Final Fantasy XII: Final Thoughts

By Shamus
on May 27, 2007
Filed under:
Game Reviews

When I wrote my last post on FFXII, I didn’t realize I was pretty much at the end. I sat down thinking I had some game left to play, and 45 minutes later I was watching the closing credits. Whoops.

My final thoughts, now that I’ve seen it all:

I really liked how the combat took place within the gameworld, instead of cutting away to a “battle view” whenever combat starts. The battle view was one of the defining aspects of the series and I couldn’t imagine the game without it, but now that I’ve played this way I’m not sure I’d want to go back.

Gambits were a lot of fun to play with. Of course, I’m a programmer, and so I found the ability to control the AI for my characters to be deeply satisfying. It doesn’t really make a lot of sense within the game, but it makes the game fun to play. The idea is that the game lets you give each character a list of “gambits”. Each gambit has a condition and an action. So, if my first gambit has a condition of “Ally: health < 30%” and the action is “Heal”, then the character with this gambit will heal anyone in the party that has less than 30% of their hit points. If everyone has over 30% health, then that character will do the next gambit in the list. If that gambit has a condition of “Foe: nearest” and an action of “Attack”, then the character will attack any nearby enemies until someone drops below 30% health. Each time they take a turn they consider the gambit list, starting at the top, and look for something to do. You can set up some fairly robust systems for buffing between battles, emergency healing, and low-level post-combat healing. Some skill is involved in getting it all balanced out so that no one character’s magic points are overtaxed and so that everyone fights the right foes at the right time.

At first, I was disappointed at how short the game was. It takes about seventy hours for a normal run through FFX. I’m estimating, but I’ll bet I put about forty hours into FFXII. This made it seem like there was a lot less to FFXII, but after thinking about it I realize the game was just wasting less of my time. The elimination of the battle screen means that each battle isn’t prefaced with that pointless twenty second animation that began each encounter. The game also lets you skip cutscenes if you’ve seen them before. Sure, XII was thirty hours shorter, but I’ll bet twenty of that was fighting random battles and watching the opening battle animations. I spent less total time playing XII, but it didn’t waste the time I did put into it. That is a very worthwhile tradeoff in my book.

The repeated battles with Judge Gabranth are a good example of where the story goes all sideways. How many times did I “kill” that guy? Three? Four? Sometimes I’d kill him, walk ten steps, and there he was, at full health and ready to rumble. Then he’d crawl away, only to pop up in the next cutscene. When he finally did kick the bucket (and I should note, his death wasn’t caused by any of the beatings I gave him) I could tell it was supposed to be a dramatic moment, but it just seemed lame. The guy came back from total defeat so often it was clear that the only reason he was dying now was because the plot didn’t need him anymore. He was supposed to be this dark, dreadful figure in a mask – like Darth Vader – but I could never take him seriously. He was a punching bag. Oh? This guy? Again?!? It’s like fighting the Turks in Final Fantasy VII.

So the characters didn’t get much personality, and when their personalities did show was usually wooden or contrived. On the other hand the plot was good, but marred by the the clumsy history lesson at the start. Early in the game it looked like this was simply about a battle between two kingdoms. It was, but that battle was also a proxy war for larger, more interesting powers. This will never be my favorite Final Fantasy, but it ended stronger than it started.

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From the Archives:

  1. John says:

    First! and i only had to wait up till 1:38am for it….

  2. BMGCanuck says:

    But how does it compare to the other console RPG’s out right now like Dragon Quest 8 ?

  3. AJ says:

    I thought it was, as are all final fantasies, a very pretty game. They always push the envelope a bit on the platform just to prove how things can really look. The story isn’t the best form the series, in fact it’s not even close. I would easily plant this one below 6 (3 in the US), 7, 8, and 10. In the end, I found a few of the characters to be redeeming, specifically Han Solo…err….I mean…Balthier. Anyway, the combat system was fantastic for me and if they could just grab back some of the better story but keep the more flowing combat, I’d be a happy camper.

  4. Patrick the Evil Twin says:

    done already?!?! tell me you breezed through this and skipped everything optional? how many hours was this?

  5. FFX isn’t 70 hours unless you spend a lot of time doing side quests. 40 for the main game is about right, because “the main game” is all I did of FFX.

    I was interested in the rest, but between my afore-posted complaints about the sphere grid taking forever even without counting the actual experience getting, and the fact that you really had to run around and buff up before you could make the difficulty leap up to the “extra content” if you just did the main game, I bailed.

    (I did 100% FFX-2, but unless Square stops doing crap like forcing you to watch a couple hour’s worth of mostly uninteractive movies, except for having to push X at just the right moment three minutes in exactly two of the forty, I’m not going to bother again. Even “buy the game guide” moments I can stand, I have GameFAQs.com, but pure “waste your time in this exact way” I’ll take a pass on, thanks.)

