sick of playing for five minutes then having to sit through a 10 minute cutscene.

        I loved Bioshock 2, though not as much as the first Bioshock. Star Wars: Force Unleashed is ok; not exactly as fun as Battlefront, but it has its redeeming qualities. I also have God of War Collection (never played it originally) and Metal Gear Solid 4 waiting to be played, and I just ordered Fallout 3 and Assassin’s Creed. Obvs, getting a PS3 so much later than the rest of the world means I have a LOT of games to catch up on.

  2. The highlight of the game is definitely the story and so worth 20+ hours you’ll spend being confused.

  3. this entire post makes me really depressed that i sold my xbox and my PS2 before my first year of college. now i’ve almost graduated and i still have dreams about spyro the dragon

  4. Taylor, I love you, but you need to stop playing games. When you play games, I want to play games. And when I play games, my essay on macroeconomic theory gets abandoned. If I fail, I’ll be holding you responsible. This will be your only warning.

  5. yes yes yes my PhD is almost finished and in 5 weeks I can get back to MORE IMPORTANT stuff like FF, Fable 3, and other XBOX titles. Thanks for the review Taylor!

  6. I played this game for almost 90 hours. I’m still not sure why I was so obsessed. Strangely, the good part of the game starts AFTER you beat the final boss. Weird.

  7. If you read the translations of the novellas that go with the game, suddenly the whole thing makes a lot more sense and the characters are even more enjoyable. As one of my friends noted, though, all that backstory stuff SHOULD HAVE BEEN IN THE GAME.

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