I’m Still Not Sure What To Make of Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII

In case you missed it, a handful of news about Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII was released this week, including some images of Lightning’s new threads and a trailer leaked online. Check out the trailer below:

Right off the bat, there are a few interesting things we see in the trailer. First off, it appears to be a much more open world than that of Final Fantasy XIII, and has a strangely Assassin’s Creed II vibe to it. There’s a heavy emphasis on platforming, Lightning’s new look is somewhat reminiscent of Ezio’s robes from AC II, and an all-new combat system looks a bit different than the games in the past (which, of course, shouldn’t really come as a surprise).

The game itself deals with a mysterious religious town whose beliefs in their God come before anything else. Tie that in with some serious religious overtones and a doomsday clock counting down to the end of the world in 13 days, and you have the potential for a deep and twisted narrative fitting only of a Final Fantasy game.

Here’s my problem, however…I’ve seen, read, and even written news for a lot of the major announcements concerning Lightning Returns, and I still have no idea what my actual opinion is on it.

Don’t get me wrong, I have thoughts about the trailer and some of the images…I just don’t know overall whether or not this is a game I’m excited about.

The one question that pops up in my mind time and time again is this; with FF XIII being one of the most divisive of the Final Fantasy games, is anyone seriously calling for a third installment in the series? Were the first two games so compelling that they warranted yet another return to the XIII universe?

Being a fan of strong female protagonists, I did like Lightning in the first game. But despite how central she is to the experience, I’m not sure I’m convinced that she’s the most compelling character to center a game around, despite how powerful she might be. Is she really that interesting that she warrants a separate experience all her own?

And where are the other characters? The Final Fantasy series is built on party combat, but we don’t see anything of the sort here. Perhaps it’s something Square wants to reveal to us a later time, closer to the game’s release, but for the time being I find it strange.

It’s the game’s story, however, that I think has the real potential. A doomsday clock, a town full of religious zeal, and Lightning’s candid hint at the end, “You should know who I am…or, should I say, what I am.”

Religion as a central part of the game is interesting, and as one of my fellow staffers here pointed out, it’s something that hasn’t been heavily addressed since FF X. Being one of the most creative and bold storytellers in gaming, I’m fairly optimistic that the developers of Lightning Returns could really make something interesting here.

Despite the promise it has, I still remain skeptical about the game as a whole. There’s a lot of interesting ground to cover, but there’s also an equal amount of fatigue entering into the scene for me as a whole.

Of course, I’ll have a better idea of how I feel when it comes closer to the game’s release next year. But for the time being, I’m still on the fence.

How do you feel about Lightning Returns? Tell me in the comments below!