The death of Lord Rasler Helos Nabradia was but one of
many tragedies to befall the Kingdom of Dalmasca.
The air of hope that had surrounded Her Royal Highness
Princess Ashe's Wedding was now quite lost: Dalmasca
had been set adrift, at the mercy of history's restless tides.
At this time, the great empires struggled for dominion over Ivalice:
Archadia in the east, and Rozarria, the west.
The invasion of the kingdom of Nabradia was Archadia's first step in its westward march.
With Lord Rasler's beloved homeland consumed by the hell-fires
of war, it seemed clear that Archadia would soon mete out a like fate to Dalmasca.
The fall of the fortress at Nalbina tolled the
destruction of the greater part of Dalmasca's forces.
A counter-attack was mounted by the order of
the Knights of Dalmasca, ever brave and faithful, but
against the martial might of the Archadian armies,
they stood little chance of victory.
Indeed, their defeat was to be absolute.
Soon thereafter, Archadia came forward offering terms of
peace. Or, as one might rather put it, terms of Dalmasca's surrender.
Lord Raminas, King of Dalmasca--and my dear friend--had no choice
but to accept these terms. It was, thus, only with reluctance that
he set out for Nalbina fortress--now under Archadian
occupation--to affix his seal to the Emperor's treaty of peace.
The King had scarce departed his royal city of Rabanastre
when the remnants of the Order made their return.
And not a moment too soon, for a terrible revelation awaited them.
The treaty would be signed with steel and writ in royal blood.
Memoirs of Mqs Halim Ondore IV, Chapter 12: Of the Fall of Kingdoms.
When I got to FF XII, games didn't have as big of an impact on me, as they did in earlier years of my life. I really have trouble accurately placing it. This has already been a problem for a longer time, but here, I just don't get the time. I think it was around 2007. Together with the borrowed PS2, including FF X, I think. But I didn't beat it, back then. Later, I bought my own PS2 and hunted around for all these old JRPGs that I missed or simply wanted for my own, and FF XII was one of these. This time, I beat it.
That's at least how I remember it. To be honest, I can't say if this is really how it went. It probably doesn't matter, though.
I did enjoy the game quite a lot. Being able to roam the dessert, not having an abstract world map, but a continous world, felt great, as did the offered way of having monsters directly on the map, without any screen transitions. No random battles! I never got the hang of the gambits. I did put in some very basic ones, like attack on sight and heal when < 25% HP, something like that. But in the end, I just did all the inputs on my own. I never understood the complaint, about the game playing itself, for that matter. I mean, I kind of do, but I still stand by the idea, that you can mainly play the game like earlier FFs.
I have only ever played one MMO, LOTRO, and that was after FF XII. So the whole way it worked was new to me, and the scope of Rabanastre especially, was new to me, it blew me away. I loved running around that city, finding an absurd amount of NPCs, most of whom I couldn't even talk to. Rabanastre felt alive.
After realizing, that I couldn't do some of the hunts when I got to them, I simply ignored them, stashing them away for the post-game. Where I did most of them, but many were positioned way earlier, and they felt completely pointless. I remember not beating Bahamut (or Deathgaze? The one you meet while flying on an airship), that fast chocobo, Gilgamesh and the one with the insane amount of HP. Simply ran out of steam and motivation, at some point.
While I didn't do anything with the Gambit system, I abused the hell out of the overdrive attack. Every boss I met was simply annihilated by a chain of those blasts. I plan on not using them, this time. My memory tells me, that they trivialized everything. I also DO plan to at least try to use the Gambit system. No promises here, though.
I loved this world, Ivalice, but I never liked the dungeons. I remember them being a lot of copy-paste corridors, pretty to look at, but horribly boring in layout. Add to that, that I wanted to spend time outside, under the sky, instead of some dusty, boring tomb. Plus, the randomized items made looking for them so absolutely pointless and demotivating. In my 1.5 playthroughs, I once found a pretty good bow for Fran. The one and only item of interest. Aside from that, just money, potions and knots of rust.
Funnily enough, I didn't mind Pharos. I mean, I didn't like the dungeons, but they were just part of JRPGs, so I accepted them, and Pharos didn't feel different. They were all way too long.
