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Final Fantasy XII Review 261

Posted by Zonk
from the kupo? dept.
The Final Fantasy series is almost twenty years old. When Square developed the first title in the series, the game's name was meant to coincide with designer Hironobu Sakaguchi's retirement. Instead, the game's popularity set the stage for a series that has now reached twelve 'main' titles and more than half a dozen offshoots. Almost everything about the series has changed over the years, except for popularity and a generally high level of quality. Final Fantasy XII has changed almost everything from the series norm, except the quality. The result is a game that very well may be considered the best Japanese RPG in years. It's a smarter, more adult, and absolutely beautiful title; the perfect balm for anyone not taken with The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion . Read on for my impressions of the newest and most ambitious chapter of the Fantasy that's never quite Final.
  • Title: Final Fantasy XII
  • Publisher/Developer: Square / Enix
  • System: PS2
If there's a consistent criticism leveled against games in the Final Fantasy series, it's that most of more recent games center around a big-hair protagonist, usually angsting in a very teen-like fashion. The sweeping political story told in Final Fantasy XII combats every negative story stereotype the series has, and brings the tone of the game into a much more 'adult' space than previous titles. We primarily follow the exploits of street-kid Vaan and the motley crew that falls in with him, consisting mostly of fallen royalty and sky pirates. The story itself, though, deals with the rocky political and military issues facing a war-bent empire. The king is dying, his sons are being manipulated by a corrupt senate, and the toll of many years of combat is beginning to tell in the hearts and minds of the empire's citizenry. The best part here is that it makes sense. The story is complicated, to be sure, and you'll definitely find yourself wondering what's going on at some points. Your questions will be answered, though, and not by silly responses like 'the planet is angry', or nonsense like that. Events in the game have real, human emotions and logic driving them, and it's a pleasure to behold.

With a game as lengthy as Final Fantasy XII, a decent story would quickly become boring if you had to slog through the gameplay. In my estimation, though, the originality breathed into the tried-and-true combat system has transformed this series. Taking the best elements of the older turn-based battles and the auto-attacking tendencies of Final Fantasy XI, FFXII offers a welcome new approach to RPG combat. For starters, there are no 'random' attacks in FFXII. Monsters wander around dungeons in all their beautiful graphical glory, and whether to engage an enemy or flee is up to you. It's a welcome change, forgoing the frustration of random encounters dogging your steps on an overworld map.

The real innovation here, though, lies in the 'Gambit system'. Each character has a certain number of Gambit slots. Each Gambit slot can be loaded with a specific command, with an extremely simple programming-like syntax allowing for some surprisingly complicated maneuvers. When loaded up, these Gambits dictate the actions of the characters within the game world. A Gambit could say 'If an Ally's HP is less than 80%, cast cure on them.' As you progress through the game, more esoteric criteria become available. Some allow you to target enemies based on their weaknesses, while others look for allies with detrimental conditions. This combat system can be overridden at any time with the simple push of a button, allowing the precision of a turn-based approach and the speed of the Gambits. Taken as a whole, Gambits allow the player to leave more of the 'nitty gritty' to the rules you've laid out. You don't have to make sure every character is healed up after a battle; they'll take care of that themselves. This frees you up to stay appraised of the whole battlefield, and in general means more fun per moment for the player. If this sounds like things are 'too easy', it should be pointed out that Gambits should either be heavily tweaked or turned off before boss battles. These non-stereotypical fights almost require a return to the series' turn-based roots, so that each character can execute the most efficient set of instructions possible. Gambits allow a wonderful blend of control and gameplay, and definitely aid in making the title the powerhouse that it is.

Other gameplay elements should be familiar to Final Fantasy players, but have received some additional tweaking. Each character can have their abilities focused by gaining new abilities and permissions on 'the license board'. License board points are obtained by defeating monsters, similar to but separate from the traditional experience points. While gaining levels does make a character stronger, it's the application of license points that makes them more versatile. A character focused on casting spells, for example, fills in the spellcasting part of the board with their points. There are board areas for weapons of varying types, armor, spells, simple stat buffs, and unique abilities called 'Technicks'. These last are non-magical moves that can produce a variety of quirky effects. One throws money at enemies to cause damage, while another damages opponents randomly based on what time of the day it is. These abilities, spells, and equipment are trained on the license board, but are unusable until actually purchased. While gil (the game's currency) is obtainable 'straight' from monsters, the most common way of paying the bills is by selling loot. Loot drops from monsters, and exists for no other purpose than to be sold for money. Entertainingly, you can increase your chances of gaining loot by 'Chaining'. Slaying several monsters in a row, all of which are of the same creature type, will allow you to start a loot chain. The more creatures you kill in a row of the same type, the better and more copious amounts of loot you'll receive. I've gotten chains up over 150 creatures, and by engaging in this entertaining activity it becomes easy to get the money you'll so desperately need.

