Final Fantasy 13’s arrival on Steam brought back many memories of watching my friend, Shane, play the game upon its initial release. I always found Final Fantasy 13 unapproachable, so I had no intention of purchasing it when the PC version showed up either. As an avid Final Fantasy fan of previous installments, however, I couldn’t cull the brewing curiosity still lingering four years later. Was thirteen really so bad, or did it just appear so from an outside perspective? I also questioned if $15 and forty or more hours were worth an answer. I ultimately decided no, they were not. Rationality and reason emerged victorious.

Then Final Fantasy 13 arrived in my Steam library as a gift. Shane, who I assume somehow feeds off my pain, saw fit to send it my way and challenge my ennui. I felt I owed it to him, myself, and the entire franchise to give Final Fantasy 13 a fair shake.

I didn’t count on Final Fantasy 13 shaking back.

I couldn’t anticipate how taxing a game about running down hallways could be on my psyche. Within seconds of the opening, I started jotting down questions I had about the universe, character motivations, geography — anything I couldn’t wrap my head around went into this document. As the game went on, these questions kept me alive. I was often asked, by friends and strangers alike, why I continued to play a game I’d already confessed I got no enjoyment out of playing. Here are my frequent rationalizations:

  1. I have played every core game in the series up until 13. If I complete this, I can maintain my claim I’ve played every main entry.

  2. If Final Fantasy 13 is truly terrible, I must play it to be able to articulate exactly why, with informed opinions.

  3. There’s a chance it could improve as it approaches the end, or surprise me with a single powerful scene that makes the entire agonizing experience worth it... (I gave up on number 3 very early.)

  4. There must be a reason people like this game. Look around the internet, and you will find people who defend this thing, vehemently. With zeal. This makes #2 extremely important.

  5. As Nietzsche said,

    “But what if pleasure and pain should be so closely connected that he who wants the greatest possible amount of the one must also have the greatest possible amount of the other, that he who wants to experience the "heavenly high jubilation" must also be ready to be "sorrowful unto death"?

In other words, Final Fantasy 13 will be my “sorrowful unto death” experience, and other games will feel so much sweeter after I endure it.

I spent a long time trying to decide how to approach this article, and decided the best method would be to simply show you my thoughts during playtime.

Below are all the questions I jotted down during the game. The final document itself exceeded forty agonizing pages. I’ve done my best to eliminate the few questions that were eventually answered, or any repeats of previous thoughts. I’ve also done my best to rephrase any questions to make them understandable to someone who hasn’t waded waist-deep into Final Fantasy 13’s briar patch of a story, but I eventually realized it was a fool’s task. Making sense of Final Fantasy 13’s insane lore is… you know what? Nevermind. I trust the problem will become clear soon.

  • Does Square Enix know most PC games usually have a resolution option? Someone should tell them there are more video options than subtitles and what kind of on-screen button prompts to use.

  • Does the fact I need to manually change from PC button prompts to controller button prompts mean the game can’t tell when I’ve unplugged a controller?

  • What are these people talking about? L’cie, Fal’Cie… are these some kind of berry? A fruit snack?

  • Why make a combat system where positioning on the battlefield is important, and then give the player no agency over their movement? Everyone just shuffles around the battlefield like they just got off the teacup ride at Disneyland.

  • Will I eventually learn how to do things other then press A?

  • Why do these people who clearly know everything about what happens to L’cie and Fal’cie keep repeating to each other what they already know? Are they afraid they’ll forget? Are people in this world prone to late onset amnesia, and need constant reminders to stave it off?

  • Why is Lightning’s only response to any question to walk away and brood toward the camera?

  • Who is Vanille? Why is she convincing this grieving boy to steal a cyber-bike? Is Vanille an alien?

  • Did these characters forget how to have a conversation?

  • Why does Serah call Snow a “hero”? He just got a ton of people killed. She knows he’s about to fail at saving her from a crystallized fate too, so is she just trying to give him a crippling inferiority complex? Did she mean it ironically? Like, “Oh good, my hero is here. Great.”

  • Why does anybody trust Lightning enough to follow her into this room? She tried to abandon Sazh only minutes ago, she’s a huge jerk to Snow, and everyone else has just met her.

  • Why is Snow bowing down to the Fal’cie? I don’t understand anything about this universe yet, and even I know it’s a very poor plan.

  • I understand why Snow and Lightning are taking up arms against the evil armored God berry, but why is everyone else? Sazh mutters a name under his breath. Maybe he’s harboring some secret vendetta I don’t know about yet. But didn’t Hope just come here just to... accuse Snow of killing his Mom? And Vanille is… well, being Vanille.

  • Am… am I fighting the final boss at the start of the game?

  • After proposing to Serah, Snow says he can’t wait to see Lightning’s face. Why? Does he think this proposal will finally thaw her icy heart? Or cause it grow three sizes?

  • ...has Snow confused Lightning for the Grinch?

  • Why is Snow driving his flying motorbike into fireworks with his unsecured fiancé in his lap?

  • After a firework hits the motorbike in one of the most predictable accidents ever, Serah’s response is to share a laugh with Snow. Shouldn’t she be simultaneously screaming and slapping him for endangering her life in the dumbest possible way?

  • Or are the characters aware they’re protagonists, and therefore need not feel any sense of danger until the plot calls for it?

  • Why is Snow three times taller than everyone else? Actually, how was Serah able to kiss him without a step ladder strapped to her side at all times?

  • This game will explain how the death of a Fal’cie can turn an entire ocean to crystal, right? I mean, it looks beautiful, but I’m very confused about how water and fire become instantaneously crystallized while stone, debris, save points, and people do not. (The game does not ever explain this.)

  • Why is there an option to switch my party members, but if I select it I’m told “You cannot switch party members at this time”? Why even have the option appear if it’s just going to taunt the player for the next twenty hours?

  • Will I ever get to switch party members?

  • On that note, will I have an objective other than “walk straight ahead until next cutscene”?

  • We just saw how Serah completed her focus and turned into a crystal. Why would we all immediately try to figure out and complete our focus? Why would anyone, in the history of this universe, seek out their focus when the reward is to become a new Edward Scissorhands ice sculpture?

