RPG Index: Single player Role Playing Games

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Final Fantasy: Tactics

After creating the first Final Fantasy: Tactics game, Square tried to build on it with a couple of other handheld titles on the Gameboy Advance. Sadly, the franchise didn't really take off. But FF:Tactics was a brilliant game, worthy to be remade as War of the Lions for the Iphone and PSP. Every time I decide to go shopping, I always end up finding another beautiful title that I just can't pass up on. This is one of those iconic games, that every gamer should at least have a little experience with.

The graphics are bad by modern standards, but still playable.

Genre: Strategy, JRPG
Release Date: 20th June, 1997
Platforms: PSP, Playstation
Score: 8/10
Similar Titles: Final Fantasy, Vandal Hearts, Fire Emblem

As expected of a Final Fantasy game, Tactics has the usual turn-based combat. However, the addition of terrain navigation and strategically positioning your units changes the game considerably.  As a Playstation game, it's getting very old. It's aged magnificently, but Final Fantasy: Tactics is old enough to be rife with minor annoyances that don't plague the new releases of today. I hated waiting for my turn. Spell animations are a minute long. At least a third of your time playing this game you won't be doing anything but waiting for your turn. It's frustrating that none of the issues from the original edition have been adjusted. It should of been fundamental for Square to polish the game before porting it. The only real downside however, is it takes a dangerous amount of patience to enjoy Final Fantasy: Tactics. Oh, and you can't skip a second of it.

The combat can be really tough in a few situations.

Ivalice has been a part of three Final Fantasy games to date, and although it's not a full world it made quite the debut in tactics. The inhabitants of Ivalice can use both magic and technology, and it has numerous races of denizens and monsters. Although you don't get to see much of the location in Tactics, you get to see Ivalice in all its glory in Final Fantasy: XII.

The story begins with Ramza, a young mercenary with the blood of a noble. Ivalice has just ended a war, and the king is dead. A baby is the only remaining heir. With nobody to keep the nation under control, two factions fight for rule. Prince Goltana and Prince Larg have started a full scale war just to seize power. Ramza is unfortunately caught between these two lions as a pawn. So instead of taking a side, he instead fights for justice.

Aside from the nobles kicking sand at eachother, the commoners of Ivalice are also starting a fuss. The peasants are upset for being treated like dirt, and many uprisings are afoot. Delita, Ramza's childhood friend hates the privileged nobles so much, he seeks to manipulate and destroy them. In other words, the shit has hit the fan in Ivalice, and it's Ramza's job to vacuum it all up.

You will meet many characters on your journey, some of which can join your party as guests. The pompous nobles of house Beoulve who are always trying to manipulate their way up the ranks. Delita, your childhood friend and peasant determined to change the world. Agnes, a holy knight under the service of Princess Ovelia. Every person you meet in the game is surprisingly deep. The dialogue is short, yet still manages to convey a lot of information.

The PSP adds a few pretty cutscenes, none of which you can skip.

FF:Tactics has a story that all revolves around politics. Most of the scenes you watch are about people plotting to take their seat on the throne, or to rise above their station. It's basically medieval cloak and dagger stuff. It didn't really interest me that much until I made a fair amount of progress, once I'd played for about 10 hours I started to feel invested in the plot. I was more interested in fighting battles and adjusting my army.

During a playthrough of Tactics you will typically rotate between the world map and battles with the occasional cutscene. The map lets you choose from blue locations with towns to buy new gear and read rumors; and green places with potential battles. Certain points are marked red and guarantee battle. If you defeat all the red areas then the story progresses. Ultimately this pushes you into a simple rotation. Story, grind, gear, repeat. So if this routine is frustrating to you early on, quit now because it doesn't change. Personally, I didn't mind it. However, I know there's plenty of readers out there thinking 'fuck that' as they read this.

With dozens of classes and the ability to mix and match them, it's an absolute pleasure to customize your party. I spent several hours composing different builds and structuring my soldiers in the best formations. Some classes are really broken, like Monk and Ninja; while others are lacking something important, such as Chemist and Archer. There are so many classes to unlock, you will have to put in a lot of time to fully explore them all.