Graphically, Final Fantasy XII may be one of the finest titles ever to grace the PS2. There are, of course, some jaggies and obvious pixilations. Despite that, the unique art style utilized to show off the world of Ivalice is absolutely breathtaking to behold. Character designs are iconic and memorable, while very distinct architectural styles makes it easy to understand where you are and differentiate from where you've been. They don't pull out the stops with well-imagined location concepts either, moving you from rotting tomb to scorching desert to a city floating on an island in the sky. Weather effects change locations you've been to previously, adding additional layers of complexity to an already quite dense graphical palette. Musically, the game stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the works of Nobuo Uematsu, the traditional composer for the series. Despite not being done by the master, Sakimoto's work has the same haunting weight and presence we've come to expect.

Given that the PS2's successor launched commercially in the U.S. today, it's fitting that the last-gen Sony system would see titles such as this be published on the way out the door. Along with titles like Okami and Bully, FFXII is the last gasp of a true winner in the world of videogames. The PS2 won the last generation exactly because of games like this. At the end of the day, it's not marketing or hype that makes a game great; it's solid gameplay, an engaging story, and an attractive presentation. Final Fantasy XII proves that you don't have to be 'next-gen' to be a truly great game. I only hope that the lessons learned in these late-generation titles transfer into the games of the next generation. It's always frustrating relearning things again.

The game elements of Final Fantasy XII, laid out separately, sound solid but fairly routine. Gambits are new, to be sure, but it's all pretty standard stuff. The key here is that it doesn't play like the standard stuff. Moving through the actual game in Japanese RPGs has gotten to be a real chore over the years. Unlike the freedom valued by American games in the same genre, the boxed-in storylines and gameplay have gotten mostly fairly stale. Even exceptionally good examples of the genre suffer from a a case of the been-there done-thats. All this makes Final Fantasy XII that much more enjoyable in aggregate. By stepping outside of series norms, the game's creators have had the chance to reintroduce us to the very gameplay and storytelling concepts which made the Final Fantasy series a powerhouse in the first place. I highly recommend this title to any fan of Japanese-style roleplaying games. If you've been put off by the stodgy nature of the genre in the past, I would even go so far as to say this may be the title that allows you to finally enjoy these games. Final Fantasy XII is a triumph for the series, and I sincerely hope marks the direction future games will be heading.
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Final Fantasy XII Review

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  • Well.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by MyLongNickName (822545) on Friday November 17, 2006 @02:05PM (#16888268) Journal
    ... I was about to ask for a link in the article, but that is from Zelda, right?
  • by rob1980 (941751) on Friday November 17, 2006 @02:17PM (#16888446)
    I'm still just 30 hours in, but I'm enjoying just about every minute of it. For a change there are actually things about it that are new and not giving me the impression I'm playing an updated version of a game I've already played.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 17, 2006 @02:23PM (#16888546)
    It is some six years into the PS2's lifespan having sold some 105+ million consoles and it's successor has already launched. Since Sony completely controls the hardware and is able to continuously shrink the PS2 components over the life of the console, they are still able to sell the console for a profit for cheap to huge numbers of new console gamers who never bought the PS2 at its higher price points. And console developers don't have to throw away all that code they worked on over the past six years due to the fact that there is still a rapidly expanding market for both the PS2 platform and the fact that every new PS3 sold is able to play FF XII on their new system. Creating a seamless unified market for both gamers and developers.

    That is the way you support developers.
    That is the way you support gamers.

    And that is one of the major reasons Sony has sold 200+ million consoles over the past decade and gamers are camping out in the rain and rioting over Sony's new system.

    • by Rufus211 (221883)
      Microsoft has learned the lesson. They own all of the IP in the Xbox360. IBM and ATI created the chips for them and then sold them the *design* - Microsoft entirely owns the resulting design. They send them out to be fabbed where they want, they can do anything they want with it. This includes at a next generation being able to use the previous chips, just like the EE+GS (PS2 chips) in the PS3

      Notice this is completely different from the original Xbox where Intel and Nvidia created the chips for them and
    • by DeeDob (966086) on Friday November 17, 2006 @07:51PM (#16892486)
      But Microsoft took a different approach than Sony that is just as valid, and perhaps more (at least in my opinion).

      Microsoft made the 360 similar to the architecture of a regular PC. Meaning that games can be easilly ported to both platform.

      For example, Square, the makers of the Final Fantasy franchise, have said that it took them around two months of coding to port Final Fantasy XI to the 360 (from it's PC version). They have also said that the same job would have taken them around 2 years to port it to the PS3s architecture since it is entirely new and "alien" to anything already existing. The entire core of the game would need to be re-written.