  • The Fal’cie communicate through hazy visions? Why? Do they want their instructions to be misinterpreted? It seems like a recklessly unnecessary risk, sending instructions in the form of a Ring-style hallucination. Maybe they can’t talk. (As I discovered later, they can and do.)

  • Do… do L’cie marks scrub out? Like Henna? Maybe this isn’t so serious, guys.

  • Didn’t the Fal’cie just die? Doesn’t that mean we’re free of any risk? Or does the Fal’cie not need to be alive to enforce punishment? Is it more like a rattlesnake bite?

  • Why does Snow insist everyone should stay together, but then immediately abandon the party to try and dig a crystallized Serah out of the snow?

  • The previous question smacks a little of victim blaming. Sorry, Snow. The real question is, why does Lightning encourage everyone to abandon a desperate Snow?

  • While I agree with Lightning that Snow’s priorities are out of whack, punching him twice in the face was maybe an extreme of a way to express it. Snow made no aggressive movements towards Lightning. When the next punch came, he just let it happen. He accepted it. This scene is textbook abuse. In the next cutscene Snow needs to call a hotline.

  • Is… is everyone really just going to leave Snow here? Alone? Knowing an army is on the way?

  • Now Snow is back to trying to dig Serah out with a gun. Snow is an idiot. This isn’t a question, it just bothers me.

  • How did everyone know who to split up with? Did they discuss it off-screen?

  • Does this “hover motorcycle” need wheels on it? Is that necessary?

  • Why can’t Hope say the word “mom”? Instead he always trails off with a “…” in the subtitles.

  • Why is it “game over” if Lightning’s health is reduced to 0? Do the others not know how to continue fighting without her leadership? In what way has Lightning demonstrated she’s leadership material? If anything, they might be better off without her.

  • The game is eventually going to explain why two ice women suddenly attacked Snow, right? And how he was able to absorb them into his body?

  • So Sazh’s initial reaction to seeing L’cie Serah was to offer his gun to Lightning, and suggest putting her out of her misery. Here’s a million soldiers who see Snow is a L’cie, but they won’t shoot him. Why? Do… do they see the camera behind him? Did they see it and say to themselves, “Damn, he’s a player character! Can’t kill this one.”

  • Does Lightning actually know how to drive one of these ships, or is she just being a terrible backseat driver to Sazh?

  • I’ve been playing this game for eight hours. How are we still introducing exposition about the world? Who is this Space Pope?

  • Shouldn’t the fact five people just killed a God and crystallized the ocean be making the news too?

  • Thank god there was a lull in the gunfire during this dogfight so we could check the local news.

  • Why is Lightning abandoning the party after a near-death plane crash? Actually, better question: how is no one injured?

  • Lightning ran a “couple missions” here and that’s why she knows the way. That’s fine, I guess, but what kind of missions took place in a Junkyard? Were there dangerous Junkyard monsters that needed to be put down?

  • Actually, Lightning was in the Guardian Corps, so… did the Junkyard Monsters need guarding? Was there a Junkyard monster diplomat who needed protection during a peace meeting?

  • Lightning explains the difference between PSICOM and the Guardian Corps by clarifying there are, in fact, two branches of the military. This fails to explain why they’re split and what their relative goals are. This would be like answering a question about the difference between the Marines and the Army by saying, “Well see, there’s the Army and then there’s the Marines.”

  • The ambient crowd chatter at the start of this train cutscene is highly inappropriate.

  • If the PSICOM soldiers shot a group of civilians right outside the Botan death train, would anyone actually get on it? Wouldn’t they just panic and run?

  • Can you “quit” being a soldier the same way you can “quit” an at-will job? I feel like no one in the military would go AWOL if this was the case.

  • How did Lightning know she wouldn’t be arrested for insubordination and detained in the town, thus ruining her entire plan? Seems to me dressing as one of the robed figures would’ve been a better plan, or trying to sneak onto the train from a different platform.

  • Hope is surprised when Lightning abandons him. By now shouldn’t everyone be expecting it? Aside from punching Snow, it’s kind of the only thing she’s done all game.

  • On that note, Lightning is the worst soldier ever. At the first sign of any trouble, she leaves everyone behind. Unless she apologizes later in the game for how many times she’s almost gotten everyone killed, I’m convinced she’s a sociopath.

  • Wait… where are we even going!? Cocoon? The Bahamas? I’ve no idea what goal these people are trying to reach.

  • So everybody attended the same fireworks display on the same night in the same town? And no one else saw Snow almost kill Serah by flying straight into a firework? If Lightning saw that display of stupidity, I’d understand her hatred toward Snow.

  • Hope is a jerk to his mother.

  • Why does auto-battle exist if it’s just going to pick 3 random, non-optimal abilities?

  • I’ve now collected almost 100 crafting items. When do I use these? How do I use them? (No sooner did I jot down this note when crafting became available.)

  • Crafting unlocked, but why are there uniquely named crafting materials when they can all be applied for the same XP amount to any item? Why does a “quality bone” work just as well for a pair of guns as it does for a bangle?

  • Lightning talks about fighting the other Fal’cie, because apparently there’s more of them. That’s great! This is the first time I’ve liked Lightning the whole game! Then Szah says, “just like that, you’re going to take on a Fal’cie?” I don’t know why this is a surprise to him; we just killed one earlier today. In their universe, I’d estimate it was about six hours ago they all felled a god in jolly cooperation.

  • Why do we keep splitting the party further and further?

  • Why did a giant floating man, clad in armor, just pop out of Lightning and assault Hope?

  • Is Lightning made of anything other than legs and torso? It’s been bothering me all game.

  • No obligations, rules, or authority? That is a great name for a punk band, and an awful one for a resistance group. ACRONYMS DO NOT WORK THAT WAY, NORA.

  • I’ve had this problem with video game plots for a long time, but lets take a minute and unpack the concept of a bio-organic weapon. How does a bio-engineered dog work better than a gun in any combat situation? In a world with missiles, magic, and machine guns, how does experimenting on living organisms give the military any feasible edge? Even if your bio-organic super weapon is capable of amazing feats, it does no good if it’s made out of organic tissue susceptible to bullets.

