Today I finished Final Fantasy XII. Or, more accurately, I hopped on the Strahl and headed for the final confrontation without mucking about. You see, I had already put over 100 hours into this game, trying to collect all the gear, finishing the side quests, and completing various other tasks. I was not aware that I was that close to finishing the main storyline, but I had the suspicion that I was getting pretty close.
I may go back and attempt to complete more of the side quests (the hunts, at least), but honestly the Giruvegan Great Crystal was starting to get on my nerves (more on that later). Since the game had long sat on my “to be completed” list, I decided to go ahead and finish it off. Not to mention, my characters were starting to get a little OP’D.
Anyway, I know I’ve talked about this game a fair bit already, so here’s my final review. I would much prefer to sit in front of a camera and talk about it (like Spoony does), but since I don’t have a video camera yet that’s a moot point.
I was simply amazed by the vastness of this game. It’s mind boggling. Even so, you are not obliged to explore all of it. If you simply followed the main storyline, you could probably finish the game without seeing anywhere from 30 to 50 % of all areas. It just goes to show you how much depth there is to the side quests. However, if you did finish the game without messing around with all the extras, you might have a little trouble with The Undying (although I wouldn’t be surprised if there were people who defeated him with one character at level 20 or something ridiculous like that).
This brings me to the side quests. I liked the fact that you could get started on the hunts right away. Some of the most difficult battles in the game are with these monsters as opposed to boss battles. I liked this side quest because it was pretty straightforward. And then there’s the trophy hunts. It’s not enough for FFXII to have one major side quest involving grueling battles. Noooooo… OK, so I probably sound a bit cynical but I’m still scratching my head at this side quest. I understand the reward of it; I just don’t understand why it had to involve more monotonous grinding.
Speaking of grinding, what were they thinking with the Great Crystal? I mean, is there a good reason why they couldn’t give you a map? This is just poor planning. It’s prolonging the game artificially. What benefit is there in forcing players to go online looking for a map? You’re going to need it anyway. It’s not possible to navigate the place in your head, unless you go to all the trouble of diagramming every detail. You will get disoriented. It takes way too long to get around even with a map.
Even so, I did like the battle system. To a large degree, you can automate most of the combat (sometimes you can even walk away and go to the bathroom while your characters finish off the enemies). I know some people that didn’t really like this system, but I don’t have anything bad to say about it. If anything, it makes things a little too easy.
I wasn’t crazy about the storyline. Even if you missed half of the dialogue (like I did) you could still piece together the major plot points without much trouble. The game tries to be smart by citing geographical locations and technical jargon akin to the FF universe, but in large part there’s nothing compelling about the storyline. And before you pummel me with your FFXII game case, allow me to explain. First of all, the characters don’t really evolve or develop in any way (with the possible exception of Ashe). Secondly, the storyline is too straightforward. There really aren’t any turns or twists to speak of. I don’t like to make comparisons, but Final Fantasy VI had a fabulous storyline by contrast. Each character had a back story, there were some awesome plot twists, and Kefka is by far one of the best villains the series has seen (oh, and the music was way better too).
Speaking of music, I did enjoy the musical score offered by XII. In a way, though, it feels too polished. The music took a serious dive with FFVIII, and started to improve with subsequent releases in the series, but I feel the music is a little too linear and repetitive by comparison. Again, it’s good, but I would love to hear more electric guitars and synthesizers in there.
As for the final battle, I was rather surprised. Most of the time, final dungeons in the FF series are rather involved, taking an extremely long time to complete. FFXII is the rare exception. The final dungeon is more of an air station, and it only takes a little under an hour (maybe even less) to navigate. The final battle is a little disappointing as well. We really don’t know Vayne as a character when we encounter him. At various points his menace was hinted at, but we never really got to see it in action. All in all, the world in FFXII feels a little too peaceful to be at turmoil.
One thing that the game does have going for it is the cinematics. Not that one would expect any less, but the cut scenes are definitely a pleasure to watch. The graphics are also quite pleasant.
The game is definitely not without its flaws, but it’s still worth checking out if you like the FF series. The characters were a little too one-dimensional for my liking, but it’s a pretty cool game. And it’s definitely more of a game than it is an experience.