  6. Dave says:

    Hmm.. railroaded?

  7. AJ says:

    Patrick’s comments hold true. There is an enormous amount of optional junk to do in this one. I say junk because it’s mostly issues of running from place to place to find something that might not even be there and then realize it’s way more powerful than you are. All of this so you can start to kind of get some stuff that might, maybe, if you didn’t accidentally open a chest at the wrong time, give you something more interesting to wield.

    All in all, the sidequests from FFX were more interesting and amusing. The only thing I didn’t agree with was the monster rancher guy. I mean, the stuff he drug out of cages for you to fight was about 100 times more powerful than Sin had been. If you lose the fight, he wrangles the thing back into a cage for later. So, if there’s a guy, who while mostly crippled, can still wrangle Omega Weapon-type stuff back into a cage, why did we spend hours working up to fighting Sin? That guy could have walked out, spanked Sin’s sorry hide into a cage, and moved on to charge people to fight it as a history lesson…sigh…

  8. Schmidt says:

    Now THAT AJ, is what I’d pay to see. I’ve played who knows haw many heroes(with funny hair), who somehow destroy the previousy sealed Ultimately Evil Beasty (UEB) only to find these critters that could grab UEB and break it over their knee.

    Why don’t they take over the world? Why ain’t the last boss the LAST boss? Why innt HE (She, It, They) the nastiest bugger on the planet? They’re the last fricken boss.

    I swear…

  9. Zastrick says:

    “Why don’t they take over the world? Why ain’t the last boss the LAST boss?”

    From a game play perspective, there are optional bosses that are much stronger than the last boss because in the end, most people are supposed to be able to beat the game. Having an insanely difficult optional boss gives people who want to spend additional time leveling their characters and finding every ultimate weapon something to fight. Making that thing the last boss would mean that there would be a lot of people who wouldn’t be willing to put forth the effort to kill it.

  10. AJ says:

    “From a game play perspective, there are optional bosses that are much stronger than the last boss because in the end, most people are supposed to be able to beat the game.”

    I don’t have any issue with optional bosses like that. After all, the weapons from FF7 were that way. You could skip fighting several of them for ease of game play if you wanted, or could fight them, supporting your point. However, my issue is with the people who could obviously whip those big baddies between lunch and tea and don’t because they’re busy operating a casino that, as an aside, is actually threatened by the big uglies. Or if all of the world is in danger and you’re looking for heroes, but you can easily drop kick the big bad (read: Sin), why aren’t you just off doing it? It just doesn’t make sense for these super powerful people in the world to be afraid of something like Sin when they curb stomp things much more powerful a few times before breakfast every day.

  11. Remus says:

    You’re really one of the first people to really say that the ending was better than the beginning. Thank you.

  12. Cheesemaster says:

    Yeah, I was at a mate’s playing this the other day when he first got it after playing FFX for ages, the way the combat got reworked was definetly a bold move which paid off.

    Also, the look of pure glee on his face when he found out you could SKIP CUTSCENES (instead of waiting five minutes) was one I’ll never forget.

  13. bkw says:

    The plot of the game is really only half of the game in FF12. The end bosses are around level 40, if I recall correctly — maybe 48? There are bosses that pretty much require you to be 99 to have a hope of beating them.

    There’s hours and hours and hours of stuff to do that’s not remotely related to the plotline — if you like just playing the game itself, there’s still plenty to do without having to follow the plot.

    I liked that it was kind of mmorpg-ish in that way — there’s a world separate from the plotline that you could muddle around in for as long as you liked.

  14. Retlor says:

    “Oh? This guy? Again?!? It’s like fighting the Turks in Final Fantasy VII.”

    There is a key difference. The Turks were cool. I generally like the recurring villains in FF games, but the ones here didn’t endear themselves to me at all.

  15. Christian Groff says:

    My suggestion: Try “Rogue Galaxy” by Level 5. It’s sort of like FFXII, but much easier and the characters and story are more fun. And hey, if you hate the cut-scenes, you can always pause and skip them(most of the time).

  16. -Jess_ says:

    There is no extra scene after the credits like all the other final fantasy games.. Or did i not do something right?

  17. elda says:

    I’m not gonna lie, I almost completely ignored the story for the hunts system. With the hunts, and the merciless level grinding I’ve logged over 200 hours of my life into this game. I don’t regret a minute of it.

  18. Jimmy says:

    Man did I hate FFXII. Too much of the content was empty, in the sense that it was just there for the sake of being there.