  • Under no circumstances should Hope dying be Game Over. If anything, someone should throw a party.

  • “Is it the L’cie thing? Is it Snow?” Fuck you, Lightning. How would you know Hope hates Snow? He hasn’t even told you about how Snow dropped his mom off a bridge. Did you read the script?

  • “You and I are partners.” Fuck you again, Lightning! No matter how stupid Hope is, he doesn’t deserve to be manipulated by you. We both know you’ll abandon him two cutscenes from now.

  • You’re right, Lightning. Don’t discourage this boy from killing a man. In fact, encourage it and further implicate yourself by handing him the murder weapon.

  • A cutscene just played where Lightning tells her Sister she’ll kill her because she’s a L’cie. I get it. Finally get it. Lightning is the antagonist. The L’cie are the heroes.

  • Oh my God. I’m experiencing a revelatory sensation of clarity. The entirety of Final Fantasy 13 suddenly makes perfect sense. Lightning is actually a tragic hero, driven to killing gods out of a misplaced anger towards her sister, and her inability to change her fate. (Ends up my revelation didn’t last, but I still think it would’ve made a stronger story.)

  • Why would Hope adopt “operation NORA” as a code name? Isn’t Snow’s ridiculous NORA resistance group the very thing that got his mother killed? Wouldn’t he name it literally anything else? How about “Operation Kill Snow”?

  • Hope just explained this by saying his mother’s name was Nora. The improbability of this fact and the mere idea the game is asking me to accept it without doubt wounds me somewhere deep in the core of my being.

  • The Guardian Corps is hunting the L’cie, so they recruit a L’cie? This only makes sense if the Guardian Corps have a fundamental misunderstanding of how being a L’cie works, an understanding that is borderline racist. “All L’cie know each other!”

  • Vanille and Sazh head in the opposite direction of warships flying overhead. This is the first decision I’ve agreed with all game. At first I contemplated complaining about how this doesn’t advance their goals, but I have no idea what their goals are, so why worry?

  • The Sunleth Waterscape has amazing music. It’s refreshing.

  • Sazh keeps calling himself “old man”. How old is he, 35? I get it, actually; in a Final Fantasy game, that’s ancient. (I’ve since looked up his age; it’s actually 40.)

  • Sazh was at the horrid fireworks display too?

  • Does Final Fantasy 13 take place in a universe powered by unlikely coincidences? Is this plot powered by the improbability drive?

  • Dajh is the most horrifying attempt at a child ever programmed.

  • Why can nobody walk into a clearing without falling asleep?

  • A God’s only method of defense was to brand an eight year old boy to fight for it? Why does anyone worship these gods again?

  • Why is everyone on the run heading to major cities? Aren’t those places where they’re guaranteed to be caught?

  • Here we sneak into the tunnel system Hope used all the time as a kid, but when asked where it empties out he replies “I don’t really know for sure”. How is that possible? How often did you use these again?

  • Here’s a crazy thought: when you’re a fugitive, maybe don’t hide in your own home. (This plan might work, actually. PSICOM won’t even bother to stake it out, because nobody would be so stupid as to hide out in their own home.)

  • “I won’t abandon you” is the most unbelievable thing Lightning has ever said.

  • Lightning acts like it’s a big revelation the Fal’cie think of them as pets. How exactly is that any different than what she thought before? Earlier she talked about people being nothing but tools to them. If anything, “pet” is an improvement.

  • How do the Fal’cie feed an entire population? Do they wish it into existence? Is it magic? Technology?

  • I think I’ve finally reached the point in the game where Lightning realizes she’s an awful and boring person. A shame she can’t ever fix the second one.

  • What exactly was Lightning trying to accomplish when she ran away from Snow and Hope here? Did she just see a chance to abandon everyone and took it? Then she ran into Fang and had to pretend to care again? I know she didn’t have an agenda of her own, because after running into Fang she immediately calls Snow and sets up a rendezvous point at Hope’s totally safe house.

  • Wow, I’ve come a long way. Earlier, I would’ve wondered how the game expects me to accept all the characters escaped this impossible situation. Now I realize these cutscenes only exist to split my party and screw with my paradigms.

  • Do it Hope. Do it. Stab him in the back. Stab him right in his stupid magic trenchcoat.

  • Fang’s phone line is “hyper-encrypted”. Is that better than super encryption?

  • Lightning has an entire phone conversation with Snow about where to go, but waits until the line starts to fade out to warn him Hope plans on stabbing him.

  • What’s causing interference to a hyper-encrypted line? I hear those things are super secure.

  • Why are the jetpack enemies hovering at punching height to attack us? Why don’t they just hover 30 feet over our heads and shoot us?

  • “We’ll walk from here,” says Snow, because that’s so different from what we’ve done so far.

  • Hope is terrible at killing people.

  • Potential for interesting character development is ruined by missiles.

  • Fang explains that a Fal’cie brand actually changes to reflect how much time a person has to complete a focus. Lightning hunted L’cie for a living. Shouldn’t she know this?

  • After twenty hours of gameplay, shouldn’t I know this? From someone? Anyone?

  • Did a language algorithm bot write this game’s script?

  • Fang says “it’s all in the wrist” while attacking with her spear. I have very limited knowledge of proper spear and polearm handling, and even I know that’s a good way to fracture your wrist.

  • The paradigm system is one of the few ways I actually get to make choices; why am I not allowed to customize my options before most boss fights with reassigned party members? Why are the predesignated, randomly assigned paradigms useless?

  • I spend every boss fight hoping my allies won’t wander aimlessly into one another and all get hit by the same attack. Then I keep re-trying the boss fight until they don’t do that, and then I win. That… can’t be by design, right?

  • I feel like the characters I’m not controlling should know to use lightning (the spell, not the person) over and over on the thing weak against lightning, right? When they throw in the occasional water and air attack to amuse themselves, I just want to die.

