Thursday, November 16, 2006

FFXII: Licenses

Character modification in FF games is handled in a few different ways. In the base rules of RPGs, you kill enemies and gain experience. After N number of experience you level up, up go your stats, health, strength, etc. Rinse and repeat, a stair-stepping process that allows one's party to continually tackle harder and harder foes. For some games, that's about it, for others you spend your experience in certain areas, allowing characters to wean towards thievery, magic, fighting, or what have you

FF games are known to employ some extra, intricate matrix to dispense such abilities. Far beyond the act of simply spending points, these systems are games unto themselves, strategies of spending needed to get the most out of what is offered. Back in the early days of FF this was handled by the much favored "Jobs" system, setting a new trend and numerous copies across the genre. The milestone of FF7 on the Playstation introduced "Materia," weapon bound enhancers of all nature. My favorite game of the series, FF8, put forth the seethingly lucious "Junction System" which tied traits of elemental guardians to the characters which marked them-- dark pacts of power joyously employed by party members.

Each of the prior ultimately became eclipsed by Final Fantasy X's "Sphere Grid." It was a work of art as visual as it was strategic. Points were spent across a gargantuan labyrinth of jeweled spheres and pathways, some leading to the black arts of offensive magic, others paths of healing and enhancing. Still others lead to proficiency in defense, swordsmanship, and evasion. Each character began in one area of the grid and spiraled outward into new ones, the rewards eagerly awaiting along the way. Still other bounuses allowed one to "jump" the grid and land in another character's area to start anew. With a well plotted path I was able to lead Yuna to complete her sphere area mastery of white magic and then jump to black, effectively making her a destructive force a tear shy of godhood. Coupled with Lulu's own sphere of black magic and each augmented by Doublecast, it was at my discretion to rain down insurmountable fires of heaven on any unfortunate enemy in my path.

Here now we come to FFXII, and "Licenses." And the system may have been trumped again. With all prior FF games, characters were still basically placed in their boxes and nurtured as such. You had the brawler, the white mage, the black mage, the theif... each could expand their skills but they were well worked into areas of expertise. With FFXII, Squaresoft appears to have removed all shackles. They still plotted out a massive switchbox of skillsets, but this time have pronounced, "Here you go folks, here is everything. Develop any character any way you want."

A party of all swordsmen? There it is. Three white mages, three black? Here you go. This is the beauty and overwhelming freedom of licenses. On a Hearst Castle-esque marbled checker table lies every ability available in the game, all you have to do is spend your license points to unlock them. LP, btw, earned in single digits from defeating enemies in addition to experience gained. And it is addictive as all get out!

So I'm getting deep into the game, and have amassed much of this LP and have been spending accordingly. To whom have I bestowed gifts of what nature? More to come.

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