Final Fantasy XII Reader Review
There are a few things I should say about my review before I start:
- It will not be very long - I like to get straight to the point if I can;
- It will not be very technical - I don't know much about resolutions, or texture quality or any of that stuff, so I won't get into it;
- I played this game, from start to finish, in about 70+ hours. You could play it for easily twice that length of time.
The basics of the game are as follows: You control a team of three (out of a squad of six) characters, struggling to end the occupation of Rabanastre and the war that rages all around them. Essentially, your characters must fight their way from one location to another in the game-world in order to achieve various objectives. Naturally, this leads to a lot of combat, the main focus of the game.
The combat system is a mixture of turn-based and real-time. Once you choose to attack or to cast a spell, your character takes a certain amount of time to execute that action; The amount of time it takes to perform those actions can be reduced through upgrades and spells. Similarly, monsters will take a certain amount of time to execute their actions. It's worth mentioning that in FF XII, combat takes place in the game-world, not in a special combat area, and you can see all of the monsters on the game-world. No surprises, unless they happen to be hiding underground
A real innovation in FF XII is the gambit system - a selection of instructions for each of your characters, telling them what to do in a combat situation by default. As the game progresses, you can unlock up to 12 gambit slots, allowing your characters to have instructions for most situations that might arise. This is extremely welcome, and to be honest, essential given the lengthy series of commands needed to get a particular character to cast a particular spell (say) on a particular foe. Especially in light of the sheer overwhelming number of monsters you'll have to retire over the course of the game.
The cut scenes in FF XII are really very pretty. Your characters can learn three Quickenings - a special super-powered attack - a piece and most of them are pretty stunning when you first see them. Also, some of the monsters in the game have a pretty interesting and memorable design. The game is also very very detailed in so far as you can talk to hundreds of NPCs if that's your thing. The combat is also quite satisfying, up to a point.
Also, there were a few moments in the game when I felt genuinely thrilled. When I first discovered that I could chain my Quickenings, when I found that Esper in the Zertinan Mines, when I finally unlocked Telekinesis... It is a shame there were so few of these moments for me. Finally, the beginning and the end of the game's main story is quite compelling. I really liked it. The voice acting also deserves a mention, as it is absolutely perfect in my humble opinion.
In fact it's fair to say that the game does do a lot of things pretty respectably, and is certainly a good game. The problem is, it's not a great game.
Unfortunately, the dungeon design is poor to say the least. The Lhusu and the Henne mines are not too bad, but the design of Giruvegan is genuinely dull and unimaginative and the repetitive design of Pharos is so unimaginative and samey throughout that it borders on unforgivable, especially as it is such a long level. The environments too are generally pretty uninspired. Many game-environments are simply flat areas with a few trees in them. The Feywood, I'm looking at you.
The gambit system too rankles eventually. In my case, I found that my gambit system was rock solid after a while, and all I really had to do in a game was to move my main character close to the monsters until he and his friends killed them all off. Then move them somewhere else. The gambit system is not really at fault, as turning the gambits off would simply be tedious. It is the game that is at fault. With virtually no puzzles or dilemmas to engage the brain, and few monsters (apart from some of the bosses) that required more than senseless hacking and slashing, I was just never really challenged.
Having said that, at certain points in the game, I found that I was massively over-challenged. I admit that at a few points in the game when my characters were bum-raped by massively over-powered elementals I was truly vexed, but I won't copmplain about that because I kind of like that there are serious threats out there to be avoided. I just happened to learn the hard away. :) However, there are a few situations in the game where you find yourself fighting seemingly unfair odds.
There are certain debilitating status effects (for example the dreaded Disease) which, if you don't have any cure for them through chance or your own fault, can signal the end of your quest. And if you've levelled up for a while and are far from a save point, can be extremely frustrating. Similarly, my first foray into the Zertinan Caverns having killed everything in the neighbourhood with ease - and levelled up considerably - was discouraging to say the least. I was killed outright, and denied my basic desire to explore.
Another problem with the game is that for the most part, exploration is not rewarded. Having cleared out the Zertinan Caverns hoping for large sums of cash, weapons and armour, I got virtually nothing. A modest amount of gil, and the opportunity to kill hordes of minions, which as I said before, is pretty boring if your gambit system is robust. The only thing genuinely worth getting in there was an Esper. The problem is, Espers are more or less useless in the big battles, no matter how formidable they are when you fight them yourself. :(
One last negative; The story. I spent a lot of my time in the game wondering why it was exactly that my characters were traipsing across the desert. I take full responsibility in a way, after all, I didn't pay much attention to the storyline as it unfolded around me. Still, I feel that it's a bit of a let-down when a Final Fantasy (numbered) game - normally a franchise known for its compelling storytelling - fails to keep me interested and clued into the story in the way that games like Soul Reaver and Dragon Quest VIII did. :/
My review probably sounds very negative, and in some way it is pretty critical. In my view, when you are trying to decide how good a game is, you should put aside all of the analysis and ask yourself "How much did I enjoy this game?"! In my case the answer is a lot, then moderately, then not much at all. The only thing that dragged me over the line to finish the game was my completist soul. I played Okami for about the same length of time and hardly noticed the time pass, whereas with FF XII I could barely believe I'd spent so little time with it. :/
If the game were truly great, I would be playing still and collecting all of the Espers. But it just isn't. What it is is a solid and entertaining RPG, with a decent storyline, and relatively high production values. It just doesn't sparkle for me. When this game goes platinum, it'll definitely be worth picking up for a low pricepoint. But I worry that many people will have read the hype and be expecting a true masterpiece, and instead just got a respectable game. 7/10
7 / 10