  • First, Lightning hugging Hope looks like a robot trying to simulate a hug based on a synopsis it once read of a Full House episode. Second, is this supposed to be character development? Am I supposed to be happy because Lightning realized abandoning a child in a junkyard is wrong?

  • In V.O., Vanille tries to make heading to Hope’s home sound like a smart idea. Yes, Vanille, home is a nice thing to have, but only when half the world isn’t trying to shoot you on sight.

  • Why does going to Hope’s house actually work? How are these homes not under constant surveillance?

  • This entire game is starting to feel like a “who’s on first” routine.

  • Hope’s Dad is Harry Mason from Silent Hill: Shattered Memories.

  • Really? No one is going to sit in the room with Hope while he tells his dad about how mom’s dead? They’re just gonna go right up to his bedroom, not even say hello?

  • Why have this door open at all if I can’t walk through it? I can’t even make the characters be polite about this.

  • Snow should be at least a little upset Lightning gave Hope a weapon just to see if he’d kill him. At least a little bit, right? Are we really not going to discuss that at all?

  • Fang turns on the TV in Hope’s house, like she lives there or something.

  • The TV man talks about an “all out assault” to find the L’cie. Hunting L’cie is the only thing they do. It wasn’t an all out assault before?

  • Lightning finally apologizes at the eighteen hour mark, but only to Snow.

  • Hope’s dad is embarrassed by Snow when he apologizes for killing his wife. Snow’s flop-on-the-ground-and-yell approach to apologies is so awful I can feel the embarrassment in the room.

  • Everyone sits around Hope’s house making wildly unsubstantiated assumptions about what the populace will do. (It ends up all these guesses mean nothing too, since the party will soon end up on a different planet entirely.)

  • Hope says “coming here was a bad idea” right as the shock troopers cut the power. Oh, sure. NOW it’s a bad idea.

  • Why did it take them all day to find us? Because we needed time to have that talk? They read the script, and saw they weren’t allowed to show up until Snow’s emotional moment was over?

  • This game is going to kill me. The plot holes are compounding upon one another.

  • Nothing says “I’m a bad guy” quite like background music with latin vocals.

  • Wait, so a smoke grenade caused all the soldiers to start firing on their own people?

  • No wonder no one’s afraid of being caught; the military is run by the three stooges.

  • Nautilus is the first town I’ve been to that, while still a hallway, is cleverly disguised to not resemble one.

  • I’m now watching a parade about the war between Cocoon and Pulse. Shouldn’t this be a thing I know about by now?

  • In fact, I feel like we could’ve started the story right here, at this parade, via flashback with a Vanille voice over. I’d know a lot more about the history of this world, and I might actually understand all the Fal’cie/L’cie nonsense.

  • This is getting absurd. Prior to Nautilus, the game at least pretended we were doing more than faffing about.

  • The plot of this chapter is “two fugitives wander around aimlessly.” That isn’t me making fun of the chapter; that is a direct quote from the loading screen.

  • For an amusement park, there’s not an awful lot of amusement. Chasing a baby chocobo doesn’t count.

  • Why make me play hide and seek with a Chocobo, but show a cutscene where I can see exactly where he hides?

  • From the same franchise that brought you the Golden Saucer comes the thrilling game, “find the baby chocobo who floats three feet in front of you”.

  • Sazh is the best character in this game. Yes, I’ve been down on this whole thing, but I mean this one with sincerity. Sazh confesses he’s going to turn himself in, just so he can see his son one last time before L’cie bullshit happens. This is the only choice anyone’s made I completely understand. It’s too bad the moment is immediately ruined when PSICOM shows up and starts shooting at us.

  • Vanille picked this stupid thing up at the start of the game and swung it around like she’d never seen it before. So… she actually had one in the past too? Did she plant it there? Did… did she “pretend” to find it to try and impress Hope?
  • So the military’s plan is to make Sazh hate Vanille so much they… kill each other? Why not just shoot them both right now? Who runs this operation? Not everything needs to be a scheme, you know.

  • So Eidolon’s just show up whenever a L’cie feels down? That has to be inconvenient. What if my coffee maker broke and I got disappointed about it? Would an Eidolon suddenly crash through my roof and wreck the house?

  • So after beating the Eidolon that turns into a car, we promptly... don’t use it? for anything? There’s only one way into the room. They could pile in the car and speed right out of this amusement park. At least Snow got his Shiva sisters acknowledged outside of a cutscene.

  • So Sazh is being transported in this coffin thing, either because they thought he died from not shooting himself in the head, or because they had it lying around and wanted to get some use out of it. Either way this makes no sense. This scene only exists to trick the player into thinking Sazh killed himself, but makes no sense in the actual context of the game.

  • So the Guardian Corps are rebelling against PSICOM? Aren’t they two branches of the same military? Wouldn’t that be like the Marines and the Navy going to war?

  • Why exactly is everyone mounting a rescue for Sazh and Vanille? I can see Fang rescuing Vanille, but no one knows a thing about Sazh. (Lightning might, if she hadn’t abandoned him twice in an hour.)

  • Why is Lightning being addressed as “Sergeant Farron”? She “quit” days ago. Also you mean to tell me the lifeless robot known as Lightning managed to reach the rank of Sergeant?

  • Snow is here with us, but I can’t put him in the party. I guess he’s just along for the ride?

  • One of FF13’s favorite games is to throw you into battle after a cutscene with a new party and entirely new Paradigms it randomized into existence. This is marginally less annoying than a child playing the “why?” game.

  • I feel like we should be facing much more opposition than 6 guards in the hangar bay during our initial assault.

  • “Something bad’s waiting for us”, says Lightning as we assault the entire enemy fleet. When you fight the entire enemy fleet, it’s a very predictable kind of bad, Lightning.

  • Two guards and a drone enter the room. Sazh takes out one, Vanille shoots the drone… and the other just disappears? Or am I supposed to think the baby chocobo took one out on it’s own? Wh... what did it do? Peck him to death? Through armor and a face shield?

  • Is this color code thing supposed to be making fun of the terror alert? Or is it a thing that’s, like, um…. stupid?

