A Travelog of Ivalice, Part 2: The Worst Plot Ever

By The Rocketeer Posted Wednesday Jan 19, 2022

Filed under: FFXII 107 comments

While knocked out in the clink, Vaan has a dream of his brother Reks, apparently in some sort of hospital. Despite the prologue of the game making it seem like Reks bit the dust within moments, Vaan’s memory of him seems to indicate he was in a vegetative state for some time before expiring. As future events show, that will really strain the delicate continuity, but more on that in a moment…

<b>Reks:</b> ''A billion mirror fragments...small...light...taken...angel's...singing voices...''
Reks: ''A billion mirror fragments...small...light...taken...angel's...singing voices...''

Our new digs from now on, Nalbina Dungeon, is actually just the fortress from the prologue, repurposed as a hole to throw unsavories into. Seems Amalia wasn’t taken here; Vaan awakens next to Balthier, while Fran is already off casing the joint. Nalbina being more of the “Gitmo” type of prison than the “Shawshank” type, the cast languish in wasting obscurity for the rest of their days, because FFXII is a bold work, unafraid to buck cliché.

What actually happens is that Vaan and Balthier get into a scuffle with three pig people called Seeq. These Seeq can only speak in horrible guttural roars, despite every other Seeq in the game being fully articulate. Y’all racist, Squeenix! After the pigs are beaten up, the pair take cover as a group of Imperials come out onto a balcony overhead. With them are the Bangaa (lizard-man) bounty hunters led by Ba’Gamnan, apparently come looking for Balthier, whom the Imperials intend to, uh, let Ba’Gamnan walk out with? Because Balthier has a bounty on him, apparently? Question: if not the Imperials, who’s offering this bounty? Even if it isn’t them, why would they give him their prisoner? The soldier in charge rightly tells Ba’Gamnan to go fuck himself, but before the lizard can carve him up, a man clad all in armor,His armor is a dead ringer for the armor worn by the Judges in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. He’s also featured in the game’s series-signature title art. The message is crystal clear: this guy fucks. Judge Magister Gabranth, marches in and gets everyone back to official business. The Judges are essentially this game’s Foxhound, and Gabranth is chief among them. While Boba Fett and Darth Vader are chatting up on the balcony, Chewbacca sneaks up and says she’s found a way out for Han and… uh… Who the fuck is Vaan in the Star Wars analogy, again? R2-D2? Does that make Penelo C-3PO? Makes sense, given she’d have to penguin-walk like Anthony Daniels in those fucking boots…

AAAAAaaaaanyway, Fran says they can get out through the oubliette, but the magic on the door is beyond “her talents.” These “talents” will, in fact, never be showcased in the game, ever, and whenever the Viera sensitivity to magic phenomena comes up in the game, it tends to work against them. She is also one of the party’s worst casters, stat-wise, and the worst archer despite the game nudging her into an archer role.Fran’s animation for firing a bow takes slightly longer than every other character’s. Balthier is also slower with guns, despite being the default gun wielder. I have no fucking idea what they were thinking with this. Character! Luckily, a large group of our heavily-armed captors seem to be headed that way, and we should be able to easily slip into the most high-security area right behind them, a plan that wouldn’t be suicide if we had all of our equipment.

As luck would have it, all of our equipment would just happen to be in an unlocked, unguarded side room in a hall adjoining the room we were just in, along with a map of the whole joint. This includes that crystal we happened to steal from Rabanastre Palace, by the way: the “Goddess Magicite,” the game calls it. I’ve got to say, of all the JRPG prison breaks I’ve been party to— and let me tell you, I’m a damn expert on this subject— this may be the laziest and most token I’ve seen. There is never, at any point, an attempt to make it seem like you might actually be, you know, imprisoned.

<b>Balthier:</b> ''Fran, it's the day we've dreaded. The gaol. The hoosegow. The calaboose. You know what to do: get our list of missable items, abilities, and quest flags ready for our escape. We don't want another Karnak situation.''
Balthier: ''Fran, it's the day we've dreaded. The gaol. The hoosegow. The calaboose. You know what to do: get our list of missable items, abilities, and quest flags ready for our escape. We don't want another Karnak situation.''

Canonically, you begin sneaking just steps behind Darth Gabranth, but it doesn’t matter if you have a raging gun battle with every Archadian on the way. Not a complaint, not a complaint! We already had a brief forced-stealth section in Rabanastre Palace and I think that’ll last me to the credits. And yes, it turns out that getting into the oubliette is as simple as wandering in behind them after they open the magicked (yet otherwise totally unguarded) door.

Once within, Gabranth has a nice little chat with the lone prisoner caged there: none other than the late Captain Basch, kingslayer to Dalmasca and kinslayer to Vaan. Their conversation doesn’t mean much at the moment, but I’ll come back to it once it’s relevant. Ooooh believe me, I’ve got a rant cooking.

Once Gabranth wanders away, the crew saunters up to Leia there and realizes that Fran’s “way out” is more of a “bottomless chasm.” Considering there’s no possible way she could’ve actually scouted this out, we really shouldn’t be surprised that the notorious prison does not, in fact, have a convenient fire escape. While the crew ponders their next move, Basch chimes in with, “Hey, you know, if you guys are breaking out, I mean, Iiiiii’m a prisoner, yooooou’re prisoners… wouldn’t mind if I, you know…” Vaan throws a complete shitfit, jumps on his cage like a monkey, and lays on some, shall we say, pointed accusations. This is actually totally appropriate, and works perfectly well for Vaan’s character. It just unfortunately highlights how terrible his voice acting is, with any emotion besides mild interest sounding wooden and strained.

If you thought Fran's dubious magical senses actually told her we could escape through a bottomless pit, conveniently through a plot-critical character's private cell, you're a fool. Pure coincidence! Here's what really happened: From a thousand yards, Fran's acute viera nose got one whiff of Basch's biennial oubliette musk, and she was <b>addicted.</b>
If you thought Fran's dubious magical senses actually told her we could escape through a bottomless pit, conveniently through a plot-critical character's private cell, you're a fool. Pure coincidence! Here's what really happened: From a thousand yards, Fran's acute viera nose got one whiff of Basch's biennial oubliette musk, and she was addicted.

Equally unfortunately, the huge gaggle of soldiers in the next room over start wondering about Basch’s conspicuous and untimely reinstatement of visitation privileges, and begins scrambling back in. Starved for options, Fran kicks the lever for raising Basch’s cage off the retaining gear, and the group rides that summabitch as it freefalls a few hundred feet down, the bemused Gabranth looking on.

Fortunately for the party, the cage’s airbags deployed at the bottom (Nabradian craftsmanship, I tell ya, they don’t make ’em like that no more) and they go about their merry way. Vaan tries to resume his shitfit from above, but Balthier tells him to pipe his pipsqueak ass down. This sticks until they stop for a short rest midway out of the tunnels they’ve landed in. A spot of namecalling leads Basch to proclaim his innocence, saying that he was abducted at the battle of Nalbina, and it was his brother, Gabranth himself, who assumed his identity and betrayed the king.

Now, a lot of folks have understandably voiced disdain for the whole “evil twin” aspect. But you know what?

<b>Balthier:</b> ''Seems like 'my estranged father is secretly behind everything' is more in fashion, but you can't beat the classics.
Balthier: ''Seems like 'my estranged father is secretly behind everything' is more in fashion, but you can't beat the classics.

I can take that. It’s fantasy. Whatever.

But there are far worse things about this whole plot; cliché is one thing, but this trick is a fatal assault on logic itself.

Here’s the Empire’s grand plan: there is no real treaty at Nalbina, and they kill King Raminas of Dalmasca as soon as he gets settled in for the signing. Then, they… what? Intentionally spread a rumor that this was their plan? Basch heard that shit from retreating allies on the way there. By chance. Were they spies? Was that just Imperial social engineering? They do have to have Basch there, since I doubt they keep too many evil twins on their Judge staff. Maybe Drace’s sister works a fruit stand in Muthru, I’unno. So what if Basch hadn’t gone to Nalbina? Or what if he’d told anyone or everyone he could what was happening, possibly trying to gather as many reinforcements as he could before rerouting to Nalbina? Can’t spare a couple runners, Captain? But okay, they correctly predict that Basch accepts there’s not a second to waste and immediately sets out for Nalbina with only a beleaguered, demoralized skeleton crew and before telling anyone else.

So Basch and co. arrive at Nalbina and assault the place. As in, real, actual combat. To the death. Now, I can see the Empire sacrificing their own people in service of a stupid, pointless scheme, but here’s a question: what if Basch had died? It’s not like they sent one lonely cripple with sad eyes to swat at him on his way up the stairs, they attacked him with a fucking fighter airship, on top of a couple dozen plate-clad foot soldiers. So after luring an essential element of their plan into place via grapevine, they send people who aren’t in on the plan to kill him with whatever means are available. Did they just assume he could, on foot and armed with a sword, slay two dozen men and a Remora-class anti-personnel craft?

''Okay, a few dozen rounds to center mass and... uh... is that Judge Gabranth?! A-am I even allowed to shoot this guy?''
''Okay, a few dozen rounds to center mass and... uh... is that Judge Gabranth?! A-am I even allowed to shoot this guy?''

Fine. So then Reks gets separated from Basch, and only reaches the Highhall after Gabranth has taken Basch’s place. What if they hadn’t split up? There were other people with Basch besides Reks, but none of them were present for the “surrender,” so presumably they all died horribly. So they abduct Basch, kill his cohorts, squat him behind a pillar (since they show he was totally in the same room, just out of frame) and wait for a separate group of Dalmascans to arrive, so they can… prank them? Just hoping against hope that they don’t get killed on the way there, or notice Basch squirming and groaning while three guys hold him down six paces to stage left? And then when Reks does arrive, Gabranth immediately shanks him, so that he can witness the fake confession while drifting in and out of consciousness. Their one witness.

