I like the Paradigm system in Final Fantasy XIII. It’s taken me a while to get used to it, but I’ve finally decided that Paradigms are a good thing. It’s similar to the Dresspheres from Final Fantasy X-2 though you’re controlling all of your characters at once, as opposed to just one at a time.
Setting up your Paradigms effectively is an important part of the game. If you’re in the middle of a big battle and discover you don’t have the right combination of roles, it might be a long and painful fight. Despite there being only six slots for Paradigms, it’s still a minor pain to get everything setup correctly. And – here’s my primary issue with the system – every time characters are switched in and out of your party, all your Paradigms are reset, and they all have to be configured again.
How Paradigms work
If you aren’t sure what I’m talking about, a Paradigm is a set of roles that your party takes on during a battle. Each character in Final Fantasy XIII starts with three different roles they can use – there are six in total, and are the typical roles you’d imagine in an RPG. So an example Paradigm is called “Relentless Assault” and consists of one heavy damage dealer (the Commando role) and two magic users (the Ravager role).
The game calls a set of Paradigms a “Paradigm Deck”, and here’s what it looks like:
You can (and need to) switch Paradigms mid-battle, and having all this stuff setup beforehand and being able to efficiently change Paradigms is a big part of the game’s strategy. If you’re getting hammered, it’s time to switch to a Paradigm that contains a medic (or two).
It sounds simple, but there are a lot of combinations to choose from, and the game only allows 6 combinations to be setup at any one time. Each character only starts with three available roles, so figuring out what party members are needed adds another layer of complexity. Sure, it’s not the most complicated mechanism in the world, but there’s definitely decisions to be made, and I often find myself wishing I had more options in the middle of a battle.
Know your role (and your Paradigm)
Okay, let’s talk about the problem. You’ve got six characters, and each of them has a different set of roles they can use. So when you swap one character out for another one, all of your preset Paradigms are removed. This makes sense, because at least some of your Paradigms won’t be possible anymore. You could make an argument that the game should preserve any that could be still valid, but whatever.
However, since each character in the game has their own strong point, if you have a set of three characters in the game, you’re probably always going to use a similar set of Paradigms with those three. So, what the game should do is recall the Paradigm Deck that was setup the last time those three characters were together.
For example, in my game at the moment I’m rolling with Fang, Lightning, and Vanille. I’m using Fang in the Commando or Sentinel roles, Lightning as Commando or Ravager, and Vanille as Ravager or Medic. Occasionally, I might want to swap out Fang for Snow. But every time I have Fang, Lightning, and Vanille in the same party, I basically want to have the same Paradigms setup. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t remember what my Paradigms were and I have to go about setting them up again each time.
Here’s a short video showing Final Fantasy XIII crushing my Paradigm Deck when swapping between characters (and back):
For me, it’s easy for RPGs to border on being tedious with all the fiddling that has to go on in the various menus. It’s a double-edged sword I suppose, because managing my characters is part of what I love about the genre. Having to go back and re-setup Paradigms all the time though, is not fun at all, and it feels a little bit like backtracking. As a result, I avoid changing characters as much as possible – and that’s too bad, considering I still spend a lot of time upgrading each one’s stats and weapons.
Honestly, for a game that I’ve spent 45 hours on so far, having to re-setup my Paradigm Deck when switching characters probably shouldn’t be that big of a deal. However, the fact remains that when I’m using the same three characters, I’m probably going to have a similar set of Paradigms set up, so there’s no reason the game couldn’t remember that and save me a little bit of work.
Did you notice the same thing about Paradigms in Final Fantasy XIII? Or maybe you think it’s better to force the player into making new decisions each time? Let’s discuss in the comments!