FFXII is the Culprit

 By Shamus May 20, 2007 20 comments

I’m sure you’ve noticed the lack of relevant posting. My blogging time was eaten up by FFXII last week. The game and I have come to a sort of understanding now, and I’ve discovered how to wrest some enjoyment from the thing. This will never be my favorite entry in the series, but it isn’t nearly as bad as the first hours indicated it would be. A little character development has gone a long way towards appeasing me, along with an explot which negated the need for a lot of level grinding.

I’ll have more on the game later. If I were to blog my impressions of this game as they came to me, it would sound like two people having an argument. I love it! I hate it! It sucks! It’s great! I’m sick of it! I want more! Actually a live-blog of someone going through a large game like this could be interesting. All of those moment-to-moment impressions are lost when you get to the end and try to sum up and build a single coherant viewpoint on something.

Still, the game isn’t bad. I don’t blame those who gave up early. I nearly did. The game falls appalingly short in the first impressions department, and it takes the thing a while to get around to developing the characters.

I got stuck at one point and had to look at the guide. All through the game I saw little notes: “Don’t do this seemingly harmless thing or otherwise you’ll never be able to get this great weapon later on.” and then “make sure you pick up such-and-such hidden item because you can’t come back for it later and you’ll need it to get a great weapon later on.” Nothing like designing a game and its sidequests around the desire to sell hint guides. Lame. Truly lame.

20A natural twenty.


  1. AngiePen says:

    I remember hearing from other game designers back in the late eighties that their companies/publishers required them to make their games too hard to get through without a hint book. They weren’t terribly happy about it, but when you have rent to pay and kids to feed, you go ahead and do it and then gripe about it online. [wry smile]

    Looks like things haven’t changed much in the last twenty years.

    Angie

  2. Extirpator says:

    Thankfully, those minor things you do/don’t have to do to get the most powerful weapons aren’t terribly important. Especially if you’re using that auto-levelling trick. I never acquired most of them and was still able to beat every monster, including the special hunts.

    The worst part about acquiring special items that can’t just be purchased comes from the bazaar. The bazaar has a very retarded mechanic which causes it to forget how many of an item you’ve sold off every time you unlock something that requires it. You could have sold off 500 of Item A to the bazaar and when you finally unlock a special item that needs but 1 of those then suddenly the bazaar’s counter for Item A resets to 0 and you have to go back and get more of Item A if you want to unlock anything else that needs it. Needless to say, I don’t recall the game ever explaining this particular mechanic and I was already far along in completing every sidequest and hunt by the time I learned of it. I was not pleased. There are dozens of items in that game I never acquired and now never will simply because I do not wish to waste my time acquiring 3 of an item I know I’ve pawned off tens or even hundreds of previously.

  3. gedece says:

    On a related note to this, I just got over the surface of EVE online and found the game mechanics, the skill system, the weapon and ammunition system, the corporation system and the game market to have several layers of complexity, making it one of the most entertaining and deep games I’ve ever played. It’s what the Privateer series should have done a long time ago.
    If you ever get to play again, email me, and I’ll get you on the corp I belong to.

    Happy FF XXII

  4. Ace says:

    Just make sure you do -everything-.
    (Impossible.)
    Okay make sure you do most things at least!
    (Impossible.)
    Okay.. just make sure you check out the gross of the map.
    (Too much of a grind.)
    Just play along the story-line.
    (Too dodgy (I call the bird outside Raithwells Tomb).)
    Fine! Just quit.
    (Nope.)
    Wha-?

  5. Dave says:

    Y’know, it’s quite possible to get through the game at level 55 or so with only weapons and armor that you can buy normally (’cause, well, I did that), and it really wasn’t all that hard. Granted, I did about ten levels of mark hunting just before the section where you loose Reddas…

  6. Ian says:

    “Don’t do this seemingly harmless thing or otherwise you’ll never be able to get this great weapon later on.”

    Ugh, yeah. There’s absolutely no excuse for the Zodiac Spear quest to be that annoying. How can a game designer even begin to justify something like that?