I want to know, was Reks the first to make it there, or just the first to survive their little skit? Did they run that confession gag a couple times while their patsy accidentally died on them? “Dammit, Gabranth!” Vayne would chide! “The kidney again! I told you not to nick the kidney this time!” And this is a crucial part of their plan: the whole shebang, the entire scheme, hinges on having at least one witness to claim it was Basch that betrayed Raminas, not the Empire.

And they fuck that up, too! Of course Basch and Gabranth look similar, but not identical; they’re fraternal twins. And they conspicuously don’t speak alike. Anyone who had actually served with Basch— say, his friend Vossler perhaps— stood an easy chance of recognizing the difference. But luckily for the Archadians, it was Reks, who had only known him for about ten minutes and wouldn’t know the difference.

And here’s a thought: did Basch, high-ranking Dalmascan Knight, never mention to anyone that his twin brother was a fucking Judge Magister, bodyguard to the Emperor’s heir, and one of the top men in command of their military might? This seems like a non-trivial matter for the folk of Dalmasca to know! What if John Fucking Kennedy had a twin brother who had been raised in Moscow since he was four years old? And one day good ol’ Jack comes on TV and tells the American people through a thick Ural accent that they’re giving all their Minuteman missiles to Castro? For safekeeping? I guess we also have to assume that no one outside of the upper echelons of Archadia— maybe only the Emperor and his son— know Gabranth’s real background and it never gets out to anyone else, including Basch himself.

STILL fucked it up: Reks was so gravely wounded by Gabranth that he spent at least a few weeks catatonic before wasting away and dying. Apparently he recovered well enough at some point to tell everyone a ridiculous, sensational story about something that no one else could corroborate and which he was barely awake for? And everyone just bought it and accepted the surrender without terms, as penance for Basch being such a shit and raining on their nice happy treaty signing? What about the soldiers who first learned of the plot and passed it on to Basch, who were retreating and therefore didn’t participate in the battle and get killed? What about any other survivor of the battle, who all knew about the assassination plot? Perhaps the soldiers at Nalbina would believe that Basch had deceived them, or just all got killed or Gitmo’d. But assuming this entire leg of the stool wasn’t brilliant Imperial spycraft, the initial discoverers at least could verify, for certain, that there was already an Imperial plot to assassinate Raminas. And everyone just accepts… what, exactly? That Basch beat the Imperials to the punch?

Rekt.
Rekt.

I guess either no one raised those extremely conspicuous inconsistencies, or they fell down a well on the way back to Rabanastre. So Reks kicks the bucket, and the only witness left is Basch. When Gabranth sees him in Nalbina, he mockingly asks him, “Why are you still alive?” Bu- th- ffffff- EXCELLENT FUCKING QUESTION, Your Honor! You win the gold star! The one person in the whole world who could blow their scheme, and they carry him down a few flights of stairs and leave him there forever. Basch eventually assumes that he was kept hostage to keep Marquis Ondore of Bhujerba “silenced.”No, I haven’t mentioned this character yet. He becomes relevant a couple more story beats down the road. Look, there’s… there’s so many characters. I know this is like being waterboarded with a riced-out Ren Faire for anyone that hasn’t played this game and plenty of people who have.

About… what? The scheme? Why the fuck would Ondore know anything about it? Why would he have any idea that Basch was still alive at all? Even if he did somehow know, Ondore is a fucking snake. Basch has less than no political value, since any anti-Archadian that found out he was alive would immediately kill his ass dead, and Ondore would never tip his hand and act against the Empire in a fit of passion regardless of what they did to some rotting political prisoner. What proof would Ondore have, anyway? Unless Basch were to somehow end up wandering into his mansion and speak to him personally— which, I mean, could never fucking happen, right? Well, not if he was DEAD, anyway!

(This, exactly, happens.)

But sure, I’ll grant it to them: the Empire came up with the worst plan in the fucking world, and went at it with the skill and grace of a catfish fucking a stump, but they pulled it off. In the end, it worked. There’s just one question I have left for them.

WHY?!

Why in Faram’s name would you bother with this ridiculous fucking plan in the first place?! To make the people of Dalmasca, who still hate you unconditionally but can do nothing to oppose you politically or militarily, accept the surrender more readily? The game goes out of its way to show that Dalmasca’s military was already beyond hope of resisting Archadia, and the Imperials aren’t even a mite shy about oppressing the people of Rabanastre as forcibly and openly as possible, with any dissenters being carted off to Gitmo. So why the fuck would they even bother with this convoluted plan? What were they so afraid the original treaty would bring? Raminas wanted peace, was prepared to surrender his country, and knew he couldn’t fight the Empire. I don’t think he was going to demand universal health care and a mythril pleasure yacht. And what if you don’t like Raminas’ terms? Deny them! What’s he going to do? Pull his OTHER, non-decimated military from out of his voluminous sleeve?

“Haha!” he’d exclaim, posing majestically as black-clad supermodels crashed through the windows. “You never counted on my ninja commandos!”

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Rocketeer added this image request: 'Please include a picture Raminas posing with the supermodel ninja commandos crashing through the windows'. We were unable to find such an image, so  here is a picture of the king being good and fucking dead.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Rocketeer added this image request: 'Please include a picture Raminas posing with the supermodel ninja commandos crashing through the windows'. We were unable to find such an image, so here is a picture of the king being good and fucking dead.

Maybe, maybe they were concerned about provoking Rozarria, the rival empire to the southwest, by seeming too aggressive. This is a fear often invoked by Archadia and its lesser foes alike as a deterrent to more open and direct hostilities. But riddle me this, assholes: what seems more aggressive, a relatively amicable surrender with terms that leave the king ruling— even as a figurehead— or one that leaves the king dead under suspicious circumstances and his nation becoming their uncontested property? And how about this: what the fuck does Rozarria care about how they happen to acquire every nation running in a straight line from Archadia to their doorstep? I can’t really see the Margrace dynasts lounging around the pool at the Ambervale, saying, “Oh, didja hear? Landis, Nabradia, and Dalmasca all just happened to fall under Archadian sovereignty through bizarre and unfortunate coincidences. Man, some empires just get all the luck!” No sir, I think Rozarria might not give them the benefit of the doubt on their acquisition of the entire Galtean Peninsula, i.e., the most important territory to hold in a war between Archadia and Rozarria. I think that might just make them antsy regardless of exactly how the headlines read. This “plan” manages to be a complete fucking gong show from every angle, and of all the ridiculous narrative snafus this game chokes out, this one might be, if not the most damaging to the overall plot or the themes of the game, certainly the most comprehensively broken.

THIS.

FUCKING.

GAME.

The Travelog continues next week.

 

Footnotes:

[1] His armor is a dead ringer for the armor worn by the Judges in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. He’s also featured in the game’s series-signature title art. The message is crystal clear: this guy fucks.

[2] Fran’s animation for firing a bow takes slightly longer than every other character’s. Balthier is also slower with guns, despite being the default gun wielder. I have no fucking idea what they were thinking with this.

[3] No, I haven’t mentioned this character yet. He becomes relevant a couple more story beats down the road. Look, there’s… there’s so many characters. I know this is like being waterboarded with a riced-out Ren Faire for anyone that hasn’t played this game and plenty of people who have.



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107 thoughts on “A Travelog of Ivalice, Part 2: The Worst Plot Ever

  1. SpaceSjut says:

    Honestly: this would be easier to follow if all names were just “char_a” and “fraction_b” and so on. Wow.

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      Yeah, my eyes really started to glaze over during the rant about the Empire’s convoluted plan. I’m told that the game is just as confusing when you actually play it, but having identified that problem I would hope for a summary to fix it somehow.

      1. Xeorm says:

        This is a summary trying to fix it. It’s in rant form, but he lays out how things happen quite nicely. Better than the game does for sure.

    2. Junger says:

      I propose we replace all their names with something we can actually follow.
      ” Our protagonist Protagonist-Kun with his party of Rogue, Princess and Bunny from the Square kingdom break open the Triangle Empire jail to find the Good Twin and accuse him of killing the Square King and sellling the movie rights to Third Wheel Empire while escaping to Empire Minion State 2.”

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        Unironically, that would help a lot.

          1. Syal says:

            This is something I can attempt.

            The Drama Nation of D, and its Neighbor N, are invaded by the nation of Aggro A. Prince N, newly married husband of Princess D, Takes Captain C to Fortress D/N to fight the Aggro A’s, where he dies in a suicide charge to presumably avenge his father King N, who died offscreen before we met him. They also mention the superfluous Giant G’s on the other side of the Drama D’s. Just chilling, they don’t do anything.

            (This next part is narrated by Other Guy O. He’s a voiceover at the moment but will be a character later.)

            Some Time Later, King D goes to negotiate peace with the Aggro A’s, walking into a trap. Captain C hears about it, and takes Rookie R to save him. Then Rookie R busts in to see Captain C kill the king, give a speech about King D betraying Drama, and then stab Rookie R. We also get a brief glimpse of Villain V. Just chilling, they don’t do anything.

            Cut to two years later. We now control Rookie R’s younger brother, Baby B, and his girl friend Pretty P, watching Villain V get inaugurated as the new warden of Drama Central, the former Capitol of the former nation of D. (We also meet our good friend Merchant M, who will never be seen again.) Baby B tells the wise old man Knowledgeable K that he wants to sneak into the Dungeon of D to steal stuff, top which Knowledgeable K says “I’ll help, and also here’s a Plot Device that will take you straight to the treasure vault”.

