Yeah, I know I said I wouldn’t talk about Final Fantasy XII anymore, but after completing the Shadowseer hunt, I don’t know what forces could stop me from ranting on.
Ah, the Pharos of Ridorana. Visually, it’s one of the more stunning locations in the game. The Pharos is one of those majestic towers with seemingly unending depth (or rather, height, as the case may be). I’m reminded somewhat of the Fanatic’s Tower in Final Fantasy VI. The tower was seemingly endlessly tall, and restricted your use of attacks. In fact, it forced you to fight with magic alone. This is remarkably similar to the Pharos: the ascent also restricted your party of physical attacks, magicks or techniks. The main difference being that you got to choose how you wanted to be limited.
The Pharos is also similar to the Fanatic’s Tower in that it is quite monotonous. The Pharos is perhaps a little more interesting, but once you get to the Penumbra (and floors below) – the chief subject of this post – it gets quite repetitive.
But I digress. The Penumbra: an area only accessible after completing the various storyline elements of the Pharos (if I’m not mistaken). In its depths await swarming level 50 encounters, tragically monotonous puzzles, and otherwise annoying level design. Although the developers do provide you with a small map of the area, they decided to blur it out with static. Not that this should come as any surprise, since there are many areas later in-game where this is true.
The floor is basically a circle with four rooms at set intervals. Each room needs to be lit with the correct number of black orbs for you to get access to the floors below. This wouldn’t be so bad, except that black orbs are a little harder to come by than you might think; especially when you end up needing over 160 of them (in total). Each room is a gateway to a larger area, where you are swarmed by enemies (oh, and these areas aren’t lit all that well; you have to place the correct number of black orbs in the pedestals before you can really see in these rooms). Granted, there isn’t always much of an incentive to explore these rooms, but occasionally you do come across some nice treasures (I found an Ultima Blade). Of course, you sort of have to go into these rooms anyway, if you’re going to gather more black orbs.
What really grinds me is that there are another two floors exactly like this one. Each floor contains increasingly more encounters, and each floor requires more black orbs to proceed. My main characters were all over level 73, and I still died twice in my attempts to reach the Shadowseer at the bottom floor. The seer wasn’t terribly difficult to defeat, but getting to him was annoying. The Pharos is definitely going up there with the Great Crystal as one of the more annoying parts of the game.