A linear, middle of the road rpg
I always give credit to the Final Fantasy series for starting over. With the exception of VII and X and all their sequels, Square takes a monumental task of recreating a whole new world with new characters, all the while trying to make the game nostalgic for its many a loyal follower. In an industry so dominated by sequels, Square-Enix could easily have taken the characters of one of the more successful endeavors and drudged them through encore after encore (though many already accuse them of this). Final Fantasy 12 is a good effort in trying to change a gameplay that has already run the risk of become stale, though fans like myself actually prefer the old combat system. It's attempt was however to use a system already known. It may look innovative to anyone living in a Final Fantasy-only world. Take three steps out of this shell and it's a lot of been there, done that....and better. Well who cares, right? As long as the story is there. Well, that's a problem too.
With so many open world games and so much ground to explore it becomes almost inexcusable that an epic franchise such as this one confines the gamer to such linear gameplay with so little in terms of quality quests. And the load times....Ugh! Move 10 feet, wait for the next area to load. Move another 50 feet, wait for the area to load. Made a mistake, went in the wrong direction....loading...loading....zzzz. There truly needs to be a paradigm shift in the way the designers are creating the world map. The towns themselves are lively enough, but to travel through them becomes mind-numbingly monotonous. The lack of save points only adds to the frustration.
What I didn't understand about this game is how Square could take its staple of gameplay appeal, namely Summons and Magic spells, and turn them utterly useless. I finished the entire game casting only a handful of Summons. The only Magic I used was for healing or defense.
The story is so forgettable I did just that in the end. There were so many names and places tossed around in a pseudo-Shakespearean dialect I ultimately gave up trying to make heads or tails of who or where. I'm all for complexity but at least give me a villain that captures my attention. I couldn't care less who Vayne was or what he was trying to accomplish. In fact, I don't even know what he was trying to accomplish. World domination? The throne? A god complex? What?
It's not all bad. The boss battles were challenging and there were more than enough of them. Game had taken me 60+ hours to complete. Naturally the graphics are what you would expect from a Square game, as well as the voice acting. I'm not a very big fan of the nonthreatening teenage protagonist that has become a staple of the franchise, I can focus my attention on many of the other characters to keep my interest. It seems most of the side characters have far more interesting stories than Vaan.
I'm not at all into the musical score. Not horrible, but not rememberable either.
I think for me Final Fantasy has targeted that safe Disney/PG-13/ABC Family demographic that really just loses someone like me who prefers a darker, more adult, story-driven rpg with the ability to travel from town to town, picking up the main story whenever I like. Not to say I won't play Final Fantasy ever again. I know I will. I'll just approach differently, with a little less enthusiasm that I've given the series in the past. Of course all it takes is one hit and I'll be hooked again. I hold no grudges in gaming.