I remember being disappointed in the lack of race diversity in the cast. Didn't change. Give me a team of a moogle, a seek, a banga, a nou-mu, a vierra and, maybe, one hume. Vaan could be a moogle (I could totally see him that way), and Penelo a seek. Something like that.
But enough of that. I did enjoy my playthroughs a lot, but I have trouble talking about the good points. It just felt good to experience that world, which is often hard to quantify, especially when it is so long ago.
I love, that the game introduces us into this world, by showing us the main points of a break in the History of Dalmasca, a victim of a bigger war. And how we are promised to look at this state in-between.
And probably find out, that something super important is inside this small state, or something. Whatever, we will get to that. But it is a nice way of introducing us into this setting, and making it clear, that this world isn't just a random fantasy world. It has a History, it has nations with borders, that fight wars where hundreds, thousands of people are involved.
The cutscenes showing this didn't do that much for me. Thankfully, Ivalice looks clear enough like its own world, but it still felt too much like a random fantasy movie. But thinking about it, I feel like they put a bit of weight, reality, into this place.
We do have magic here. But it is mundane, a tool known by some people, and used or not. There is also advanced technology, with people living in a not-industrialized world. These two points always strike me in some way, making me think it should be different - with that level of technology, there should be more of it. That there isn't, will always make me feel, like we are in a post-apocalyptic world. Similar to FF X, where technology exists, but people don't know how to use it anymore (it's more complicated there, but you get my point).
Atmospherically, everything is amazing. I love, that the information about the setting comes from the memoires of a person in this world (I think, one of the guest characters, maybe?). The menues, the artstyle in general, everything looks like a place.
You know, how I mentioned that the worlds in the FF games got more and more refined? This here feels like a culmination of that, where we have such a clear vision for a part of the world, that it is all we can focus on.
Our first bit of gameplay is through Reks, who we will later learn is Vaans brother. He, under Basch, will help to make the king stop signing the peace treaty. It's not much more than a tutorial for how the moving through a dungeon, including fighting, works. I don't even know what to say about this new battle system, at least for now. It is extremely simple to just pick up, it seems to me.
The fortress looks like a real one, if only focusing on the artstyle. But aside from that, it immediately starts to feel like a connection of hallways. I get that we are here with a specific goal, but I think later dungeons aren't any better? And rooms are either inaccessible, or bland and nondescript? We'll see.
I do like, that the machines that Archadia uses, have old FF monster names, and that the first of these machines we destroy is the Tonberry.
Reks falls, of course, betrayed by Basch, who also killed the king, who he considers a traitor, for wanting to sign the peace treaty. Yeah, I do remember the twist at the very end of the game. I'm curious if it really comes so much out of left field as I remember.
I wonder, what was the real Baschs plan? Not accepting the treaty would just make sure that Dalmasca would lose all souvereignty, as it did, in the end. There simply was no choice. The false Basch has a different motive, of course, so acting that way makes sense. And, I guess, it already shows that Vayne has a different, unclear motive, to get directly to Dalmasca.
Of course, soldiers and citizens might simply think in terms of honor and freedom, and maybe there was still some hope that Dalmasca would be able to fight back? It's hard to say. I get where Basch is coming from, it just seems hopeless to me.
A point of note: Reks is still 17. And Basch makes clear, that he is way too young for being a soldier, and potentially dying, especially with a brother left behind. War Is Bad, and simply destroys.
We also learn, that princess Ashe committed suicide, after learning about Dalmascas defeat.
You know what? I really like this setup, for Basch and Ashe.
Two years later, we finally get to Vaan, killing some rats. There isn't too much unexpected to him, but enough to make him a likeable character. Him wanting to become something bigger, than just a regular, down-trodden citizen. Sailing the skies, in absolute freedom, which is a very, very FF thing to want. But also having this heart of gold, stealing from soldiers who want to steal from a merchant. Or maybe not heart of gold, I'm not clear if he actually wanted to keep that money, if Penelo hadn't talked to him.
