So, 3D third-person graphics and real-time 3D battles, plus Gambits are the main differences between this and previous Final Fantasy
games. But what about the game itself? Well, that follows familiar ground. You play the part of a character caught up in events beyond your control as they unfold around you, this time, in a land that has been defeated in an epic battle. What is unusual is that after a very long, quite confusing and very impressive set of intro animations, you play the game first as one character - Reks - who after a few playable scenes is (it seems) killed. And then after a little more introductory inter-amble, you start again as another character - Vaan.
Unlike other Final Fantasy
games I have played (all of them since VII
), FInal Fantasy XII
does not enable you to stumble headlong into the over-arching narrative-lead adventure. You can undertake the first challenge, finding and defeating the Rogue Tomato without much problem. As you do this you will be inducted into a clan of mercenary bounty hunters, and this is your best way of earning Gil - the financial currency of Final Fantasy
. I say financial currency, because your progress through the game will require you to earn experience and licence points too if you are to be able to make any use of the Gil you find, steal and earn.
With Gil you can buy weapons, armour, magic, tecknics and Gambits. But without LP - licence points earned by defeating enemies - you will not be able to obtain the licences that enable you to use or equip these tools. Without experience points, you will not "level up"; levelling up increases the amount of health points and magic points your character is capable of having.
Battles reduce your health points, so the more you have the tougher you are. Equally, casting spells in battle reduces your magic points, so a bigger number to start with makes you tougher, from a spellbinding point of view.
Gil are not plentiful in FFXII
; you will find some in urns that lay around the place but the rest you will have to steal, or earn by tracking down and defeating adversaries that you get from the Notice Boards spread around Rabanastre - the "home town" of the game. When you defeat enemies, you will be awarded items such as their pelts (for animal foes) or other objects. You must judiciously decide whether to keep these if they will aid you in your quest, or to sell them and buy things that will be of use.
There is also a fairly easy task in the Giza Plains (which lay to the south of Rabastre) that can be completed before you have levelled up too much. This challenge involves collecting solar energy which has been collected in Dark Crystals, and transferring it into a Shadestone, which then transforms into a Sunstone. You must complete this task before you can gain entry into the castle, and you must traverse the Garamsythe Waterway to get to the point of entry to the castle.
If, after defeating the Rogue Tomato, you set off straight into the narrative-driven adventure, you will quickly find yourself in the Garamsythe Waterway, and then in the Nalbina Dungeons. Both of these locations are tough to get out of until you have levelled up your character by some considerable amount, and learned to use Gambits effectively. You can go back to the Sandsea Tavern, and select another quarry from the Notice Board - but the second one, a mutant wolf is a much more formidable opponent than the Rogue Tomato.