As previously mentioned in my Final Fantasy XIII Steam port review, I aim to review games in the best light possible. To Square Enix’s credit, they did patch that game to have native support for anti-aliasing and higher resolutions, which renders the GeDoSaTo mod redundant. Final FantasyXII-2’s Steam port natively includes these visual enhancements, yet there is only so much that overhauled graphics can achieve. Unfortunately, this port is a mixed bag that struggles to run properly on higher end systems and budget builds alike.
Adding another strike against Final Fantasy XIII-2 is that it is a jumbled mess of ideas that goes so far out of its way to be non-linear that it becomes cryptic in mandatory missions. Final Fantasy XIII-2’s structure suffers from the advent of a time travel narrative in conjunction to serving as the ‘middle child’ between XIII and Lightning Returns. Those invested in the saga will need to play this game in some fashion to understand its sequel while the uninitiated are better off starting with XIII. Final Fantasy XIII-2’s Steam port manages to take one step forward before moving back two.
[caption id="attachment_35674" align="aligncenter" width="587"] Time travel in JRPGs only tends to work if the words 'Chrono' and 'Trigger' are present in the title.[/caption]
The best word to describe the performance of Final Fantasy XIII-2 is ‘inconsistent’ for a number of technical issues that add up to a collective annoyance. The Steam page recommends relatively low specs to run the game at recommended settings in very much the same way as XIII does. Testing the game on my college laptop with a dedicated GPU yielded an unplayable 15fps experience at any setting, despite the system specs exceeding the suggested hardware configuration.
Final Fantasy XIII-2’s performance on my ‘rig’ improved significantly at the cost of a dynamic frame rate varying between 20fps and 60fps depending on area. These frame results are taken from the data generated by the Steam FPS counter integrated into the interface. Even on the lowest possible settings, battles are locked at 30fps or lower. It is rather absurd to think that a port of a 2012 console game port struggles to keep a consistent frame rate on a computer boasting an Intel 6-Core and a GTX 980.
[caption id="attachment_35676" align="aligncenter" width="587"] The game does look better in motion, but there are some rough edges.[/caption]
Compounding the performance issues is the tendency for the game to inexplicably crash from time to time. The best advice for people who want to play Final Fantasy XIII-2, especially the post-game fragment hunting, is to save often. Crashes happen at complete random rather than confined to certain areas and events. My own experience with the game included a particularly cruel crash mere moments before the game would have saved after a major boss fight. The alternative to these issues is to simply buy a copy of the game for the XBOX 360 or the PS3, albeit without the DLC, for a more solid experience. There still haven’t been any major patches as of late March 2015 to fix the performance issues in the Steam port.
Technical problems aside, what is the game actually like? Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a direct sequel to the previous title that focuses around Lightning’s sister Serah trying to find Lightning through an elaborate time travel plot. The story centers upon a frankly bizarre discussion of entropy and pre-destination for no reason other than justifying Lightning’s absence and the subsequent events in Lightning Returns. Other characters are strewn about in bits and pieces thanks to the time travel element as nothing more than glorified cameos. The entire experience feels as if it is an extended form of DLC that combines every possible idea instead of developing any particular one.
[caption id="attachment_35678" align="aligncenter" width="587"] At least Serah realizes how much of a bizarre adventure the story is.[/caption]
Final Fantasy XIII-2 is rather infamous for selling the true ending of the game as standalone DLC. This is a non-issue in the Steam port because of the inclusion of the story DLCs into the release alongside the majority of the cosmetic items. The exceptions are the cross-promotional outfits from the Assassin’s Creed and the Mass Effect series. In this regard, the port offers a better deal for the complete experience at $20 compared to the console versions’ equivalent DLC adding up to $17 in a special bundle deal.
Gameplay is very similar to the previous title with a few noticeable tweaks. The major alteration is the Historia Crux chart that offers the ability to freely access any previously unlocked area at any given time. This is in stark contrast to the ‘never look back’ design implement that previously only allowed for some backtracking, starting from the last dungeon in the game.
Additionally, the third slot in the battle party is entirely customizable thanks to the inclusion of a monster capture and leveling mechanic. Unique monster stats and abilities add a new layer of depth to a combat system previously limited to configurations of a six member party. Final Fantasy XIII-2 becomes something akin to Pokemon in the later game content as the focus shifts to progressively harder bosses that low-tier monsters will have tremendous difficulty against.
There is a full-fledged casino named Serendipity that offers diversions such as Chocobo racing, slots and conventional poker. Thankfully, the accumulation of gil is much easier than the stingy approach in XIII at the cost of higher potential risk.
Finally, the weapons upgrading system has been removed entirely in favor of a more conventional ‘buy or obtain a weapon with more powerful stats’. The exception to this rule is the advent of the paradox weapons whose power is directly connected to the number of fragments collected.
[caption id="attachment_35683" align="aligncenter" width="587"] "We can totally fight him in this state, guys!" - Snow's last words[/caption]
The non-linearity of Final Fantasy XIII-2 does become an issue as the game progresses beyond the initial time periods meant to familiarize the player with the mechanics. The rule of thumb is ‘go to this new area’ until the game throws curve balls that require specific approaches that might not be apparent. Take the boss fight against the boss monster ‘Royal Ripeness’. The setup is that Snow is perpetually fighting a giant tomato monster threatening to eat a pillar due to a paradox causing the monster to continuously heal. Final Fantasy XIII-2 offers the ability to fight the monster at its maximum power, a fruitless effort, before making it apparent that you need to go to a later point in time to defeat a dragon that has a time paradox inside of it. This type of obtuse logic is present throughout Final Fantasy XIII-2.
Another great example is the mission that is dependent upon backtracking to find invisible objects hidden in the environment without any clues beyond points in time. Sections like these reek of an intention to sell guidebooks/strategy guides. The insult to injury is that there are only a few major missions prior the endgame roughly in the twenty hour range during a normal playthrough. The postgame fragment hunting content may go completely untouched for players who only want to experience the storyline.
[caption id="attachment_35680" align="aligncenter" width="587"] Do you remember when this series was about fighting forces of unspeakable evil instead of glorified babysitters?[/caption]
In the end, Final Fantasy XIII-2 is an oddity in design and execution. It aims to amend the flaws in Final Fantasy XIII while failing to craft a stable standalone narrative that can stand on its own. There are some good ideas and fun elements in the game that are ultimately obscured in a collage of mediocrity. The Steam port adds another layer to this collage thanks to some improvements over the console versions only to perform inconsistently. Only time will tell if Square Enix will make an optimization patch that addresses the technical issues like they did with XIII. Even then, the game itself is only for those invested in the ‘Lightning Saga’ and, even then, there are much more stable versions of the game on consoles. If you must buy this game, for whatever reason, then it would be better to wait until either the patch comes out or a Steam Sale
Game reviewed on an i7 4930k 4.0ghz build with a GTX 980. Screenshots reflect native 1440p resolution with 8x Anti-Aliasing and 4096 x 4096 shadows.
This game was purchased by the reviewer and reviewed on the PC.
Final Fantasy XIII-2's Steam port suffers from technical issues that compound the already imperfect game. Unless a proper patch comes out or the game is cheap during a Steam sale, steer clear of this title.(Review Policy)