Videogaming's premier adventure series finally returns to PS2 and the result is, quite frankly, one of the best adventures ever to hit the machine.
Final Fantasy XII combines mindmeltingly good graphics with near perfect gameplay mechanics and an absorbing, enjoyable storyline. It's a glorious game that stands alone amongst today's PS2 releases in being created with no compromises - everything about it is fully fleshed out, coherent, totally playable and completely sublime.
Set in the world of Ivalice, FFXII tells the story of the kingdom of Dalmasca, annexed by the Rome-like imperial power of Archadia. The game begins with a young thief, Vaan, seeking to liberate Dalmascian relics from a nearby palace - a course of action that brings him into contact with the insurgency, bent on liberating the realm from its oppressive masters.
IN WITH THE NEW
In terms of actual gameplay, the adventuring elements are not far removed from previous FF epics - it's still essentially a case of moving from location to location, accomplishing tasks, finding items, and talking to key people in order to further the storyline.
Combat however, is pretty much allnew, with just a passing nod to the gameplay system used in the online FFXI. It's still turn-based, but with a realtime spin - your characters move at will, but each has a certain 'charge time' during which they cannot attack. Charge times differ, of course, and with multiple party members in your group and differing amounts of enemies, keeping track can be tough. This is where 'gambits' come in - a brilliant gameplay addition that sets rules for your characters to follow when they act autonomously during combat. For example, you can set a rule whereby a healing spell is cast when any character gets below 50 per cent health.
Or you can specify another gambit which concentrates all attacks on your character's choice of target. Later on in the game you'll have access to up to 12 gambits per character, with different gambit options unlocked as you progress through the game.
The best thing about Final Fantasy XII is the composition of the story and the way the lead characters all interact together. The plot itself brings all of the key players together in the first few hours of gameplay and gradually builds their stories, drawing the player in and building a coherent, intelligent storyline.
Square-Enix is at the top of its game here in that everything combines to drive the story onwards. The world of Ivalice feels believable due to the incredible detail in the graphics and the diversity in the non-player characters. All the main protagonists are deep and rounded, thanks to the wonderful graphics, animation, excellent dialogue and exceptional voice-work.
In short, it's hard to find fault with a game as wonderfully designed and executed as this. It's an example of master storytellers at the height of their powers, and despite the shadow of its illustrious heritage, Final Fantasy XII is by far and away the best game in the series yet.
So good, it manages to turn the heads of people who have never, ever visited Games Workshop.
- Deep, rich storyline
- Some of the best visuals on PS2
- Brilliant combat system
- All-new - not just a sequel