            While in the treasure vault, Baby B steals Plot Coupon P, and meets up with Leading Man L and Furry F, who escape the Aggro A’s into the sewers, where they also meet the woman introduced as Mysterious M, who is obviously Princess D if you remember the intro cutscene (I sure didn’t).

            Just when they thought they’d escaped, they’re caught by the Aggro A’s (and apparently Villain V? I didn’t remember him and it makes thing way stupider if he’s there, but that’s sure not going to stop this game.) After a brief scene of saying goodbye to Pretty P, our BeLoFed B/L/F crew get thrown into New Dungeon D/N, which is actually Fortress D/N from the Beginning (Princess D is gone now, locked up elsewhere. In Another Castle, you might say). We’re introduced to second-string villain Headhunter H, and then a real villain, General G, leader of the Judicious J, the highest military ranks of the Aggro A’s.

            Following Furry F’s nose, our BeLoFed B/L/F crew break out of their cells and into New Dungeon D/N, where they run into Captain C, locked up and being taunted by General G. After General G leaves, Our BeLoFed B/L/F talk to Captain C, where Baby B yells at him for killing Rookie R. But the Aggro A’s come back and they all jump into a pit. Captain C joins up with B/L/F to become CLuB Friends C/L/B/F, and tells us that the “Captain C” who killed Rookie R was actually General G, who’s his twin (who matched his wild, wispy hair perfectly despite having a crew cut for the rest of the game). Then we paused to rant about how little sense this makes. Tune In Next Week!

            …not sure how much longer this can hold, I’m already running out of letters and there’s plenty more to add.

            1. Shufflecat says:

              The letters actually make it way, way more confusing. They’re too simple and arbitrary, and therefore harder to remember which means which from one sentence to the next. Basically the same issue as unmemorable proper nouns cranked up to eleven.

              Snarky nicknames work way better. They’re descriptive instead of arbitrary, so they act as mnemonics for the characters/places they represent. And the cleverer or funnier the nickname, the easier the nickname itself is to remember.

              I’d give it a try myself, but I’ve never played the game, and I think I would have to reread the articles a few times to even get that entirely straight.

              I feel like it really says something that we’re actually talking about having to make a snarky summery of a snarky summery in order to understand this plot. If it takes two (or more) third-party layers of mnemonic abstraction to make your(whoever wrote the game, not Syal) game’s story digestible, you might just be bad at stories. Just maybe.

              I don’t blame The Rocketeer for this. He’s doing a deep dive, so he has to be thorough, and that means there’s a limit to how shorthand he can get. The impression I get is that the game’s story is just so absurdly baroque that there’s no way to do this job without sacrificing efficiency and clarity.

              The game’s writing has the exact same artistic sensibilities as its costume design. Not just the mix-and-match spastic baroqueness, but the debates further down the comments about what does or doesn’t make sense remind me a lot of the “is it metal?” debate I was in last week in a previous entry of this series.

              1. Syal says:

                Dang. I tried to make the letters alliterative at least, and mostly line up with their actual names.

                The problem with descriptive names is it requires the characters to have their own descriptions. 12 doesn’t really provide those; everyone is very monotone and low-energy, and with no clear reason for doing what they’re doing or being where they are. Vaan has no description deeper than “Reks’ little brother”, so, Baby B; Penelo has no description deeper than “girl”, so Pretty P. Fran has no description deeper than “bunny girl”, so Furry F. Balthier has done nothing notable except call himself the leading man, so Leading Man L.

                1. Shufflecat says:

                  Well, Rocketeer himself already provides some very good examples, I feel.

                  Balthier and Fran are “Han”, and “Chewbacca”, respectively, because that’s a very good analogy for their character roles (and even without playing the game, I can see the Han and Chewbacca energy in their artwork and screenshots). Everybody knows who Han and Chewie are, so even though those are proper nouns, they still provide excellent mnemonic traction.

                  That said, further Star Wars names don’t fit. Remember, kids: no analogy is complete, otherwise you’d just be comparing a thing to itself.

                  Reks is “Rekt”, because that’s what he is plot-wise, and his name SCREAMS for that pun. That’s just low hanging fruit.

                  Archadia is just “the Empire”. It doesn’t need any other name because that’s all there is to it. That’s not a Star Wars thing, it’s a fantasy trope thing. You say ” the Empire”, and everybody intuitively knows what its role is in the story.

                  My own feeling from what I’ve read so far (no warranties to accuracy to the game in any of these suggestions) would be something like:

                  Vaan: “Street rat”. It’s what he is, and his visual design references Aladdin. It lacks LOL value, but it’s descriptive and easy to remember.

                  Ashe/Amalia: just “the Princess”. Like “the Empire”, that’s all you need here, from what I’m reading. Since the game isn’t subtle about her alias, there’s no reason to even bother acknowledging it with a separate name.

                  Some info doesn’t need to be built into names, if the summary writing is otherwise well constructed. You don’t have to bother keeping track of Princess’s alias past its first introduction. You don’t have to bother giving Basch and Gabranth names that reference their twindom, you only need something like “Patsy” and “Judge Snidely”.

                  Someone more familiar with the game would be oodles more qualified than me to fill out the nickname roster. I’m just saying you don’t need to overthink it. It certainly doesn’t look like the game’s writers did: don’t let the confusing proper names and spaghetti scenario fool you. So far these characters appear to be serving simple roles and evoking simple ideas. You don’t need to go digging for the true essence of their souls to find a nickname.

    3. Parkhorse says:

      I’ve played through the game in late November/early December (after I beat SMT 5, for timeline), and it’s still difficult to keep all the names straight. Like Ondore took me a minute to remember, and the Magrace dynasty took googling to refresh my memory. Problem is it’s hard to care beyond “quest marker points that way.” You have the initial rush of way too much information, then you start to learn the people Vaan interacts with, and then you get to Basch and the evil twin brother thing, and at that point the game is telling you to not even bother trying to make sense of the story, because the writers sure weren’t trying to make anything coherent.

      1. Thomas says:

        And the sad thing about that is Ondore is about as close as they get to an interesting memorable character beyond the party (well half the party) and two other characters. And I still can’t remember his storyline.

        The absolute worst is that goon squad of Judges, who are all nothing characters in armour that looks the same (bar one). But whenever they briefly pop up for a boss fight, the game acts like you should know and care about every little detail of their lives and inner politics.
        —————–+
        I have a good rule of thumb for spotting a bad Final Fantasy game. If Cid pops up and you can’t remember who he is, it’s bad one.

        1. bobbert says:

          Let’s see, there is Viking Cid, raincoat Cid, Robin Williams, and who else?

          1. Syal says:

            Smokin’ Rocket Pilot Cid.

          2. tmtvl says:

            Cricket Cid, Grandpa Cid (I know Celes sometimes calls Raincoat Cid “grandpa”, but Grandpa Cid is Mid’s Grandpa), Al-Bhed Cid, Thunder God Cid.

    4. Zeta Kai says:

      To this day, my wife & I periodically yell “Ashelia! B’nargin! Dalmasca!” like the narrator in this game, just to mock the sheer lunatic levels of pomposity on display here. BRIAN BLESSED himself would cringe at the melodramatic delivery of some of the dialogue in this game.

    5. MadTinkerer says:

      The first time you play through the game, all you have to do is mentally note down which characters are analogs of Star Wars characters, which ones are analogs of Lord of The Rings characters (Because as much as FF12 copies from Star Wars, it throws in a lot of stuff from LotR and isn’t shy about it), and which ones are references to earlier Final Fantasy games. It also works for all major locations. Once you realize the developers are relying on you already knowing all the references, it’s actually pretty easy.

      The only proper name I can never remember is The Dread Pirate Pinkpants. He is actually a pretty cool character, but his inexplicable fashion sense and extremely late introduction in the game causes me to forget his actual name every time.

  2. Syal says:

    There is certainly a lot of stupid in this part, but I do think a lot of it clears up if we assume this wasn’t Archadia’s only plan; this was the Best Possible Outcome plan, where all the stars align, and the backup was Just Stab Him And Absorb The Publicity Hit. Or maybe even Don’t Stab Him Today.

    As for why kill the king… they want into the palace vaults. A peace treaty that leaves him in the palace means Archadia is kept out of the palace. They don’t just want Dalmasca, they want a kingless Dalmasca. (And as we find out later at the Sandsea, he does have a ninja commando up his sleeve. The tiniest ninja commando.)

    Basch being in the same room is stupid, but mostly a narrative flourish; “I saw it” is a lot more dramatic than “I heard about it later” or “I assume it”. It would make a lot more sense to show him things on a camera feed or something, but that would require the world to have camera feeds or something. Which you think they would, considering they have airships with tiny cockpit windows, but apparently no, cameras and recording software doesn’t exist. (…is that another reference to Star Wars? They didn’t have paper, we don’t have cameras?)

    …the rest is real dumb. Reks spreading the word makes no sense, and I don’t know why Basch is still alive. It would make sense if this was Ondore’s prison and he was hidden here, but no, Judge Gabranth of all people knows exactly where he is. And the game states this isn’t even a real prison, it’s just the bottom floors of the tutorial fortress, which was Dalmascan territory. There’s a high likelihood of locals knowing about passages the Archadeans don’t, and finding this on their own.

    1. Chad+Miller says:

      I do think a lot of it clears up if we assume this wasn’t Archadia’s only plan; this was the Best Possible Outcome plan, where all the stars align, and the backup was Just Stab Him And Absorb The Publicity Hit. Or maybe even Don’t Stab Him Today.

