Tuesday, November 21, 2006

FFXII: Gambits

Damn there is alot of crap to manage in a deep RPG game. For alot of folks (myself included), that's part of the appeal, the resource management. But on the more epic scales of the larger games, the prospect of 40+ hours of selection minutiae is not so fun. Especially with combat, which is usually the focus of all strategic command allocations. Some games give you the "auto combat" option, which does help, but can be limited. Nothing pisses me off more than what the computer thinks mages should do. Spend 30mp to do 3K of damage to a foe with only 500hp? Grrrrr.

Holy fuck I am a geek.

Over the years auto combat got a little smarter, Most recently in thee-e-excellent Dragon Quest VIII. DQ8 gave players the option to not just auto attack, but had a little checklist on how to do so. For example, you could tell certain characters not to use magic unless you took over-- very handy when fighting the throng of random-but-lower-class enemies along the road. But of course here we are again with FFXII, and just when you think they couldn't give you any more to manage... let me tell you about "Gambits."

Gambits are essentially macros. They consist of a command and a target, and you can set them for each character to get on a sort of auto pilot for combat. But oh, were it only that simple!

  • Gambits have to be bought as Licenses (see previous posts), so if you want your character to have multiple Gambits, they need to have multiple Gambit Licenses!

  • Once you have a gambit, you have to buy the damn specifications! If you want to have your mage's Gambit to always cast Fira, not only do you have to have the license and own Fira but you have to buy the appropriate specifier! Thankfully, Gambits are the cheapest thing in the game-- sort of-- there are hundreds of Gambit specifiers. Not all at once, tho, they are doled out and offered as the game progresses.

  • These specifier things come in all kinds of variations that I don't want to start listing, but they are pretty damn, um, specific. So let's see if I can get this across. The easiest Gambit to make is an auto heal: Give your white mage a gambit that says "If any character on the field falls below 50%hp, cast Cure on that character." Easy enough, yeah?

  • So then you get access to more and more Gambits, and start chaining them together. Cast Awake on any character that has been put to sleep. Target nearest foe with >5000hp. Steal from any target with critical hp. Cast Drain on any target with magic higher than whatever. And all this is offered in 10% increments for what I can only imagine is a thorough attempt at getting your characters to play just like you want them to if you weren't actually playing them.

So it would seem that all this Gambit business puts as much work into setting them up as it would for you to make all the individual decisions on the combat field. This is kinda true... as I'm constantly going in and tweaking my gambits for multiple situations... however I do think it's faster than imputing commands for every single round of combat and I know I don't even have the good Gambits yet! Like the ones that automatically find a foe's elemental weakness and exploit it with offensive magic. And once you get a good flow set up, you can just go out there and start hunting. You can turn them on or off any time, directly from combat, which is good when a particularly tough fight comes up, or a boss. But it sure as hell is nice to have a healer taking care of business in the heat of battle when you can't always keep an eye on everyone's hit points.

To offer this in a RPG, let alone a console RPG, is either pretty damn progressive or about freakin' time. But like the PC counterparts and MMORPGs, macros are an essential part of managing an insane number of commands at one's disposal. Gambits are just another way of giving you control and heading into the game the way you're most comfortable. Will it stick around in future versions of FF? I can't say. But I am getting a kick out of deciphering its possibilities in this one.

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