  7. Christian Groff says:

    I hear you, Shamus. I went through the game using the FFXII GameFAQs speed walkthrough power-up guide, and I got really ticked off by the part where you have to rush through the Mebul-whatisname maze and get killed by those damn undead and goblinoids. Grrrr! That FAQ author just wanted to laugh at us while we got our butts kicked. Luckily, I smarted up and spent my time leveling through the story until I got all the good stuff, then I got those Embroidered thingies and power-maxed before going into those bl(censored) swamps!

    The fun part are the clan hunts. Once you kicked some monster arse, you could go back and get a big reward. Sadly, I got bored after the big T-rex hunt(I had finished the game already) and wasn’t feeling brave enough to tackle the two really big guys at the end(the Shadow and that freaking 500 hit point monster-demon).

  8. Retlor says:

    My favourite parts of the game were the side-quests. Especially the aforementioned mark hunting. They were some of the best battles in that you could (usually) save right beforehand, they required tactics but not to a DIAS extent, and you could use them to gauge the ability level of your party.

  9. I don’t mind if there are one-chance-only shots at things like getting the most powerful weapons or other items, IF those items are totally optional and you can finish the game in a satisfying way without them. As far as I’m concerned, being the kind of gamer who is obsessed with getting every item, maxing every stat out, getting the best of every weapon, etc. etc., is its own punishment. (And I know a LOT of gamers who are like that, but I pretty much figure they deserve the frustration that they get. ;p)

    If you have to have the items to finish the game, or to finish it enjoyably, then that’s bad game design and I won’t put up with it. The fact that in most modern RPGs you can go back and pick things up/do things over is one of the big selling points for me (compared to those early 90s PC games where you could make the game unwinnable in the first 10 minutes, and not realize it till you were almost at the end).

  10. Ian says:

    “I don’t mind if there are one-chance-only shots at things like getting the most powerful weapons or other items, IF those items are totally optional and you can finish the game in a satisfying way without them.”

    Having one-shot items is one thing, but having secret items simply disappear when you so much as open the wrong treasure chest is just dumb.

    The game gives you absolutely no way of knowing which treasure chests are “bad,” it just silently penalizes you for opening them. That, I think, is a pretty awful way of designing secret items and serves as little more than a way to increase strategy guide sales.

  11. Hal says:

    Hoo boy, where to begin on this one?

    FFX did this in a horrid fashion with the Omega Ruins. There’s a set of 10 chests near the end that can only be opened if you follow a very detailed timing system that is completely invisible and unknowable. Violating this secret system causes any number of the remaining chests to vanish.

    FFIII offers you ultimate weapons . . . provided you have friends who bought the game. You have to send DS messages through the game to accomplish this feat. Lame.

    I wouldn’t even mind the problem for FFIII, but you have to send so many messages (7 at most), they can only be sent once per hour, and your friend has to set himself as receiving before you can send him a message. Why so much trouble?

  12. Extirpator says:

    Yes, FFX seemed to be where the whole “opening or not opening this seemingly random assortment of chests dictates your ability to acquire things many, many hours later” thing had its start (for the FF series, at least). Not like there have been a whole bunch of games after that, but ever since I first learned what I didn’t have to do to get the ultimate weapons (which were the only things that would give you any sort of chance against the special arena monsters) I’ve been afraid to open chests–especially those encountered in the first few areas of the game–in every RPG since. I hate those designers for causing me to have to stop and think about if I REALLY need whatever might be in that chest or not to get by.

  13. Raka says:

    I’m with wintersweet.

    I don’t understand the mentality that insists that a “perfect” game (with all events happening in their most ideal form and every item obtained and checkbox checked) is somehow the birthright of everyone who pops the disk in the drive. Some people have more compulsive playing tendencies than others. The almost-but-not-quite impossible-to-get items (or bosses, or easter eggs, etc) are a reward for the truly compulsive, or a happy surprise for the casual gamer who might stumble across them, or an incentive for the people who may have finished the game honestly and want to go through again and see how it could’ve gone.

    The increasingly obscure methods of hiding the hidden content are an evolutionary adaptation, somewhat to the strategy guide but mostly to the internet and its instantaneous globalization of “secrets”. They’re a way of putting a realistic element of randomness into the process without making it truly random.