  • This game isn’t going to beat itself; someone has to press A every once in a while.

  • I don’t know a lot about planes, but I’m pretty sure you can’t just stand in a place like this:

  • Vanille’s “grab a flying creature out of the air” technique could’ve come in handy a few times before now.

  • Did Fang just stab this thing she’s trying to tame through the head? I don’t think horse trainers impale their mounts to make them behave.

  • At 27 hours in, I can finally change my party.

  • I reject the notion this game opens up now. The truth is you’re so starved for any freedom, the slightest amount of agency feels empowering. (I wrote this because I’d been told frequently the game would “open up” after 20 hours. At this point, I’d not actually reached Gran Pulse, the area where people actually think the game opens up. As you’ll discover, the sentiment remains the same once we get there, too.)

  • This “million-staircases-powered-by-individual-panels” room is absurd. It must take any soldiers stationed in this area three hours to reach the mess hall.

  • Why is the Space Pope killing all his own people?

  • Space Pope turned into Space Pope dog.

  • Um… what is happening in this game again?

  • You’ve forgotten your focus? Shouldn’t a Fal’cie know receiving a focus is as clear as receiving a description of the movie Primer from someone who’s only seen it once?

  • Why would a Fal’cie explain, in detail, how to kill him?

  • What is Orphan? Why are we introducing new crap I’ve never heard of thirty hours into the game?

  • Where did we get this ship? Why can it fly itself? How did we dodge a million missiles that blew up every cubic foot of air around us?

  • “Maybe it’s a Fal’cie thing.” #falciethings.

  • Why is Hope recanting the entire plot at the end of this tunnel? Also, his recap really goes a long way to illustrate just how absurd this entire story has become.

  • Lightning tells Snow his trust in Serah “made her want to believe”. When exactly? When she abandoned the party the first time, or when she abandoned Hope the second? Lightning hasn’t believed in anything, ever.

  • Why did the game change my party between now and the Space Pope fight? No one went anywhere, the party didn’t get split… is the game so used to changing up the party every chapter it couldn’t handle a transition without it?

  • Fang remarks that it’s strange an ark is hidden on Cocoon. Isn’t Cocoon the only other planet around? Isn’t this the only place it would end up?

  • If Dysey can teleport us at will, like he did to save us from crashing to a building, why didn’t he just teleport us to the ark earlier? Why make us kill tons of soldiers on his ark to get to him, then teleport us away?

  • What’s this giant gun? Can we use it? Couldn’t we just clear out the whole room with it?

  • Now I’m being introduced to… the Maker? No no. Please god, no. I can’t handle any more crazy deities in this fiction.

  • Raines just blocked Lightning’s sword with his hands. Is… is he wearing special gloves? Or is Lightning just that bad at maintaining the edge of her sword?

  • So the Fal’cie’s plan to get the maker to come back is to… kill everyone? How do they know this will work? Raines describes it as “a sacrifice.” Is it like a Lovecraftian ritual or something?

  • Also how long was Raines just… standing there, alone, in this giant room, waiting for us to show up?

  • Raines’ plan actually seems pretty good. Space Pope made it clear he needs them alive. If they all die, then we’re good, right?

  • It’s hard to care about Raines death when I’ve only spent five minutes of this sixty hour game with him.

  • I hate the ark. I actively hate it. The same room gets reused over and over and over again.

  • So now that the entire party is together, everyone can now be every paradigm. While I appreciate the uncharacteristically generous customization, doesn’t that invalidate the other party members’ roles?

  • I get this is an Ark and all, but where are we going in it? Why is it this big?

  • Why do all my abilities have to be centered on a single target? Why can’t I use one cure on a character, one cure on another, and then an esuna on everyone? would that.... make the game too easy somehow?

  • Snow wants to protect Cocoon, whatever it takes! Except letting Raines kill us all, of course. That’s just crazy.

  • Fang makes the very wise decision to turn on the group. I’d leave this lot behind too. (She doesn’t actually do this; her momentary crisis of conscience just exists to justify a new Eidolon fight.)

  • Eidolon’s only show up to kill someone who’s failing at their task? How would someone branded ever turn into a C’eith then? Shouldn’t an Eidolon show up to kill them before that ever happens?

  • Forget applying any real world rules; this game can’t even keep its own whacky world’s rules in order. It’s like a reading a Dr. Seuss, only each page is from a different book.

    He’s a Cie’th, a Cie’th I say,
    A Fal’cie made him that way!
    Best follow your Focus too,
    or a the next Fal’cie might make you a Grue!

  • Did any of these characters actually decide, at any point in this game, that they were going to to kill all of Cocoon? It didn’t seem like anyone was actually following that goal before. Snow even interpreted their focus as the exact opposite of that. So why does this moment, where everyone agrees not to blow up Cocoon, even exist?

  • Know what’s great? Having your party changed on you before a fight, and finding out all your paradigms have been erased. It’s fun.

  • Why does Lightning suddenly care about Hope’s Dad?

  • How many times is this game going to tell me the characters are rejecting their focuses? We literally just watched a cutscene saying the same thing two minutes ago.

  • Did they think I forgot between the Eidolon fight?

  • Aren’t Fang and Vanille from Pulse? Shouldn’t they take offense to everyone calling their home, “hell”?

  • Vanille has a flashback scene talking about the fireworks display (of course) and how everyone knew then they could “change their fate”. How could they possibly think that? They weren’t L’cie, and Lightning didn’t even know Serah was branded yet. Everyone was happy at the fireworks display except Lightning, who doesn’t count because she’s an emotionless robot who wasn’t programmed for “happy”.

  • Maybe everyone should consider using their Eidolons in cutscenes to get out of tricky situations.

  • I have physically yelled “I don’t care” three times during Vanille’s voice overs.

  • For the love of God, please stop changing my party and erasing my paradigms between every cutscene.

  • Shouldn’t my team be able to figure out that if one flan is healed from casting lightning, all the others are too? Shouldn’t they stop healing the enemies after the first go?

  • What exactly is Hope dying from here? Being Hope?

