I've debated on starting a blog for this, but I figured, why not? Though I will admit right now that I will likely forget to update unless people ask questions.
11/17/2008 - I have no idea how long I've been playing, because there is no game clock. I hate not having a game clock.
Well, since I wrote this impression
, things have continued to expand. The union system has opened up to give me more options and the game has stopped holding my hand as much. With that has come a great challenge and I've died quite a few times, many to my own mistakes and the rest to bad luck. Thankfully, you can save anywhere, so I've started saving after each battle.
I just finished one dungeon where you were only allowed two characters. Not two unions, two characters, so things were tough. You have to avoid links as much as possible, as things can overwhelm you quickly. So far it is still fun, but loading times are getting painful, but that's only because battles are fairly lengthy and fairly prevalent. Square Enix even recommends using the hard drive install from the NXE on the 19th, so hopefully that will help.
The story is really so-so right now. Things seem forced and you almost wonder why characters are doing what they are doing. You also wonder how they learn things, because you'll see a cutscene and then the next scene will have characters talking about information that was not revealed in the cutscene.
It's still too early to call this good or bad, but at this point I can say the battle system is fun and the story needs to start ramping up.
11/17/2008 - At least four hours further, if not more
Well, the difficulty has ramped up and the story has a bit as well. I've fought the equivalent of four boss battles tonight and ouch. The first one I was not prepared for, but upon going back and retrying things, I was able to beat it on the third try. I was prepared the second time, but I didn't realize that if you left a certain enemy as the last one on the field that they would go into overdrive and kill you.
I played on for a bit more and man are these dungeons long. Actually, they're not that long, but you have so many encounters along the way that it takes a while to go through them. So I get to the end of the dungeon, fight a boss, get tossed into a story scene, get tosses at another harder boss (without the option to save before hand), and then more story. Finally, I was able to save after about an half an hour of combat. So as I'm trying to leave this place, bam, another boss fight. I wasn't so lucky this time, so I've stopped for the night. I'm guessing I just need to find the best strategy for this fight.
To answer the questions:
As far as unique characters go, it's tough to answer. You get the story characters listed on the site at certain points, but you can also recruit (for money) powerful, unique leaders. They have no story or background, just a certain set of skills. You can only have a set number of leaders in the overall party at one time, so Rush, the generals, and the generic leaders have to be balanced.
There are also standard generic characters that can fight with you as well. You can hire more of them for no cost and use more (though still a limited amount) in your party. In the aspect of characters, this is almost closer to being a tactical RPG than a traditional one.
At one point the story really started to draw me in with a fairly dramatic scene. I was really getting into it, but just a couple scenes later everything was turned on its head and made the scene almost meaningless. I don't want to bash it just yet, but I've not really been majorly impressed so far.
11/18/2008 - Three hours-ish more
Just beat the battle that I was stuck on. Took five tries with some battles ending as quick as five minutes and two ending after about twenty.
I got lucky on the last try and things worked out, so now I'm on disc two. I want to like the story, but every time it gives me something really good, it doesn't go as far as I would have liked and leaves things hanging. It feels rushed. The opening to disc two just give a brief synopsis of what happened between disc one's end and the start of two. I call laziness or rushed to print.
11/20/2008 - 5-6 more hours
The story is really getting lazy at this point. I'm at my home in one area one minute and get a summon to come to another town, so I head that way. I get 45 second cutscene with my characters talking as they enter the city, then another 30 second one in another room where some of the rest of the party was waiting. Then I'm told to go back home. I do that, then once there another minute long cutscene wants to send me out somewhere else. It's like the story has been hacked to bits. I don't mind an occasional Xenosaga-length scene, especially if it helps progress the story. Every scene I've been hitting on does next to nothing to help the story or even character development.
That aside, the battle system is continuing to grow on me. I like it, even if the battle do take too long. I timed one simple encounter at three minutes including loading times. I've not timed a boss fight yet, but those are much longer.
Also, I did install the game onto the hard drive via NXE. While I don't do benchmarking to test, I judge the loading times on a scale from "unnoticed" to "slightly long" to "annoying" to "when is this going to load?". TLR has been staying at "annoying" and continues to be there even while a hard drive install.