Impressions: Final Fantasy XIII-2 demo

Mog of Miniature Destruction.

As protaganists Noel and Serah stumble into a brawl with Atlas – which is what appears to be a super-mega-giant death machine – Final Fantasy XIII-2, from a second-to-second perspective, feels a little too familiar. Roles, Paradigms and Staggers reunite to form that deceptively simple routine: clock onto an enemy’s rhythm, find a paradigm pattern and exploit the heck out of it to the point of mild insanity.

So, fundamentally, little appears to have changed – this isn’t quite the paradigm shift that Final Fantasy X saw in its sequel. Yet what has been tweaked, though subtle, seems to have made a notable impact on the game’s feel.

The premise: find a way to rid the area of the bio-mechanical menace, Atlas, by confronting it head on, or weakening it first. Naturally, you might want to take the latter option.

Cries from Final Fantasy XIII‘s critics don’t appear to have fallen entirely on deaf ears. After your brawl with Atlas, you’re freed into a small, hub-like environment, as NPCs idle and pace around, divulging snippets of voiced dialogue when prompted. Though it hardly rivaled the likes of Kalm (Final Fantasy VII) or say, Besaid (Final Fantasy X), it was a glimpse into a future not overrun by narrow corridors and painfully linear passageways.

Not unlike XIII‘s Cie’th Stones, these same characters offer quests in return for your typical RPG trappings. Two in the demo, a monster hunt and a fetch quest, where ample excuses to further explore the game’s nuances.

Visible enemies now present themselves by way of pseudo-random encounters. Should an enemy suddenly pop into existence, you’re given the oppurtunity to strike first – embodied in the form of a pre-cast ‘Haste’ spell in battle – or the chance swiftly sidestep the fight. And to add to the game’s mechanical vocabulary, your party is now vulnerable to being wounded by particular kinds of attacks.

When inflicted with ‘Wound,’ a character’s maximum HP shrinks. In practice, this meant the inclusion of more healers to compensate, or switching a more aggressive play style – the quicker they died, they less chance they would have to unleash a lucky one-hit kill.

“Change Leader” now populates the battle command bar. For those who found XIII‘s lack of direct control incredibly frustrating, the ability to change who you control mid-fight almost proved itself to be a game changer. No longer are you required to sit around waiting for that oh-so-important spell to fire off.

From a Moogle capable of transforming into to a weapon to its low strung ambiance, Final Fantasy XIII-2, at first glance, is the far more leisurely of the XIII titles.  It never once felt as though somebody was sat behind you, yelling, “Go forward!”

This is most certainly the ‘post-sin’ period of the world’s history. It’s also a world that, for now, appears to be worth saving… again.

The Final Fantasy XIII-2 is currently available as a free download on PlayStation Network and Xbox LIVE.

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