PREVIEWSPillars of Eternity Preview
For Obsidian's crowdfunded love letter to Infinity Engine games like Icewind Dale and Baldur's Gate, I was impressed by its willingness to pull back the curtain and let me see the machinery behind it.
We've all been there. Everyone remembers that mission. You and your partner are climbing up the mountains in the snow, striving to pull some slick clandestine operation about getting some intel on a bad guy, or something similar (because let's face...
Final Fantasy X-2 is a weird game. I'm going to repeat that word a lot, so please bear with me. I'm doing it for a reason.
The plot... or rather the plot progression is weird (as usual, the main plot is still about something threatening the entire planet. But how you get there, now -that- is another story).
The combat system is weird. Again, it's not that different jobs are new to the FF series, but the execution is... well, weird.
The music is definitely weird, and for me personally not really that attractive either.
In short, it's almost impossible for me to grade this game properly. The world (repeated, as it is, from FF X) and initial battle mode is Final Fantasy, but just about everything else isn't. And whenever I thought I had really gotten used to, say the combat system, then bam! Another dress sphere with something I didn't expect at all leap out at me, throwing me off balance. I ended up playing through this game just to see that next piece of weirdness that would inevitably show up. In this, the game did not disappoint, staying true to... whatever principles it was made by... right up to the end.
That involves, like I said, the combat mode, the main plot, and not the least the almost endless amount of sidequests and tiny little tidbits to do everywhere. I used to say about "The Legend of Zelda: Mahjora's Mask" that it was a game that answers the question on just how much extra stuff you can add in a game and -still- have a proper red line to follow. But the guys behind FF X-2 must obviously have read what I said, and decided to up the ante.
Be that as it may, let me tell a bit about the plot progression. In previous FF games, and most console RPGs, you get a fairly linear line to follow. Almost as if on a train track. Now, in this game, you're still on a train track, but you pass a lot of train stations where you can change tracks a lot, and take them in whatever order you decide, even. Or just skip the station altogether. But no matter when you get finally out of the station, it's still the one track. Of course, this is a much bigger feeling of freedom than what us console gamers are used to, just don't make too much a deal of it.
And there's also really only one ending, with a possibility of a few inconsequential add-ons. But if you want to get a better ending, at least you can start the game with a New Game Plus, where all the abilities and dress spheres and items and accessories you've earned will carry over into the next game. Then you can just make sure to pick some different choices (you'll know'em when you see them), and it shouldn't be too hard getting a 100% completion the second time. But unless you're obsessive-compulsive about this, then it's not worth the trouble.
The combat, once you get used to the dress-sphere execution, is actually quite good, with a massive amount of different ways to maximise your characters capabilities of kicking ass and taking names, as well as going along with a good amount of speed. And the sidequest bosses, not to mention the 100-level dungeon, should satisfy most people that felt that FF X was too easy. Especially you North Americans, who never got to see the Dark Aeons and Penance in that game.
Graphics were acceptable when this was new. Music... Well, you like j-pop? If not, then you'll probably not like it here. Nobuo Uematsu is not involved at all with the music; which just drives home the feeling that this doesn't really feel like a proper Final Fantasy game; it's.... just something weird. Voice acting is on par with FF X, which is to say that I thought it wasn't that good... But compared to most other RPGs with voice acting I've played since then, it's still among the best. I guess that says more about the average quality of RPG voice acting, though. Also, Rikku felt disappointing after that "Y, R, P, in position. it's showtime, girls." opening that made me think she had turned cool. Just like the way she busted through a door with explosives in FF X made promises she didn't deliver there either. What a pity.
In the end, I've rated it a B-, thinking that if you like this genre, you should at least try it out. And there was, for me, something likeable in there too. But do not be surprised if you find it a bit too weird for your tastes. Especially not after reading -this- review. If you still get surprised then, it's your own fault.