I know I'm way behind on playing this but I didn't get a chance to pick it up until fairly recently. So now that I've finished my exams for my 2nd year of uni, thought I'd play through it and see what I thought. I didn't really like Final Fantasy XIII, but somehow ended up playing it for about 140 hours...think I was just trying to platinum it so I wouldn't have to go back to it. I got all but the Treasure Hunter trophy and gave up because it was too much to keep track of, and fighting the Tortoises was getting on my nerves.
So this game makes a lot of changes, some I appreciate and some I don't really. These are my impressions of the first 10 hours or so of the game. Ok bear in mind that there will be some spoilers here, so you've been warned! =p
- Graphically it is awesome, with some really over the top cut scenes (from what I can remember, they are more interesting than FFXIII
- Design wise, the areas don't seem as interesting or creative as the ones in FFXIII did. Lake Bresha in FFXIII had that wow factor - a crystalline lakeside is a lot more interesting than the areas I've been to so far in this game.
- The addition of the monster taming for me adds a lot to the game. I've spent a good chunk of my play time going back and getting some of the monsters I missed. It adds a lot to the possibilities for your team, but I wish you could have a smidge more freedom (for example, having 2 monsters on your team, or more than one human teammate.) For some of the bosses it seems you really need to go back and farm for some of the rarer monsters, which kind of seems dissapointing. You shouldn't have to have a 10% monster for your team. Arguably you could just level up whatever you have, but something seems slightly off with the system. I like the addition of the monster system, however, I've found a lot of them are recycled or slightly modified from the first game, Final Fantasy XIII.
- The characters (there haven't been too many so far) have been fairly bland (but I get the feeling Noel's back story will be explained in one big twist at some point.) I'm also not entirely convinced by the character's reactions to the plot points. Its just so ridiculous the stuff that they are doing, and they seem to never bat an eyelid. I suppose I am taking it too seriously though... For example, I found the fact that Serah and Snow have been apart so long and then barely talk once they finally do meet up to be kind of strange to say the least.
- The addition of sidequests is fairly good, but there have only been a handful so far, and I just got onto Episode 3. That, and a handful of other stuff to do does make an improvement on FFXIII.
- The battles are fun (although jamming the x button for the most part does get a bit boring.)
- I've heard a lot of praise for the soundtrack but it hasn't really caught my attention yet. It has a lot of jarring unusual pieces which I'm sitting there through thinking "what were they thinking?" The Persona 3 and 4 soundtracks by Shōji Meguro were no doubt on their minds when they were making the FFXIII-2 OST.
- Changes to the Crystarium are a bit confusing and not particularly
well explained.. So for a while (up until Episode 2 or so) I didn't even
use it as they hadn't told me how to. Perhaps this was because in the
first game people felt too limited by the slow spoon feeding to the
players, but I could've used at least a hint. After pressing x a couple
times and putting a few levels into different roles, I got used to it a
bit more. It feels easier to go astray and level up your character wrongly. I felt like that when I hit the first roadblock boss (Caius in Oerba.)
- Really confusing time travel story. They overuse phrases like paradox almost as much as the Kingdom Hearts games overuse phrases like heart and darkness. They don't seem to care about the knock on effects of dabbling in the past, future and alternative timelines. And man, they don't do a good job of explaining what is going on, or just how things can be changed, even with the addition of the rather weird "previously on Final Fantasy XIII-2" when you load the game.
So the game has its good points and bad points. It definitely feels less linear and limited than Final Fantasy XIII, however I think it has a convoluted, confusing story and lacks a bit of polish and attention to things here and there. I'll definitely finish the story so I can fully review the game, and theres a chance I'm going to put a lot of time into the game trying to get all of the monsters (or platinum it depending on how long it takes.)
Hopefully this doesn't too negative, but there has been a fair bit that has annoyed me even though it seems a good game so far. Hopefully it helps people still on the fence about picking it up as well.