      This means a bigger library of games for both the PC and the 360 platform. That compatibility has a tendancy to attract numerous different games based on numerous engines instead of making more similar games that uses engines adapted to a singular platform like those made by Sony.

      Also, i think the fact that people are camping out for a PS3 is more due to the massive shortage of it than any "good" design made by Sony...
    • by RzUpAnmsCwrds (262647) on Friday November 17, 2006 @10:30PM (#16893472)
      Gamers are waiting in the rain for PS3s because Sony launched with too few consoles. And your argument about how Sony is making consoles more accessible seems particularly ironic considering that the PS3 is $200 more expensive than the 360.

      The Cube was the most affordable systm of the last generation. And, for most of its life, the XBOX was the same price as the PS2 - and it included a hard drive and NIC.

      The PS2 was one of the most expensive consoles ever when it launched. It was (and is) hard to develop for.

      Is the PS3 an excellent product? Absolutely. But so is the 360. The XBOX had a unified online expeience and downloadable games 2 years ago. The level of functionality that the 360 had a year ago is in many ways superior to what the PS3 has now.

      Sony hopes to impress us with the PS3. But the 360 is here, now, in quantity, and for $100 less than the cheap PS3. Is the PS3 a solid product and an excellent value? Yes. But Sony is selling to the wrong market. $500 is just too damned expensive. All Microsoft needs now is a $200 core system.
  • by RyanFenton (230700) on Friday November 17, 2006 @02:25PM (#16888578)
    I've been playing this one on-and-off for the past few weeks, and I've really been loving it. My main complaint about many of the recent Final Fantasy games has been what I think of as the 90210-teen style use of emotions at the core of the character interaction and story.

    Thankfully, FFXII has done away with that. There's still deep emotions, angst even, but it's more than showing a dozen characters with emotional hangups and occasional epileptic fits, and calling these annoying mishmash of shortcomings mixed with superpowers a story. Perhaps it is just my taste for use of emotions in stories - but I do find the determined use of emotions driving, while avoiding cliches, in the FFXII storyline.

    The only downside is the music - not that it is bad, but it is intentionally ambient while being well-orchestrated. That same ambience, though, means that you never really remember or anticipate the music except in the rare cases where the music is an allusion to previous games. The reasoning for this musical shift was to allow the sounds and many well-done voices in the game to be clear throughout, never drown out by music that is too strong. It's a bit of a shame for my tastes - I loved the strong music in some of the games. But it's certainly a lesser concern than the gameplay and the storyline, which are overwhelmingly good in comparison.

    Ryan Fenton
    • by Astarica (986098)
      As far as the music goes, I think it is simply weaker than the other games. So far Old Archades is the only place in the game I can think of where the music actually establishes the mood instead of just being some filler stuff to listen to as you go from one location to another. The battle music is your standard 'pretty good but not awesome' like most Square games. FF12 is on track to beat FF9 as the FF game I remember the least, music-wise (FF9 I only remembered the overworld theme).

      So far as the non-dr
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Rei (128717)
      From the description (complex plot, manipulated and fallen nobles, "Ivalice", etc) it's sounding an awful lot like Final Fantasy Tactics. Which is a good thing. :) Tactics was a great game. Even the bugs in the game were great -- they let you continue the game long after you normally would have been able to go little further (such as the level up/level down).

      Hopefully, however, this is translated better. Summon: "Rich"
      • by _xeno_ (155264)

        Close. It's based on Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, which was sort of like FFT with all the things that were fun about it removed.

        No job points. A total of something like 8 jobs per race. Abilities were earned by equipping different weapons, exactly like FFIX. A plot that made little to no sense. (The main character was sucked into Ivalice from "the real world" or something like it.)

        • provided you didn't think of it as related to the original. At least it wasn't so easy to get completely ass-raped as it was in FFT if you messed one turn up. A good fit for a play-for-30 minutes here and there type thing on the GBA. (I eventually completed all 300 missions and the judge hunts... hooray for me)

          Also, I understand that FFTA was a testing ground for certain elements and art assets that would eventually become FFXII. I'm glad they kept the Viera and didn't go with Mithra in this installment.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by lokiomega (596833)
        Creators of Final Fantasy XII are the same people who made Tactics. Which is why it feels very "Tactics-ish"
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by alphaseven (540122)
      I like it too, while Vaan and Penelo are typical teenage Final Fantasy characters, the rest of the cast has a very "western" feel to them, Balthier and Basch would be at home in Oblivion. While I like the characters, have you noticed all the parallels to Star Wars? Like this was inspired from another forum:

      Vaan - Luke
      Ashe - Leia
      Balthier - Han Solo
      Fran - Chewie
      Basch - Aragorn (okay two sources)
      Judge - Darth Vader
      Bounty Hunter Bangaa - Boba Fett

      At one point in the game you even visit a "Cloud City" type place
  • PS3 Compatible? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Nice review! I'm only a few hours into the game myself, but so far I am impressed and I especially do not miss the random battles. The game is graphically gorgeous and in fine old FF tradition has plenty of bishonen (pretty boys). Sometimes I wonder if the male models get more work than the female ones.

