Whether you’re visiting Ivalice for the first time or you’re already an expert at being Captain Basch fon Ronsenburg of Dalmasca, Final Fantasy XII can be an intimidating game. Fear not—we’ve got lots of tips.
Here are some helpful suggestions for playing Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age, which is now out for PS4. [UPDATE (2/1/18): And now it’s out for PC, so we’ve bumped up these tips for all you new players.]
Plan out your party in advance
This is the most important tip I can give you: Have a plan! Each of your six party members will be able to select two jobs (one at the beginning of the game, and a second once you get your first Esper), but once you pick each job, you can’t pick again. So it’s smart to go in with a plan, knowing exactly how you want to balance each character. Don’t worry about min-maxing or anything, but think a bit about how you want to distribute your healing, damage, and buffs.
Here’s my party, as an example:
Balthier: White Mage/Machinist
Fran: Red Battlemage/Archer
Penelo: Time Battlemage/Black Mage
I use Balthier and Fran as healers, Vaan and Penelo as damage-dealers, and Ashe and Basch as tanks. Which brings me to this...
Level up all six of your characters instead of just three
Final Fantasy XII lets you swap party members in and out of combat at any time, although they’ll only get experience when they’re fighting. My advice is that you try to keep your party balanced. Rather than maxing out three super-powerful characters, try to keep all six of your heroes around the same level so you can sub in refreshments during tight spots (like, say, when an enemy bomb blows you all up). I recommend keeping at least two party configurations (like Vaan/Ashe/Fran and Basch/Penelo/Balthier) and rotating between them.
Do all of the hunts
Head to bars and check the hunt board as often as possible. Monster hunting is not only a fun way to play around with Final Fantasy XII’s unique combat system, it’ll get you lots of cash and good loot.
Visit the Clan Centurio Hall
It’s easy to miss, but early in the game you should stop at the Clan Hall in the northwest corner of Rabanastre. Talk to Montblanc regularly and he’ll hook you up with rewards and elite monster hunts.
If you’re having trouble finding it, go to the person marker here:
Buy gambits early and often
You can get them all at the gambit store (the orange diamond on your map). Focus especially on the ones for ally HP going below certain percents, enemy weaknesses, and allies getting hit by nasty status effects.
Sell your loot, but not all of it
Most monsters won’t drop gil, just items that you can take to a store and sell for cash. You’re safe selling pretty much everything, but hang on to Teleport Stones and Gysahl Greens. One thing worth noting: Every time you sell loot, it’ll get registered by the Bazaar. Certain combinations of loot will cause certain objects to show up on the Bazaar, ranging from mundane (two potions!) to the rarest weapons in the game. You can read this Bazaar guide if you want to learn all about the combos, but don’t stress too much—the game will automatically keep track of everything you sell.
Buy all of the Grimoires
Every time a Grimoire shows up at the Bazaar, buy it. It’ll turn into an item that makes enemies drop better loot.
Set up a Steal gambit early
Here’s a pro tip: put a “Foe: HP = 100 % -> Steal” gambit on at least one character. For tough fights you’ll want to turn this off, but while you’re grinding or exploring, it’ll help you make enough money to keep your characters properly equipped.
Set up Libra gambits, too
Libra is a technique that allows your party to spot traps and see enemy stats. Put a “Self -> Libra” on at least one active member of the party so you’ll always be able to see traps and determine enemy weaknesses. Stick this one way on the bottom of the gambit list, though—you don’t want Libra going off during combat.
Pay attention to buffs and debuffs
More than any other Final Fantasy game, FFXII asks you to pay attention to your status effects. Take advantage of buffs like Haste and Protect and make sure you have gambits in place just in case your characters get hit by debuffs like Poison and Stone.
Use Dispel on tough enemies
A mark with Haste or Protect can make your day way worse—cast Dispel (or use a Dispel Mote) whenever you see those buffs on a tough boss or monster.
Hoard your license points
It’s tempting to unlock new skills and abilities as often as possible, but it’s worth conserving LP while you’re out in the wild, just in case you pick up an awesome rare weapon or get to a new shop full of more powerful equipment. There’s nothing more annoying than reaching a new city full of weapon upgrades only to realize that you don’t have enough LP to unlock the licenses you’d need to use those weapons. That said...
Buy weapons and armor even if you don’t have the licenses yet
You can always unlock the license while you’re out in the wild.
If a license you want is far on one board, check your other board
One cool thing about the dual-job system (new to The Zodiac Age) is that you can flip between two license boards for each character. So if you want to hook up Balthier with, say, Accessories 10 but it’s far away on one board, you can always check the other board and see if he’s closer to unlocking it.
Use fast-forward liberally
Life is short and you can press the left bumper to fast forward the game at any time, either at 2X speed or 4X, which you can swap in the menu. (I prefer 2X.) Don’t be ashamed to take advantage of this feature while traveling, fighting, and going after hunts.
Talk to everyone
There are a surprising number of sidequests in Final Fantasy XII, and you’ll miss them unless you talk to everyone, from random Seeqs on snowy mountains to bartenders on your airship rides. Plus, the NPCs always have interesting things to say.
Final Fantasy XII is an enormous game, and there are quite a few zones that you won’t see unless you take the time to explore outside of the main story. Don’t worry about stumbling upon enemies that are twice your level—The Zodiac Age has an autosave feature that will prevent you from losing progress, even if you get stomped.
Don’t worry about the Zodiac Spear
Final Fantasy XII aficionados no doubt remember the Zodiac Spear, an ultra-powerful weapon that you can only get if you inexplicably decide not to open certain treasure chests. In The Zodiac Age, you don’t have to worry about the chests. You can get the spear regardless.