A key part of Final Fantasy XIII-2's gameplay will revolve around the use of something called the Historia Crux. Besides sounding like something out of Harry Potter, the system will allow players to travel through time and space to, in game director Motomu Toriyama's words, "experience many different historical possibilities."
"The original game, Final Fantasy XIII, was primarily story driven and progressed in a very linear manner," admits Toriyama. "For the sequel, we are going for a much more player driven concept, so this time around the gameplay and story itself will alter to fit the player's choices. You will be able to freely come and go between all the areas; the game will provide not just simple environmental exploration, but also a multi-layered exploration of history through the Historia Crux."
Final Fantasy games are traditionally very linear, with the exception of the MMORPG FFXI and MMO-like FFXII. However, Final Fantasy X-2 -- also the last time Square Enix made a direct sequel to a mainline Final Fantasy game -- took on a non-linear approach, with the entire world available to players from the outset, though the difficulty structure meant that there was a logical order in which to tackle the game's challenges. The time-travelling aspect adds an extra dimension atop the ability to explore the world relatively freely, as it also allows players to "rewind" an area to play it with their existing levels and equipment in a "New Game+" style.
"The Historia Crux branches off into multiple different routes depending on the player's choices," explains Toriyama. "You will be able to take a detour into areas that have branches off the route you have taken, perform side missions and turn back time in each of the areas to experiment with all possibilities."
And speaking of side missions, unlike its predecessor, which only introduced sidequests very late in the game -- at the same point the game temporarily became an open world free roaming RPG -- there will be sidequests right from the start. There will also be minigames to enjoy -- an element that has been conspicuously absent from the series for some time.
These new additions to the game sound somewhat promising. If the ability to visit different areas in various time periods sounds a little familiar, you'd be right -- and Toriyama knows this.
"For Final Fantasy XIII-2, we are experimenting with carrying out repeated large scale user tests to reflect the opinions of users in the game itself," he says. "We really have received a lot of feedback about the game, but among the voices there are those who say it reminds them of the classic RPG Chrono Trigger. For Final Fantasy XIII-2, we are aiming to make time travel a major thematic direction."
Final Fantasy XIII-2 will be with us in the winter of next year.