As I spent more time getting used to these weird changes, I realized that what Square Enix is doing is streamlining the process. They've made a list of all of the essential elements of Final Fantasy and intend on checking them off, but at the same time they are making this game accessible to new and old gamers alike. While it might be jarring to no longer go to the local Inn, there's really no reason to now that you regain your health immediately after a fight. In fact, the computer store you shop at is way more convenient than walking all the way back to some lousy town. It's the difference between going to the store and online shopping.
After awhile I found that I didn't even mind the narrow corridors. The game is telling a linear story, which is no different from any of the past games. The big difference is here is that the game feels linear. Final Fantasy XII gave off the impression that you really could go anywhere and do anything, but that's only because the areas you explored were so large in scale. This is not that kind of game. This game is focused on telling you a specific story, and in order to do that it's going to take you in a straight path.
But don't be afraid of the path. Oh sure, you don't get to explore every nook and cranny of some dungeon, but there's still loot to pick up and places to see. What's more, the more linear path has allowed Square Enix to show you more of this world than you would otherwise see. About half way through it struck me that this game is mimicking the level layouts of a game like Call of Duty, only instead of being a first-person shooter; Final Fantasy XIII is a game about killing fighting monsters.
It's worth mentioning that while 90% of this game is set-up in a linear fashion, there will come a time in your adventure when all of a sudden you have the traditional wide-open areas full of encounters. At first I thought it was a mirage; perhaps I had been playing the game a little too long that night and I was hallucinating. But no, there really is a time when the game opens up and allows you to go on a series of side quests. It's at this time that the game started to feel more like Final Fantasy X and XII, two very different Final Fantasy sequels. But just as quickly as it came, it goes away. Before long you're back on the linear path to (hopefully) save the world.
You may never warm up to the closed in environments; I can certainly understand some people being turned off by this design decision. However, if you let that get to you then you'll never discover the game's best asset - the brand new combat system. Although it takes the game several hours to fully explain how to play the game (including a couple hours where you aren't even gaining experience points), Final Fantasy XIII has a unique feel that I fell madly in love with. Even if you hate the characters and the linear story, I still say the game is worth playing simply for the combat.
In Final Fantasy XIII you control only one character, whoever the party leader is at the time. This means that you will usually have one or two computer-controlled characters by your side at all times. While you aren't in direct control of their actions, you are in charge of controlling what kind of role they are playing. A character's role is sort of like a job, only in this game each character has three different roles that come with completely different abilities. For example, a character's role may be as a Medic, which means that they would have a lot of white magic spells, such as cure magic and the ability to resurrect a fallen teammate.
There are six roles in all, each of them with their special pros and cons. There's the Ravager role, which allows a character to quickly stagger an opponent with weak attacks, leaving the enemy dazed and unable to attack for a short period of time. Then there's the Commando, which is good when you have an enemy staggered and need to bring in the heavy attacks. You can change these roles at any time, it takes no more than a second and you're controlling a character with a completely different set of moves.
Page 2 of 4