    Now with the PS3 launching in the US today, I wonder if FFXII is fully PS3 compatible. It should be as I understand the PS3 includes PS2 hardware on a chip for this. I also wonder though if the game gets any
  • It doesn't start off all that exciting (one of your first tasks is to kill a tomato, of all things), but it seems to be getting better further into the game, probably because the first few tasks seem to be an in-game tutorial. My only major gripe at this point is that all of the "augmentation" slots are contiguous on the license board. Wouldn't it make more sense to scatter them according to the other things in the area? They should have stuck with FFX's sphere grid system, IMO.
    • by Prien715 (251944)
      "My only major gripe at this point is that all of the "augmentation" slots are contiguous on the license board. Wouldn't it make more sense to scatter them according to the other things in the area? They should have stuck with FFX's sphere grid system, IMO."

      Unlike FFX, you actually get levels so your stats go up naturally. Now, there's a choice to be able to choose between learning a cure or adding 200 pts to your HP. If you decide you want to 200 HP at some point, just buy it later (not possible in the s
  • Licenses? (Score:5, Funny)

    by fatty ding dong (1028344) on Friday November 17, 2006 @02:32PM (#16888704)
    Each character can have their abilities focused by gaining new abilities and permissions on 'the license board'. License board points are obtained by defeating monsters, similar to but separate from the traditional experience points. So now we have Licenses and Permissions instead of our own experience points? What is this? Final Fantasy Vista?
    • by 7Prime (871679)

      Lol, I love the license system, but I do keep thinking: "so I'm fighting a life and death battle here, and I have with me one of the most powerful swords a guy can get, and you're telling me I can't use it because I'm not licensed to do so? What?! I'm in the middle of a fucking dungeon, who's gonna know?" ;)

      The term definitely doesn't fit. Materia Slots was physically understandable, Junctioning was complicated (I loved it, though) but still understandable. Weapons containing hidden powers in FF9, while f

    • by Prien715 (251944)
      Nope. There's almost always been exp and "something else", except in FFX. FF7 you got points which levelled up materia. FF6 your points earned points toward learning spells (much like FF9).

      Experience makes you tougher. LP lets you learn new abilities/use new armor.

      Nice attempt at humor;)
      • Materia had the advantage, I think, because you could create materia combos. I long for a return of a system that allowed for such stacking.
      • FF6 didn't really have that affect in this particular context. You didn't bank your points. You had espers equipped and earning sp helped you learn the spells that particular esper gave you.

        When you learned all the spells, however, SP was wasted. In X and XII, you bank your points.
  • RPG Concepts (Score:5, Interesting)

    by VorpalRodent (964940) on Friday November 17, 2006 @02:36PM (#16888790)
    One of the things that I've always failed to understand about RPG's, and which may simply be the skillful application of suspension of disbelief, is the idea that these characters can possibly be taken seriously.

    A 17 year old street-kid, who (as the game begins) is training himself on rats, quickly progresses to the wanton slaughter of the undead, not to mention elite Imperial guardsmen (in whichever order common sense would indicate with regards to their difficulty).

    Many of the FF titles I've played have centered around remarkably young characters...who are capable of causing death and destruction. In some cases, they do so using rather improbable weapons (by which I do not mean sci-fi things like gunblades...I refer to things like blitzballs in FFX).

    While I applaud the improvement of the plot in this FF over some of the previous iterations, I still find some of the things that are just taken for granted to be highly unlikely, such as the foregone conclusion that someone with extensive experience as a pirate (or as a soldier) would join with a young urchin, regardless of how many times their paths cross.

    Further, I have never understood why the experience level of ones comrades does not accurately represent their life. If my character has lived on the street all his life, and someone who has been a professional soldier joins my party, he starts at the same level as I do (excepting that I can steal...since I'm a pickpocket).

    I say all this not to be overly critical. I understand that some things must simply be accepted for the sake of the gameplay mechanics. However, with a little more attention to the detail in the story, I think that the game could go from something that is already very good to something superb.

