I am just over 40 hours into Final Fantasy 13, but that's not quite specific enough; I am roughly 15 hours into the absurdly epic Chapter 11. I've gotta hand it to the developers; if nothing else, they've got some serious gold-plated balls to make a game like this. You spend 20 hours running along tightly controlled paths, always and only moving from point A to point B, and then suddenly you are in a wide-open expanse, free to do whatever you want.
Well, let's clarify that a bit. There is still definitely a Point B to get to, but if you are foolhardy enough to jump right in, you will most certainly get your ass kicked. This means that you need to grind a bit. Fortunately, Chapter 11 comes with a number of Missions which you can do - these are really just regular battles, against specific enemies. I've done the first 15 so far, but even that number is somewhat misleading, because I've spent 15 hours building my way up towards being powerful enough to handle some of those missions. Which is to say, I've killed a LOT of monsters. Basically, I've been grinding endlessly so that I can grind more effectively, if that makes sense.
It's a little ridiculous that the game is asking me to do this. Actually, let me rephrase that - it's downright jaw-dropping to realize that this is the game's intention, and that there is an audience out there that wants this.
And yet, here I am, 15 hours in and still invested. At the conclusion of Mission 14, I got myself a chocobo; that was my primary motivation for all this grinding, even if the end result is extremely underwhelming. (Hooray, I can go from one end of this endless prairie to the other a little bit faster.) And now that I'm here, I've started to figure out the evil genius at work.
See, one of the first things you'll see when you start Chapter 11 are these absolutely gigantic creatures - similar to those titanic elephant monsters in the LOTR movies. Like so:
You can't see how big that monster is - it's bigger than THIS BLOG. If you were to go after that fucker right off the bat, you'd get stomped before the battle even began. Hell, if I were to go after it right now - and remember, I'm 15 hours in on this chapter alone - I'd be lucky to get one hit in before my whole party got wiped. But I know that if I were to keep grinding and finish all of these "purely optional" Missions, I'd eventually get powerful enough to take one down. And I kinda want to be able to do that, at least once.
This is why I'm glad that the release calendar is still a bit dry; this is going to take quite a bit more time.