When we last checked in with our intrepid heroes they were 26 hours into their Final Fantast XIII adventure and beginning Chapter 11. They’d arrived on Gran Pulse and were enjoying the wide open horizon, even if it was littered with beasties that wanted to kill them.
Fast forward another 13 hours. At hour 39 our heroes are…still in Chapter 11. Now staring glumly at the wide open horizon, sighing deeply at the prospect of fighting these same beasties over and over again.
But at least they can ride chocobos now.
I’m painting a pretty bleak picture, I realize, but I’m still playing and that should tell you it isn’t as dull as it seems. There are still creatures that can flatten us so challenges await. The world is quite pretty and some of the creature designs are really cool. There is plenty to do: the “open world” of Gran Pulse has a lot of missions to take on. All these missions are given by Cie’th Stones. Wait, what’s a Cie’th Stone?
Time for a history lesson. Hopefully I get this straight. In the beginning there was the Maker who created the world of Gran Pulse and populated it with two races, the Fal’cie and the humans. The Fal’cie are weird demi-god-ish creatures who seem to each be associated with some kind of element. On Gran Pulse the Fal’cie more or less ignore the humans, and vice versa.
At some point hundreds or thousands of years ago, a group of Fal’cie created Cocoon, a hollow moon that hangs above Gran Pulse. The Fal’cie brought a bunch of humans to Cocoon and cared for/guided them. (One of your party members points out “We’re like their pets” although the truth is more malicious.) At the start of the game your group are on (in?) Cocoon. By this point in time the Pulse Fal’cie and the Cocoon Fal’cie seem to be at odds. Or at least the humans of Cocoon have a huge amount of fear of Pulse, to the point where anyone who has been in contact with anything having to do with Pulse is “purged”. Or as some might put it: murdered.
Sometimes the Fal’cie need an extra pair of hands. When they do they convert a human into a L’cie. (You still with me?). L’cie get magical powers! That’s the good news. The bad news is, they also get a “Focus” (a quest of sorts) that they have to complete for the Fal’cie. If they succeed they get turned to crystal. Wait, if being turned to crystal is the carrot, what is the stick? If they don’t complete their focus they turn into a Cie’th which is a kind of mutant zombie-ish monster bent on destruction.
L’cie who become crystal exist in a kind of suspended animation until the Fal’cie need them again, at which point they are turned back to flesh and given another Focus. Cie’th, assuming they aren’t hunted down and killed, eventually turn to Cie’th Stones where they exist in some kind of purgatory for the rest of time, UNLESS a group of adventurers comes along, finds out what their focus was, and completes it for them.
So yeah, we’ve been helping these poor Cie’th bastards by completing their Foci for them. Weird thing though: while this is supposed to release the Cie’th to ‘move on’ in practice the Stones don’t vanish and we can repeat the quests (sorry, the Focus), so who knows what kind of scam is being run?
Any way back in real life, I’ve done about 16 of these quests and there are 64 of them. Hopefully I don’t have to do them all to finish the game because ye gawds that’s a lot of running back and forth. There ARE some fast travel points and I’ll admit I’ve been ignoring them in favor of randomly battling my way across the landscape to level up my characters. If I focused on more efficient travel I might be progressing faster, but then I wouldn’t be as leveled up and fights would be hard so who knows?
In some ways, this section of FF XIII is reminding me of Fallout 76, in a bad way. Remember when FF76 launched and there were no other humans and you got all your quests from robots or computer terminals or something? It just made the world feel dull. Same thing here. You are literally talking to stones to get quests and there are no other sentient creatures in the world (so far). It’s just the six of you and any bits of cut-scene/story-building are few and far between. In practice I’ve been using the same three characters in the same configuration for all the time I’ve been in this chapter.
The fun at this point is trying to take down enemies as quickly and efficiently as possible while continuing to unlock nodes on the Crystarium. There is an upgrade system for gear but I still haven’t done much with that because I don’t feel like I have the ‘end game’ gear to focus on.
HowLongToBeat.com says FF XII can be completed in 48.5 hours for the Main Story. I’m note sure how that would happen because I don’t feel close to the ending, but maybe it all happens in a rush? I’m pretty ready for it to be over though, but not to the point where I’m ready to just say “Heck with it, I’m not going to finish.” It might be the kind of game where I have to just set aside a day of the week to play it and slowly push forward. We’ll see. That’s always a slippery slope because then you skip that day one week and then you forget all about it the next week and soon enough you’ve forgotten how to play.