I gotta tell ya, this was the first time I ever reviewed a game before it was actually released. Not a bad feeling, not a bad one at all.
I don't think metacritic even lists Popmatters when it comes to video games (that's probably a blessing) but I'm noticing that I'm coming in a bit low despite the fact that reading my review shows I really liked it. There's a definitive scale we go by but sometimes I like to boil it down more into a conversational test. If a stranger asked me about that game and my response would be, "Yes, buy it now" it's going to get a 9. If I say "Yes, but..." then I count off how many of those "but" issues there are.
In this case, I explain that the way the game generates its difficulty is a pain in the ass because there are a lot of cheap shots. This is made worse because if your main character dies then you instantly lose the battle. It occurs to me that fans of the series might be used to this because apparently you can't control your party in the previous games. In 4, I pretty much switched to controlling them as soon as I had the chance.
I appreciate the insta-kill mode as a throwback to the old style of play now and I acknowledge that it does intensify the relationship you have with these characters by depending on them. It's just that reviving me when I go down should be included in that. Towards the end I became sharp enough at the game to quit dying but the initial few dungeons were a bit frustrating. Not because I was screwing up, but because my main character would get taken down while the rest of the party was perfectly fine.
Anyways, despite all that cynicism, read this to listen to me ramble about how great it is.