  • Lightning shouldn’t smile. It looks unnatural. Her synthetic robot exoskin wasn’t made for it.

  • So an Eidolon is attacking Hope because he wanted to... not burden everyone?

  • Can… can we not stand next to each other as the giant robot uses “explosive fist”? This fight is only hard because Hope is drawn to the robot’s massive knuckles.

  • The Sentinel Paradigm’s purpose is defeated when Hope wanders aimlessly into punches meant for Fang.

  • Hope says “I always thought Eidolon’s were meant to kill us” and then thinks maybe they show up to “show you the way”. That’s nice and all, except Fang said they’ll straight murder a L’cie fool one hour ago.

  • Stop. Changing. My. Fucking. Party. After. Every. Cutscene.

  • Oh my god, game. When someone turns into a C’eith, do they turn into a monster, or a stone that gives you quests first? how do you become a C’eith without being killed by an Eidolon? What are your rules!? Are they always this flexible!?

  • Changing party members is incredibly inconvenient, because it requires selecting entirely new paradigms every time. Why isn’t there a way to “save” a set of paradigms?

  • I’m not appreciating an open map filled with things that can kill me in a single hit. I even less appreciate being unable to tell how powerful something is without losing a fight first.

  • It’s dawning on me this game is major step back in the in-battle logic of Final Fantasy games. In ten, we acquired the ability to swap party members in mid-battle, but the fight still ended when only three were KO’ed, as if the rest of the party looked at their fallen comrades and went, “Welp, nothing more we can do. Tidus’ corpse is blocking the way.” In twelve, game overs only occurred when all six party members were dead, and the game kindly assumed any conscious members would take the place of the fallen. Now not only is it game over if all the current members go down, but it’s also game over if only one specific member goes down.

  • That “opening up” didn’t last for very long, it seems, because I’m right back to cavernous hallways.

  • They’re called Cryohydron’s! Cryo. Please stop using ice on them during the first volley, idiots.

  • Lightning refers to the Gran Pulse as “big”. I’m not so sure about that. I’ve seen one grassy plain and a rusty hallway.

  • Snow wants to hitch a ride on the hedgehog Fal’cie. The thing with giant red spikes all over it? The one that’s cutting through solid rock as we speak?

  • “Now you’re thinking gran pulse style”? You mean people in Gran Pulse frequently tried to ride on the sawblade Fal’Cie? No wonder you people lost a war.

  • I can remove Lightning from the party? Oh Happy Day!

  • So the rest of the party is just going to hang back and watch Vanille and Fang fight the eight-armed freak?

  • This moment between Fang and Vanille is real sweet and all, but, um… where did everyone else go?

  • We almost gave the player a nice, lush environment. Quick, back to the caves! We have art assets to reuse, damnit!

  • Did this story need a narrator? And if it did, why did it need to be Vanille? If anything, it seems Fang did all the killing as Ragnarok while Vanille just watched. Is that why she gets to be a narrator? Is she the Watson to her Holmes?

  • Comparing those two to Watson and Holmes actually made me throw up a little in my mouth. I apologize to the world, and to Arthur Conan Doyle.

  • The eternal FF13 question is, “Just how long is this hallway?”

  • You guys are actually going along with Snow’s “ride Fal’cie the Hedgehog” plan?

  • Do I ever get a “slap Snow” button?

  • So Vanille knew Serah? Before becoming branded? They were friends and on a first name basis? And we’re finding this out right now?

  • Yet somehow Serah’s fiancé and sister don’t recognize her friend?

  • Did anyone think about how all this ties together? Or was it all just written as they went, and no one ever looked back?

  • The staging of this scene is incredibly awkward.

  • So we learned nothing from that scene except that Vanille knew Serah in the past, and for reasons the picture above might explain, Serah kept their friendship from Snow. So what was the point of this scene? To... surprise the player? To make it seem like Vanille was actually more involved in this story?

  • This moment where Lightning encourages Snow and approves of his proposal to Serah is so out of character for her that I assume it must be an imposter. Way to be bold Lightning, being accepting of the marriage after the bride’s been turned into a crystal.

  • I don’t hate the idea of Snow carrying around a crystal tear, but is it really necessary to have him stare through it in every cutscene on Gran Pulse?

  • There’s been so many Fal’Cie’s even the games characters are becoming dismissive about all the gods flying around. “What’s another Fal’Cie at this point?” says Lightning. Says a lot about the power of the gods in your universe when even the main characters don’t care when they show up.

  • What does gaining a role level actually do? All the stat increases appear to be dispersed throughout each tier.

  • I’m now tasked with completing three missions to advance the game. The missions are all “kill this thing on this floor”. I am in no way advancing the plot. My time is being deliberately wasted.

  • This mission requires me to pay attention the the absurd enemy names. As if I know what a girgamuchalamadingdong is.

  • What’s the point of the Sentinel stance if challenge and provoke don’t challenge or provoke the enemy?

  • I take back all the negative words I used about THE HALLWAY. I would rather have one long hallway then eight vertical hallways that require an elevator trip every five minutes.

  • This is the first Final Fantasy game where leveling up is a chore.

  • This is the worst section of the game yet. I’ve spent two hours talking to statues, which send me to kill things down THE HALLWAY, so I can earn the privilege of having the path forward unlocked, so I can talk to more statues.

  • After killing the Fal’cie at the top of the statue tower, a bunch of wildlife suddenly surrounds us after a cutscene. How exactly did they get up here? How didn’t we notice them? There’s only one moving platform that leads up here. Did these dog/wolf hybrids spawn figure out how to operate it?

  • Two bosses later and I’m still in chapter 11. How much longer is this game?

  • How do we suddenly know we can remove the brands? Has it ever been done before?

  • Sazh encourages us to “take our time now that we’re home”. That would be easier to do if all of us weren’t ticking C’eith time bombs.

  • The game has replaced long hallways and a convoluted plot with long hallways and fetch quests. It’s starting to feel more like a Final Fantasy game, I suppose.

