During the review I will not go deeper into storylines or tips and tricks. In my opinion it will spoil the fun factor of the game. If you really want to know all-in and outs, you can always look at the achievements & walkthrough section.
In order to give a well-argued opinion of the game, I decided to test it against five basic criteria. I weigh each criteria on the basis of 3 options. 0 star, 0.5 star or 1 star. All of this combined will be my total of stars. The idea behind these chosen criteria is that you can objectively judge a game. It is based on all points the game offers rather than it strengths or weaknesses.
The twelfth main installment of the Final Fantasy series, it was first released for the PlayStation 2 in 2006. It introduced several innovations to the series: an open world; a seamless battle system; a controllable camera; a customizable "gambit" system, which lets the player control the artificial intelligence (AI) of characters in battle; a "license" system, which determines what abilities and equipment can be used by characters; and a hunting side quest, which allows the player to find and defeat increasingly difficult monsters in the game's open world. Final Fantasy XII also includes elements from previous games in the series, such as Chocobos and Moogles.
The game takes place in Ivalice, where the empires of Archadia and Rozarria are waging an endless war. Dalmasca, a small kingdom, is caught between the warring nations. When Dalmasca is annexed by Archadia, its princess, Ashe, creates a resistance movement. During the struggle, she meets Vaan, a young adventurer who dreams of becoming a sky pirate in command of an airship. They are quickly joined by a band of allies; together, they rally against the tyranny of the Archadian Empire.
Throughout the game, the player directly controls the on-screen character from a third-person perspective to interact with people, objects, and enemies. Unlike previous games in the series, the player can also control the camera with the right analog stick, allowing for a 360° view of the surroundings. While in towns and cities, the player may only see from the perspective of Vaan, but any character may be controlled in the field. The world of Final Fantasy XII is rendered to scale relative to the characters in it; instead of a caricature of the character roaming around miniature terrain, as found in the earlier Final Fantasy games, every area is represented proportionally. The player navigates the overworld on foot, Chocobo, or by airship. Players may save their game manually to using save crystals or gate crystals (and autosaving), and may use the latter to teleport between gate crystals. An in-game bestiary provides incidental information about the world of Final Fantasy XII.
Final Fantasy XII restructures the system of earning gil, the currency of the Final Fantasy games; instead of gil, most enemies drop "loot" which can be sold at shops. This ties into a new battle mechanic which rewards the player with improved loot for slaying a particular type of enemy multiple times in a row. Selling different types of loot also unlocks a bazaar option in shops, which provides items at a lower cost, or items exclusive to the bazaar.
Excluding the massively multiplayer online role-playing game Final Fantasy XI, Final Fantasy XII is the first entry in the main Final Fantasy series not to include random encounters. Instead, enemies are visible in the overworld and the player may choose to fight or avoid them. Battles unfold in real time using the "Active Dimension Battle" (ADB) system. Battles begin when the party comes within range of an aggressive enemy, the party attacks an enemy, or a story event initiates a confrontation. When a character or enemy begins an action, target lines connect characters to other party members or enemies; different colors represent the different types of action. The player may swap to and issue commands to any of the three characters in the party, but guest characters are controlled by artificial intelligence (AI). Battle commands are initiated through a series of menus, and include Attack, Magicks, Technicks, Mist, Gambits, and Items. The player may switch any active character with an inactive character at any time, unless the active character is targeted by an attack or ability. Characters who are knocked out may also be substituted.
A new feature in Final Fantasy XII is the "gambit" system, which allows the player to program each character to perform certain commands in battle in response to specified conditions. Using gambits, the player may set reactions to different stimuli for each character. Each gambit consists of three parts: a target, an action, and a priority. The target specifies which ally or foe to act on and the condition for applying the action. For example, the target "Ally: HP < 70%" causes the character to target any ally whose hit points have fallen below 70%. The action is the command to be performed on the target. The priority determines which gambit to perform when multiple gambits are triggered. These heuristics guide the characters when acting autonomously, though player-directed commands are always given top priority.
In Final Fantasy XII, a mysterious phenomenon known as "Mist" is the key energy which allows characters to cast summoning magic and perform "Quickenings". After defeating an Esper in combat, the player will be able to summon it to the battlefield. Similar to Final Fantasy X, the summoned creatures become active participants in battle, as opposed to the cinematic attacks seen in previous games in the series. Unlike Final Fantasy X, however, Espers follow hidden gambits, rather than the player's direct command. The summoner remains an active member in the fight, able to attack and cast support magic, instead of leaving the party or standing idle while the summoned creature fights. An Esper will leave the battle if either the summoner or itself is knocked out, its time limit expires, or it executes its special attack. Some Espers have origins in Final Fantasy Tactics and Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and others are derived from the final bosses of previous Final Fantasy games such as Chaos, the final boss of the first Final Fantasy, and Zeromus, the final boss of Final Fantasy IV.