The city, Rabanastre, has been taken over by Archadian troops, and the soldiers act like they own the place. Most former citizens, except for the rich, have been driven underground. And once more, we have the motive of the rich (rich Dalmascans) and powerful (the Archadians) living not only in the upper parts of the city, but also in the sunlight. And while the regualar Dalmascans can get out of the sewers, they still live in a place where the sun never reaches down.
I feel like there isn't much to Penelo, at this point, but we are still at the beginning. I do like the dynamic between her and Vaan, feeling like siblings, with her not really agreeing with his ways, but clearly also not being really opposed to them. Mainly, she seems scared for his safety.
Like I remembered, Rabanastre is a great place, one that feels real and lived in, and it's a joy to move around here. Tons of attention have been put into the NPCs, not only the important ones like Migelo (who has a great design), but also ones that you can only see, like a laughing Seek.
A new consul is supposed to appear today, and Migelo was ordered to prepare the banquet. There are problems with that, though, as a monster who I will just refer to as a killer tomato, makes trouble for a courier. A nice introduction to the Mob system.
I remember spending a lot of time in dungeons, and even when not, the overworld might look nicer to me, but it still works like more dungeon. In this regard, the game feels very, very old-school. Together with less direct story and less cutscenes (at least I remember it that way, the start has more then enough of those), it feels more like a dungeon crawler than any FF in a long time. Fittingly, instead of having an extended minigame, like Tetra Master or Blitzball, we just get some especially hard-to-kill monsters. Fitting, considering we are doing a single-player MMO.
I love, how there is this built-in achievement system, that will fill up a room with all kinds of characters, if you achieve something. The monster catalogue is, of course, great, and I'm looking forward to filling it out, and learning more about the world that way.
Before getting out into the desert, I talk to all kinds of people. Including a Bangaa, who asks me to give something to his colleague, who is stuck outside the city walls. We do, and get nothing. I really like this, having such side-quests that are really small, offer no reward, and are just there for, essentially, role-playing, and maybe a bit of world building.
Out in the dessert, the first thing we see is a shot of a dinosaur hunting a bunch of wolves, and then later being able to see these creatures fighting each other.
As everyone else, I attacked the t-rex, the first time I played this game. This time, I don't. It's still really cool.
Being here is awesome. Despite being essentially a giant dungeon area, I love hunting around for monsters, and simply slaying the wildlife here. Peaceful (cactuars) or not (wolves). And I defeat the killer tomato with relative ease.
Back inside, we see another cutscene, the parade of Vayne Solidor. He will be the new consul, ruling over Rabanastre. His speech is pretty good, very well calculated, and pretty clever for a JRPG antagonist. Like, the citizens are still mad, of course, being treated as second-class people in their own city. And not wanting to be ruled by another nation. But they fall for Vaynes bullshit, how their king wanted peace, and how it is completely up to them to bring this peace. By not hating their oppressors anymore.
Instead of, you know, stopping to oppress this country. Really icky speach. Yeah, the defenders prolong the war, by defending their place.
There is more, about Vaan wanting to sneak into the palace and steal some money, but I stopped the main story here. Instead, I slayed Dexter, the second Mob. A giant wolf.
And, for the first time, I managed to do it without Penelo. First, killing all the wolves around. I was lucky enough to have one of Dexters two sidekicks on its own, being able to kill that one, too, without getting Dexters attention. Then I made a save-state. This was just, so I wouldn't have to redo stuff. I'm not starting to use them inside battles.
The battle was still hard, at least the last part. Killing he other wolf, and taking away around 1/2 of Dexters HP was easy. Just use a bunch of potions, and it worked out. But then, Dexter would summon another wolf, and would use some attack that did around 100 HP, maybe more. It killed Vaan way too often, with his 130 max HP. The one time I won, I made sure to be fully healed, and then, after that brutal attack, hit Dexter two more times, to kill him. It worked.
Not really complicated, as the systems aren't open enough, and I only have one party member. But still, that felt good, when it worked out.
Oh, a detail I really like is the automatic regeneration of MP, when walking around. Really helps, in making magic something that can be used in regular battles.
Anyway, that's it for now. Next time, I will probably die against the next mob, and try to get into the castle.