RPG Index: Single player Role Playing Games

Monday, 24 June 2013

Final Fantasy XII

In recent years the respect and prestige the Final Fantasy franchise earned from providing a stellar storytelling experience, backed up by graphics beyond the confines of the other console games, has slowly deteriorated. This is due to the awfully poor Final Fantasy X-2 and the online rendition of the series which has only gained a small cult following (sorry ya losers the FF MMO sucks).

Most of the people I know just gave up on hoping the next game would break Square Enix out of their rut and bring Final Fantasy back up to speed with current games. Some people even fooled themselves into believing every game after X-2 was still amazing, ignoring the stink of mediocrity that currently plagues the series that used to set trends for the market.

Opening Scene Final Fantasy XII
The tutorial turns out to be a massacre. Poor Reks.
Genre: JRPG
Developer: Square Enix
Release Date: 16th March, 2006
Platforms: PS2, PS4
Score: 6/10
Similar Titles: Grandia, Dragon Quest, Star Ocean
Worth playing: If you are a fan of Final Fantasy or are running out of alternative RPGs to play.

Final Fantasy XII review

The good:

  • Classic Final Fantasy atmosphere, graphics, and story.
  • The game has persevered the years well, a replay today is quite bearable.
  • Battle system is fun to start with.
  • Gambit system allows you to automate your party.

The bad:

  • Boring cast, boring plot, or both (Awful main character).
  • No memorable cut scenes or cool moments.
  • License board is a sub par skill system, taking a step backwards from the Sphere Grid.
  • Gambit system allows you to automate your party.
Edit 2016: As of 2016, Final Fantasy XII has aged fairly well and will be enjoying a console port to the PS4 in 2017. You may also emulate this title easily on PC and arguably tablets if you are a masochist ~ FF12 Emulation information

The Square Enix game that tried

Final Fantasy 12 is a JRPG that had potential and nearly succeeded in delivering it. It has a fairly weak story, but all the other qualities that make the series fantastic are there. It has reasonably fun combat early on, the enticing graphics that coin a Square Enix game, and a reasonable amount of content to sift through.

Image of the story information at the start of the game
The opening exposition sounds more interesting than the actual game.

As the last Final Fantasy on the PS2, Final Fantasy XII a fair goodbye to the epic console.

Unfortunately the development team made a few design choices that just didn't sit right with me & a lot of other critics.

Final Fantasy 12's bland plot is detrimental to Ivalice

Ivalice returns as the universe setting from several other titles, most notably FF:Tactics. This time around the small kingdom of Dalmasca is under the forced rule of the larger Archadian empire. With the king and his soldiers dead, and the capital of Rabanastre under imperial control; Dalmasca isn't particularly happy about the loss of their independence.

Vaan is a young street urchin, stealing anything he can get his hands on. When Vaan sneaks into the Rabanastran palace to find treasure and unwittingly gets dragged into a struggle between the resistance and the empire; he joins up with the famous sky pirate Balthier to escape. Lured by the promise of riches and justice, Vaan and friends join up with the rebels to tempt fate and change the future.

Image of Vaan in a cut scene
Vaan is really an awful main character. Do not want.

Where they went wrong

My short summary of the story might give you an idealistic impression of what it's like. Forget that, I'm telling you now that it flat out sucks. Vaan is a boring main character, he doesn't do or say anything cool for the entire game. The supporting cast isn't great either, but if Balthier the pirate was the main character as originally intended; I can guarantee that the plot would of been far better.

What's a real shame is the twelth edition of Final Fantasy used the world of Ivalice, a world rich with lore from Vagrant Story and Final Fantasy: Tactics. Why is the story bad you ask? Because the main character feels like he was tacked on at the last minute. Moreover, the main antagonist, Vayne is transparent and doesn't seem to have any real motive aside from manipulating people for power.

None of the cinematics are interesting in the slightest. To write this review I played FF12 again to remember, and I can honestly tell you I spent more time watching television than the actual game. The plot could have been solid, but ultimately ends up bland.

