Thursday, October 11, 2012

Video Game Review: Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions

I've talked before about how much I dislike Final Fantasy Tactics. It occurs to me, however, that I've never entirely explained exactly why I hate the game. With that in mind, allow me to present to you the top 5 things I hate about Final Fantasy Tactics, or more specifically about the PSP re-release, Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions.

5. Blatant Sexism
There's an equippable item in this game called the Chantage. It's a perfume that permanently gives the equipping character the Reraise buff, which automatically resurrects them if they fall. Since it's persistent even after use this makes the equipping character immortal as long as they have it. Of course, they can still be turned into a frog or a statue, so you also give them the Ribbon headwear item, which gives 100% immunity to status effects. At this point the character is invincible. Oh, by the way, both of those items can only be equipped by female characters. There are no male only or even non-gender-specific counterparts to either of them. There' isn't even anything similar that males can use, and it's not even like they're ultra-rare items you can only ever have one of either. If you know what you're doing you can farm them by the dozens in the mid-game. The result? Using any male character in Final Fantasy Tactics is pointless, if not downright detrimental.

Don't get me wrong, I do realize how silly it would be to have your male characters running around with ribbons in their hair and wearing girly perfumes. But if that's the problem, why not just make the items something else? There's no reason the status protection item has to be a ribbon. It could just as easily be a magical crown or an enchanted helmet. Hell, if the developers really wanted to they could have made it a demonic circus peanut that you jam up your nose.

And to any feminists out there saying "well, it's about time we got something over you men" think of it like this: this could also be interpreted as saying that your gender is so disgustingly pathetic in all respects that you need godlike stuff to be able to carry your own weight.

4. It's Easy To Lose Everything
The main draw of Final Fantasy Tactics has always been the level of customizability for your characters. You want to make a ninja with a sword that turns people into frogs? You can do that. You want to make a heavily armored tank who teleports around the battlefield and bonks people with a book? Weird, but you can totally do that too, as long as you're willing to put forth the effort of searching out rare items, grinding out JP - job points - to purchase all of those abilities, and if you save your game compulsively.

See, it's really easy to lose all of the stuff you've worked on getting. Enemy knights can use the Rend skills to destroy your super-rare equipment, and enemy thieves can steal it, and in either case you can't get it back ever. Sure, you can also equip your character with the Safeguard skill to prevent item destruction, if you're okay with wasting your one and only support ability slot.

You can even lose your characters if you're not careful. When participating in random battles you'll find the game loves to put you up against hordes of massively powerful enemies, but even if it doesn't you can still lose your people. When a unit is reduced to 0 HP in this game, with a few exceptions, they are downed for a 3 count at which point they are dead forever. If you fail to successfully cast Raise or Arise on a fallen ally - which is entirely likely given the pathetic success rate of those spells - then kiss your hard work good bye!

3. Everything is Random
I already mentioned how even reviving your fallen allies is a crapshoot where you'll usually have about a 50-50 chance at best of your spell working with each cast. Thing is, that's only the tip of the iceberg. Basically everything you can ever do - buffing your allies, hurting your enemies, etc - has only a small percentage chance of actually working. While you'd think this chance would get steadily higher as you become more and more awesome over the course of the game the opposite is actually true, as your enemies become more awesome too.

The worst is reaction skills. As the name implies these are skills which activate as a reaction to some event, almost always being attacked, like counterattacking an enemy who hits you, or boosting magic power when struck by a damaging spell. Reaction skills, like basically everything else, have only a percentage chance to activate which is higher or lower depending on the skill in question. Skills like your basic counterattack will activate fairly regularly but anything cooler, like Parry (blocks melee attacks) or First Strike (stops enemy attack and attacks first) will activate so rarely you'd might as well not even have them equipped.

That's pretty much the game in a nutshell right there: the cooler what you're trying to do is the less chance it has of actually working. Anything more badass then a basic character using basic attacks will fail so often they'd might as well not even exist.

2. The Story Sucks
I can forgive a lot in a game as long as it's good. Even the randomness doesn't bother me too much. Hell, Class of Heroes is way worse about it and I love that game. The problem here is the story sucks. It's interesting, I suppose, and it's told well enough but it's ultimately pointless. The main character is Ramza Beoulve, a nobleman even amongst noblemen, from the most prestigious family in the world. When his best friend's sister is killed, essentially for being a useless peasant girl, he abandons his family and his duty and decides to put the world to rights. Spoiler alert: he fails.

