Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Also available on: PlayStation 3
Reviewed by: Darryl Linington
Developed and published by Square Enix, Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is the long awaited conclusion to the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy. However, does the final instalment end things off on a high note? Or does it fail to deliver a substantial ending to this long awaited finale? Well, let’s find out!
After spending centuries in crystal stasis, Lightning has finally been awoken, but not just by anyone she has been awoken by the god Bhunivelze. The world is sinking into a sea of chaos, and in 13 days the world will end. However, Lightning has returned as the Saviour, a being whose main purpose is to free the souls of humanity from the burdens in their hearts and lead them to a new world… a world that Bhunivelze has promised to create once the 13th day has concluded.
While Lightning has accepted her role as Saviour, it is not a role that she has accepted without reason. Lightning wishes to rescue her sister, Serah, and in order to do so she must bend to Bhunivelze’s will and complete the duty she has been charged with. Guided by Hope Esteim from the Ark, a safe haven for the souls that Lightning has rescued, Lightning sets off on an adventure that will not only test her faith, but also challenge her very existence.
While Lightning Returns has a strong storyline, it is a storyline that almost feels rushed and inconsistent. This is due to the fact that you literally have a handful of days to complete an abundant amount of tasks. With each day only lasting for only so long, you will find yourself racing against time in order to get things done. In the beginning, you are initially given 5 days to complete your task as Saviour, but thankfully Lightning earns Eradia from each person she saves, which ultimately grants her the ability to push back the day of destruction to up to 13 days.
While saving souls is your main priority, it is also the only way to increase Lightning’s physical and magical attributes throughout the game. While previous instalments allowed you to level-up by defeating as many monsters as possible, Lightning Returns does not. This makes freeing the souls of humanity a much larger priority. However, you will still need to face off against various monsters in order to obtain quest related items, which in turn help you complete side quests that will gain your more Eradia.
Facing off against the clock, rather than enemies, makes this title feel very out of place and inconsistent when it comes to a Final Fantasy title. Granted, the time constraints are there for a reason, as the world is setting to end, but it also makes you feel extremely pressurised. While most of the main story quests are simple and straightforward – go to this location, kill this enemy and congrats you have earned yourself Eradia and moved the story along – it is the side quests that are painfully tedious. Each side quest feels like a huge waste of time as you will find yourself running from one location to another and then back again, which ultimately wastes the very precious time you have. Granted by completing loads of side quests you can extend the impending day of destruction, as well as increase your physical and magical attributes, but as stated above it is tedious, frustrating and time consuming.
While time is most definitely not on your side… Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is thankfully an open-world RPG, which means that you are pretty much free travel to any destination and start as many main quests or side quests that you think you can handle. While the time constraints are tedious, the new battle system is quite honestly absolutely amazing. I was slightly worried that I would be facing massive boss battles with just one character, but thankfully Lightning can switch through 3 different fighting styles called Schemata at the push of a button. Each Schemata has its own look, HP meter and ATB gauge, which ultimately replaces the missing party members that I was used to having by my side.
Additionally, each Schemata is fully customisable, which allows you to take full control of how you want to approach the game. A brief example would be my current setup. At the moment, I have basically set up Lightning’s first Schemata to inflict high physical damage to enemies as well as protect her from physical damage at the same time. My second Schemata has been setup to not only inflict magical damage, but also protect Lightning from elemental damage. While my third Schemata has been set up to lower my enemies physical and magical attributes by using spells such as Deshell, Curse, Poison and so on. This is quite a step forward when it comes to the battle system featured in a Final Fantasy title, and I do hope that it one that will stick around in future titles.
When it comes to graphics, Lightning Returns is definitely a mixed bag of tricks. This can be seen when travelling to different locations and cities. You see, the city of Luxerion is dull, flat and uninteresting; however, the Dead Dunes, Yusnaan and the Wildlands are colourful, creative and visually captivating. I personally preferred to spend most of my time outside of Luxerion and only headed back there when I needed to.
One thing I can say is that Square Enix always manage to exceed my expectations especially when they create visually stunning main characters, as well as creative and inspiring enemy models, which fit perfectly within the world that they have been placed in.
When it comes to audio, Square Enix always manages to captivate gamers with the beautiful musical scores featured within the Final Fantasy titles. While the musical score is absolutely perfect… I do however have a slight gripe against the voiceovers. While Lightning and the main cast have been voiced rather well, some of the NPCs felt like they lacked the same quality of voice acting as the main cast. These NPCs felt far too scripted for my liking and really did not add any value to the game at all. There were times when a character would seem to be in absolute distress, but due to the lack of emotion in their voice I just couldn’t take them seriously enough to want to complete their quests.
After spending just over 30 hours playing Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, I can quite honestly say that it is most definitely a title you should check out if you are a fan of the series. There is loads to do when it comes to side quest as well as a huge open-world to explore. While some of the quests are rather exciting, others feel like mundane fetch quests that eat away at the little time you have.
While the storyline is strong, it does however feel rushed and slightly inconsistent at times. Additionally, the new battle system is absolutely marvelous to experience, but at the same time it kind of feels slightly wasted as you cannot actually earn any experience points through battles. Overall, Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII does not entirely end the trilogy on a high note, but it most definitely delivers when it comes to its bold new design, brilliantly executed battle system, and its plethora of customisation options.
Lasting Appeal: 8/10