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I’m making decent progress through Final Fantasy XIII, as a week and a half in I find myself in the middle of chapter 7 of 13: Palumpolum. Life as a new dad is understandably fairly hectic, so considering I’ve got a whole new life to help take care of I’d say I’m making good headway. Last week I touched on several ups and downs within the game, and this week isn’t going to be much different. It’s all very back and forth with FFXIII. Let’s get right to it, shall we?

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I discussed the silly team-leader-dies-and-it’s-game-over mechanic last week, and countered it by really appreciating the retry-from-just-before-the-fight-you-died-in mechanic. Throughout this week of gameplay I have come to really, really appreciate that latter one (of course because of the former one). Be it against a boss or normal foe, I find myself dying with more frequency than any other Final Fantasy title in this marathon (save for perhaps the Dreadnought chapter of FFII…). It’s still super frustrating, but I’m kind of getting used to it now. Instead of raging and flying off the handle, I just take a look at how I played that battle, hit Retry, and give it another go from a different angle. Most times I only need that second shot and all is well. Still, I shouldn’t be getting three or four Game Overs per chapter in the first place, so I maintain that the entire mechanic is rubbish.

Another bit of crap is the Sentinel paradigm. The other five paradigms are all super useful and have their place in battle, but for whatever reason, I can never get Sentinel to work out. Whether I input commands manually or let auto-fight work its magic, I always end up with Snow just taking the brunt of attacks while his partner in battle deals weak damage. Perhaps Sentinel will be more useful when I’ve got a constant party of three members, so he can defend while the other two combo the enemies, but with a two-man team, having one on full defensive is just the worst thing ever.

FF13_Snow

Speaking of Snow, I really don’t know what to think of him. His cockiness is almost endearing, and there’s no doubt about his commitment to and passion for Serah. He acts as a necessary foil to both Hope and Lightning’s stories, but something about him just rubs me the wrong way. Maybe it’s that his smarmy smirk makes him look like a total douchebag tool. Perhaps it’s that his brash and boisterous actions usually lead to chaos. Or it could be that calling himself “the hero” all the time makes him sound like a complete jackass.

I mean, Balthier always called himself the “leading man” in Final Fantasy XII, but his actions proved that in spades. He was clever, a smooth-talker, and always kept his wits about him. Meanwhile Snow is full of himself, loud, and rushed into everything head-first. Like I said, I’m just not sure what to make of him yet. We’ll see if he can prove himself as the game continues.

Now that I’ve got Fang in my party, I can chat a bit about her as well. She and Vanille may be partners in crime, but she is clearly the superior member of that duo, for several reasons. Her accent is more consistent and voice less shrill, for one. But more importantly, she’s very cut-and-dry; no b.s. with this chick. Lightning asks her who she is, and she straight-up tells her. There’s no beating around the bush trying to befriend Lightning before dropping a shocking bombshell like Vanille has been doing with Sazh for the last 12 hours of the game. Fangs tells it like it is, and doesn’t really care what others think about it. Super refreshing when contrasted with Vanille.

FF13_Fang

I’ll wrap things up for week 50 (!!!) by touching on the weapon upgrade system. At each save point I can access shops and upgrade my weapons and other equipment. If an accessory gives me 20% Fire Resistance, I can upgrade it to give me 30% Fire Resistance. If my weapon has attack and magic stats of 15 and 10, I can bump them up to around 30 and 20 by using enough scrap pieces to level them up. And you find different kinds of scraps everywhere. There’s surely no short supply.

It’s not an awful system, per se, but neither is it very good. Working out how to get bonus EXP from upgrades, deciding which weapons to upgrade so that you end up with a better weapon at the end of it, and working out which scrap materials give you the best output for you input are all done on a trial-and-error basis. If you try one thing and it doesn’t work, try another thing. The problem is that while you can pick up scraps from nearly every enemy, too much trial and error can quickly result in mediocre weapon upgrades and low supplies. Luckily I haven’t encountered fights so difficult that upgrading was necessary, so for the most part I’ve avoided upgrades altogether. Hopefully if I just hoard and hoard my scraps, when the time comes to use them I can make some seriously beneficial and powerful upgrades. We’ll see.

So with that I leave you until next week. Just two more updates until the Road to Final Fantasy XV in 2015 comes to a close! Please look forward to it, and remember to follow my progress as I play over on Twitter, and look out for the hashtag #RoadtoXVin15.

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