    • It's almost pointless to argue about this, since every game does things along these lines. Some are even more absurd than others, such as a scientist in a "scientific" suit defeating hordes of highly-trained soldiers, aliens, and alien soldiers using a crowbar. Games aren't meant to be taken seriously.
    • by Astarica (986098)
      If the character strenghts are supposedly to roughly reflect reality, the only party you'll ever use is Fran, Basch, and Balthier because these are clearly the only people with any real fighting experiences on their belt. Penelo, Ashe, and Vaan will most likely be killed in one hit by the first imperial elite you ran into. It also wouldn't make a very interesting game that way. Note that they try to reflect this somewhat with the guests. Basch is very strong relative to your characters as a guest at lea
      • And Basch, Fran and Balthier can carry the storyline. They are interesting characters with interesting backgrounds, and motivated to do big things. Ashe to a certain extent as well.

        I think Vaan and Penelo are just there to act as the player-at-home's eyes. They represent (the self-imagined version) of your typical male and female game player.

        FFXII didn't need that though, with the ominpresent-camera CGs and the gambit system, having a main character at all was irrevelant. They should have just let you pick
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by HoboMaster (639861)
          People like to have a "main character" in movies, books, and games. It helps them to identify with the situation much better. Most of the strongest games (from a storytelling perspective) are ones with a strong lead character. Vaan is a good one because, as ou say, they represent the normal person. Most people would have trouble identifying with a Sky Pirate or Princess, but identifying with a 17 year old orphan is easy. This is why most fantasy books start off with the main character being a commoner
          • by Astarica (986098)
            In FF12, Penelo and Vaan are more like the eyes of the player as opposed to actually being a traditional 'main character'. You can clearly tell by the dialogue that neither offer any real insight or have any stake in the ongoing conflict because they're not supposed to. They're just 17 year old kids who got dragged along. Balthier would probably be the real main character as far as story-importance. If Ashe wasn't the descendent of the Dynast-King one could make an argument that Fran and Basch are both
    • You want to have a game with an interesting story and something resembling character development, and an excuse to throw you a tutorial mission or two. (Bonus points to FFXII for making the initial fight training be a different character completely so you get to experiment).

      But you don't want to drag the player down into a lengthy storyline where they're ability to affect the plot is relative to their current EXP. Most casual players would be turned off by this.

      Otherwise you throw them in at level 15 into t
    • by Rhys (96510)
      And how old were any of the non-hobbits who were part of the fellowship of the ring? I'm seeing ages cited that are probably 4-5 times the hobbits age, or far, far more for Legolas.

      The same problem happens in D&D campaigns too. You start at 1st level as a X year old foo. You go explore a dungon or few and suddenly you're 5-6th level and more powerful than anyone in the podunk town you started in. How long has passed? Maybe a month? A past DM of mine ran a game that spanned a couple RL years, but in term
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by shrykk (747039)
      A 17 year old street-kid, who (as the game begins) is training himself on rats, quickly progresses to the wanton slaughter of the undead, not to mention elite Imperial guardsmen[...]

      You've got to admit FFVII got this almost right. Cloud, supposedly an elite SOLDIER working as a mercenary, is a fair bit tougher than his half-assed AVALANCHE buddies. (Barret looks tough but he's basically an angry cafe-owner). It later turns out *spoiler alert! :D that he never quite made the grade in SOLDIER and was j
    • Suspension of _________ ;)
    • Suikoden III kind of does what you're talking about.

      There are, IIRC, 3 parallel storylines, and you play a bit of one, then a bit of the next, etc. Each set of characters that you play are at different levels, reflecting their prior experience. One group is a bunch of knights, so they're at high levels and start with strong equipment (only time I've ever seen that happen, in any game--WTF is up with strong kindgoms and government agencies and such giving their top agents/soldiers shit for equipment?); ano
    • Believe it or not, the writers did a good job of tying up the loose ends that things like that tend to leave.

      Balthier let Vaan tag along because he didn't know the city of Rabanastre. He knew Vaan was a street kid, and saw that he was capable of getting through a slew of Imperial Gaurds and architected safeties and traps to get into a vault. When you're in unfamiliar territory, you want a guide.

      Basch's weakness is explained exactly as it is. The poor bastard was starved and in shackles for a prolonged perio
  • Gambit System (Score:4, Interesting)

    by joeflies (529536) on Friday November 17, 2006 @02:42PM (#16888902)
    I found the gambit system to operate similar to games like Robot Odyssey [wikipedia.org]. Essentially you are programming the non-player characters in your party to do an activity instead of directing them yourselves. You grow more powerful with the gambit system by earning new conditionals for your "IF" statement, and they can perform new activities based on your abilities.

    There's way too much stuff that's going on in intense fights to tell each character what to do for that round (the concept of a round doesn't exist).

    It's also a fun programming exercise to figure out how to get someone to do something without leaving them stuck in a loop. For instance, do you want to steal from a enemy but only try it a few times? set the gambit to steal when the enemy is below 20% health and about to die.

