Genre: RPG | Players: 1 | Developer: Square Enix
XII will always have a place on my shelf for being the thing that led me to the circle of friends I’ve cherished for, what will soon be, the past decade. As a game, however, it is a monumental failure in my eyes. There's very little in the way of things to grab someone both at the outset and in the long run. You're presented with sweeping fields of people as faceless crowds and then faceless combatants. The combat and many of the environments are competently rendered but are boring and un-engaging. Also, what manner of sadistic developer sets the X-Axis to be inverted and doesn't allow it to be changed?!?! You’re provided with a rudimentary programming language by which to indirectly command your party members and while you’ll be quick to tell me that this isn’t dissimilar to XIII, I will tell you right now that you CANNOT make XIII play itself the way you can with XII.
Further, the characters in XIII are engrossing and they do what they do out of love, which is individualistic and easy to get behind unlike the political drone of XII’s plot. Sazh and Vanille serve as an everyman and obligatory cute girl, sure, but as the game progresses they are given compelling and critical story relevance unlike the whingy Vaan and non-existent Penelo. Because of the structure of XIII and its post-game content, you cannot faff around long enough to lose the thread of the plot. You can work on XII’s side-content, which adds virtually nothing to the story, for literal days on end, losing it entirely for insanely massive periods of time. It’s all tick-the-box fare and hunts that don’t have the emotional pull of XIII’s, which demonstrate how the fate of a L’Cie destroys all manner of human relationships. XII also sets up requirements you’re sure to fail at, nearly instantly, damning you to a second playthrough, endless resets, or direct RNG manipulation. None of which are fair to players and simply force your hand in buying a guide or gluing your eyes to GameFAQs. The things you can reattempt, like spawning rare game and chaining enemies for drops, are usually incredibly esoteric and convoluted, especially as those two are not always mutually exclusive.
It feels like they designed a single-player MMO and that’s simply a contradiction of terms. This sort of content needs to be made bearable by the banter of your friends and done over the course of years, for hours at a time, when you’re all available. There really is something genuinely pathological to me about tackling the depth of it alone, in isolation.
For me, XII fails in every way that XIII succeeds. The characters and political nonsense are (almost entirely) flat and uninteresting. The side-quests outweigh the main story by many magnitudes. There’s no legitimate emotional resonance in it for me, or between most of the characters. A slight hint at something in the ending cinematic is far from enough. There's virtually no humanity on display, whatsoever. The focus of this entry is one that does not gel with me, even though I did put in multiple hundreds of hours, during a different era of my life. The only purpose it ever served was to kill time, which has not been enough for me, for quite a while now. Perhaps it was the beginnings of me expecting more, out of gaming, out of fiction, and out of life.
1 Stirring Statement in the Entire Bloody Thing out of 5