  • Shane has informed me everyone’s weapon has the same name at its final upgrade stage, yet retains stats relative to whatever weapon it started as. This means Lightning can have four Omega Weapons, all with different stats. Not all that “Omega”, is it? More like Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta weapons, I guess.

  • Orphan is… actually kind of neat. It’s the first town I’ve seen that looks like people actually lived in it once.

  • If we actually find a way to remove the L’cie brands, a thing that’s never been done in the history of this world and never been hinted at, I will start finding a way to eat. My own. Face.

  • Why isn’t this Ragnarok idea teased at the start of the game? Actually, why doesn’t Vanille start this story with V.O.? She is the narrator, right?

  • Why does the group believe this is actually Serah for any amount of time? Last we saw, she was a crystal. And even if she somehow decrystalized, is anyone going to ask how she got to a different planet? Or about how she materialized out of thin air?

  • Lightning’s real name is Claire. That’s… actually not terrible, I guess.

  • So the Fal’cie can bring people back from the dead? Raines is alive again?

  • What. The fuck. Is this old man’s plan? Incite a war by making shit up? Imagine if I told you to kill somebody and then said “because he’s actually from the city of Atlantis, and they hate us”. Who the hell would take that at face value?

  • This plan is so stupid I find myself angry the game expects me to be worried about Cocoon. I’ve been to Cocoon. I did a thorough tour. It’s all hallways and monsters. Good riddance.

  • Oh good, another Space Pope robot dog fight.

  • Leveling up is such a fucking chore in this game I actually stopped doing it. I only enter the Chrystarium now when the numbers exceed 100,000.

  • So the bad guys’ plan is the shoot us with lasers for a while, then invite us to come do his bidding? Someone send Barthalaneus to business school so he can learn negotiation tactics. A “hostile takeover” doesn’t mean one company storms the other with shock troopers and tanks.

  • So we find a Cie’th stone, which we’ve established is a phase between turning from human to monster. A Cie’th cocoon, if you will, where the poor soul inside can still tell his focus to others. After the boss fight, we come across this Cie’th stone:

  • Vanille looks at this one and says, “It’s a record of what happened. After we turned to crystal.” How does she know this? because this one is what, purple? Is purple the universal color for “records”?

  • Lindzei? What the hell is Lindzei? Stop introducing more made up words thirty hours in!

  • This motorcycle sequence where we teleport into Cocoon and interrupt a race is really cool. You know what would be cooler? If we got to play it. Almost like another game I can think of that had a motorcycle scene in it…

  • “The armies of Pulse are using transgates.” “Armies of Pulse”? Who? Can a bunch of wildlife really be considered an army? There’s no one on Pulse anymore. And what’s a transgate?

  • Again, direct quote: “An army of creatures is attacking the city. It’s a pulse invasion force.” If a bunch of tigers escaped from the zoo, would it be reported as Malaysia declaring war on the United States?

  • What was the fucking point of bringing Raines back from the dead if he just gets shot in the head and dies two seconds later? To get more use out of his character model?

  • I see my party has changed again. Thanks. Thanks for that. I’d expect no less by now.

  • What the fuck is going on? Why does everyone suddenly have magic jumping devices? Why would you hand one to Vanille and not explain what it does? She’s clearly confused! Someone help her!

  • Everyone is doing so many cool things they can’t actually do during a fight in this game.

  • Characters won’t use their ultimate attacks unless I play as them. This makes acquiring them much more annoying.

  • Bathanalamadingdong is surprised when we do the most predictable possible thing and fly the plane he gave us right into his fucking face. Thanks for the ship, idiot!

  • Leveling up in any RPG should not feel like a chore, right? I shouldn’t be like, “Damn, I’m sick of leveling up. I’m just not going to do it for a while.”

  • Lightning utters the line, “let’s show them how human we still are”. I found this an odd choice, since they chose their only robot cast member to say it.

  • The “invasion” of Eden is a perfect example as to why you don’t want a city made of a bunch of suspended walkways. Every single platoon of soldiers has nowhere to run from the giant beasts, because their only options are forward or back.

  • The Space Pope’s “Invasion” of Eden also seems a little too effective. What happened to that whole “start a war and the people will kill themselves” plan? Did he realize it would be easier to just have these dinosaur creatures kill everyone and circumvent the whole war thing?

  • It’s been so long since I’ve seen Snow’s lame brigade that I forgot they existed.

  • “Fal’cie are no match for NORA” is still a terrible motto.

  • So much of these final chapters are just padding. Instead of a section of THE HALLWAY followed by a cutscene, it’s eight hallways followed by a cutscene.

  • I’ve never felt such regret over only having two middle fingers before.

  • Balthalamalamadingdong keeps growing in size and teleporting around. He never attacks though. What’s the point of all the spatial manipulation? Just to look imposing?

  • Even Sazh addresses how ridiculous the antagonists name is by dismissing it as “whatever it is”.

  • Hope says this throne is where they “control all the other Fal’cie”. Wait, control!? They control gods? No one said anything about control until just now. If they control the gods, how did they fuck up so bad and let them run around branding people? And how do they control them exactly? Is it like a doggie shock collar? Do they hit the Fal’cie with a 300 story newspaper? “Bad Fal’cie! No! No branding!”

  • Ok, game… you can’t just break your own established rules. So now the Fal’cie can just turn anybody into C’eith whenever they want? And there’s no stone incubation period, that thing you made a big fuss about on Pulse? I’m trying to understand your bullshit mythology game, but you keep changing the rules.

  • Is this it? the end of THE HALLWAY? Please say yes.

  • Hey, game. You know what’s pretty fucked up? Giving enemies any insta-death ability in a game where if one specific character dies, I lose.

  • Am I supposed to care about Rosch dying? I literally met the guy once, and he tried to kill us even after we approached him reasonably. Then he tried to kill us again, right now.I actually had to remind myself who he was when he appeared again.

  • “I do not issue this order as an absolute” should never be uttered by someone in any military service, fictional or real. If it isn’t absolute, it isn’t an order; it’s a suggestion.

  • Also doesn’t it kind of diminish the spirit of the gesture? If what Rosh desired was to help us and commands his troops stop shooting us, but then adds “you can still shoot them if you want, I guess”, doesn’t it kind of invalidate the whole premise of his action?

