I must admit, I had a bad feeling about this game before it came out. I had reservations about the story and the battle system.
But that's not really important, since now i've played it, and I can say I was half right to be worried.
However worried I was about the battle system beforehand, it was handled very well and was the most (unfortunately only) fun part of the game despite becoming a bit repetitive in places.
It seems that Square-Enix has come out of FF11 a tad jaded by the MMO way of thinking, it's a good job the battle system was remotely fun since it's the game's only favourable quality aside from the graphics and voiceacting which don't even need mentioning, since they are ALWAYS fantastic beyond belief.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying this game doesn't have enough to keep you occupied. On the contrary, and quite to the extreme, you will spend a long frustrating period of time running through HUGE similar locations to get to where you need to go. Of course there are a wide selections of sidequests and such to keep you occupied, such as the hunts, which get very boring very quickly.
The licence system, in which you gain abilities and such, may just be the FFX sphere grid in another format, but I have no complaints about it, no no, there are much bigger problems trust me.
And so we come to the MOTHER of all problems with this game.
Anyone who's ever played a final fantasy game will tell you how the stories are deep, involving and drive you to keep playing. You grow attachments to the characters and care what happens to them. Do not play this game expecting that. The characters are bland, one-dimensional, boring and I could care less whether they live or die. This with the exception of Balthier, who gets the most character development (though he's probably the only one to get any either way, so it's hardly a feat) and is vaguely interesting.
I'm hearing the story be referred to as 'epic' and 'deep', 'meaningful'. I'm sorry to disappoint you, but the story is only deep in the way it falls arse first into a hole and doesn't get back up again. It drags itself meaninglessly from one location to the next with no real drive or point. The truly disappointing thing about this is that the story has such potential but for one reason or another it seems to have been put on the backburner like it's not a priority.
Despite this, I invested a good 110 hours in the game, because it's just got that annoyingly fun quality to it. That and I kept thinking 'well, it's final fantasy, plenty of time for the story to pick up, plenty of time for the characters to be fleshed out'. You can imagine my surprise at arriving at the end of the game without realising it with a distinct feeling of 'what? that's it!?'.
Like I said, an MMORPG mentality has been brought to this game, it's overly huge to accomodate lots of players, it has a vague story so players can create their own within it, its battle system is fun, there are lots and LOTS of sidequests. Except, last I checked, this was Final Fantasy, not World of Warcraft and unfortunately this game COMPLETELY fails as a single player game that every single final fantasy previously delivered on.
Just skip this one folks, seriously, just play the other FF games and try to ignore that this one exists. If you want the same sort of game in its right format, try WoW or Neverwinter Nights or something.
I tell you something, it doesn't fill me with confidence for FFXIII
Still, can't get much worse eh?
Longevity 8/10 (if you stand it long enough to do everything)