I’ve put enough time into FFIII this week to make it to my third block of jobs (as with many job system-based games, particularly earlier ones, the jobs to which you have access are tied to specific story points; conveniently enough, in FFIII, it’s finding the elemental crystals which serve as magical MacGuffins in most of the early titles), and I’m still finding myself with not much in the way of strong feelings for the game one way or the other.
There are things I like, for sure: as I mentioned last week, the guest characters are handled much better (even if they have, at this point, basically been on a revolving-door system into my party), and there are actual, honest-to-goodness experience points tracking your progress rather than some seemingly-arbitrary measure of how tough your characters are based on how many times they’ve gotten thwacked with pointy sticks. The further I progress, though, the more I find things that bother me *just* a bit about the game. In general, they aren’t things that make me rage, contemplate giving up the game entirely, or question my devotion to this project; they’re simply…things I don’t really like.
For starters, the storyline in FFIII (if it can even be called that at this point) is barely existent. It’s not offensively bad; sometimes that can be just as entertaining as a good storyline, if obviously in a different way. It’s just uninspired. It’s slow-moving and fragmented, with very little tying together the “episodes” that you encounter in different towns along the way. It almost reminds me of a not-very-cohesive D&D campaign; once things are neatly tied up in one location, you might hear a rumor regarding bad shit going down in a different part of town across the map, so into your canoe/boat/airship you go, rushing off towards the disturbance because…well, because that’s your job? I guess? That’s never really made clear, other than to specify somewhere along the line that you are the Warriors of Light, which apparently brings certain responsibilities with it. Where that’s leading, I’m not exactly sure yet, but I *did* recently fly off the edge of the world for some reason, so maybe that’s going to be important. At the very least, I should get some new jobs out of it.
Given this lack of cohesiveness, it’s sometimes a bit difficult to figure out where you’re supposed to be going next, and FFIII isn’t very good at guiding you in that manner; if you don’t speak to the correct person in a town, you may not trigger the event needed for you to progress, or you may simply never get the clue that suggests you should fly directly INTO a castle, wrecking your airship, rather than attempting to land near it like a sane person and just walk in the front door. (Clearly, that didn’t happen to me. Clearly.) It’s not directly the game’s problem, but the strategy guide for the DS version, which is what I’m playing, is of absolutely no help here, because it has the same distressing tendency to skip to the next area of the story without actually bothering to tell you how to get there or what the connection to the previous area might be. This wouldn’t be such a big problem if either the guide or the game had a decent overworld map, but neither one does. I don’t do well without maps.
This suspiciously deliberate-seeming obfuscation may actually explain my issue with another facet of FFIII, which is the chunks of game that require large amounts of grinding. Obviously, this isn’t a new thing for JRPGs in general, nor for Final Fantasy specifically, but it stands out rather oddly here, given the previously-mentioned discrete nature of the story’s set-pieces. Dungeon A is on the other side of the world from Dungeon B, but there is literally nothing separating them story-wise, and since the game is liberal in its use of speed-enhancing vehicles, it generally takes very little time to get from one place to the other, meaning that your opportunities for random encounters are greatly decreased.
Speaking of random encounters, actually, I have noticed that the encounter rate, particularly on the world map (as opposed to in the dungeons) is quite low. This could be construed as a good thing, as it’s often incredibly annoying to set off towards a new location only to be ambushed every five steps, but it’s also a contributor to increased grinding time, as fights encountered in the normal course of things are fairly minimal, meaning that you have to go looking for them (and it takes longer than you might expect even when you ARE looking for them). This is where the lack of storyline explanation starts to make a bit more sense; if you’re not sure quite where you’re going, you’re more likely to wander around the world aimlessly for greater chunks of time, meaning you’ll get into more random encounters, and thus be forced into far fewer sessions of every explorer’s favorite pastime: running around in little circles outside the dungeon so you don’t get splattered all over the floor tiles once you go in.
As I’ve said, none of these complaints have really put me off the game, but they have given me a distinctly lukewarm attitude towards it. I don’t hate it, but it’s making it very difficult for me to like it all that much, even if I do have a Scholar in my party now (he fights with books!).
WEEK 14 PROGRESS: 13 hours 43 minutes into Final Fantasy III