      I’d be a lot more sympathetic to this line of thought if it didn’t mean that Gabranth was just hanging around dressed like Basch, Just In Case.

      (I do agree that “Basch is in the same room” could easily be handwaved for dramatic reasons if not for the other issues)

      1. Syal says:

        Oh, that reminds me; it’s amazing he got Basch’s hair right. Look at that image. Could you replicate that without looking at it the month before?

        This is why you wear helmets, troops. So the enemy can’t see your hair on the battlefield and grow a perfect copy of it to impersonate you.

    2. ContribuTor says:

      There is certainly a lot of stupid in this part, but I do think a lot of it clears up if we assume this wasn’t Archadia’s only plan; this was the Best Possible Outcome plan, where all the stars align, and the backup was Just Stab Him And Absorb The Publicity Hit. Or maybe even Don’t Stab Him Today.
      As for why kill the king… they want into the palace vaults. A peace treaty that leaves him in the palace means Archadia is kept out of the palace. They don’t just want Dalmasca, they want a kingless Dalmasca. (And as we find out later at the Sandsea, he does have a ninja commando up his sleeve. The tiniest ninja commando.)

      Let’s accept that. Let’s accept that they want to accept the surrender, and ideally want the King to die. Let’s even accept that, even though nobody would necessarily believe it, they want it believed that the kind was killed by his own people, and not the Archadians.

      Even if you accept those as the desired outcomes, this plan requires spreading rumors of a plot to kill the king, getting one specific high-ranking Dalmascian (one they have a convenient body double for) to hear those rumors, to have him rush in, and then have him appear to kill the king when (ha!) the double actually does it, and have a lone witness see this carefully staged play, and then have everyone believe this nobody witness that nobody knows or has met before have their account believed by absolutely everyone without question.

      A much, much easier approach would be to kill the king much more publicly, with many more and trusted witnesses. Set up a surrender ceremony, with multiple trusted nobles from Dalmascia and Archadia in attendance. Grant the king an armed bodyguard, as befits a defeated but still soverign power at a treaty signing. And get Dasche to be the captain of said guard. All much more easily arranged. Then, on signing day, kidnap Bosch on some pretext (e.g. a meeting between the guard leaders on both sides to discuss security) and replace him with Gabranthe. He shouldn’t need to talk to anyone long enough to be spotted – he’s supposed to be a prop at the ceremony. Then, just as the king goes for his pen, as all attention is elsewhere, have “Dasch” run in from the sidelines and kill the king and apparently try to kill the Archadian ambassador, before being “killed” by Archadian troops defending their ambassador.

      There. A pseudo-Dasch betrays his king, in front of many trustworthy witnesses. There’s no doubt who the aggressor at the peace ceremony was, or who killed the king. The manner of the betrayal gives the empire enough apparent cause to feel aggrieved and justify the annexation without terms – the Dalmascians attacked our representative during a peace conference! Heck, if you must kill Reks in this sequence to motivate Vaan, have the Archadians slaughter all the Dalmascian security troops in the room in response to the “aggression” on the part of Dasch.

    3. Mye says:

      They could easily request access to the vault as part of the peace treaty, they could even request he give up the castle or abdicate. Also, if they did all this to get access to the vault, why didn’t they bother looting it in the years since? It took Vaan 2 minute to get the star but years wasn’t enough for the empire?

      1. Rho says:

        Did they even know the Magic McGuffin was there or care? It sounds as though there are several such goodies and they weren’t aggresively hunting for or going after any of them.

        1. Syal says:

          Yeah, that part’s still a plot hole either way. I can maybe fanfic something up (and intend to try in future) but… this story needed at least one more draft to work properly.

      2. Karma The Alligator says:

        I think it’s because they didn’t need it during those years because they had their own to study, and it was safe in the palace. As long as it was there, they could access it at any time, and they only started looking for it once it got stolen… Although that doesn’t explain why they didn’t take it when they made the protag party prisoner.

        1. Rho says:

          But it wasn’t “safe” given an active rebellion in the capital. And there’s no sane reason they wouldn’t at least remove it back to their own territory.

  3. Syal says:

    the cast languish in wasting obscurity for the rest of their days, because FFXII is a bold work, unafraid to buck cliché.

    Now I’m imagining this as an Eternal Darkness kind of game, where we keep killing our protagonists and switching to new ones. First Reks, then Vaan and crew, then… I dunno, Migelo? Then Mjrn? No, probably Larsa before Mjrn.

    I wonder if we could finish the game this way. Maybe Ashe is like the catalyst; people bump into her, they help Ashe complete a plot point, and then the Empire kills them, while Ashe goes her merry way to her next victims.

    1. Rho says:

      No, Larsa is such an epic troll that he would probably trick Ashe into killing her own worthless butt and take over the Protagonist title.

  4. Joshua says:

    This series makes me think of a couple of things.

    First, based upon the description in these posts, there are some callbacks to FF VI (Evil Empire hoovering up rival city-states one by one, Espers, Magicite) but making the characters come from Star Wars archetypes.

    Second, I’m reminded of Shamus’s post about Starcraft’s remastered scenes done with full FMV about Mengst’s betrayal of Kerrigan that obviously makes zero sense when it’s shown to you looking like a modern movie. The older Final Fantasy games have tons of these batshit insane story beats* as well, but they have the defense that there were space limitations for not only gameplay, but even text. So, you can always assume that the story beats were short-hand for something that made a lot more sense. But then you show this same kind of story with modernish graphics and there’s no “shorthand” anymore, the story is as absolutely ridiculous as it seems.

    *For example, in FF 6 Narshe complaining that the Empire is attacking them despite being “neutral”. Dude, the Empire is going around and attacking everyone without Casus Belli, so there is no neutral. See also the gambit (which reminds me a little of this ludicrous scheme Rocketeer is describing above) where the Empire will get themselves wrecked dealing with the Espers, and then engage in a huge conspiracy to do a fake peace treaty that involves betraying their top general for some reason. FF has always operated on an eight-year-old’s storytelling logic, it was usually just hidden behind rudimentary graphics and text limitations to make you think there was more there than there was.

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      To be fair, General Leo was always a noble man who simply followed orders under the belief that the Empire was just. They probably got rid of him because they figured out they couldn’t keep him on their side for long and prefered to attack him by surprise while he still thought they were relatively good people rather than wait for his own inevitable betrayal and raising of an oppossing army. It’s been a while since I played the game, but I believe the Emperor hints at something of that effect.

      Granted, you can make the point that Leo being out of the loop was straining credulity, particularly with someone so blatantly evil as Kefka hamming it up all the time, but it’s not uncharacteristic for loyalty to supercede logic in high-rank military types. Leo could be very well finding ways to justify the Empire’s behavior (which, again, I believe he mentions at some point unless I’m misremembering).

      In any case, the old FF games were never as complex in their storytelling as the new ones, and they relied more in emotion through characters than in logical consistency, which is why they’re fondly remembered. Whenever people defend the new games they’re all “Oh, you just like the old ones because of nostalgia”, which isn’t true, of course, because the problem is that the new games have taken the problems of the old games and made them worse (overcomplicate the story while making the characters less appealing). It’s not that we prefer the old games because we were too young to see their issues, but because the issues, while still there, simply weren’t as prominent.

      1. BlueHorus says:

        Also: in VI, the Empire’s big betrayal comes around when Kefka pulls a hitherto-unmentioned MacGuffin out of his ass…

        So in theory, the Empire WAS ready to surrender, and genuine in their intentions. They’d inadvertantly pissed off a race of magical beings who were too powerful for them to fight – but then they find a ‘Magicite Mother Lode*’ and change their minds.

        It’s still nonsense, but it makes character sense, if nothing else.

        *Which is only ever mentioned – or used – once in the whole game: during a cutscene. Then it ceases to exist, naturally.

        1. ContribuTor says:

          The thing that makes this make more sense to me within FFVI is, rather than think about “The Empire” to think about individual people.

          The emperor rules the empire, and is generally good and honorable. Kefka is his pole climbing number 2, who was the head mage and at one time a trusted advisor. General Leo serves the empire, and is also generally good and honorable.

          The empire isn’t (in general) some moustache twirling evil entity. They’re not necessarily “the good guys” but they’re not backstabbing villains.

          Then they discover magicite, and Kefka volunteers to be the first Magitek Knight, and the process breaks his brain. He sees everything as suffering, and is determined to bring suffering to everyone and everything. As part of his plan, he wants to invade/destroy the esper realm and also become emperor himself.

          While the specific reveal of Kefka’s ability to reduce espers to magicite does sort of come out of nowhere, the fact that’s he’s demonstrably evil while in theory the rest of the imperials are not is hinted at/talked about/shown through actions throughout the first act. And as the chief mage and architect of the whole Magitek Knight program at least hints that he has some understanding of the espers, so it’s not completely outside the realm of possibility that he’d have the ability to destroy them. And that, having developed it, he’d keep it a secret until the moment it best served his personal purpose to use it.

          Kefka is the one who betrays General Leo, just as he is the one who betrays the Emperor. The emperor’s flaw is not seeing how twisted and evil Kefka became before it was too late, and letting him continue to wield significant power even after his mind was damaged. Leo’s flaw was letting the fact that he trusted the Emperor translate into trusting the Empire as a whole (and Kefka in particular).

          In my view, each individual in this threesome makes sense on their own terms, with their own reasonably consistent values and motivations.

          FFXII lacks any identifiable individual whose actions make sense in at least a local context.

          1. Joshua says:

            But Edgar finds out that the Empire was trying to trick the good guys along from a maid who spills the secret to him after he flirts with her. He also explicitly says the Empire is responsible (instead of singling out the Emperor), which means there’s no high-level conspiracy afoot: virtually everyone in the Vector palace is aware that there’s a trick being pulled on the PCs except for General Leo and his contingent.

