I started my second playthrough of Final Fantasy XII in early December 2016. Nearly a year later, I have finally completed it (it took so long because I took a lot of breaks, particularly to play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild). I am proud to say that I got far closer to 100% completion than last time, though there are still two things that remain incomplete, the Yiazmat hunt and the Bestiary, the former of which was brutal and just not worth my time. As far as the latter task goes…once I couldn’t defeat Yiazmat, I lost the motivation to bother with the Bestiary.
Nevertheless, I have plenty of accomplishments I can cite. I defeated every Esper, including Ultima and Zodiark. I defeated Marks 1-44. I even leveled up Vaan to level 99, Balthier to very nearly that high, and everyone else to about 90, making the final boss absurdly easy. One goal I had made when starting out was to complete this game using strategies more complex than my old “brute force method”, and I more or less did. At the very least, I used the Gambit system far more, and I used some basic strategies, one of which I will detail below.
In addition to the victories listed above, I was also able to defeat Omega, to whom I had created a map which proved quite helpful, as navigating the massive crystal inside Giruvegan is quite perplexing indeed. Omega was defeated with ease thanks to a simple strategy I learned online, though I figured out my own way to enact it. I chose Vaan, my strongest character, along with Ashe and Penelo, who had the most magic. One would be responsible for casting Reverse on Vaan, while the other would cast Decoy. Omega’s attacks do about 6000 each, so even with the Bubble Belt equipped (which doubles your HP), you can still die in two hits.
So Omega will only attack Vaan due to Decoy, and Reverse will allow Vaan to heal when he takes damage. Vaan would then use Hastega from time to time to ensure that everyone can cast their respective spells without delay, after which he attacks. It was actually helpful that Omega’s laser can sometimes inflict Berserk on you, as this allowed Vaan to do more damage more quickly. Ha, joke’s on you, Omega!
Now that I have returned to Final Fantasy XII a good decade after my first playthrough (and the game’s release), I have come to appreciate it far more, even though I still have to concur with everyone else that the game is very sparse on story, and it is easy to go many dozens of hours without anything plot-related happening. And I will never be able to enjoy politics-centered stories. Ever. Even so, it was the massive open world and the vast amount of things to do that made the game a lot of fun, along with what has become my favorite battle system in a Final Fantasy game yet. I can now appreciate the Gambit system, which allows your characters to act on their own. Rather than make the fights boring because your input is less important, this really just made it easier for me to focus on strategy and the like, since I didn’t have to worry about my characters restoring their health or healing status ailments because those were things the Gambits took care of. And I love that this game employs real-time battles rather than turn-based. It’s also pretty awesome that you can change weapons, armor, characters, etc. in the middle of battle.
Since I’ve already been writing a great deal about this game over the past many months, I won’t be writing a true review, though this might be a good time to list a few issues I had, as well. First of all, money is incredibly scarce in this game. I thought you normally obtained money from battles in other FF games, but in this one, you must seek out pots scattered throughout your environment. In most RPGs, I eventually end up with way more money than I know what to do with. In this game, I’d often have to sell much of my old weapons and armor in order to afford anything new. This was all the more bothersome when you needed to buy magic rather than learn it through leveling up.
I also find the Licenses to be a rather odd concept. In this game, you earn License Points, or LP, in addition to EXP, after each battle. You use these points on the License Board, where you have to unlock magic, weapons, armor, etc. before you can use them. I just find it rather silly that my character can’t wear a hat or use a sword without a license. This was not an issue once I had accumulated thousands of License Points, but at first, it would take a very long time to gain enough points for a spell I needed or a better weapon.
Last of all, certain abilities proved rather useless for me. I could chain a large number of Quickenings together, only to find that the attack had done no damage whatsoever. Espers were also an issue because, if I was fighting a tough enemy, I couldn’t last more than a minute or so with only one character, and once that character perished, the Esper would disappear without having done much damage at all. And it doesn’t help that both of the above methods of attack can use a lot of MP. Lastly…Reflect is useless in this game. You’d think it would, I don’t know, reflect back enemy spells. Like it does in other Final Fantasy games. Rather, it will prevent your allies from healing you, while enemy spells will still damage you just the same. That doesn’t seem quite fair….
Aside from a few issues, I did enjoy my time with this game very much, and it didn’t end up mattering that the story wasn’t super interesting to me or that I felt pretty indifferent towards the characters. As I grow older, good characters and stories have become more and more important to me. But sometimes, as is the case of Final Fantasy XII, the biggest highlight is simply exploring a huge world and defeating a whole bunch of tough monsters. That alone was enough to keep me happy. Now that I have given this game another go, I feel it’s going to make it all the more difficult to return to RPGs with more rigid structures, like turn-based battles and the inability to change your equipment or party at any time. Final Fantasy XII was all about freedom, both in your environment and in the gameplay, and that was all I needed to enjoy the game.
For anyone else who has played Final Fantasy XII, what did you feel was the game’s greatest strength and/or its greatest weakness? Were you able to enjoy the game despite its sparse story, or was that enough to hurt your experience with the game? As always, don’t forget to leave your thoughts in the comments below!
I Resent That the Decoy Symbol is a Duck…
Image from Flickr User: Hallion