Oh wait, that's not a spoiler because it tells you that he failed right at the beginning of the game. What is a spoiler is how he fails. See, despite Ramza's moralistic ranting you don't actually do anything to make the world better at all. You actually have to fight the people who are trying to make the world better, because Ramza doesn't like the way they're going about it. After you personally kill basically every good person in the world evil wins, your name and deeds are stricken from the history books, and the world is plunged into a thousand year long dark age. And no, that's not the bad ending either. That's the only ending.

I get that this was supposed to be "realistic" and "dark" and "edgy" and all of that drivel, but there's a reason people don't usually make games like this. It's because when we already live in a world where an elitist 1% opresses and humiliates us daily for fun we don't want to escape into a game world where the same thing happens except we help them do it.

1. There's Really Not That Much Customization
So yeah, I mentioned how you can do a whole lot with your characters, like making a black mage who wears heavy armor and can jump 500 feet in the air. But if you want that armored mage to also have a sword you can go to Hell.

Each character has five ability slots: two skill command slots (one of which is taken up by that class's default command set, for example "Black Magick" for black mages), one reaction skill slot, one support skill slot, and one movement skill slot. Trust me when I say each slot has a lot of good skills for it that you'll probably want to use. Buuuut, you can't.

Even worse, there are skills you need to have to avoid becoming gimped, but that means any other skills are useless. For example, if you're making a character to use for physical attacks then they need to have the Dual Wield skill to attack with two equipped weapons, or else they won't be able to deal enough damage to keep up in the later game. But what if you also want the Defend skill or the Concentrate skill which makes all attacks always hit, or the Arcane Defense skill to resist magic? Too bad. Melee attackers need Dual Wield, period. Oh, and forget about taking the Equip ___ skills so you can use the equipment you want regardless of class, because that's an enormous waste of your one and only precious support skill slot.

Mages have it just as bad. Mages need to have the Manafont skill, which restores some MP to them whenever they move. Without this skill they will run out of points to cast their spells very quickly, even if using the Halve MP skill. But what if you want your white mage to be able to teleport or fly, to get healing or raise spells to an ally who needs it more easily? Too bad because you need Manafont, period.

KR Rating: [2] BAD

I've often compared this game unfavorably to Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, but even taken entirely on its own merits, this game is really bad. That said, this is nothing against the game's developers, the Ivalice Alliance. They fixed a lot of these problems in later games in the series, like Final Fantasy Tactics A2. That, along with Final Fantasy 12 proves they're more than capable of doing really good work.

It would be easy to blame this game's problems on the fact that it was the first in the series, but that argument kind of rings hollow when you consider that they still made it after they made Tactics Ogre. (You may recall I've mentioned before they were made by the same people.) Final Fantasy was a huge step backwards for the development team.You can just look at the secret "bonus" dungeons from each game to see that. Tactics Ogre has the 115 floor Hell's Gate (Palace of the Dead in the remake) dungeon, while Final Fantasy Tactics has the comparably pathetic 10 floor Deep Dungeon.

That right there is a fairly accurate metaphor for the game itself. Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions is basically Tactics Ogre, except only one eleventh as good.


Irrogue said...

You know nothing of this game. And in all honesty, you sound like an idiot. The story is bad? The story is amazing. I'm not going to get into it because I don't want to list any spoilers, but I will say that as Ramza, you learn who is your enemy and who isn't. Ramza NEVER kills anyone who doesn't deserve it. In fact, he tries to SAVE people he needs to kill, before putting them 6 feet under. And do you know how broken it would be to give your characters more than one support slot, or reaction slot, of movement slot? I can already beat the entire game, including side dungeons, with just 1 character. Why make it so that 1 character becomes 2? That would make the game stupidly easy. FFT is about making a team that works together with what you have. I'm not going to get into the sexism thing, cause that's just ludicrous. Yes, you become invincible, but so do ALL of your characters eventually. Also, saying melee characters NEED dual wield? You know that they can hit up to 999 (Same of casters). The dual wield option doesn't put them up to par, it makes them hit TWICE as hard.

TL:DR Don't rate a game bad because you don't understand it. The ONLY things that are bad about FFT:WOTL are bad voice acting (well, all of the old english stuff actually), and the slowed frame-rate.

Mike M. said...

I suppose that if I had never played Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift, or Shining Force, or Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, or any of the other much better tactical RPGs out there... yes, I suppose then I might consider this game to be worth more than a 2 out of 5. Sadly, I have played those games. Wait, what am I saying? That's not sad, that's awesome because those games rock. Freaking R-Type Command is a better tactical RPG than this game.

As for not understanding this game? I've beaten the entire thing and trust me, saying I didn't "get" the game, is like complaining that I don't understand tetanus. It's still awful either way.

But it's cool. I like having dissenting viewpoints in my comments section. It's like having a second opinion on hand.

...even if you are so totally obviously wrong.