            Now, the section in Vector shortly before you get there tries to go the route of “Not all the imperial soldiers are evil or agree with Kefka” as you talk to the various soldiers and some of them disagree, but then this is never reconciled with the fact that you’re back to fighting the Empire again and all of its soldiers. I suppose a good headcanon (and this would have been cool in game) would be that all of the soldiers you talked to that were not on board with the full “being evil tyrants” plan were exposed through your conversations and then the Emperor was able to discover all of the soldiers who were down with the his and Kefka’s plan and put them in charge to replace the more good-aligned officers as a sort of coup.

            1. Rho says:

              You never fight the Empire again after the “surrender” though, and its obvious that Emperor Gestahl wanted to deceive Leo and at least some of his soldiers. Gestahl was emphatically not a good or honourable man then if ever. He only ever used Kefka (or anyone) and the latter finally turned the tables.

              While we don’t get an exact excuse for how Kefka could kill so many Espers, he did have more time to develop his magic than anyone. That’s not a huge stretch as he shows here and there that he definitely understood more of events that he let on.

              In the end though, Vector and the Empire were just people, some good or bad.

          2. BlueHorus says:

            Well, we’re very much into headcanon territory here…but hey, why not.

            I never got the impression that the Emperor (Geshtahl?) was good or (particularly) honorable. I mean, his Empire was literally conquering the world by force before they got stopped by Espers…that had to have been happening with the Emperor’s knowledge and approval.
            My take on it was that he only sued for peace out of fear of losing a war that he started, after a race of powerful magical monsters get involved. Surrender looks better than being crushed and losing anyway, after all.

            But then Kefka conjures up his Magical Magicite MacGuffin and proves he can kill Espers, so Geshtahl arranges for his ‘surrender’ to become a trap…

            The only thing he didn’t plan for was his buddy Kefka being crazy enough to want to destroy the world when given the chance.

            1. bobbert says:

              That would be an interesting meeting to be part of.

              “So, your new plan is to destroy the whole enemy army single handedly without breaking a sweat?”

        2. Joshua says:

          they find a ‘Magicite Mother Lode*

          Actually slightly worse than this: The “Mother Lode” was the results of Kefka’s magical powers single-handedly defeating the Espers with his magic without breaking a sweat, not the ability which allows him to do that. He defeats the Espers easily and turns them into Magicite which results in the “Magicite Mother Lode” comment. How he is suddenly powerful enough to do this in the short span of time between when he was overwhelmed at the sealed gate, imprisoned, and then confronts the PCs at Thamasa is the part that is never explained. But otherwise, I completely agree with the gist of your comment.

          In the FF franchise, it seems like power often derives from narrative stakes with less concern about logical consistency.

      2. baud says:

        At first I was confused, because for me the character ‘General Leo, honorable but just follows order’ is the father of the protagonist from Suikoden, which ends up an antagonist and get killed during the game… Couldn’t they have used another name?

        1. bobbert says:

          I assume it is just too much of an easy joke to make the guy named ‘Lion’ honorable.

  5. Dreadjaws says:

    Say what you will about how stupid this plot is and how idiotic these characters are, I still think the next game in the series is even worse in that respect. Well, in that and all other non-visual respects. And even in visuals it’s only better in some areas. Fuck, how I despise FFXIII with every fiber of my being. And if you’re going to be one of those “Oh, you just don’t like it because…” shut up. Just shut up. I don’t like it because it’s a terrible game. Period.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      My dude, you’re wrong. You just don’t like it because it’s terrible! I played about 2-3 hours of it and only really came away with two takeaways: a) I hate Vanille in just, all the ways, and b) they added a needless complication to the turn-based battles in order to make it worse. I mean, the very first Final Fantasy game gave you more control over the battles than this.
      I mean, I’m tempted to say ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’, but given how bafflingly bad the Paradigm system is, I don’t think they were intending to ‘fix’ anything…

      1. Dreadjaws says:

        The thing that irritates me is that people defend the battle system as this complex idea that allows for a high number of options and that it opens up to every character later in the game, except that:

        a) the battle system works to automate battles. You don’t really make any important decisions in battle, you make them outside of it, so you have almost no control in battle, as the characters make the decisions for you. The entire thing is so simple that coupled with the hallway-style “exploration” you can literally play thoughout the majority of the game with your eyes closed and
        b) once the system “opens up” (which means characters can change class) it’s a waste of time to engage in it, since by then you’ll have all your characters used to their starting classes. This is like adding a bottle opener to a Playstation console. I guess it’s fine that the option is there, but it’s pretty fucking pointless.

        1. BlueHorus says:

          Hey, man, you as the player have the most important role in the battle: you press ‘A’ every now and then. The battle won’t progress if you don’t – believe me, I know.
          You even get given a score on how well you pressed A when prompted!

          And while the Paradigm system might well eventually give a load of options and open up to other characters, there’s already a battle system that gives a great number of options and that opens up to every character – it’s called ‘giving the player control over all their party characters’.

          Often you get to control all of the characters in your party…
          …from the very start of the game!

          1. Smith says:

            It’s funny reading this when I remember similar complaints about FF12. Which allows for manual control, not the game playing itself.

            There’s a Penny Arcade comic I could link (2006/09/08/), but it’s…a bit crude, so I don’t wanna.

            1. Sleepyfoo says:

              FF10 was mostly one long hallway, with occasional small dungeons.

              FF12 played itself with very few gambits needed, though you got the final few after a decent amount of playtime.

              FF13 was mostly one long hallway, and the game could basically play itself as far as decisions went.

              The big difference between 13 and 10 on the hallway front was in 10, with few exceptions, you could go as far backwards as you liked.

              The difference between 12 and 13 was that you built your own AI in 12 and choose preset AI’s in 13.

              13 is worse than the prior games at the things the prior games were rightly mocked for.

              1. Chad+Miller says:

                I actually think the real sin of Final Fantasy XIII’s gameplay is that it slowrolls all the game’s mechanics such that the first 30 hours or so feels like a tutorial. I once sat down and tried to determine at what point both FFX and FFXIII get to “the real game” and the answer I came up with was that FFX gets you there within a couple of hours while the earliest point that meets that description in XIII is late in chapter 9 (of 13)

        2. ContribuTor says:

          I liken it to some of the Madden/College Football games that have a “coach only” mode where you call the plays, then watch the players on the field execute them.

          Some people like the “realism” of a mode where you’re not a player – you’re the coach. It’s certainly how real football works. Many others (myself certainly included) feel like this is a “skip the actual fun part of the game” mode.

          1. bobbert says:

            I need new glasses. I read that as, “you call the plays, then watch the players fail to execute them.” I guess that would be realistic, too.

          2. Kathryn says:

            Yes, it’s running strategy versus running tactics. I would play X with XIII-style combat in a heartbeat. (I like X)

            A mook fight in X:
            Rikku steals
            Tidus takes out the lizard (“press X to win”)
            Wakka takes out the flying eye
            Yuna comes in and casts NulBlaze
            The flan gets a turn, but it doesn’t matter because NulBlaze
            Auron comes in and defends
            Kimahri comes in and defends
            Lulu comes in and casts Blizzard on the flan. Cue victory fanfare.

            No one took any damage, everyone got XP (I realize that rotating everyone in for every battle is optional. I assume anyone who went up against Biran and Yenke unprepared knows why I do it), and the battle took multiple minutes, most of which was paging through menus while the characters and enemies are basically snarling at each other and not acting.

            A mook fight in XIII:
            Hope starts as a Synergist with Fang and Lightning as Commandos. He puts Enfire (and Bravery if needed. These actions have to be manually selected as they aren’t the default) on each commando. Meanwhile, the borgbears are pummeling all three of them (they probably interrupted Hope’s casting). Once the buffs are up, switch to Aggression. Hope casts fire magic (“press X to win”) on the borgbear Fang is targeting until it’s staggered, then switches focus to the borgbear Lightning is targeting to stagger it. The borgbears aren’t passive during this time, so a switch to Tireless Charge so Hope can heal may be necessary. Each borgbear should get defeated in one stagger. Cue the battle score. Everyone gets XP. The whole battle probably takes a minute or two, with all characters and enemies dynamically acting the whole time, including in ways that force me to change what I’m doing mid-button-press.

            If I’m fighting mooks, which we all know any FF game entails, the latter approach is much more fun for me. Even a Preemptive Strike where the mooks are all wiped out in a few seconds with Aggression is more fun for me than the flyer-lizard-flan fight.

            As for non-mook fights, I also have much more fun fighting a XIII adamantoise (with the strategy I use, it’s about 2 minutes and 7 paradigm shifts, plus many of Fang’s actions need to be selected manually, so it is definitely not press X to win) than I’ve ever had fighting a Dark Flan or a Sandworm.

            I’m in the minority, of course, but hopefully the above sheds some light.

            1. Sleepyfoo says:

              There was a speedrun of FF13 this ADGQ 2022, and it really shed a light on the potential of 13’s system. I was quite impressed and quite enjoyed the speedrun.

              However, there was basically no incentive to actually engage with that system, as fights and grinding were easy and grinding made the fights even easier. Press A to win and turn your brain off. This is not good enough for the post endgame super monsters, but it was enough for basically everything else.

              12 at least to get the game to play itself you had to build your AI yourself.

              The other big Sin of FF13 is the hallway thing. FF games have always been linear, either because geography, monsters, or both. However, they have in the past at the very least allowed backtracking and revisiting places, even if that didn’t make much plot sense (with notable load bearing boss exceptions). Even FF10, the prior hallway FF, allowed backtracking baring certain story bits. FF13 only allowed 1 direct of travel for basically the entire game, with the exception of the endgame, basically. And even then, only to the 1 area.

