FPS+RPG=4EVA?

There is a recent trend in first person shooters to include role-playing game elements. Once upon a time, the two genres were polar opposites: one was about brutal, raw action, pitting two teams against each other, while the other was the princess of videogames, the refined, elegant gameplay and storytelling.

I was a fan of both genres back in the day. I remember the first time I played Chrono Trigger and Duke Nukem. Both were entertaining in their own rights, but I found myself drifting naturally towards Chrono Trigger. The story in that game, while not the greatest, was a lot like reading a novel. The characters were interesting and they changed. That was the biggest deal.

In comparison, Duke Nukem was a bloody mess. It was face-paced, and all you did was shoot with increasingly crazy weapons. It wasn’t pretty, but it was fun in its own right. But it felt like to me it was lacking something: why was I killing everything I saw? Yes, there was a flimsy pretense, but no rationale really, not in comparison to something like an RPG.

Now, the two genres are closer than ever. Opposites have attracted, and like the Odd Couple, two genres once at the polar ends of the videogame spectrum have been united. But is this a good thing?

Yes and no.

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First Impressions: Final Fantasy 13

I want to start by saying I really disliked Final Fantasy 12.  I tried so hard to like it but I just couldn’t get into it.  So with that in mind I was super psyched about 13 because by all accounts it looked like this entry would return the series to its former glory.  I’m about 7 hours in and I would already say it’s better than 12.  I understand that when you start an RPG like Final Fantasy you’re making a serious time investment and that you can’t make a true judgment on the game until you see it all the way through.  However, you can see the changes from the minute you boot the game up.  That’s not to say that all the changes are good.  In fact, some aren’t.  But there are a few trends that are worth discussing.

The graphics are great, fantastic even.  I’m playing the 360 version so I can’t comment on the differences between the two versions but I can tell you there aren’t many games better looking than Final Fantasy 13 on the Xbox.  And in a lot of ways, the graphics are one of the only things that really prove this is a Final Fantasy game.  There are A LOT of things that will make you say “what game is this?”

The combat system is so different from classic turn-based Final Fantasy that you might not recognize it.  The first few hours of the game, I hated it.  Sometimes I still do.  It takes a lot of getting used to.  Combined with the fact that you don’t even use magic until 2 hours in, it took a lot to continue on.  Basically the only thing pushing me forward was the story and gorgeous cut scenes.

Also in battle, you don’t have control over the entire party, just the party leader.  Yeah, that’s one change I hate.  I’ll say I have started to get used to that at this point, but it’s very jarring to only be telling one character what to do in battle.  I have found myself frequently frustrated with how the other characters were attacking.  But, that is partially my fault.  Which brings me to paradigm shifts aka character classes.

These I do like so far.  Essentially these are the traditional warrior, white mage and black mage classes with a different and cooler name.  The more you play the more paradigms each character can learn.  These can be switched on the fly in battle and make for some cool combination options while playing.  And this is how you control the other characters actions in battle, by switching from medic to commando and back to ravager so you can heal, attack and then spell cast.  It causes a lot of button presses and gives the illusion of an action RPG.  Which is good for the casual RPG fan.  It does seem like it streamlines the game but I am expecting that these paradigm combinations will become super complex really quickly.

I don’t want to comment much on the story because in the overall scheme of this huge game I’m really not far so it wouldn’t be fair so say what I like and don’t like about that at this point.  I am very intrigued by the directions the story’s going but not so much interested in a few of the characters.  Hopefully, that turns around.

Overall, at this point in the game I definitely like the game despite some of the changes and the slow pacing early on.  I am just hoping there’s more to the controls and gameplay I just haven’t figured out or learned.

Feel free to ask any questions in the comments and I’ll answer what I can.