Worst Games In Great Series #2: Final Fantasy XIII
One of the series I love most is Final Fantasy. This is one of the few franchises which still has a true, powerful identity you can clearly recognize throughout all of its iterations. That's the most interesting thing above all, because the series is really long running and there is no continuity between each episode. So, kudos to Square Enix: the Japanese developer and publisher has been able across all of these years to maintain a unique feeling and approach although not counting on the same worlds and protagonists.
Ubisoft has tried and done something similar with the Assassin's Creed IP, creating a unique universe exploring different times and locations along the road. That universe has a common element in the war between assassins and templars, anyway, and this makes us appreciate even more what Square has managed to achieve in the years.
By the way, in almost fifteen episodes in the main series, so without counting spin-offs, there's been a moment where it seemed the developer had lost its focus. Final Fantasy XIII has represented a true shift for the brand, where Square Enix has tried to make the IP some kind of game for the mass audience. Doing that, Final Fantasy has renounced to two of the pillars that made the series so much appreciated by gamers around the world: charming and mysterious characters, and exploration.
Let's start with characters. The only one you would remember after hours of gameplay is Lightning and she has been discussed so much on the Internet I am not even sure people enjoyed her as much as I did. Characters like Snow, Vanille, Sazh are not only forgettable but also almost insignificant, guys you won't remember after playing for hours and hours or even consider embarrassing for the words and speech they pronounce.
Moreover, exploration has been completely cut from the game, apart from the smaller section in the third Xbox 360 which resembles more Monster Hunter rather than classic Final Fantasy games. This means linearity, which is something the series has never explored before, although being a traditional JRPG. This means lack of sub-quests, which usually distinguish an action game (turn based in our case) from role-playing titles.
All of these components make Final Fantasy XIII the worst game in the franchise, even though it remains an enjoyable title thanks to the good combat system and top quality graphics. Storytelling is not at the same level although the universe created around the crystals is fascinating at least.
Square Enix somehow acknowledged the issues with the game it created in the first place, getting back to its roots with Final Fantasy XIII-2 and Lightning Returns in terms of gameplay, reintroducing side quests and a bit of exploration in a more urban setting.