  • “Stay alive, we’ll see you when it’s over”, says Snow. Two seconds later Behemoths come marching right into Rosh’s face, and he blows himself up to kill them. Stay alive, indeed.

  • Finally reached what resembles the end of Chapter 12. Please, please let chapter 13 be just a boss fight.
  • As I approach the end of the game, I’m suddenly acutely aware of the inherent irony in this story. As Final Fantasy 13 tells me about a group of branded people who decide to throw off their god-given shackles and rebel against fate, it also simultaneously shoves me into a 40-hour-long corridor where I can only travel in one direction.

  • Oh god. I’m here. It’s the place where the Fal’cie make THE HALLWAY. The hallways stretch into oblivion. All I hear are footsteps, echoing through time, growing in pitch and volume with every. Single. Step. GAZE UPON THE HALLWAY, AND DESPAIR.

  • This sight has filled me with an infinite despair. Barthamalamadingdong has won.

  • “He’ll wait until we give up and slip on the leash”? How does that work? Can Barthamalamarama do mind control now too? But… but it only works when people feel despair?

  • Vanille, why are you casting Esuna on me when I have one health? Are the NPC’s working against me? Do they wish for death in the same way I do? Do they realize my death, for no observable reason, also equates to theirs?

  • This is the 1,867th hallway we’ve designed. We’re becoming exceedingly efficient at it.

  • What purpose would these sofas lining the halls serve to a Fal’cie?

  • How do we know it’s just Fal’cie smoke and mirrors? We’ve seen this Fal’cie teleport across the universe and deliver us a spaceship. I think its fair to assume he can also teleport and blow up your crystallized loved ones.

  • This final boss is designed to feel hard without actually being hard. An instant death attack means the player will need to try the fight over again and again, but the player has no control over this ability and no means to prevent it, save attaining a few items to lessen its chance earlier in the game. Its only real purpose is to cover up sloppy design decisions and feel difficult, without actually being so...

  • I’m actually offended by this final boss fight. Imagine if you were someone who really enjoyed this game and leveled up everyone’s crystariums completely. No matter how much grinding you did, you’d still have to deal with a boss that can just kill you in a single lucky blow. And if he happens to cast it on the character you’re controlling… tough! Game over. Your other party members aren’t smart enough to cast raise or Phoenix Down on their own.

  • Recommendations online include obtaining a “Cherub’s Crown”, which reduces the odds of instant death working. That’s all well and good, but once you reach this boss fight there’s no going back, so this advice is moot.

  • One other piece of advice I see online often is to either intentionally lose a fight or select restart from the menu to change Paradigms. This piece of advice isn’t just for the final boss fight, it’s also for every boss that takes place right after a forced change in party members. “Intentionally lose” should not be advice fans need to give one another.

  • “Have you ever stopped to ponder why we make L’cie of men?” Only the entire. Fucking. Game.

  • So the scooby gang doesn’t have to go through the rock cocoon period either? What was the point of ever introducing that concept? As a weak tool for side quests?

  • The game is trying to make me feel emotional by flashing back to all the moments I hated. It’s working, alright, but probably not as intended.

  • Cocoon almost collided with Pulse. Good thing Fang and Vanille transformed into demon Voltron and harnessed the power of crystals to stop it.

  • So many assumptions are made in this moment from the final cutscene it hurts.

Even if we choose to ignore all the massive planetary shifts that would occur from these two celestial bodies being this close together, here are the problems I still have with this moment:

  1. How does Serah know Dahj? Did they happen to de-crystallize next to each other, get to talking? How would they even know they have mutual friends? “Hey, I bet my fiancé knows your dad! It says so right here, in the script!”

  2. How did they know where to find the gang after a near planetary collision?

  3. How did they get from the wreckage of Cocoon to the ground of Pulse so fast? There’s no vehicles behind them, no sign of any military presence guiding them here… so what? They just climbed down a 9,000 foot crystal spire?

So killing the Fal’cie that branded you doesn’t remove the brand, but killing an unrelated Space Dog Fal’cie does?

Fang and Vanille turn into Ragnarok and save the planet. Great. Ok. Isn’t everyone on the southern hemisphere of Cocoon dead now, though?

I offer a few words in kindness as we approach the end:

  • The Sunleth Waterscape has catchy music.

  • The enemy designs are creative, colorful, and clever.

  • The game looks nice, even when running at a lower resolutions.

  • Boss battles, especially against Barth-ama-lama-dingdong, have remarkably unique dialogue.

  • I can now understand and sympathize with the many people who quit at Square Enix during production of this game.

  • The unique full ATB techniques for each character look really cool, which makes it a shame the computer-controlled characters refuse to use them.

  • The idea of switching roles in combat is clever… it’s just executed in a way that immediately invalidates its creativity.

And finally, finally, we come to...

From an outside perspective, I always thought Final Fantasy 13 looked like a step backwards in the franchise. I no longer believe this. Saying it’s a step backwards in the series is insulting, because it implies it belongs in the series at all.

I think it should’ve killed the franchise.

Final Fantasy 13 is the heat-death of the Final Fantasy universe, a slow sputtering into non-existence fueled by flat characters who march down hallways for all eternity. As the universe spreads apart, the last sound to fade from existence is the pitter-pattering of feet echoing down a million lifeless corridors.

Fuck this game.

With that, my odyssey through Final Fantasy 13’s twisted, bungling narrative came to a close. As the credits rolled I felt no desire to play other entries in this dreadfully unnecessary trilogy. I was free.

Then, around Thanksgiving, I received a gift-wrapped package from amazon in the mail. Its contents, and the attached note, are pictured below:

God. Dammit.

It can’t possibly be worse. I literally cannot conceive of a reality where the second chapter in this narrative is more confusing then what I've just experienced.

Addendum: A month later, Shane purchased the PC version of 13-2 for me. Now I can even choose how to continue the journey of these lifeless automatons!

And you know what? It's still more choice then Final Fantasy 13 ever gave me.