I don't know about that - the opening sections (after the excellent into as you mentioned), are very slow, especially when you just have Vaan and Penelo trawling about the Giza Plains etc. But I think it picks up big time from the Garamscythe Waterways - specifically when you get Fran and Balthier to form your first proper party. I really enjoy that level, and it gets even better when you meet Ashe too.
The prison and the lightworks aren't handled as well as I'd like (as the AI for Basch when he is a guest and his lack of equipment are very irritating, causing him to die constantly, when he's actually one of the hardest characters - not the best way to reintroduce the character!). And the soldiers armied with guns in the prison can be a real pain too.
I really love Ba'Gamnan and his villainous cronies, so I really enjoyed the whole jaunt into the mines and the scrap with the pirates. I could definately have lived without the 'Vaan pretends to be Basch' sequence, but other than that, I really enjoyed that section of the game, and it snowballs quickly into the superb jail break on the Leviathan. By that point, FF12 is on a real roll, and is part of why I love it so much.
I mean, Judge Ghis is in that section, and he's an awesome character! But yeah, I agree totally with Fight in that whilst I wasn't sure about FF12 when I bought it, I came to regard it as one of the very best Final Fantasys. (I got into it pretty quickly actually, but after the intro, that bit where you're just knocking about with Vaan and Penelo is a real pain barrier to be overcome!)
I still get the shakes remembering the epic, epic fight I had with Yiazmat. Took me a whole afternoon, but I finally got the swine in the end. 50 million HP - 50 frickin million!
I've said that because I mean c'mon.
After the Epic, extreme, hardcore action and Dialogue. Your Character dies after seeing a full fledged backstabbing scene.
Then, the Hero is presented fighting 3 rats on a sewer...
It's like having frantic wild sex and then you're obliged to stop to have soup for dinner and forced to drink the soup with a fork instead of a spoon.
That's why I say the game picks up again when you finally meet Ondore, because that's when things get interesting again.
Well, I don't agree. I think the game picks up as soon as you recruit Balthier and Fran, see the rebel incursion against Vayne, meet Ashe in the sewers and embark on the rescue attempt for Penelo. I think the game has a very strong first half indeed - just not the very, very start (after the intro, but before the meeting of Balthier and Fran is deathly slow).
Now that you mention it, the very opening (with Reks) is told very well. It's fast-paced, dramatic, active, and even though you know your character's just a rookie, he's motivated to fight for his country, and because of certain circumstances, he's teamed up with older, experienced, tough, high-ranking soldiers. You get to see the power Basch can wield when he does his Quickening, and you feel like you're fighting with the real movers and shakers of the world. Even though Reks dies, he witnesses (what he thinks is) a betrayal, a scene where all that he's fought for has been undermined because of his supposed ally, a guy who has helped you and led you through the combat system. When Reks dies, the player feels that something powerful has just happened.
Then it abruptly switches to a scene in a sewer where Vaan is fighting rats. When I first played it, I recognized the jarring transition, but I just accepted this. As the player, you know you're shifting to a new character and a new situation, and the serious tone has been lifted to a much "lighter" one. The story continues to a scene on the street where Vaan is stealing a coinpurse from a city guard and getting criticized by his nagging female friend; essentially, a scene showing him as a streetrat (his last name is even Ratsbane, and the vermin imagery is very apropos; the wikipedia entry describes him as a street urchin). But despite a complete 180 degree turn in pacing, there is actually a structural reason for it. The bright sky and city, the playful music, and the juvenile behavior contributes to a completely different outlook on the political turmoil, from a perspective of a young soldier on the battlefield to a young adult orphan who feels powerless to fight for his ideals. Vaan wishes he could do something to drive the Archadians out, and he fights the only way in which he knows he can get away with it. He takes out his frustrations on the rats causing distress in the waterway. The rats in this opening scene are a reflection of Vaan himself; in the beginning, they're just a mild nuisance, but leave them ignored for too long and they can do some real damage, even take out a house and drive the inhabitants out. Similarly, he is ineffective at being anything other than a nuisance at first, but with his companions and experience he is able to help drive the Archadians out of Rabanastre and restore the rightful queen to her throne.
