I was listening to the Gamers with Jobs podcast again this week and heard one of the things that annoys me to no end. They first talked about another game, saying that it was “really good once you get to X hours in” at which point they said that they hate it when people say “FF13 is a great game once you get 30 hours in” because their opinion is that that means it isn’t a good game at all. The problem is more that FF13 isn’t their kind of game, and that it is a game trying for too many audiences during the span of the game, and in the process alienating several of the audiences.

FF13 is a good game from the start, as long as you have the right mindset. Early on, it’s a visual novel telling the story through animated scenes and text. The battles are more a distraction at this point put in so that the audience that isn’t into the story doesn’t complain about a 8 hour cutscene at the start of the game. But because the storyline is as it is, those battles are forced to be extremely limited. You can’t introduce paradigms or jobs because nobody has magic at this point in the storyline. There’s no challenge or strategy to the battles because the piece that gives you challenge and strategy hasn’t been reached in the storyline yet.

After you get this, the game shifts to an entirely different playstyle. One that is closer to, but not exactly like the old FF games. A mix of leveling up and good combat with moderate difficulty, combined with moderate amounts of storyline. The storyline remains entirely linear though and there are no sidequests.

About 30 hours in, it shifts to yet another mostly different playstyle. Storyline goes out the window for the most part, and you’re left in a large sandbox with lots of enemies and sidequests. Difficulty went way up, and required level grinding a bit to continue. This is where the group of players who think Doom had a really good storyline thought that the game got good…

Trying to please the storyline people, while trying to also please the grand theft auto people… That’s why it’s such a divisive game. One group will love the first part and hate the last, another group will hate the first part and love the last. Those who enjoy both storyline and gameplay will enjoy the whole thing, but that’s a fairly small subset.

Reading the forums for Disgaea Infinite over on Gamefaqs, I saw a similar trend. There are Disgaea players that love the storyline, but find the level grinding to get tedious. There are disgaea players that love the gameplay, but skip every cutscene finding them to be a distraction. Then there are some that enjoy both the storyline and the gameplay. Disgaea infinite will really irk the group that likes to grind levels in Disgaea, because it just takes the storyline of Disgaea and extends it over a very light choose your own adventure sort of framework. Many people were expressing this displeasure loudly in the forums… They didn’t read the box enough before buying it to realize that it wasn’t a strategy game.

And the storyline people were joking that there were going to be a fair number of gameplay fanatics that were going to quit because that cutscene before the game started was too long…

So which approach is better? FF13 that tries to bridge the chasm between two styles but does so in a clumsy manner, or Disgaea Infinite that caters to just one gaming style to the exclusion of the other that the series is known for? Hard to say…