Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age
PC, PS4 | $50 | WWW.FINALFANTASYXII.COM The smartest game in the series has finally made it to PC.
Dalmasca has been invaded by the forces of Archadia and it’s up to a couple of street urchins, a resistance leader, a knight, a sky pirate and a rabbit lady to save the realm. There’s an airship and Chocobos — so far, so Final Fantasy — but look past the iconography and you’ll find the boldest, most inventive game of the series, powered by a weighty squad-based RPG system and remastered to run at high resolutions on PC.
After a brief scene-setting prologue, you start the game in control of Vaan, a charmless teen from the streets of Dalmasca. He’s hitting rats in a sewer alone and seems determined to give you the worst possible introduction to FFXII’s world and systems. As you guide him around town and into the surrounding deserts to hunt monsters, you pick up companions like his streetwise pal, Penelo, and the fantastic sky pirate Balthier. Once you have a full squad, the combat system slowly reveals itself, and the fun can truly begin. Fighting happens seamlessly as you wander around open areas — no separate battle scenes here. When an enemy attacks, everyone draws their weapons, then you’re free to give commands to any party member, which they execute as soon as their cooldown timer has expired.
FFXII isn’t really a game about micromanaging individual actions, but rather a design challenge in which you tailor the party’s AI to turn it into a selfsustaining death ball that rinses dungeons with deadly efficiency. You edit each individual’s behaviour between battles with the Gambit system. This looks like a list of commands which you can customise and then drag around to create an order of priority. You can buy new commands from shops, too. The License Board system adds to the appeal, allowing you to cast any character in any battlefield role. Together, this makes developing a party a satisfying exercise. Even though Balthier turns up with a gun and Vaan has a knife, you’re free to throw out the game’s idea for each fighter entirely.
XII’s greatest problem is that it takes so long to get good. The remaster counters this with a fast-forward mode that lets you double or quadruple the speed of the action. This brute force gets you through the duller intro dungeons quickly, and clips hours of grinding. If you approach XII as a vehicle for party experimentation, it’s easy to fast-forward to the quality extracurricular stuff, like the hunting lodge that lets you fight through a series of intense monster battles.
If you like theorycrafting, clever levelling systems and lavish worlds, this could easily be your new favourite Final Fantasy.
Fear the might of the leather- strapped BDSM owl!