The parallels to Star Wars in the opening are impossible to ignore. Recall Star Wars: IV. A New Hope, which begins with a battle where the real movers and shakers (Darth Vader and Leia) are fighting for their own sides. Leia, although she doesn't engage in physical combat, undermines the Empire by sending two drone robots with the Death Star's structural blueprints and a message for help into space. Then we see the robots out in a desert in a comedic scene where C3PO is overly dramatic in complaining about how they're lost, while R2D2 makes more or less wisecracks (if memory serves me right, it's been a long time since I've seen it). The imagery is strikingly similar: a desolate spaceship where the dead bodies of the Rebellion abound (analogous to the dark, body-strewn corridors of the opening of FFXII), shifting abruptly to the bright, sandy, more primitive and worry-free Tatooine (analogous to Rabanastre). Also remember the opening role of Luke, who felt resentment toward the Empire but was too young and unable to fight back.
When I said the tone shifts to a much lighter one, I intentionally neglected to say something. The tone is lighter, but the undertones are much stronger. Rabanastre has been overtaken by Archadia, and this is the first time we see innocent civilians being harassed by the Empire. Despite the lighter air (again, thanks to imagery, music, and stage action), the undercurrents of hatred are much stronger, and the extent to which we see aggression against both Rabanastrans and Archadians is great. This is what makes it so bizarre when we see Rabanastrans applauding Vayne's speech, and why we actually side ideologically with Vaan when he voices his own meek opinion to Penelo.
I won't go into much more detail, suffice it to say that the very opening, with Reks, is the story's background. It happened in the past, and the transition to Vaan marks the present. But the transition in pacing is also used, I believe, to make a more emphatic mark when the action finally gets going. You can't start off with Vaan going balls out against Archadia because then there would be no character development. Just as Luke had to grow from a farmer to a Jedi, so too did Vaan have to mature from a hopeful streetrat to a sky pirate.
I have no problem with that - its just that the pace is *so* slow at the start. You only have Vaan for quite a while, and have to do some questing outside with just him. Its never much fun to play party based RPGs with less than a full party, and particularly when the Gambits system is such a big part of this game (it even has its own shop!). Eventually you get to include Penelo as well, but then you are sent out to Giza plains on a glorifed fetch and carry quest. Then its back to just Vaan again for the infilitration into the feast (which isn't very interesting until the attempted coup starts).
Its just far, far too long to have to wait before you get your first party in the waterways. I don't mind Vaan (certainly not as much as some people do), but having him and occasionally Penelo as your only characters for around 2 hours or so is a devastatingly bad decision to open the game with. Particularly as there was a lot of people who were really sore about Vaan replacing Basch as the main character (and Basch comes over very well indeed in the intro).
As for the Star Wars references, the game embraces them and wants to know that its doing that. One of the buildings in Archades is shaped like a Star Destroyer!
Yes, I agree that it's too long when you only have Penelo available, and the story is chugging along like a stalled car. Especially the whole sunstone/shadestone thing in Giza Plains. That felt like childish busywork and that it was completely capable of being omitted. If the game had left that as an option, and instead you wouldn't need a magicked stone to open up the path in the waterway, I think it would have been much better. So yes, it felt too long, and fighting generic wolves and running from shadestone to shadestone is monotonous and inevitably raises more questions than answers like, what is a shadestone, how does it power up a sunstone, and why is it needed to open up a secret passage? So yes, I agree.
I know that Star Wars is commonly referred to in this game, as it basically is the starting point for the plot. I just wanted to highlight the fact that most people don't have a problem with the change in pacing in A New Hope. The difference, though, is that the Luke Skywalker of FFXII is completely superfluous.
I suppose the intent with the scene switch was partly to throw a 'Hey, I just saw that guy stabbed and now he's alive and well with shorter hair, fighting rats or something?' to intrigue the player. It was kind of lost on me though, as I didn't notice that the characters looked the same - lol! That's my own ignorance I suppose, and the game just straight up tells you anyway soon enough, but yeah, there's no doubt that those early sections had problems.