Final Fantasy XII introduces "Quickenings", a new Limit Break system unique compared to those in previous games in the series. Characters learn Quickenings by progressing to specific panels on the License Board. Each character can learn three Quickenings, which are unique to that character. Characters may string together Quickenings into large combo attacks, called Mist Chains, via timed button presses. If a Mist Chain reaches a certain length, a final strike will be initiated at the end of the Quickening cycle, called a Concurrence.
Level up system
As in many role-playing games (RPGs), characters "level up" each time they earn a set number of experience points from defeating enemies; each level gained increases the character's statistics and improves performance in battle. Statistics include hit points, the amount of damage a character can receive; strength, the power of the character's physical attacks; and magic, the potency of the character's magical spells.
In addition to leveling up, players may improve their characters via the License Board. The License Board is an array of panels that contain "licenses" which allow a character to perform certain actions. The board is split into two parts; the upper part comprises Magick, Technick, Accessory, and Augment (stat increases and other permanent buffs) licenses, and the bottom part comprises mostly Weapon and Armor licenses. To use a Magick, Technick, or piece of equipment, the character must obtain its corresponding license by spending the required amount of LP (License Points). LP are earned in battle along with the experience points. Like the Sphere Grid in Final Fantasy X, all characters may obtain all licenses on the board; however, each Quickening and Esper license may only be activated by a single character.
Playtime... 1/1 star
there's a lot to do besides the main story in this edition of Final Fantasy. At least 25 sidquests can be distinguished. From short to long and from simple to complex. You will be spending your time on collection quests, optional bosses, lost treasures and, filling the bestiary, finding optional Espers and a classic 'find the cactuars' quest.
Trial Mode is a bonus mode. Using the save data from the game, the Trial Mode will load the characters and their current stats, which means if there are guests in the data, they will be loaded into the Trial Mode as well.
The mode has 100 stages, and after completing each 10th stage, the player can save their progress and receive a reward, players can also save Trial Mode data to their main game save and receive items, It is possible to farm items from The Trial mode. (Which you will abuse)
Replayability... 1/1 star
As already discussed, the side quests ensure that you are not finished with Final Fantasy XII, but there is more than just side quests that make this game so replayable. An update has made it possible to change the roles and associated license points indefinitely and with impunity during the game duration. This gives you the opportunity to test roles on different characters without scratching your head afterwards. In my opinion one of the best additions.
Espers must be defeated in battle to obtain them. Once an Esper has been defeated, it appears on the License Board and any character can purchase its license. Espers are assigned to a specific character and once one has bought the Esper's license it disappears from everybody else's boards. Esper licenses can be used to reach locked abilities on jobs, thus giving more of an element of strategy whom to assign the Esper. These licenses are isolated from the rest of the board and if the Esper that unlocks them is assigned to another player then they are in some cases rendered permanently inaccessible. You can also continuously change this within the game.
A nice little detail is that certain statistics are compared to other players. You can think of how much Gil you have collected, how many monsters you have defeated, steps walked and playing time. It's always nice to just outscore a friend.
Achievements… 1/1 star
A list you can expect from an RPG game. A few main story achievements, cumulative, shop, level and collectible tasks are on the list. Most are mainly focussed on the hunts / optional bosses. The scrivener ensures that you will defeat every enemy at least once, including the elite spawns, espers and optional bosses. And the Cartographer forces you to visit each location at least once. And finally there are also two achievements to get in the trial part of the game. (which you will abuse anyway)
A solid, particularly time-consuming list in which nothing is missable. I would have liked to see one or two achievements that required skill or a certain setting to make the list a bit less standard. For example complete the trial mode without items or with a one man crew, but still a great list all in all.
Fun to play…1/1 star
Many parts have already been discussed, but nevertheless a few (if not) most beautiful features of the game have not yet been discussed in this review. Namely the rare enemies and the great Gambit Battle System.
Beside the ordinary monsters, that can be found almost on every step, you'll encounter their mutated versions. They're stronger, more resistant and have more HP. (The main purpose of their existence is just to check them off in bestiary and get the Ba'Gamnan's figure in Sky Pirate’s Den)
But I personally think it's more than that, there is something mysterious about it, each monster appears in a different way, sometimes randomly, certain kills of monsters in the environment, puzzles, or re-entering an environment. I personally liked to wait and see if a rare enemy might spawn after a certain action. It's a bit underrated in my opinion.
‘’the game that plays itself’’
It's called the Gambit system, through which you can programme each of your characters, their responses and approaches to each encounter, until the combat is almost entirely automated. Push forward into a monster and let your scripting do the damage; sit back and admire your own ingenuity as it's written across the screen in a flurry of metal and magic.
Optimisation is a part of every RPG, but in this game it's pushed to a brilliant new extreme. Your party's a machine that must be constantly tinkered with, tweaking one variable here and tightening up another there until you've got an engine that purrs. It is out of the ordinary
Recommend to others…1/1 star
Especially the passive Gambit system in an open world works surprisingly well. This combined with the different roles, licenses makes Final Fantasy unique in style. And I love it.
I picked this up while it was free to play in XBOX Ultimate. (Which worked out very well, because otherwise I would have bought it that same month :))