I have to be completely honest - I’m quite impressed with FFXII. Granted, I’ve only logged in about 8 hours into the game, but with only a few exceptions, it’s been a fairly compelling experience.
First off, my complaints. I hate the main character design. The supporting cast isn’t too bad, but the main character looks like a baroque version of Disney’s Aladdin. I don’t know what Japanese anime artists’ obsession with showing male midriffs is, but it doesn’t fly over here. Also, the way they’ve drawn his face, it makes it look like he’s either wearing white eye shadow or there’s constantly a spotlight on him or something. I know they are just emulating the way the character was drawn by the artist, but it just doesn’t work for me.
In addition, gameplay balancing. For example, while the Hunt system provides a nice set of MMO-esque side quests, there is little to no indication of how powerful the creature you are hunting is. I’ve completed 4 hunts so far and I was able to finisht he first two just with my main character alone, but any attempt to kill the last two without a party in tow ended in absolute failure. In a game like WoW, for example, when you accept a quest, you can tell the difficulty based on the color of the quest name. No such breakdown in FFXII, which makes things frustrating.
Also, some monsters that you randomly come across in the outdoor areas can kill you in a single hit. There’s a dinosaur-like creature that isn’t KOS, but out of curiosity, I tried attacking it. I was dead in less than half a second. And, of course, this being a console JRPG, save points are few and far between, so I had to reboot quite a ways back. Again, there’s very little indication as to the relative strength of the monster (the manual says that the monster name should appear as a different color, but I haven’t noticed any differences. Maybe I’m just looking in the wrong spot.)
But, all that being said, I have to say that for a Final Fantasy game, it certainly doesn’t feel like a Final Fantasy game (perhaps the fact that it’s the Vagrant Story team that built it that made it feel significantly different). The active combat system and the Gambit system are surprisingly elegant, and the character building system is much more satisfying than FFX’s Sphere Grid system. The characters are actually likable in this version, as well, and while the main character is the usual hot-headed youth, he actually shows signs of logic and sanity, unlike his predecessors.
It’s missing the misguided angst and faux-philosophy (so far, at least) that so plagued FFX, and the change to the battle system makes the overall gameplay more engaging, so I actually must say that this is the first FF game I’ve enjoyed since FF7. So far, at least.
While I certainly haven’t been a proponent of the series since FF7, this has restored my faith (again - this is only based on impressions of the eary game, as the game may very well deteriorate into the usual trite cliches later on) in Square as an RPG maker.