    Set up some effective gambits and then roam around the game world in a daze. There were a couple gambits I wanted pretty bad, but didn’t exist (Steal until you’ve stolen, mostly). I know a lot of people are bored with their old combat system, but at least it frequently involved making some sort of choice. Really only boss fights were periodically hectic enough to be interesting, as were many of the hunts (one of which precipitated my exit from the game. Thanks, big T-rex thing, for blocking my access to that one dungeon).

    I’m not opposed to spending a couple hundred hours on a game, as long as all of that keeps rewarding me with various plot elements. If I wanted my optional content to involve roaming around grinding materials, I’d just play an MMO.

    And, for the sake of being complimentary where it’s deserved, the gambit system was really a great idea for this type of game. I’m not a big fan of the real time RPG combat, but if you’re only going to actively control one character, I want all of the other characters to be controlled by something at -least- this complex. Star Ocean’s parade of CPU controlled morons on my team just serves to make me mad most of the time (Though at least that combat is more engaging than what you’ve got in FFXII).

  19. Damien says:

    The point of something like Yiazmat is, it was a titanic, ancient beast. What the hell would it care if Solidor takes over the world? It wouldn’t really affect Yiazmat in any way. If someone tries to kill it, it kills them, and goes on about doing whatever it is something with 50m health does on a normal day.

    Further, you have to put yourself in the developers shoes – some people want a game they can breeze through from start to finish, without much “side work”. Others want to completely immerse themselves and become all powerful gods before even thinking about tracking down the last boss. How do you balance a game for both players? Optional bosses.

    Last but not least, if you don’t like the optional bosses, don’t pursue them. Simple as that. They literally affect nothing if you aren’t interested in tracking them down, and they provide a challenge and a little extra dollar-to-hour value for those that do.

    Honestly, I’ve never heard so much complaining over a developer giving you MORE game for the same amount of money as other developers.

  20. Kelly Fowler says:

    You know, I don’t recall fighting Gabranth that often. You fight a number of other Judges throughout the game, but I only remember fighting Gabranth himself on the Bahamut.

  21. James says:

    Final Fantasy X is NOT 70 hours long in a normal playthrough. I recently played it for the first time, and I completed it within 45 hours, with Tidus’, Auron’s, and Yuna’s Ultimate Weapons.

    That’s an above standard playthrough too. I could’ve finished it much earlier than that easily. I maxed several grids on the sphere grid for all the characters (i.e. Tidus completed his, Auron’s, Rikku’s, Wakka’s, and Yuna’s).

  22. Peter says:

    Really? For me, FFX took 30 hours, and FFXII took 60. Interesting.

  23. Shadowxsx says:

    When I first started playing FFXII I really did not care for the battle system setup as it was alot different than I was used to out of the FF franchise. Yet after playing a bit I had a total reversal and was hooked. Being able to actually see an enemy and avoid combat was nice.

    Gambits were sweet as I did not have to micro manage most battles (only “special boss/rare game did I have to do so”.

    Over all after playing I liked the game and story, so much so that I really wanted to find the bad guy and beat them to death after seeing the twists in plot to see who was the bad guy.

    Some of the plot literally was unforeseeable and caught me by surprise, I had suspicions on parts that turned out to be totally wrong. While others were dead right.

    My main issue with this game was the lack of info on certain ILL effects on characters and how to get rid of them. As esuna was not a cure all and some effects were considered positive while actually being a negative. Also the lack of earth based spells, there are plenty of other elemental spells but no earth based.

  24. The Truth says:

    “The repeated battles with Judge Gabranth are a good example of where the story goes all sideways. How many times did I “kill” that guy? Three? Four? Sometimes I’d kill him, walk ten steps, and there he was, at full health and ready to rumble. Then he’d crawl away, only to pop up in the next cutscene. When he finally did kick the bucket (and I should note, his death wasn’t caused by any of the beatings I gave him) I could tell it was supposed to be a dramatic moment, but it just seemed lame. The guy came back from total defeat so often it was clear that the only reason he was dying now was because the plot didn’t need him anymore. He was supposed to be this dark, dreadful figure in a mask – like Darth Vader – but I could never take him seriously. He was a punching bag. Oh? This guy? Again?!? It’s like fighting the Turks in Final Fantasy VII.”

    That’s weird. According to the Wikia, you fight him TWICE in the whole game… You sure you weren’t just neglecting to follow the story and realize there were more than just one Judge?

    “the plot was good, but marred by the the clumsy history lesson at the start. Early in the game it looked like this was simply about a battle between two kingdoms. It was, but that battle was also a proxy war for larger, more interesting powers.”

    This is actually quite common in Final Fantasy games, making the plot larger as you go along. I don’t see how the “history lesson” (aka introduction) was “clumsy”, nor how it hurt the plot. If anything, it helps to have certain things well-established before more is added.

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