              1. Kathryn says:

                >it was enough for basically everything else.

                I’d have to disagree…for just one example (I could give more), when Sazh and Vanille are fighting the first armadillo-style enemy, unless you get a preemptive strike, it will kill you long before you can press X to win. You have to use rav/sab, rav/rav, and com/rav, and maybe com/med. (It’s possible I am missing something gameplay-wise? I don’t usually bother upgrading any weapons until I get to Gran Pulse, so maybe that’s the difference.)

                For me, the incentive to use the paradigm system was that I enjoy finding the right strategy for battles. With my borgbear example, I probably could go in with straight up aggression and press X to win (might have to stop to heal), but the battle will take significantly longer, possibly twice as long. The extra seconds at the beginning to cast Enfire make a big difference in outcome. Figuring that out and seeing it work in action is fun for me.

                I definitely agree XIII is extremely linear. I think its big sin was completely failing to disguise its linearity – you literally open the game on rails – whereas X did a decent job at least pretending it wasn’t linear.

                1. Sleepyfoo says:

                  When I say basically everything else I don’t mean I never changed roles, but I didn’t feel the battles were so dangerous as to require more thought than “Beat Roles” “Heal Roles”. There is precisely 1 non-endgame fight that required more thought than that (which I can remember from my playthrough anyway).

                  It was the fight in chapter 9 on the bridge with 3 robots and the really wide robot. I needed to start in synergist and pick my buffs for the first go, and then it was business as usual.

                  I will say I occasionally did select my own actions because the AI was being Violently stupid or I liked the animation or effects of attacks it wasn’t doing.

                  X for me was sort of similar, in that I ignored the party change mechanic, ran with my 3, and mostly just attacked. But there were a lot of fights that required at least a little effort beyond grinding to make that work.

                  Admittedly, this was not a fast play style, but I didn’t mind the extra time.

                  1. Kathryn says:

                    Oh, gotcha. Yeah, if you don’t enjoy tweaking and optimizing, then that is how it would go.

                  2. Chad+Miller says:

                    Admittedly, this was not a fast play style, but I didn’t mind the extra time.

                    I mean, this sounds a little like the whole “you can button mash your way through Arkham Asylum” argument

                    Personally I found the score system + my personal distaste for grinding enough excuse to optimize more than that, even if I do feel the game took way too long to ramp up to the point where strategy was necessary even under those constraints.

            2. BlueHorus says:

              That does shed some light – and sounds pretty good. A long-standing complaint about the battles in Final Fantasy games is how time-consuming and dull they can be, especially the copy-pasted random encounters.
              After a few times you know exactly, turn-for-turn, how a given fight’s going to go, and each encounter becomes just a dull waste of [X] minutes and some of your resources.

              So yeah. Automating that process has real potential – which does lead me to the question ‘Why wasn’t that potential obvious from the start?!’

              The few hours* I put into the game made the combat look like the same old Final Fantasy standard, but inexplicably you only had control of one character. The other two just attacked periodically.
              I even think it was a game over if the 1 character I had control over hit 0 HP.

              (Also, the plot was making no sense and Vanille seemed like she was on LSD or something, but hey, different complaints…)

              *Someone might say that’s not enough time and I didn’t give the game a chance, but I respectfully put forth the argument that it’s the game’s job to entertain you, not your job to enjoy the game.

              1. Kathryn says:

                Yeah, I do agree they should have opened up the battle system much sooner. I have a save from after the point where you finally get access to jobs and paradigms so I never have to play the first section again.

                XIII-2 corrects this error and is also much less linear and has towns. On the other hand, if you know what the best mons are and prioritize getting them as soon as they’re available and power-leveling them (and I am the type of player who does that), it becomes press X to win. Oh well.

            3. EOW says:

              What gets me about FF13 is that there is indeed a good game underneath, once the system opens up there are a deceptive amount of choices and the skill ceiling is pretty high.
              The problem many pointed out is that you don’t get access to the full kit until the last fourth of the game and it takes about twenty or so hours to even have a party of at least three people in battle. And pretty much only the superbosses really require you to exploit all the mechanics.

              My biggest concern with ff13 is how utterly linear in every single aspect of the game it is. There are next to no choices. The game doesn’t even allow you to change the party formation until way later in the game. It doesn’t even allow you to level grind until you pass specific story checks. Even levelling up basically amounts to just going down a specified path. The game is the exact same on every playthrough outside of self imposed challenges.

              The problem with 13 tho is that it essentially was born from trying to streamline mechanics from 10 and 12, the problem is that they went overboard with it.
              For example, the crystarium is clearly inspired by the sphere grid. And while that one was also linear (outside of the master spheregrid), the spheregrid really gave you a decent amount of options as the game progressed. Meanwhile the crystarium is completely linear and every character has its own. You can’t, for example, go inside another character’s crystarium like you could in the sphere grid.
              Even the role ai seems like a streamlined gambit system, but since you aren’t allowed to engage in it and make it better, it feels hollow. Also, at least ff12 allowed you to open the menu and order your characters to do a specific thing if you wanted.
              The linearity is also something people often compare it to 10, saying something like “10 was also linear”, but at least in 10 the linearity was contextualized by the story and despite being linear it did have towns, moments of respite and several minigames and places to stop and unwind away from the main plot. FF13 is always in “dungeon mode” and you’re NEVER allowed to visit old areas again like you can in 10

    2. Geebs says:

      Well….it does have an awesome battle theme

    3. Mye says:

      FF13 is really one of the worst game I’ve ever finished (because I was stupid and determined to finish every FF game). 12 plot is non sense but you can understand what they’re going for (in this case, the empire is super crafty and treacherous). But not only does 13 makes no sense I don’t even understand what its trying to say. Its a game where the character decide to fight the Gods/fate by doing everything the Gods tell them to do and are ultimately saved by a literal Deus Ex after accidentally/on purpose triggering the apocalypse.

      1. Chad+Miller says:

        My favorite part of XIII’s plot is how the villain’s plan is to get killed, until the heroes get to the end of the game and decide to kill him out of spite, and they never even try to reconcile “everything went exactly according to the villain’s plan” with “the heroes win”

        1. Mye says:

          The crazy part is that there’s a point where they could have just walked away from the villain without killing him and they would have been free of the curse and the entire government/church was exposed as being evil. It would literally have been the best ending possible for them, but they were all so angry at the bad guy that they were willing to sacrifice the entire human race just to kill him.

          1. Sleeping Dragon says:

            Urghh. Honestly I don’t even dislike the battlesystem particularly*, I wish it opened sooner but at least it makes the fights look dynamic and flashy. What I despise is how the plot relies on characters acting in the most idiotic self-defeating way.

            *The one major thing I disliked was when the final boss had an instadeath attack they would target at the healer and since it’s game over if the player controlled character dies if they happen to be a healer at the time it’s over and done. Took me a couple tries to figure I wasn’t just unlucky.

            1. Chad+Miller says:

              What I despise is how the plot relies on characters acting in the most idiotic self-defeating way.

              Here’s a funny one I didn’t notice right away: This game involves a lot of characters joining and leaving the party. Now ask yourself, how many of those instances are caused specifically by Lightning, the protagonist, storming off and abandoning someone?

              ALL OF THEM. LITERALLY EVERY TIME. THE ENTIRE GAME.

        2. Dreadjaws says:

          Man, I know I protest a lot about the game’s combat and linear gameplay, but it’s really the story and characters that frustrate me to no end. The heroes want to kill the villain because they’re angry at him for cursing them and the villain’s plan is to get killed by the heroes so he can ascend and defeat his creator.

          That on its own actually sounds like a reasonable plot. Upset the heroes by cursing them so they’ll be tricked into killing you so you can fulfill your goal. Not a bad plan, right? Except that…

          … the villain:
          – actually tells the heroes that his plan is to get killed by them
          – he fights back every time
          – even though his entire plan hinges on getting killed by them, in every battle they have except for the last one he runs away at the end

          … and the heroes:
          – knowing full well that the villain wants them to kill him, still fight him every chance they have, even unprovoked
          – they never even consider hatching a different plan, not even bothering to discuss the subject that the villain wants them to fight him, they just treat him as another guy they have to defeat
          – even though they stupidly decide to do what the villan asks them to and defeat him, they still manage to win, not due to a last-minute idea or a cunning reversal, but due to a combination of the power of love and a deus ex machina

          Fuck this game. Fuck it in every goddamn plot hole.

          1. BlueHorus says:

            Maybe the villain’s just got a bucket list, and he just keeps remembering items he hasn’t ticked off yet.

            “Ah, soon I was ascend and complete my life’s work! Muahahahah – oh wait, I never told my 5th-grade maths teacher how bad he was!
            Alright, chumps, I’m outta here. I’ll let you murder me some other time.”

  6. Chad+Miller says:

    So, fun bit of trivia:

    If you heard about this game at all near its release time, you probably heard about the Zodiac Spear. It’s the weapon with the highest attack power in the game and also infamous for its esoteric unlock requirements that no one can possibly know without having heard about it before even playing the game.

    It’s not that the weapon is hard to find. It’s that four chests in the game are arbitrarily “trapped” such that opening any one of them triggers an event flag that deletes the chest where the Zodiac Spear is supposed to appear. And there’s nothing in the game hinting at which chests these are or even that they exist. And to really drive the point home, you’re almost guaranteed to hit at least two of the four. Specifically, the two that have already been encountered in this summary.

