Square-Enix was on site at New York ComicCon to provide a spoiler-free chapter of Final Fantasy XIII-2, and this is what it was like…
The exhibition demo featured a place in Cocoon called the Bresha Ruins, an acient city used as a refuge for civilians fleeing the Purge five years ago, and now the site of a scientific study. The events of FFXIII have depowered the Fal’Cie, which the humans were using as their primary energy source. With an energy crisis on their hands, scholars have turned to exploring ancient machines to discover how they were run and hopefully use those sources to power the present day world. I would like to point out that in many of the trailers and screenshots we’ve seen so far, light up sidewalks and billboards plaster every surface. Not exactly a smart use of power if an energy crisis is the current issue people have to deal with.
Anyway, Noel, Serah, and their Mog float through a paradox gate into the ruins, which are immediately beseiged by a massive, disembodied arm. After a quick battle and a few easy quick time events, the arm reveals the rest of the giant robot, Atlas, that the scientists have been screwing around with. Whoops, they released a giant monster. Good thing some heroes just showed up. The rest of the demo follows Noel and Serah talking to the scientists and guards exploring the ruins, slaughtering some Imps and Pulsian Clockwork Soldiers, and then taking down the giant robot itself.
The game plays almost exactly like FFXIII with the exception of now being able to attack enemies before the battle actually starts. When monsters appear, a timer starts running down. Pressing A (360) or X (PS3) unleashes an attack, and if you can strike enemies fast enough, the battle begins with preemptive strike and other bonuses for your team, such as auto haste. Conversely, take too long or collide with a monster, and the battle will begin normally or even with your side disadvantaged. While it’s a nice be able to control how battles start and even skip them entirely, starting every fight with staggered enemies means they go pretty quickly, dumbing combat down to hitting auto attack once or twice and then collecting your reward. Should you want to switch paradigms, FFFXIII and XIII-2’s equivalent to character classes, the transitions remain smooth and easy. During the fight with Atlas, we were able to switch our team to a defensive arrangement a split second before taking a massive attack and receiving lessened damage.
The exploration aspects have been beefed up, with multiple lines of dialogue for each NPC and tons of overheard conversations as you pass through. Mog can help you search for treasure by revealing nearby hidden items with a button press. Cinematics can begin at any time and blend seamlessly into gameplay, with only occassional QTEs. There were a few issues with the camera locking onto objects of interest a bit too long and causing Noel to run off camera sometimes, but they could easily be resolved and were only a minor annoyance.
Overall, the demo proved that the basic gameplay remains 90% old news. Not that that’s a bad thing, the gameplay of XIII was extremely well designed and provided most of the fun. The story looks heartfelt and confusing, typical of Final Fantasy, but real towns have yet to make a reappearance. Look for more updates about Final Fantasy XIII-2 in the few months leading up to its January 31st release.