    The license system is very confusing at first and it takes quite a bit of time to manage equipment, licenses, and gil. Like FFVIII, you can make any player become anything with the appropriate licenses, but unlike FFVIII, you don't switch abilities from one player to another, you have to build the characters up smartly.

    Great game so far, but I've got a ways to go!

    • For instance, do you want to steal from a enemy but only try it a few times? set the gambit to steal when the enemy is below 20% health and about to die.

      What works for me, set the main character to steal when the foe=100%, and have the others follow the leader on their attacks (and nearest otherwise). Slap in a cure when characters 70%, and you end up with a lot less finger mashing. The main character steals once, the other characters hit that enemy, and then the main character moves on to the next enemy=10
    • by Webz (210489)
      I'm hesitant to post about it since I love the idea so much but... The gambit system has made me wonder. Is there a market/arena/research about human-assisted artificial intelligence? That's what I see the gambits as. They allow the other player characters to make smart decisions on their own, in the event you don't explicitly tell them what to do. You can make characters that take care of the post-battle nitty-gritty, you can make characters that use normal attacks intelligently, or you can aim to make ful
  • by EXTomar (78739) on Friday November 17, 2006 @02:48PM (#16888978)
    Although it will freak out many of the "hard core" Final Fantasy fans, this is a solid game and gives me a good feeling on the general direction of the franchise.

    The reason why the "old guard players" balk at FF12 is that unlike the games before it, this one doesn't want you to micromanage the battles which gives these "old guard players" the sense they aren't doing anything. The trick is that previous games the tatics where actually fairly limited where you ended up duplicating what Gambit ends up automating. You tell your melee attackers to attack. You tell your healers to heal occationally. You tell your spell casters to zap stuff. Difference between FF12 and the others is that the game automates this for you instead of "rinse repeat" of the previous games. In the end it just degenerated to a lot of repeat actions anyway which is what computers are actually good at doing.

    Gambits in themselves are interesting because it tickles the programmer in me. Given the API and resitrictions, what is the best way to "program" your party? There are several of solutions to some of the issues your party will face because just like software there are often different ways to tackle the same problem. A certain beauty can come from the correct Gambit strategy where they just do the right thing when they run into a challenging fight where it would be frantic if not hard handling the fighting yourself using the old fashion "Turn Base" or "ATB". A good Gambit order is like whiping up a good algorithm to solve a complex, somewhat losely defined problem.

    This isn't a perfect game mind you. Just like FF9 it strattles "generations" and becomes an example of "what could have been". This is a glorious game pushing the envelope for PS2 where the problem is it screams for HD treatment on a more powerful machine. The weakness in the Gambit System is that it doesn't handle "one shot" actions easily. When the situation does change, you are often force to take over in an emergency situation.

    Overall I'm very pleased with this game and I'm glad it is one of the "swan songs" for the PS2. From the way FF12 looks I can't wait for the next one even though most of it will be an entirely different game anyway.
    • I'd have been terribly happy if I could define sets of gambits; here's my exploration gambit, here's my anti-fire-monster set, here's my victory at all costs, last man standing wins set, here's my protect the party at all costs set, and so on.

      That and auto-acquiring licences when you buy stuff. "Basch requires Heavy Armor 5 to equip that. Spend 150 of 291 LP to acquire Heavy Armour 5?" (assuming it's been revealed on Basch's license board.)

    • by Daetrin (576516)
      Difference between FF12 and the others is that the game automates this for you instead of "rinse repeat" of the previous games. In the end it just degenerated to a lot of repeat actions anyway which is what computers are actually good at doing.

      I'm about ten hours in and am undecided about the combat so far. However take a moment to consider things from the perspective of the "old guard." For example imagine a slightly different case, "In the newest Street Fighter you program your fighters to perform speci

    • What I and the other so-called "old school FF fans" are leary of is a game in which I'll spend 80% of my time watching my ps2 play the game. I know that programming AI might be fun, but at the end of the day, what you'll end up doing is setting up AI at the start of a new area and then leaving the machine to auto-battle for you. Maybe they should have added auto-run as well so the player can set the controller down and watch, without having to do boring things -- like play the game.

      That's what I don't l

      • Meh, it's really the same as the other FFs I've played. Instead of hitting "X" over and over while you eat pizza and read a book, you're just keeping the controller next to you while you eat pizza and read a book.

        And it's not like anyone's stopping the player from playing the game like it's turn-based; you can turn all of the gambits off, and hit "X" to your heart's desire. Have fun with that.