Like I say, I don't actually mind Vaan that much. I've played enough JRPGs and seen enough main characters of his sort to get that annoyed about it by now. It seemed to be casting him as some sort of cross between Luke Skywalker, Jim Hawkins and Aladdin, and I was fine with that. Plus I enjoyed exploring Rabanastre and seeing what was going on etc etc. Its just that as time rolled on, and I had to do so much busy work as you correctly put it, hunting rogue tomatoes and rolling about looking for shadestones and other fluff, I was itching to get started on the real stuff.
And even if it was just a case of giving me Penelo on a more or less permanent basis during these sections, or maybe having Filo and Kytes as guests or something, I just wanted more characters than Vaan on his own. It was depressing beyond words to have Penelo join the party (which I was happy about), only to be sent on the Giza Plains trawl for stones (which got old quickly) and then have her leave the party again (audible groan of despair time). It seemed like the game was stuck in tutorial mode, and that's a concern that continued (in even worse fashion) with FF13. Square really need to up the pace, and give their gamers a little more credit - just give us all those options as quickly as possible, we'll work it out eventually!
Still, from when Balthier and Fran join, the game picks right up and I fell in love with it almost immediately from that point on. Better late than never, after all.
I'll agree, you can't, but I still think it's wasn't the right choice either.
Originally Posted by Olde
There are many other ways to introduce the player and develop the characters in situations that aren't as shifting as XII was.
Case of Final Fantasy Tactics, Where it starts in an assault as well, and then it shifts into an exposition on the turmoil that Ivalice was when Ramza was still in direct Contact with Delita. This time Ramza has 16 years old and his character is much more atuned with it's surroundings when comparing Vaan that he feels downright out of place.
The Other One is Vagrant Story, where it also starts with a full raid on the lands of a Duke were the church and a rebellious cult are involved. And your character, an Agent of the Parliament is set to investigate the situation. There are many turn of events during the raid, such as the apperance of a Dragon(that you actually fight) in a world that up to this moment implied that magical and mystical elements were said to be gone and forgotten by time. Your character is forced to chase the leader of the cult and he finds himself trapped in the Wine Cellar of a Colapsed and Abandoned City where he continues it's chase.
These two games were directed by the original Writer of XII and these games have a VERY POWERFUL Intro as XII had and they throw you fast into their respective storylines and characters without making the player to invest/waste his time on such downright pointless and Un-Fun MMO Type quests like gather the sunshine of crystals on Giza Plains.
The feel of what the game already exposed is not lost. Comparing to XII that right after the Intro, the feel shifts dramatically and it's very hard to roll with it for an average player.
The difference between Star Wars and XII is 1 or 2 Hours of Game time. So you see why I say it wasn't the right choice?
I see what you're saying and I agree with you. I haven't played either game you mentioned, so I can't really assess the ways they start off. But have played FFXII, multiple times, enough to know that the game is a more laid back, open-ended experience. FFXII appealed to a more MMO type gameplay, where you have lots of options right off the bat. Where they failed was the lack of any sort of discernible character, and the cause of this is probably the original writer's leaving the project.
Originally Posted by topopoz
So far we've been talking about a shift in character, persona, situation, and story. But it's hard not to see the change in open vs. closed experience in the beginning. Reks is basically running in a straight line to the goal, killing bad guys on his way - essentially, the 'hallway' feature of FFXIII. With Vaan, you are basically given a lot of time to explore Rabanastre from the get go. Yes, you begin killing three rats, but I think that is both a demonstration of his benevolence and metaphorical of his character. He didn't have to kill the rats, but we can infer they were disruptive to someone (Vaan says, "Time to clean house," and Kytes says, "I know who to call when something big comes along"). His aside that they are good practice for the desert is indicative of a gracious refusal to acknowledge it as a bother. And it's metaphorical because, as I said before, the vermin imagery is appropriate to his character as a scavenger. Right after this scene, you see some cutscenes and are allowed to explore the city, something not provided when you played as Reks.
