You know, I’ve been quite kind to this game in my previous assessments. Talking about the characters, and the story, and how it is actually quite enjoyable if you can make it through the utterly confusing first few hours. But oh man, oh man, oh man, is there one aspect of this game that had me smashing my head into my keyboard just trying to find a way to UNDERSTAND how it worked: The Crafting System.
Oh yes. Final Fantasy XIII has a crafting system. Tucked away beneath the save menu and the shops like some stack of dirty magazines that while you are ashamed of, proved somewhat (cough) vital in your mid-“game”. The crafting system feels like this weird system that was tacked on to provide some semblance of more classical RPG systems with levels and experience since the actual characters did away with that in favor of the expanding Crystarium. What you have to do is apply various components you’ve gathered to your weapons and accessories to give them experience points, when they reach enough experience points that weapon or accessory goes up a level.
So YOU don’t gain experience, but your weapons do. By pouring stuff you ripped off a dead beastie on it. Seems somewhat simple if a bit confusing if you try to imagine how it works in any real world sense. Or in any physical sense beyond a menu screen. But that’s not all. See once you get your item to a max level (indicated by the level becoming a star), you can upgrade the item with a stone which will transform it to a new, more powerful weapon. So your weapons are also Eevees. Oh oh but there’s more. Sometimes you don’t WANT to upgrade the item with a stone, because when you disassemble (break down into more components… think disenchant in World of Warcraft) a star level item, you might get another item that could be useful as well. How do you know whether you should upgrade or disassemble an item? Well, that’s easy. You drop 20 bucks on a strategy guide or spend HOURS google-ing this crap like I had to.
Oh but before the whole “Do I upgrade or disassemble” thing, there’s the issue of how do you level up these things to star level to begin with? Oh you use components like I said. Tons of them. All kinds. Glow horns, sharp fangs, dull fangs, sparkle ooze, eye of newt, breath of frog, computer chips, various lengths of wire, this thing I found in a garage, parts of a bomb… the list goes on. And each one gives different amounts of experience for different items. Oh and some items give bonuses like adding a multiplier to future experience gains. Confused yet? Feel overwhelmed? Welcome to the club.
The worst part is that trying to make heads or tails out of this system is so convoluted, it took me 45 hours of gameplay before I figured out roughly how to make it work properly. So I will share my conclusions with you to prevent you from suffering as I did. All components can be broken down into two major categories: Organic and Technology. While there is no clear indicator of which category the component belongs to, you can usually tell from the name of the component or the name of the shop you are ordering from. Organic components have things like oozes, fangs, or claws. Technology components are usually wires, machine parts, cables, computer chips, or any other techie sounding thing. The two categories are used for different things. Organics are useful for building up multipliers but don’t offer as much experience. Technology components give large amounts of experience but will reduce the multiplier on the item after they’ve been applied. So you want to use organic things to get up to your 3x multiplier, then unload a single massive dose of a technology component to maximize that multiplier before it vanishes. That’s pretty much the ebb and flow of the crafting system. It only took nearly 2 full days worth of playing to figure that out.
The crafting system is just a pain. It’s a tedious grind, since until way late in the game, you will not have the money to buy components or finding them with enough frequency. Really, the whole thing doesn’t become doable until around Chapter 11 when you begin to wander around Gran Pulse and can do the repeatable missions for items, cash and components. Note that the system becomes available in Chapter 4. Out of 13. So for almost half of the game, the whole thing is pointless and for another quarter of it, it isn’t available anyway. Really, this is my biggest complaint with the game thus far. Heck, it’s an RPG. I’m used to grinding experience/crystarium points. I expect that! But this is grinding, so you can grind, to help you with grinding. It’s so frustrating that I’m not even going to use a “Yo dawg I heard you like…” joke for that, because I am just tired of it (The grind and the joke really).
So for people who HATED Final Fantasy XIII, and sought out any positive opinions they could on the internet to help fuel their rage and smugness… well, you got me. This part of the game really kinda stinks.