        My only complaint is that, while they made trivial fighting easier (a very good thing), they also tripled the amou
    • by xenocide2 (231786)
      I played the old Final Fantasy games, on the systems for which they were designed. I guess this makes me an "old guard player". But I stopped playing FF for exactly the reasons the Gambit system makes clear: the minor battles are boring and repetitive. At the time I was enthusiastic at how FF6 included the option to "remember" the commands you gave out last time; I was less focused on the reason why this was useful - you do the same damn commands most of the time to level up. character 1 fight, character 2
  • Kinda sounds like something from my long-gone youth. [wikipedia.org]

    Believe it or not, this sort of thing (along with a really bad review [houstonpress.com] in my local newspaper) is actually making this oldtimer consider buying a console. I haven't done that since I picked up a $50 Dreamcast solely for the purpose of playing Tetris.

    • I was wary of Gambits when I heard of the game. I played the demo and liked the graphics but didn't know how I felt about the new active battle system.

      Then I started playing the game from the beginning. And I realized that I couldn't enjoy the game as much as I did without Gambits. Part of these games is trying to explore and see what you can do, getting neat loot, sidequests, whatever, and in order to do that you're going to have to grind and take on tough fights before you're "supposed to". You have to le
      • If you want to float through the game, going from hilighted area to hilighted area, and just watch all the CGs, you can. And then complain the game is too easy and too linear.

        It's the challenge you make of it. That's why it's fun.

        That sounds good. I'm a hopelessly inept gamer and if I don't have options to make a game "too easy and too linear," I probably won't enjoy it. It's beginning to sound more and more like I should try to play this game.

  • by Frostclaw (1006995) on Friday November 17, 2006 @03:20PM (#16889472)
    I'm over 40 hours into this game. It's amazing. Visually breathtaking, with a combat system taht suddenly feels fun. Grinding mobs doesn't feel tedious at all with several great incentives to do so (mob chains that raise drop rates and experience and licence point gain). It's executed far better than I had expected from my earlier dealings the DQ8 demo.

    After playing the demo included in DQ8, I was actually very worried about the new style. My fiance didn't like the camera at all and was disinterested in the game. Now he manopolizes it and I'm stuck waiting for the opportunity to get more involved.

    While a lot of the combat is pretty simplistic, this isn't anything different from previous FF games. In fact, even random mob combat is a bit more involved than before. Sure a lot of it is automated, but now you can use it as opportunity to experiment and tweak gambits. Gone is the repeatative process of "combat load, repeated attacks, money/exp screen, world map load".

    The story is like crack for RPG fans. It feels huge. The characters are deep and involved. The villains are equally deep and involved. As stated in the review, none of the plot points are given half-arsed metaphysical/spiritual explanations.

    It's an epic on the scale of original Star Wars trilogy, and in fact invokes a lot of the same feel.
  • My Impressions (Score:3, Informative)

    by jschmerge (228731) on Friday November 17, 2006 @03:30PM (#16889610)

    I've personally made it about 20 hours into the story (including quite a bit of that time spent mindlessly leveling up :), and I have to say that I am really enjoying this game. While there are some things about the game that I could criticize, overall I think that this is one of the finest Final Fantasy games that I've played (and I've played all but XI and the Japanese only releases for the NES).

    In terms of story, things do start off a bit choppy and the gambit system takes a while to get used to, but as you settle into the game you really start to have fun. You start to realize that your job in combat is to give general direction to the party, rather than direct every action of every character; this leads to some rewarding battles in which you just watch your characters kick ass on their own. In some ways, I think that this is somewhat better than with previous FF's, in that you don't just stupidly hold down the 'action confirm' button after setting up the cursor to always go to the last selected action.

    Up until this game, I would have said that my favorite Final Fantasy would have been FF8, but I'm not so sure of that anymore. Like FF8, this one strives to make all of the various RPG elements (leveling, weapons upgrades and various magical abilities) somewhat believable. The fact that combat takes place in the same environment as the rest of the game play really adds an immersive and seemless quality to the game... A very welcome change.

    As for the things that I don't like; there are not many... First and foremost would probably be that the license grid system is somewhat difficult to manage. Unlike other FF's, in order to use anything that you've bought (weapons, armor, spells, etc.), you must also have unlocked the license for that piece of equipment or ability; this leads you to sometimes sit in a weapons shop jumping back and forth between each character's license grid (to see whether its worth buying the weapon now) and the shop's merchandise list. Another thing that I've found to be somewhat annoying about the license grid is that it's really a lot of leveling up to get to the point where you've started to unlock the abilities that you really need, and oft times you have to unlock a bunch of abilities that you really don't care to unlock to get to the ones that you want. A good example of this is that you have to unlock a bunch of healing bonuses to level up the strength and HP of a character that you're trying to turn into a physical fighter. This doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me.

    All and all though, a very lovingly crafted game... I might not give it a perfect 10/10, but its pretty close.

