Final Fantasy XIII-2 Demo Impressions

Although I ultimately could not finish Final Fantasy XIII, I saw a lot of potential in its world and characters who I was actually starting to like right when the game became too frustrating for me. That’s why I was actually excited to try out the sequel for myself to see if the improvements were enough for me to revisit Cocoon and its surrounding territories.

I’d like to point out right now that I was unable to complete this demo (more on that later), but I can assure you I completed enough to give a proper impression. Maybe I haven’t played enough demos, but this one was the first I’ve played that actually required creating a save file. It seems like a strange idea at first, but it makes perfect sense for a demo that takes over an hour to complete. This playtime can be extended indefinitely if you’re content running around and slaying monsters, but I presume there is a level cap in place.

Feel free to prove me wrong and leave a comment because I wouldn’t be able to tolerate the battle system long enough to test that limit myself. It’s seen some significant improvements that make navigating the interface easier, but my interaction with it is still mashing the “auto battle” button and occasionally using paradigm shifts to heal up the party or go on defense. One complaint on that note is my realization that queuing up three attack actions did more damage than auto battle’s insistence on using Ruin and then two attacks. A few quick time events have been thrown in as well, but I wouldn’t call that an improvement. Being able to switch your party leader in the middle of battle is a nice touch although I didn’t notice any significant difference between the two main characters as they were in the demo.

Lighting’s sister Serah takes the leading role this time accompanied by a time traveler named Noel whose voice will be frustratingly familiar to any Skyrim player. The demo naturally didn’t give me enough time to get to know the characters very well, but they appear to be a nice departure from the angst buckets that normally populate the series. Serah also has a little Moogle companion named Mog who appears to be able to identify hidden items in the game world. Completing the party are a variety of monsters that can be captured to fill in whatever is lacking. This allows you to keep a variety of custom paradigm configurations for each creature you’ve collected. There’s also a special “feral link” attack that can be performed once the titular meter is full. I captured a Cait Sith, who was happy to take over Serah’s duties as a healer so I could have both main characters as damage dealers.

I was also pleasantly surprised to run into a situation that offered me a choice on how to progress. I could either take the demo’s boss head on or take a side path to fiddle with some maguffin that would make the battle easier. The boss took out the entire party in one hit when I elected to fight him first, but thanks to the very welcome checkpoint system I was able to seek out the smarter option which required some simple puzzle solving. Unfortunately after that I still could not defeat the boss, but that was likely due to me running from every enemy I found (thus missing out on valuable experience points)  after a while because I’d had it with the battle system. Therefore I wouldn’t call the game difficult, but the sheer tedium required to become strong enough was too much for me.

Like its predecessor, Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a game I want to like. Unfortunately I still can’t seem to get any enjoyment out of it, but I can appreciate the attempts to improve the gameplay. Just give me a battle system that let’s me move my characters freely and we can start talking again, Square Enix. I still recommend this demo if you enjoyed the first game, especially since it gives you enough freedom and ability to save your progress to be considered its own miniature game.