I think I see where you're coming from. What you'd like to see is more story-relevant events immediately following the intro. You also criticize the side quests as being un-fun and pointless. I agree that they are irrelevant to the storyline and may be seen as tedious busywork, but to a certain extent, that's a good portion of Final Fantasy XII. If it's all storyline, though, you get FFXIII, and maybe that's your cup of tea, but it isn't mine. XII and XIII are simply unbalanced, two opposite extremes, neither of which are satisfying to me. I recognize the tedium of collecting rocks, powering up crystals, and killing palette-swapped animals. The only reason we think that it's especially bad in the beginning is because it's come right after a tense, story-driven moment. But we need to step back and recognize that that scene is the hook. The game can't maintain its momentum entirely, and I know that your criticisms come in the degree of the decline in momentum. I'm inclined to agree with you, but I think there's a good explanation for it (characterization, change of tone, metaphor, open-ended experience, etc.) and although I admit it was jarring and it may have affected the gameplay, I don't have much of a problem with it anymore.
The difference between Star Wars and XII is not just 1 or 2 hours of game time, but 150+ hours of game time. The point of XII wasn't to give the sense of a movie, but an open-world experience. That's why I think the developers can justify their decision to tone down the momentum. This is a consistent problem with the entire game: the plot doesn't seem to drive the characters, and it borders on the ridiculous when you completely halt the plot to kill giant palette-swapped monsters in an area you already played for some meager items. I think that we tend to see this as a problem in the first half because the first half is so good. But we have to recognize that it's apparent throughout the game, and is arguably an inevitable effect of making it a more sandbox type experience.
No, it's not that what bothered me specifically. And I didn't and won't play XIII probably, mainly because I'm not interested.
Originally Posted by Olde
It's how poorly handled is what REALLY bothered me. You are not given the option to explote the million things that the game offers on this point of the game. The FORCEDLY OBLIGES YOU to make a Downright, unnecessary, long and boring Korean MMO type of quest that it's about gather sunshine from crystals throughout the Giza Plains in order to get the story moving so the good stuff gets unlocked. And up to this point there isn't much else to do. That's why it's so Horrible. You have 2 characters only, so it isn't even worth grinding LP because when the rest of the characters join the party, you'll have to repeat the process. So the game literally stanks itself on a stupid quest. And there isn't Character Development, Metaphor or any other element that you've invoked. 2 or 3 Dialogues with Penelo on Giza Plains at the start an at the end of the Quest and that's it. What else there is to do that's worth the time? Almost nothing. You don't have the Monographs or the chance to gather Gil quickly to buy them, and even with the Monographs you can't explore yet the places where the mobs with good loot for Bazaar is available yet and even if you can explore them you are underleveled, unless you whore Dustia with Phoenix Down's. But is worth doing this without the rest of the Party? You see it's a Cycle. The game doesn't offer you the Chance to Save Some Time by completing extra stuff while doing this, because the doors are not opened yet.
That's related to the rest of the issues that XII have with it's gameplay. This a be the Random Trasure Chest system that affects even the Good treasures. But it's not the focus of this argument.
Originally Posted by Olde
But when Characterization, Change of Tone & Metaphor are poorly handled it is annoying. And the Open Ended Experiences are not fully available yet up to that point.
Originally Posted by Olde
I wasn't referring to the whole game literally dawg. It's the 2 hour gameplay gap between the Intro and the game putting you into more intresting and fun stuff to enjoy storywise and play with the gameplay content you pointed out.
Originally Posted by Olde
This is the often "Missed Appreciation" issue that XII gets. You see the Storyline in XII is not driven by our characters because it's not their story strictly speaking. The Story it's about Ivalice and how things resolve in a Grand Scale, that's why the focus is lost and it's hard to follow it, hence it's confusing. Although the characters may have their own inner thrives and reasons to do what they do and are not well explored, they're just little shreds of the story, not the story themselves. And this is because it's very thematic.
Originally Posted by Olde
The Narration is poorly handled, that's for sure. But for the Plot not Drive the Characters is because the story is not about them specifically but about the World they're living.
I wasn't bothered by this that much, Although I agree that after the Death of the Gran Kiltias the game reaches another Climax and the story stops again in the same fashion the After-Prologue portion.
Originally Posted by Olde
It's a little justified in a sense that the characters have to travel A LOT in order to get from Bur-Omisace to Archadia safely. And at this Point the game has at least 85% of the extra content Unlocked.