    • by PitaBred (632671)
      Didn't notice that the character's bust up top gets highlighted in the shops if they're able to equip that item? Took me a few switches until I saw that ;) Makes buying much easier. Only problem is if you need to see what license you want to get due to availability of equipment. I've gotten some relatively useless licenses because I didn't know what equipment was coming up. Oh well. Just a little more grinding.
  • FFXII = Star Wars (Score:3, Interesting)

    by VoidWraith (797276) <void_wraith@hotm ... m minus math_god> on Friday November 17, 2006 @04:11PM (#16890194)
    And Rabanastre is Mos Eisley. Bhujerba is Cloud City. I haven't got to other cities yet so I can't compare them. Rabanastre is surrounded by deserts, has a whole bunch of different races of things all living in close proximity. Balthier is Han Solo, and Fran is Chewbacca. He's a sky pirate, which is similar enough to Han's role as a smuggler. In one of the deserts, there are very Jawa-like creatures, the Uru-tans.

    There are other references too, but I can't remember them at the moment.
    • by Necroman (61604)
      There is a Deathstar type ship in FF12 as well (the big video when you go into it felt a lot like Return of the Jedi). It did seem to follow the Star Wars idea quite a bit.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      > and Fran is Chewbacca.

      This is the exact point where the milk went out my nose and hit the screen. Damn you!

  • I lost track of Final Fantasy somewhere after VII or VIII, since the Playstation is the last console I bought. I have a deep love for Final Fantasy VII and would hate to disappointed by an inferior game. Has another VII-quality been made since? Or, what's the best one?
  • by kinglink (195330) on Friday November 17, 2006 @05:11PM (#16890922)
    My list used to be FF6, then FF4 and then other games for the final fantasy series, it's stayed like that through the last 5 iterations, however FFXII has changed that, now I don't know where it lies, it's certainly one of the best, (though FFIII is playing well too). However it's still got some pretty major flaws.

    The biggest is synposis system, or basically "what the fuck was I doing"? Maybe it's that I'm older, or maybe it's that I've played Tales of series games but I expect a lot from my RPG, and the bare minimum I deserve is a system where I don't have to remember exactly what I was doing before I moved to another game. I don't have 60 hours to beat a game unless it's beyond exceptional, Tales of The Abyss wasn't (though it was close) FFXII is great, but I have other stuff to do.

    It would be more text but it would be incredibly useful to implement this feature. In fact any game that takes more than 20 hours should be required to do a synopsis or at least an easy mission system so you can get caught up. I don't want to come to a game and say "ok time to kill... wait who am I against? Oh yeah Kefka's my buddy, I'll kill banon".

    It's likely because I'm older and don't have time to play games from front to back, but it's more than that, it keeps the story solid and allows you to replay the story in your mind so you don't have to keep saying "I forgot what happened". The story in FFXII is one of the best but moves entirely too fast. Names are meantioned in 1-2 lines of text then dropped completely.

    That's not to say this is only FFXII's fault, every game does it for the most part, but FFXII should be better than all the others. FF's series has more games than most companies have ever made, so why don't they wise up and allow the gamer who can't beat their games in one sitting to have an easier time to pick up the game again.
  • I'm a long standing fan of the Final Fantasy series, which includes the Japanese releases. I'll admit to not playing FF9 as it seemed a little too childish, and my friends did not highly recommend it. I was more than a little disappointed they put the Final Fantasy name on the movie, as it didn't have any of the classic RPG elements which have come to represent the franchise. I was equally unhappy they called the MMORPG as the FF11 release. (Would it have been so hard to just call it FF Online or someth
  • I've never enjoyed a Final Fantasy game before, and I far prefer Western-style RPGs. However, I'm intrigued by the promise of an engaging political storyline. And the programmable AI sounds interesting.

    Are those features executed well enough that the game is worth checking out? Even for someone who normally hates linear Japanese RPGs?
  • License board points are obtained by defeating monsters, similar to but separate from the traditional experience points. While gaining levels does make a character stronger, it's the application of license points that makes them more versatile.

    You _have_ played the earlier Final Fantasy games right? You compare the license points to the "traditional experience points" as if they're some of new fangled idea the likes of which have never been seen before. Ability Points under one name or another have been a

  • I stopped playing the franchise very soon after X came out. I heard 11 going MMO, and decided I was quits from Final Fantasy for awhile. I was almost disgusted when I heard about X-2. I envisioned Square as another of of EA's drooling lap dogs and almost swore off not only the Final Fantasy series but the company in general.

    That is until I heard about what they did with XII.

    Picked it up, I thought maybe it could possibly have some redeeming qualities that could perhaps restore my faith in Square. I was very

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