Friday, May 2

Game: Final Fantasy XII Click for more info

The trouble with Final Fantasy games, and indeed any RPG of its type, is the redefinition process that each series goes through. Sure there are constants, but most of these aren't to do with the gameplay. This is a problem since each game now has a learning curve and a process of forgetting what the previous games have taught you.

And so it's the case with XII. The main difference with this version is the introduction of Active Dimension Battle, a system where fights are "live" and during general play. This lack of a dedicated battle arena has a few implications.

You now always have to be on guard. Enemies can now start a battle with you standing still, and you can also accidentally stumble into a fight without even realising it - there's no obvious "readying" period anymore. A consequence of this is that you sometimes get caught by surprise, or don't have time to prepare between fights anymore. To help with this, an autopilot or "Gambit" system has been introduced, allowing you to set up your characters to fight on their own based on flow chart rules. Quite a good addition considering how 90% of all fights are played in the same way.

Other gameplay elements are also new - we now have a licence board in order to gain abilities. Well not quite since you have to both license the ability and purchase it, something that's a bit counter-intuitive for Magicks and Technicks.

The fully rendered 3D world has its issues too, mainly to do with navigation and camera. The game does look good though, both visually and in terms of story telling. I'm already quite gripped by the universe, which is a good sign for a game belonging to a series that relies so heavily on storytelling.

To be honest I wasn't enjoying this at first. There was too many new concepts and not enough explanation of it all and I felt thrown into the deep end. A forced restart has changed my opinion, and I've now begun to appreciate the new mechanisms within the game - if there is one constant about Final Fantasy it's that you'll eventually get past the learning curve and love it for what it is. I'm not quite there yet, but I've no doubt that I will be soon.