    The first is in this room where you get your stuff back after being imprisoned. That’s right, the room where the object is “refill your inventory” also has a chest that you shouldn’t open or it removes the ultimate weapon from the game.

    The other, amazingly, actually appears in a picture in the previous article. It’s the one where Vaan is talking to Penelo. That kid in the background is standing right next to the offending chest. The game literally points the camera at it in a forced cutscene.

    This was so infamous that all rereleases (including the Zodiac Age remaster that’s the only one you’ll see on PC or modern systems legally) patched the mechanic out entirely.

    1. Syal says:

      Hopefully they fixed the other ones too; looking at a guide, there are multiple pieces of end-game equipment that are not only mutually exclusive, but require an all-in approach to a sidequest; that is, there are three people to turn quests in to, and you have to give every reward to the same one to get that one’s gear. Split the rewards up like the game encourages, and you’ll get nothing you couldn’t get elsewhere.

      I wouldn’t mind so much, but these weapons and armor also take up spots on the License Board. It costs 230 LP to unlock the ability to use the Zodiac Spear (and only the Zodiac Spear), and then you probably never get the chance to see the Zodiac Spear. If you’re gonna make this stuff this hard to get, make it free to use, like the Masamune in 1. Found the Masamune? Great, put it on your White Mage, we don’t care, it’s the Masamune!

      1. Chad+Miller says:

        Nope, that one’s still there. As is the absolutely absurd set of requirements for the top Bazaar items, some of which require ingredients so specific that the most expedient way to get them is to use an exploit to farm enemies that are supposed to be unique.

    2. Mintskittle says:

      I think this was when selling physical strategy guides was still a thing. I didn’t have the FFXII guide, but I remember the FFIX guide being absolute garbage, because the most important bits were cut from the guide and posted to Square’s playonline website, where you put in a code found in the guide to get the relevant info.

      1. Dreadjaws says:

        Man, I’m so glad I never spent any cent in a strategy guide. What an absolute scam. Thank God for Gamefaqs.

        1. Fizban says:

          Not everyone had internet back then. Even when the internet becomes more widespread, most of those convenient Gamefaqs are just a flat wall of text with no screenshots, guess what takes up most of the guidebook?

          Most strategy guides also served as a form of artbook, being just plain pleasant to look at and showing the art behind games that were otherwise just a smear of pixels, and they could even have expanded lore entries. Dragon Warrior 3’s guide had art for every single item in the game IIRC (the series also being well known for its art design coming from the Dragonball guy), while Starfox 64 had blueprints and lore for the ships and background on the story that flat-out isn’t in the game.

          I’m kinda sick of people who obviously never used any of these old guidebooks calling them a ripoff because they could pay lol$ for internet back in the day to read scrawls of often half-unfinished user made plaintext. Some gamefaqs are good, some suck. Some guides were great, some sucked. Shocking.

          1. Parkhorse says:

            Disgaea 1 and 2 had great guidebooks as well. Disgaea 1’s was a nice, hardcover artbook. Disgaea 2’s was like four hundred pages, and absolutely filled with great info. I don’t know whether there were guidebooks for later entries; gamefaqs was more dominant than, and I was a little less enthused with anything past Disgaea 2.

          2. Sleeping Dragon says:

            Sure, what you’re presenting sounds pretty cool actually. But the original point was about purposefully putting extremely obscure mechanics in your game in order to “encourage” buying the strategy guide. Furthermore the guide for IX that Mintskittle mentioned required you to BOTH buy the guide AND access the internet to take advantage of the code.

      2. ContribuTor says:

        I think this was when selling physical strategy guides was still a thing.

        Wait, what? Now I feel super old. Er…older, I guess. Let’s check this out. Yay wikipedia.

        FFXII launched in 2006. Huh. Older than I thought it was – I head pegged it as closer to 2010. FFIX launched in 2000, which is more in line with my expectations.

        Regardless…

        GameFAQ’s launched in 1995, and was bought by CNET in 2003 (which, in my head, is more when it went from being a somewhat niche message board to being a widely-known entity, though my knowledge of early days of GameFaqs is somewhat limited).

        In 2000, we were still in peak-ish dot com bubble, where everyone was trying to cash in on having a website. A hybrid strategy guide on paper/web still might have made sense at that time as a way to drive people to say “hey, our website exists!” Also, it’s early enough in the GameFAQ’s era that an “official strategy guide” made sense.

        I guess I’m sort of shocked that people were still paying for strategy guides in 2006. We’re well into the GameFAQs era. I guess GameStop/games retailers were still a thing, and I suppose having something to put on the shelf still made sense for game publishers at the time. I just thought this was to the point where people were mode aware that they could get similar content “for free” elsewhere…

        1. Chad+Miller says:

          The transition was still underway. Mintskittle is absolutely right that the default assumption among the playerbase was that it was an attempt to cajole people into buying strategy guides, but GameFAQs was going strong and you could and can indeed find .txt files for all the really egregious stuff on there.

          As an aside: There are other pieces of ubergear like the Tournesol that are far more ridiculous than the Zodiac Spear, but the Spear really does/did bear the brunt of the hatred from the playerbase. I speculated a bit on reasons for this in a previous post: https://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=52591#comment-1307090

        2. Crimson Dragoon says:

          Heck, I bought a guide for FFXV, and that was 2016. I don’t regularly buy guides for games anymore (that was the last one I’ve bought), but I felt that was a good one for it. I tend to prefer the layout and usability of a physical book over the Gamefaqs’ wall of text, whatever the hell IGN tries to do with their walkthroughs, and God forbid, Youtube guides (which seem to be the big thing recently). Also, if you’re playing the game right when it comes out, you’re often outpacing the online guides as they get made. And as others pointed out, they’re kind of like a collector’s item. I’ve got Final Fantasy guides reaching back to VII, so it was nice to get the newest one, too.

    3. Crimson Dragoon says:

      I believe you could also get it as a drop from a specific late-game enemy, but it was at a very low rate. Nevertheless, the treasure chest thing was a blatant attempt to force players to buy the official guide, as that was the only way anyone could have originally known about it.

      1. Syal says:

        This seems like a good place to mention Final Fantasy Tactics again. Tactics also had highest-tier weapons you only had a chance of getting (the rarest being, drum roll please… Javelin 2, AKA the Zodiac Spear). But Tactics didn’t make characters unlock equipment individually, and once you got to level 90, enemies would literally start throwing those end-game weapons at you. So you weren’t fully locked out of the best stuff (except for Javelin 2. Pretty sure they didn’t throw that one.)

        …um… this plan is… like the… Princess kidnapping? In Tactics? Gabranth is totally 12’s version of Delita.

      2. Chad+Miller says:

        Yeah, I think there’s also another low-probability chest that may have it.

        A chest whose probability is so low that the only way anyone would expect to get it is if they also know how to determine the RNG seed by save-scumming.

        1. Kathryn says:

          *starts to hide her three Seitengrats behind her back, then remembers they’re invisible*

        2. bobbert says:

          Yeah, there was a normal box with it near the end of the game. It had ULTRA low odds, but it would work even if you got the got-ya chests.

    4. Joshua says:

      Yeah, I just don’t understand what the purpose of this absolute nonsensical gameification is. You’re doing stuff that doesn’t make sense and is not hinted at in any way for some obscure Easter Egg? At least back in the 90s and early 2000s it was to make you call 1-900 hint lines or buy game guides.

  7. BlueHorus says:

    I burst out laughing at the idea of a dangling cage in a prison having a) a release mechanism that drops it down a pit, and b) airbags for when it lands*.

    I’ll let other people pick apart the ‘logic’ of the Empire’s plan regarding Basch, but this sequence is perfect.
    The Bunny Girl says her magic senses can lead them to an exit, but instead it leads them deeper into the dungeon where they meet a guy that shouldn’t be alive, so he can needlessly complicate the already convoluted story.
    Then the guards turn up, and the party escape by blatantly defying physics and using mechanisms that have no reason to exist at all.

    …is Fran’s ‘magic sense’ just a copy of the script?

    We don’t want another Karnak situation

    Hey, Karnak! I remember that. Proof that even before they merged with Enix, Square was fond of ‘You’ll only get the best out of this situaton if you buy our strategy guide!’ -style game design.
    It’s not as bad as the Zodiac Spear, but still…

    *Seriously. Are there literal airbags? Or is that just the Rocketeer being rhetorical?

    1. Syal says:

      I was wondering if he meant the escape sequence in Karnak, or the part where the party gets arrested and are then completely stuck in their cell, until the guard comes back and tells them they can leave.

      *no airbags on screen, just the knowledge that everyone would definitely be dead from that crash if there weren’t airbags.

    2. There are no airbags; their fall is actually cushioned by two years worth of Basch’s poop.

  8. *sigh* I guess when we see Shamus cruising around in his new ’53 ‘Vette convertible we’ll know how he actually used my generous budget for bespoke CGI.

    For the record: yes, I do know what the Empire is really after in Dalmasca, and I think it makes all this bother make even less sense. This game has a big case of “left-to-right” writing, where either the creators never bother reconciling the newest thing to happen in the plot with anything that happened previously, or didn’t expect the audience to try; the latest thing to appear on the screen is the only thing that exists. Final Fantasy X also had this problem, but it also had a much stronger emotional core and more successfully kept the audience wrapped up in the stakes of the moment.

    1. RFS-81 says:

      There are six ninjas in the screenshot. You can’t see them because they’re ninjas. They’re really hot though!

  9. Junger says:

    Couldn’t they just make that part of the peace treaty?
    “You become our minion and also we get part of your treasury, and we send our own agents to pick out the loot tax contribution and libery fees.
    Every time you refuse we push back your border by twenty kilometers.”