EDIT: This is my 1777 Post. =D
I'd go along with most of what Top says here. My only point would be that the extent to which the characters are developed is not really that much worse than most FF games, or RPGs in general. Of the 6 characters, only Ashe, Basch and Balthier get all that much development and narrative screen time, but as they are the main characters, that's in line with most other RPGs, I would say.
The problem lies in the fact that Vaan was billed as the main hero when he plainly isn't (Ashe, Basch and Balthier all share top billing IMO). Meanwhile, even by the standards of FF, which sees an obvious imbalance in how much the various tiers of characters say and do, Vaan, Penelo and Fran get basically nothing. Vaan gets the most out of these 3, but again because he is supposedly the main character, it never really seems that way. But FF always does this to a certain extent (and it is definately not alone in doing it either). Many characters from all the games, have hardly anything to say or do in the final analysis, and have far less screen time than the others. FF8 is a good example, where after Disc 2 say, its Squall and Rinoa all the way, and the others don't really do anything at all anymore. Or take Freya, Amarant, Quina etc from FF9 - what do they do that is of any significance after the 2nd Disc?
Its the fact that there is no obvious Main Character who is doing 90% of the plot related talking, doing the usual rallying the team when they are down etc etc, that causes the lack of focus. Its supposed to be a truly team effort this time, but they still adhered to that same tier system, where even with only 6 characters, they still gave far more attention to certain characters over the others.
I kind of felt like FFXII was really more like FF RTS. It took place in a different sub-universe, all the original summons became airships, replaced with big, unmemorable overly-designed summons. I had to fight battles to learn to equip a shoe. Not really a true Final Fantasy in my book, but then again nothing was after XI
On a completely unrelated topic...
One of the biggest problems I had with getting into this game was all the similar names of people and locations. Like: Nabradia, Nabudis, Nabreus, Nalbina. Did they really need FOUR names of places that began with Na? Seriously, how is anyone supposed to remember those?
S-E really went overboard with the similar character names. There's Al-Cid and Cid, Ashelia and Amalia, Bergan and Ba'Gammnan, Gramis and Ghis, Larsa and Lamont, Rasler and Raminas, Rasler and Vossler, Reddas and Reks, even Vaan and Vayne! Why do the names have to be so fucking similar? It's bullshit!
But Amalia and Lamont were cover names for Ashelia and Larsa, so it's probably a good thing that they sounded similar. I totally agree with the four Na's though, my first time playing I was totally confused with the story because of things like that.
Originally Posted by Olde
I have been watching hc bailey play FFXII, and i wouldn't play it often if i had it.He said it could take 80 hours to complete, do its a really long game.One thing i like, is the real time combat.This seems like a game you need a guide for, because of the amount of secrets to missions, rare monsters, strategies and rare drops.I am considering in buying it.From what i've seen, i like it way more than FFXIII.
You can get a new copy for around $10USD in America. Get it because it's worth it. I like it A TON more than XIII; it's nothing like XIII.
They're pretty much exact opposites - 12 is all about free roaming exploration, loot gathering, monster slaying etc. Gameplay wise, its excellent, the combat is fun, there's tons of stuff to find and do and kill - its just the main quest that has some problems. Its mostly fine, but since its director was taken ill and had to leave halfway through, the second half is pretty dodgy.
The way I see it, after the beginning Vaan no longer is the 'main character' so much as you're mostly playing the game through his point of view as he witnesses history unfolding. He's a little punky, nothing special. Emphasis on 'nothing special', like a perhaps slightly above-average guy being dragged into all this. Which is pretty nice in its own way.
I admire Basch - how often does one see a character channel his shame and the burdening knowledge that a nation he faithfully served viewing him as a monstrous betrayer into strength? I wonder how things could have gone if he were still the main character with an alternate storyline - not much to do while languishing in the cell in the canon XII plot until Vaan & co. stumble by, after all.
And for all the people who are outraged that there was no kissing - hey, it's NOT the law to include a romance. Many good stories out there DO exist without this sort of thing, after all.
More or less, I love that FFXII is so HUGE. I know I'm glad to have played it to completion.
The judges were so awesome.
I think the best part of this game was the replay value.