    Weird. When a game starts introducing realistic (or at least slightly broader than usual) consequences and possibilities, most of us hard-core players lavish praise on it (Ultima, Oblivion, etc). But when Final Fantasy makes it more of a challenge to catch all the pokemon, we whine like someone told us that Christmas was canceled.

  14. Shamus says:

    People pointed out that the super-weapons aren’t really required. I did find out this was the case. I made do with conventional weapons and I don’t feel like I was missing anything.

    I think the sin here is that the challenge to get a Special Item should be interesting. It should be a game. Having items goverened by events which you cannot predict or understand and which employ no skill and add nothing to the plot are just silly. Sure, make special stuff hard to get, but acquiring them should not be an exercise in obscure tedium. I’m not upset that I couldn’t get the weapon, I’m just annoyed at the profound lack of imagination involved on the part of the designers in this regard.

  15. Freykin says:

    I think the best case of a weapon/item/armor being not necessary to beat the game but still available by non random means in FF12 is how you go about getting the Masamune. It’s pretty straightforward if you go about doing all the hunts, it’s one of the best weapons in the game due to it’s ridiculously high combo rate, and you feel (at least I did) well rewarded for the effort put in to get it.

    The Zodiac Spear thing is just lame though. That really should have been a drop from Omega Weapon or one of those guys. Kind of like the Wyrm Blade.

  16. Deoxy says:

    I only have on thing to add to this discussion (other than general agreement with Shamus that surely there could have been SOME other mechanic for that):

    “Nothing like designing a game and its sidequests around the desire to sell hint guides. Lame. Truly lame.”

    Correction: “Normal. Truly normal.”

    Sad but true.

  17. Daemian_Lucifer says:

    “I remember hearing from other game designers back in the late eighties that their companies/publishers required them to make their games too hard to get through without a hint book. They weren’t terribly happy about it, but when you have rent to pay and kids to feed, you go ahead and do it and then gripe about it online. [wry smile]

    Looks like things haven’t changed much in the last twenty years.

    Angie”

    If anything it became worse.Im still boiling with rage for what they did to heroes of might and magic 5:leaky memory,tons of bugs,half of the features missing….And all that was fixed in the expansion that costs half the original.Grrr!

  18. Deoxy says:

    Daemian_Lucifer,

    As best I can tell, the vast majority of that was ALSO fixed in free patches (I never bought the expansion).

  19. Daemian_Lucifer says:

    Yes,the majority EXCEPT for the leaky memory and missing features.

  20. The Truth says:

    Though Final Fantasy 12 has its flaws (primarily the whole item acquisition mentioned already), it’s still one of the best. So what if your hero isn’t some immature punk who struggles to make fairly obvious realizations about life or love before, you know, saving the world? So what if there’s no love interest between these particular characters? So what if the characters don’t act stupid and immature (i.e., annoying) very often? It is a plot-driven story; the focus is on the events, and this is a very widely recognized and accepted form of writing.

    FF12 has the best gameplay any Final Fantasy (before or after) has ever seen. All the others after FF9 suffer from ridiculous amounts of linearity (not to speak of the annoying characters once more) and the ones before it – while phenomenal and altogether better than 12, IMO – stuck to making you go into separate screens to do battle with a monster you had no way of knowing was even there and then more screens just to find out how well you cleaned up. FF12′s combat and gameplay in general is just smoother.

    Skill/stat development was top-notch. It was like the Sphere Grid in 10, but you could send any character any direction right from the start. Freedom! You weren’t penalized for “backtracking” either. “Lack of identity” concerning the skills/stats of each player? Easily fixed; just don’t develop, equip, and use certain characters in a way that you don’t want! And don’t have your gambits fully turned on with a gambit for every situation if you’re just going to complain about the game “playing itself”!

    The graphics are supreme. I’ll admit FF10 looked better, but then when you make a game linear it’s going to look better because you have half the system operating the game committed to graphics and not the room in which you can move. Give me freedom and exploration over graphics any day. But if you can, give me both, and no FF did that better than 12 (so far).

    There’s a lot more that’s great about this game. Random chests and such are its only true flaw. All else is either something every FF had/didn’t have or something that is not really a problem.

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