Friday, 8 July 2011

Final Fantasy XII : The Review

Foreword
My brother has never played a JRPG, much less me but he boasted a lot about the final fantasy franchise, about how it is never monotonous and linear. I got really intrigued and decided to take a leap and get myself a copy of "Final Fantasy XII". When I first played the game, the controls were nothing short of revolutionary (for me), being my first JRPG and second RPG, getting accustomed to the controls was a time consuming process which eventually got me bored. Every now and then I lifted my controller again to try to understand the game but failed miserably. Much later I decided to give it another go but this time playing it as an "RPG" instead of a generic action based genre in mind.The result was me overwhelmed by action-RPG style game-play following an impressive plot involving a brilliant set of characters.

The Story
The game takes place in a fictional world called "Ivalice" where you are introduced to by cutscenes about a war between the Archadian Empire and Dalmasca. You start off the game as "Reks" a soldier under the command of "Captain Basch Von Ronsenberg"(always wanted to write down his full name). Reks bears witness of the assassination of the King Raminas but ends up getting murdered in the process. The war ends with Dalmasca accepting defeat and the Marquis Ondore announces that Basch, deemed a betrayer has been executed and that Princess Ashe committed suicide on the news of the death of her husband and father.
Two years post those incidents the story shifts to Vaan - brother of Reks in Rabanastre a small kingdom present in Dalmasca, he happens one of the many orphans along with his childhood friend "Penelo" who are forced to do odd jobs for random residents of the kingdom. He gets hold of the "Dusk Shard" in one of his mis-adventures; a magicite with great amount of power in it, at the same time a sky pirate and his partner "Balthier" and "Fran"(two of my favorite characters of the game) have their eye on Vaan's possession. They soon come across two more surprising characters "Princess Ashe" and "Basch" - who appear to be well and alive - they soon find out the truth about the various incidents rumored during the war. In a nut-shell, all of these lead characters uncover the truth about the invasion of Dalmasca and learn the essential use of the shards a.k.a. manufactured nethicite as they try to bring in peace between Archadia and the Resistance of Dalmasca aided by the Rozarrian Empire.
                                      The game also features a guest party system where an additional character joins the party depending on the events occurring in the story.There aren't many drastic twists in the plot but it has its moments which will manage to surprise you. I wouldn't say it is one of the best plots I've heard but it is certainly amazing. The plot alone might sound rather political and boring but it is saved by some impressive voice overs and well rounded characters of the plot. I was particularly mesmerized by the dialogues and voices of certain characters namely - Vayne Solidor, Captain Basch, Fran and last but not the least Balthier who happens to have a thick british accent and tends to speak like a gentleman despite his immoral profession (sky pirate). Vayne Solidor did justice to his role by some impeccable lines which will make you jot down every word he says during a cut-scene so its imperative that one switched to sub-titles in the game. Truly one of the best voice over work I've seen in Video gaming, I must say.

Graphics
The game being released in 2006 to no one's surprise, Square Enix managed deliver some impressively detailed and beautiful environments.The architecture of certain cities was a combination of Indian, Roman and Persian style of architecture.The character detail is phenomenal, every bit of their attire/expressions have been given an impressive attention to detail, you are bound to spend some time rotating the camera around the characters just admire or at-least inspect the details. The free camera movement in the game is a huge addition to the game since the previous iterations had a fixed camera angle whether you're in a boss fight or just exploring. There was absolutely no framerate issue through out my play through although there was this one little instance where I noticed a little frame rate drop while grinding but it never again occurred in my 85 hours of play. As far as the loading times are concerned, I hardly ever noticed any abnormally long loading time whether I was loading my save file or entering a new area.

Gameplay
Let me get one thing straight, no character is designated to a certain weapon/ability. Any character can be a mage/warrior/archer, its your choice. If you've certain experience of a final fantasy game, you're probably familiar with how the combat works, the turn based gameplay involves a gauge that fills up giving the character an opportunity to attack/heal/cast. A small addition to the combat is the attack lines which aids players to determines "who"is attacking/healing "who"; this was probably added to simplify the minor complications of the free camera movement.
The biggest addition to the gameplay has to be the gambit system which you'll be introduced to as soon as your party increases its number. Basically, the gambit system allows you to pre-program your allies action for various situations. Managing the party is simplified to a great extent thanks to this system, although Final Fantasy veterans may not appreciate it. This system can also be used to heal/cast protect/shell on your fellow team mates.
Character development is handled by the license board which was earlier the "sphere grid" in "FF-X". License points are acquired along with experience points by defeating random enemies or bosses through out the game. The board is structured where in one edge of the board is comprised of Magicks and Techniques and the other deals with Weapons and Armour.
Limit Break is in the form of "Quickening" which consumes magick - a lot of it, depending on the kind of quickening you're using. What's awesome about it is that, you can chain these mist attacks in a series of quick time events increasing the amount of damage you can do to an enemy, particularly - a boss. Not to mention, the Espers are present in the game as well however I found no need to summon an esper thanks to mist abilities.
The hunts are a mockery of challenges, contrary to what you'd expect you get the glory of being a bounty hunter than just an errand boy.

Overall
As usual, this, being my first Final Fantasy game, happens to be my favorite. The gameplay is far more action oriented when compared to its earlier iterations which certainly makes it a great game for the new comers of the franchise or new comers to RPG in general.

Pros - Brilliant voice overs, beautifully detailed visuals, engaging action oriented game-play, gambit system, hunts, free rotational camera, decent story.
Cons - The gambit system may not appeal everyone, the plot could've been better.

Rating - 9.5/10





Note - I've written this review a long time ago but I made a few lot of changes.

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