Game blog: How not to start a game (like FFXIII-2)

I started Final Fantasy XIII-2 today, and am off to a bad start unfortunately. It will be explored in full in my eventual review. (yeah, it came out a while ago, but I’m not a fan of playing games upon release. Hmm, I smell a new blog post on the way. Or was that the stench of the rotting carcass of 2013’s Sim City? Can’t tell.)

What triggered my descent into disgruntled disappointment was the way this game begins, which is with a massive action scene:

  • In a place I don’t know
  • Fighting a villain I don’t recognise
  • For stakes I don’t understand
  • Saving a new character who may as well have ‘deus ex machina’ tattooed across his perfect face.

Coupled with the game teaching you some things (like the paradigm battle system) yet not letting you access them in the menu till quite a bit later, my experience with this game is off to a dissatisfied start, and its got a lot to make up for it, so we’ll see…

But it inspired me to think about how games begin. I recently played Spec Ops: The Line, which introduced the player very well to the world they would be traversing for hours. It was done in such a deft way, prompting you to use the correct buttons in logical ways to progress the story, building the tempo slowly towards its first crescendo, everything was basically consistent.

Far Cry 3’s opening was also a great introduction, beginning with a montage of your character’s hijinks on his holiday, then the camera panning outwards making you realise you’re watching a camcorder held by the crazy dude whose kidnapped you. Then a prison escape, again forcing you to learn the control-scheme to progress the story.

The game medium is mirroring and blending with cinematic techniques more and more, with its penchant for strong narratives. So in turn games should treat their openings as films would. FFXIII-2’s opening would be unacceptable, it’s too much, too soon, just a waste. It’s clearly a climax, but like I say in this post, opening a film then flashing back, is so 90s!

I guess I’m just disappointed in FF’s adherence to throwing the kitchen sink at the screen lately, it seems like over the years they’ve developed a list of criteria as to what constitutes a FF game and now have to include them all each time, and also adding a few more with each instalment. It all feels obligatory.

The franchise needs a serious revamp. It’s a risk, but one worth taking.

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