As a strategy game, Final Fantasy Tactics is a step in a different direction for Square-Enix. For some reason they decided to do the whole battlefield in isometric, which is an old technique and one I've never liked. Who the fuck wants to play a game diagonally? The terrain can block your line of sight and it's hard to move the camera to an angle to a good view. On the Playstation edition of this game, that's where the flaws end. On the PSP version, there is one more major disadvantage to deal with. The slowdown. For some reason, Square-Enix decided it would be a good idea to delay the cast time of every spell in the game. As previously mentioned, this inconvenience is annoying. It's gotten to the point that I put the PSP on the table and do something else when the enemies turn begins. Without this issue, Final Fantasy: Tactics would of been a perfect port.

Some classes can move pretty far in a single turn.

A battle typically consists of your team being placed on one side of the field, whilst the enemy attacks from several directions. Once a unit's CT gauge reaches 100, it can act. Each unit can move and perform an action in a turn, if you don't want to do anything you can choose to wait and your next turn will charge faster. Using a normal attack or item is done instantly, but casting magic usually takes a couple of turns. The AI isn't particularly competent, so you will have to fight against an enemy with more soldiers under his control almost every time. Most battles can be completed easily by keeping your units together and surrounding one enemy at a time. If you give all of your men the ability to heal themselves, Final Fantasy: Tactics is a game you can steamroll over for the most part.

There are a few nuances in the system that you have to adjust to. If you're firing an arrow at an enemy, it can be blocked by terrain or even an ally if they are in the way. It's impossible to stand on top of a corpse, so standing with your back to a dead monsters prevents anyone hitting you from behind. Climbing up cliffs or stairs makes use of your jump stat instead of your move stat, so some classes and builds can leap up a building and others have to take a longer route.

Every now and again you can tame a monster into your party, that includes other humans and even chocobos. So if you want to have a strange army of monsters and birds, that is entirely possible. However, usually it's better to keep the same 5 units so they get more EXP. Sadly, you never get to field more than 5 soldiers each battle, so recruiting a dozen unique warriors into your party is pretty much a waste of time. If you could use up to 10 people in a battle Final Fantasy: Tactics would of been much more tactical.

Gafgarion is one badass dude.

Jobs are another word for class, whichever one you pick will change the weapon and armor you can equip as well as the abilities you can use. In the beginning you only have access to 2 jobs: Chemist and Squire. Once you meet the prerequisites it's possible to change to a new class. Character levels and class levels are separate, so changing to a new job puts you back at the beginning. It's fun to explore what each job is capable of. Moreover, some techniques you pick up can be equipped onto your character regardless of class.

When somebody on your team gets downed, you only have 3 turns to revive them or they disappear forever. Although this mechanic will probably annoy you at first, it's easy to adapt to. However, once you get to the later stages in Final Fantasy: Tactics, losing a unit forever is not a viable option. In other words, if you don't resurrect your buddy in time; you're going to have to start the battle all over again. To add insult to injury, restarting a battle requires you to reload the entire game.

It's very easy to abuse the mechanics in FF:Tactics to your advantage. For example, if you want to grind experience all you have to do is kill all the enemies but one. Then, command your party to attack each other whilst healing themselves to avoid death. Each hit or heal grants the caster experience, thus making it possible to level your party members without being in any danger.

Final Fantasy Tactics is a fantastic title, I wholly agree with its transition to the PSP. It's a worthy title that didn't see enough praise on the Playstation. That being said, it's also got many areas that could be improved on. If you want a turn-based game where planning your actions and creating an ideal party is the challenge, then pick this one. Final Fantasy Tactics is not perfect, but it was a great game when it was released, and it's still worth your time now. Just remember, it's very slow paced. Be prepared to put down the console and do something else for a couple of minutes every now and again.

I just wish they'd made a sequel, because using this core engine and perfecting it by adding more classes, bigger battles, side missions and more equipment could make a game that would sit at the top of strategy titles for the next 20 years.

No comments:

Post a Comment