Can Lightning Strike Thrice? (E3 2013)
The longtime dream of a game geek finally came true. Yours truly found himself among his fellow reporters of the Gamersphere at the 2013 Electronic Entertainment Expo. You guys should have seen it. The crowds. The sights. The sounds. The games! I was neck-deep in a maelstrom of all that was current and upcoming in gaming! It was awesome.
But I forget what I was writing abo… ah, now I remember.
Of the games that I had the good fortune to test out at E3, Lightning: Returns Final Fantasy XIII was among the first and most noticeable. As the second direct sequel to FF XIII, the third (and final) installment in Lightning’s story eschews the turn-based RPG action of its predecessors for a real-time mutation that makes for quicker and more flexible combat. But how does it play?
Thankfully, the E3 demo didn’t waste any time in showing me how. After a cutscene quickly established the location of the demo –a fancy palace– I was transferred from the world map to an enclosed arena space and introduced via tutorial to the basics of fighting monsters as Lightning. Here I was instantly able to move around and activate attacks, spells, and blocks (which are assigned to the controller’s face buttons) as I fought. The catch being that any and all attacks I used drained an ATB gauge that, when depleted, rendered me unable to use any skills.
But Lightning has multiple skill sets, known as Schemata, three of which I was able to switch between on the fly with the press of the shoulder buttons. Each Schemata comes with its own abilities, ATB gauge and skimpy outfit, and by switching between these, I quickly won the battle, only to find myself back on the world map with more monsters. Here the demo advised me to strike them before they reached me, and successfully doing so resulted in them losing a fraction of health at the start of each battle (though the opposite happened to me when I failed to do so properly).
After all the monsters had been defeated, I was able to move on in Lightning’s search for former comrade Snow. Guided by fellow FF XIII alumni Hope, who kept in touch with Lightning via some sort of communication device, I ascended a set of stairs and spotted Snow, who quickly ran off. As I followed him into the bowels of the palace, maneuvering around obstacles and fighting the occasional monster, I learned that Snow had retreated into the “Chaos” deep within the palace.
Upon reaching said Chaos, which appears as a mist of dark energy, I entered and started losing contact with Hope. The demo then switched to a cutscene where Lightning meets up with a devious-looking girl in a black dress playing around with the Chaos. The girl, Lumina, remarks about Lightning’s ability to see her in the Chaos, before summoning a dragon and disappearing.
With the demo’s boss battle upon me, a tutorial introduced me to Staggering, which can be inflicted upon enemies by hitting them repeatedly with skills they are weak to (in the dragon’s case, magic attacks) until they fall, leaving them open to greater damage. By peppering the dragon with spells, I was able to knock him down, at which point I was advised to make use of Lightning’s Overclock ability to slow down time, giving me a longer window for my barrage of sword strikes. After repeating this a few times, the dragon was defeated and the demo ended.
From my time with it, I think Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is shaping up interestingly. The action is quick and energetic, a unique spin on Final Fantasy’s RPG combat. I am a little concerned, though, that battles could devolve to the point that players need just spam attacks to defeat enemies, as some of the monsters didn’t require much thought or effort to beat.
While that could be the case, the rest of the demo seemed to suggest that I had barely scratched the surface of how the game will play, of what kind of enemies Lightning will face, and the type of Schemata she will have access to. I hope this is the case, because this game has sturdy bones and could easily be a winner, one that could potentially outshine its predecessors (which shouldn’t be too hard, depending on one’s feelings toward the previous FF XIII titles).
We’ll find out if Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is indeed deserving of praise and a worthy end to the FF XIII saga when it releases for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on February 10, 2014, in North America, and February 14, 2014, in Europe.
A writer, journalist, and aspiring storyteller, Peter Grimm has been gaming since the days of the Nintendo 64, and reporting on the goings-on in the World of Gaming since late 2011. His base of writing operations is located within the void between Here and There, or so he would have you think.
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