The combat is okay 

Some of the scathing comments may have turned you off ever trying Final Fantasy XII. It isn't all bad. The combat is a strong redeeming quality, a step forward for Square Enix. Instead of entering and leaving random battles, monsters roam the terrain and you can attack them at will. No load screens or running in circles to activate combat.

Early battles in the sewer Final Fantasy 12
The combat really does start out promising, it's easy to get to grips with and seems like it could get far more intriguing. It doesn't really.
Once you're out in the world, all you have to do is run up to whatever you want to kill; and slam it with whatever you have. Actions in battle are prepared by using the ATB gauge; once it fills up your spell or ability will active as long as you are in range. It's also possible to move while casting, which is a useful mechanic that you can take advantage of.

In combat screenshot Final Fantasy XII
This is Zeromus, an Esper. Would of been cooler if it was Bahamut or another atypical summon.

There are two types of special attacks you can use once you make some progress into the game. Quickenings are your overdrive or limit break, and at the expense of your entire mana pool you can chain together several Quickenings and put out a huge amount of damage. Summons have been replaced by Espers, which just gives them a new name and face. Using a summon can be pretty potent in the right situation, but I'd prefer to see an appearance from Shiva or Ifrit. I mean, which idiot decided to replace our favorite summons? Why?

The FFXII license board is a remarkably boring skill system

Character development in FFXII is done through licenses. To gain a new spell or ability you must first purchase it from a shop, and then unlock the corresponding license on the board. It's the same with equipment. If you want to put on that shiny new spear you need to first unlock it on the board.

This system means your party members are all exactly the same. You can build each one however you want but they all start in the same place. I found it a little frustrating that there weren't any advantages to selecting a specific battle team. The license board was a good idea, but it failed because instead of designing a build for your character, you will find yourself purchasing the same licenses for everyone because it's practical.

Gorgeous cut scene graphics of FFXII
Well clearly this is the drill to pierce the heavens.

Everyone hates the Gambit system, but me

The Gambit system is what I would consider my redeeming quality of the game. While most people dislike being able to automate your entire parties combat; I enjoyed the concept and executions of gambits in Final Fantasy 12.

In combat you take control of one party member, and the other two will act based on gambits. Gambits are a procedure you can set up to cast the right ability when certain criteria is met. For example, you can set someone to cast Cure when a party member is below 50% health, or to cast Fira on stronger enemies.

The Gambit system isn't too bad, but it means you can essentially set your party up to complete the game for you. If done correctly, every time you walk into range of an enemy, you and your party will immediately take up the mantle and slaughter every bad guy in sight. Highly cheesy, which is why most people have an aversion to it.

Although the story is deceptively short at the climax, there is a decent amount of content to play through. The final arc at the end is pretty premature and unsatisfying, but if you really want to keep playing there are dozens of bounty missions for side content. They can get pretty tough later on, but the whole game is a cakewalk for anyone who knows their way around a JRPG. There's nothing as tough as the Dark Aeons or the underwater weapon, so I really didn't find myself being challenged.

Ingame menu image Final Fantasy 12
The menu.

The overall character customization is mediocre

Overall I'm really not happy with the customization system on FFXII. The combat is great, but all the characters develop the same. There's not much point in building one person into a tank and another into a healer when you can do both.

When it comes to building your party, it is truly linear and when combined with the overpowering effects of a nifty gambit setup, nothing is capable of evading your killing fury aside from the hardiest of bounty quests.

In conclusion: I guess I could play Final Fantasy XII again

The graphics are exceptional for a PS2 title, and the cinematics are even better. However, the story is lacking the flair and intricacy we're used to in Final Fantasy games. There aren't really any interesting characters or unexpected plot twists. It's very predictable.

Ultimately this can be considered an acceptable addition to Square Enix's empire. But some of the design choices that were made just aren't very good. If Balthier was the main character or the license board was swapped out for a more diverse and unique level up system; it would of been a much better game. But it stands in line with the more recent Final Fantasy games, falling below our expectations into the category of mediocre. Basically, Final Fantasy 12 is only worth playing in two situations. 1: You're a die hard fanboy like me. 2: You have absolutely nothing better to do.

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