When Final Fantasy XII first came out back in 2006, it launched to critical acclaim but divided many of its core audience. While some praised its unique mechanics and called it a monumental achievement, others loathed all the changes made to the formula. Now Final Fantasy XII has been fully remastered for the PS4, incorporating many changes only available in the international version, which was never released in English.
The biggest change in the Zodiac Age comes in the form of the Zodiac job system. There are twelve license boards in the game and each member of the cast can specialise in two. Each board lets you unlock the ability to equip different types of armor, cast spells or use techniques. Summons, stat upgrades and much more are all a part of the board as well. Players can select from multiple jobs such as a knight or a white mage, and can combine any two jobs to cover the other’s weakness. For example, you can combine a black mage with a tank, thereby allowing you to wear heavy armor and increase your HP without sacrificing your abilities as a damage dealer.
Combat in Final Fantasy revolves entirely around gambits. This is a cause and effect system which lets you set your party to perform specific actions whenever its conditions are met. It is very similar to the one found in Dragon Age: Origins. For example, you can set your white mage to heal any party member with less than 50 per cent hp or make your black mage use fire magic whenever they encounter an enemy weak to that element. Then you can order these gambits so that the action at the fourth place does not take place until the first three conditions have all failed. As such, you can set up your party in such a way that they have a solution to every problem you might face. The game comes with the option to make it run at 2x or 4x speed, and its incredibly satisfying to turn your group into merciless killing machines that can take down bosses without you ever pressing a button.
This isn’t to say that the combat is fully automated, as during multiple boss fights I had to carefully micromanage my party’s actions based on aspects such as status ailments and unique boss mechanics. Its an extremely satisfying system that rewards players for planning ahead.
But even with all these changes to gameplay, this is still the same game and with that the same problems. The story is still incredibly boring, with one of the dullest casts I’ve encountered in a JRPG. There is barely any character development or interaction, resulting in sections where the party members don’t speak for three-four hours at a stretch. It is also not a great fit if you’re looking for a focused game, as it lets you free and allows you to explore the vast world at your own pace. But for those who love exploring, the game has a massive amount of side content for you to tackle.
Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age is indeed the definitive version of the game. Being able to play at 2x speed as you watch your party kill anything that moves in mere moments is extremely satisfying. All of the problems with its story and characters still exist, but should not stop you from giving this title another chance....