    1. Thomas says:

      I don’t know, seems kind of complex. I think we should go with the false-false flag evil twin plan.

  10. FluffySquirrel says:

    I replayed this game about a year or so back, and yeah, that about sums up my reaction to this part of the plot as well. Just sheer idiocy it feels like

    I can even buy the weird Basch double plan.. but the fact they stab Reks seemingly to death is the bit where I find myself wondering what the hell they even did that for

    Then Reks is in a near coma and just dies or something I guess. Did they poison him in some weird way to make sure he couldn’t change the story?.. or.. did he die of a broken heart.. because some dude he’d known 10 minutes killed the king

    Cause it *feels* like it’s the last, in game, which is silly as hell. Let’s be honest, he dies just to try and add a bit of drama to the game, with Vaan hating Basch. Except that feels stupid as well, because it’s completely believable from pretty early on that Basch didn’t do it, so Vaan just comes off worse seeming from that too

  11. RubberBandMan says:

    I think the very worst thing about this plot, is that it’s literally the first be plot development of the game. It’s introduced in the first playable section, and while there is the character-based plot of ‘why are we doing anything’ to get us moved around, the actual plot the player is supposed to be wondering about and thinking about between the monster slaying is… this?

    As far as I remember, the other plots are… sensible? Fran has issue with her home. Ashe wants to restore her kingdom. Balthier ran away from home to be a cool sky pirate, because of daddy and imperialist issues. Basch’s plot could have been simple ‘I failed to protect my kingdom’, but they introduce it with all these twists and curves for no reason! It’s like taking four right turns to end up at the starting point of ‘The empire invaded and took over everything, and people don’t like that’. The plot basically goes nowhere after wasting all the time on it, and we didn’t even get good characterization out of it, because it’s all ‘revealed’ as soon as we meet Basch, and half the party doesn’t care or have an opinion either way because their sky pirates!

    If this sort of nonsense plot was halfway through the game, people would probably call it stupid, but at least the somewhat competent story beats wouldn’t be tainted by assuming the writers had no clue what they’re doing or why.

    1. Mye says:

      I think the worse part is that its completely unnecessary, Basch is quickly accepted as part of the group and at no point does he have to really worry that people will think he betrayed them. The evil twin is not something that make the game any more interesting and the game didn’t need anymore reason for us to hate the empire.

      I can only imagine that it used to make far more sense in an earlier version and is now just a vestigial plot point.

      1. Thomas says:

        Yes! I was going to write this. It’s an evil twin plot, but the twin part isn’t even played for an end game twist. They just reveal it in the prologue.

        And it makes mush of Vaan’s motivations. He’s angry at this guy who his brother said destroyed their kingdom and caused his death, and then the guy says ‘Oh no that wasn’t me, that was my evil brother’ and Vaan pretty much shrugs ‘I guess that checks out’.

        I’m sure for at least a small part of this game I thought there was some double twist coming, because this can’t possibly be so dumb, and if it was, surely they wouldn’t just have some guy tell you that at the beginning of the game.

        1. Mye says:

          You know, that would have actually been pretty fun, 2/3 of the way trough the game Basch reveal that there is no evil twin and he was actually a secret agent the entire time trying to keep tabs on the princess (it would explain why the empire is always two steps ahead of the group).

          He could go all “You guy actually brought the funny accent, I though I was pushing it but you dumbass just brought it!”

  12. Retsam says:

    This was always my favorite bit of the travelog (though, never finished read it, something something “spoilers”), even if I’ve fallen a bit out of love with the “plot-hole” centric style of analysis in recent years, it’s a really entertaining rant.

    … but yeah, plot holes aside, I think the real damning factor here is that this plot doesn’t even work very narratively or emotionally. It doesn’t really create any lasting tension:

    As far as Vaan is concerned, we have his “shitfit” moment, but he very quickly gets on-board with Basch’s explanation – there’s one or two moments of hesitation in the next few cutscenes, but after that there’s basically no trace of it. In just a few cut-scenes he’ll be shouting in innocent pedestrians faces about the Empire’s lies. His dead brother was like the one bit of emotional weight his character had, and it largely evaporates here.

    I think the story would work much better if Vaan were much more suspicious and distrustful of Basch – it’d create more tension among the core cast, and make Vaan more interesting, and give him more of an arc and ultimately make the resolution where Vaan comes to trust Basch more satisfying than when it happens about 10 minutes after they meet. Also, Vaan more seriously pushing back a bit on Bashe’s story might have helped hang a lampshade on the absurdity of the twin thing[1].

    As for Ashe? I’m going more from memory here, but I don’t recall this working much better for her character. I think she takes a little more time to come around than Vaan, (so like, three cutscenes instead of one). It also doesn’t help that, as Rocketeer put it last time “she flipped her bitch switch on, and leaves it there the whole game” – her cold attitude in general makes her cold treatment of Basch somewhat unremarkable.

    I think it’s fine that Ashe is fairly “cold” – it makes sense for what she’s been through, and it’s interesting in it’s own way, and I think probably an intentional “reversal” of Yuna’s characterization from the previous game. But it makes it hard for her to have good character moments, since she’s pretty reserved from the rest of the party (and thus the player). I suspect this might actually be a motivating purpose behind Vaan’s existence as a character – he’s a foil to Ashe in that he’s got a similar background and motivations, but much more open about how he expresses it. (Which makes it doubly sad that his characterization fizzles so quickly here)

    And as for Basch himself? The “disgraced hero who’s hated by the people he’s trying to save” is an interesting concept on its own: (when you escape the prison his line is basically “I’m the hero Dalmasca needs, but not the one it deserves” or something). There’s a good story in there, but I don’t think we get much of it in this game. It’s not like you have a ton of interaction with the Dalmascan citizenry. It’s basically Vaan and Penelo, and they drop the ball.

    [1] Lampshade hanging is divisive, some people think it’s worse when a story calls attention to it’s less plausible elements – I generally think the “self-awareness” helps foster the trust in the storyteller that helps stay on board with the plot.

  13. Jabrwock says:

    The description of getting your items back in jail reminds me of Guybrush Threepwood in Monkey Island 2. You get out of your cell, and on the desk outside is a large envelope, and when you open it, you remark “Oh! That tickles!” as every single item you’ve picked up so far, no matter how comically large, repopulates your inventory.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Does it do that by showing all the items flying into his pants? That was a recurring gag, as I remember.
      I recall checking my inventory in a shop and the shopkeeper demanded to know what Guybrush was doing, then said ‘Oh, is that what they call it nowadays…don’t let any ladyfolk see you doing that.”

      1. Jabrwock says:

        I haven’t played the remastered or new ones, this was back in the 16bit version, you clicked “OPEN” and then the envelope, and then one after another the items just appeared in the inventory slots really fast while he commented.

        I do recall the running gag about his pants, although I think in Monkey Island 2 it was more stuffing things into his jacket so it didn’t come up as often(MI 1 he just had a white shirt, MI 2 he had a coat).

  14. bobbert says:

    Maybe I missed it, but what did they gain by keeping Bosch alive for the last 2 years?

  15. Karma The Alligator says:

    It’s funny how I never noticed the holes here because I’m so used to JRPGs that I just go with the flow and accept everything the game tells me as truth until shown otherwise.

  16. Paul Spooner says:

    So, I for real looked around a bit to see if I could find a 3d model of Raminas so I could make the missing scene (free supermodel ninja 3d models are everywhere) and while I didn’t find any, I did discover that the wound on his chest is angled across the ribs. Whoever stabbed him was using serious force! Don’t they teach assassins to stab between the ribs? Also, there’s not nearly enough blood on his outfit. I bled more than that the one time I ran head-first at a dead sprint into a metal lamp post.

    1. tmtvl says:

      The early years of Paul Spooner AKA Rhino where hard ones. Don’t worry, Paul, things will get better when you get that special Rhino suit.

    2. Clareo Nex says:

      It’s all the special fantasy weapons.

      Later they will use similar alloys to kill dinosaurs by poking them in the shin until they die. If they can kill a colossus without even hitting a vital organ, why wouldn’t they run through mere human ribs like butter?

      The dinosaurs won’t bleed much either.

      On the other hand, they also won’t lose the leg. They’re special non-dismembering swords, sacred boons granted to the protagonists by the mysterious gods known as ESRB. My favourites at the ones where you sort of wave the weapon at the enemy, pantomiming an attack without any contact, then the enemy, with no apparent injuries, falls over and turns into legitimate specie fully recognized by the local government. Even when that government has been isolated from the rest of the world (such as your doomed hometown) for a thousand years.

      Some real special alloys there.

  17. Zeta Kai says:

    One of the many, many, many frustrating things about this game is the fact that so many of these proper names that the writers are front-loading into the narrative are utterly irrelevant by the end of the game. No spoilers, but by the time the final credits are rolling, I’d say at least 90% of the characters have come & gone without impacting the plot overly much, including some of the people in the party. Multiple people, nations, & even races could have been completely excised without hurting the story, & would have probably improved events through their absence. This is a game that should be held up as a shining example that More =/= Better; its writing was in desperate need of a pruning or three. Not every shopkeeper & twig in the road needs a name & a backstory.

    1. bobbert says:

      95% is probably a better number. The game LOVES to tease interesting plot ideas, but never gets around to pulling the trigger.

  18. smosh says:

    Honestly I can’t even follow the summary of the plot any more, and we’re only on the second post.

    1. Syal says:

      Fortunately, nothing’s happened. We stole a magic rock from the palace, got arrested for it, gathered four party members, and met a couple of villains who have so far done nothing outside of backstory*.

      *(And will, in fact, continue to do nothing outside of backstory for a very, very long time.)

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