Final Fantasy XIII: Review of the Paradigm System

This will be the first article in a series which will review several of the key mechanics present in Final Fantasy XIII, from Square Enix. I’m not one of those video gamers who will be happy with any game, just so long as it has leveling, equipment, monster encounters, or any other mechanics which are inherent to the RPG genre. Also, I am not someone who is easily wooed by games as simple as judi casino either. To tell you the truth, I generally have a lot of misgivings about RPGs, simply because they’re generally boring. However, the Final Fantasy series has challenged a lot of the staple concepts in RPGs with its latest releases, which makes it stand out from the pack. I will leave the general reviews to other reviewers and focus on the specific mechanics that make Final Fantasy XIII different from the rest of the pack.

For me, the lynchpin of any RPG is the battle system. In an RPG (and FFXIII is no exception here), you spend the vast majority of your time doing one of three things: (1) wandering around the map, (2) watching cutscenes, or (3) battling. The battles are, by far, the most interactive and dynamic part of the game, so even if a game has beautiful settings (FFXIII does) and masterfully directed cutscenes (FFXIII does), a lame battle system will make the whole game a drag. Even though the battle system in FFXIII does have its flaws, it is, on the whole, incredibly strong. It is solidly menu-based, and utilizes an ATB (active time battle) system which will remind fans of older games. However, it is the dynamics of the Paradigm system and balancing the functions of the different roles in the game which really makes the battle system incredibly strategic and fast-paced.

Basically, the Paradigm system utilizes very specific character roles. In a more standard RPG, characters will have sets of abilities which they can use at will, and their role in battle is dependent on the abilities you choose to have them use. If you have a character that has strong magic and healing spells, you’re probably going to use them as a healer to keep your characters from dying. If a character has strong physical attack, you’re going to use them to deal damage. However, often these roles blend together. Your healer may also have strong offensive spells, and be a serious damage dealer as well. However, in FFXIII, the abilities each character may use are divided up into different “roles.” Each character may have multiple roles, but they may only use one at a time, so the abilities which a character may use at any given time are only a small portion. Not only that, but since you only control the lead character in the party at any given time, character “role” also defines the AI which directs the supporting characters.

A “Paradigm” is a particular configuration of roles in your party. These are set in the menu outside of battle, and offer a potentially huge number of combinations (as the game progresses and more roles are unlocked). During battle, you can switch between the paradigms which you have available to you to change the party’s composition. The real key to the strategy in this game is understanding the purposes of specific paradigms and using them at the correct times. For example, Relentless Assault (Commando, Ravager, Ravager) is a great Paradigm for dealing damage and amassing chain bonuses, but there is no Medic in the Paradigm. If you’re fighting against enemies who deal a lot of damage, you will eventually need to switch to a different Paradigm to heal your characters, such as Diversity (Commando, Ravager, Medic). In the next article in this series, I will cover the specific roles and their functions.

The real interest which this creates is that you must, at all times, be aware of the needs of your party and the weaknesses of your enemies so you can adjust the Paradigm appropriately. You lose a bit of efficiency when you Paradigm Shift (because characters cannot act during the shift), so you want to keep the changes to a minimum, but you also want to have the most effective roles for the moment. Most battles (especially as the game progresses) require frequent and well timed shifts, so it’s difficult to get bored.

The next article will cover staggering and the individual roles, so tune in next time to flesh out the skeleton I’ve given you here.