A small kingdom comprising the lands around the city of Rabanastre, governing a portion of the Galtean Peninsula. While its territories are small, its situation at the crossroads of three continents enabled to prosper as a center for trade. More than 700 years are marked in the charts of history since her founding, yet many are the armies that have sought to claim her cultural richness and strategic importance. Upon her defeat to Archadia in the invasion of 704, her lands were placed under direct control of the empire.
The home of most of the playable characters, Dalmcasa factors into most of the game’s plot. Located at the very center of the Galtean Peninsula, Dalmasca has played a part in the politics of Ivalice ever since the formation of the Galtean Alliance by King Raithwall many years ago. After being overtaken by the Archadian Empire two years ago, though, it has been a changed nation.
These sections are more or less ordered as you visit them in the game.
Capital of Old Dalmasca, and before that, many other kingdoms stretching back into the storied history of the Galtean Peninsula. Rule by the Dalmascan royal family lasted for several hundred years before the city's fall to the Archadian Empire two years past. Now an Imperial territory. The story of the city's people is the story of three cultures, those of Valendia, Ordalia, and Kerwon, who bore trade goods along the many well-frequented routes leading to her welcoming gates. The town proper of Rabanastre is divided into four sections by the cardinal directions of the compass. The east and west are merchant districts, the streets lined with shops and stalls of every description. In the north, the streets widen into a large piazza facing the palace, and to the South can be found three gates leading beyond the city walls to the Dalmasca desert and Giza Plains. The aerodrome can be found in the western outskirts of town, surrounded by numerous privately operated airship docks. In the northwestern part of town stands a splendid cathedral built in the Galtean style, the bell of which, when rung, sounds through every hearth and home in the city
I mentioned this over here, but I call Rabanastre the home base of the game because if you embark on the hunt missions, you’re going to be back in Rabanastre a lot — not to mention the other sidequests that take place here. Thankfully, the developers seem to realize this, and put in a handy teleport feature in the form of the Moogling so you can take care of your business in Rabanastre quickly.
An important thing to note about Rabanastre is that the shops change as the game progresses, so it’s a good idea to check at least the Magick shop between major plot points to see if there’s anything new you can pick up. If you’re playing IZJS, be sure to upgrade whatever equipment and weapons you need whenever you get the opportunity. The shops in Rabanastre typically update their inventory whenever the game directs you back there for plot reasons; don’t teleport back there all the time just to check if anything’s changed.
That said, there is a very minor sidequest in Rabanastre with the viera Ktjn. At four points in the game — after fighting the Mimic Queen, after your first trip to Bhujerba, after going to the Tomb of Raithwall, and after completing the plot points at Mt. Bur-Omisace — you can talk to Ktjn and give her advice on what to do with her life. There are various rewards you can get from her depending on what you tell her. It’s really minor, and I actually didn’t even know it existed until my second or third playthrough, but it’s an interesting little thing.
A couple of other sidequests exist in Rabanastre; most have to do with hunt missions, but there are a couple one-offs. My least favorite is the cockatrice-catching sidequest; I can never catch the damn one in Rabanastre and always end up googling a bunch of different guides on how to do it. (And yet I do it in every playthrough.)
There’s also the infamous forbidden treasure pot outside of Old Dalan’s; you can find out more about it here.
One of the large desert regions of Dalmasca, located to the east of Rabanastre. Rife with all manner of monstrous beasts, it regular plays host to hunts organized within the city. What settlements there are line the banks of the River Nebra, a vibrant blue vein running through the heart of the sands, wherein can be found ferries for the conveyance of travelers and goods across her flow. Many merchants make a good point of stopping in the villages to trade on their way to and from Rabanastre.
I really love the Estersand (and Westersand); I think they’re gorgeous areas that really emphasize from the very start that FFXII is an open-world game that’s all about exploration. It also tells you, right from the start, that there are enemies that are stronger than you and you should not attack them unless you want to replay the entire opening. Yes, I totally tried to fight the T-Rex. Yes, I totally got my ass handed to me. No one was surprised.
The most notable quest in the Estersand is the Cactoid family quest, which I have always thought to be hysterical; the fact that a bunch of cactoids held up an entire village for days (and led them on a wild goose chase across half the continent) will never not be hilarious to me. It’s just ridiculous.
I find the Yoma and Broken Sands areas (the two locations on the north side of the River Nebra) to be good areas for grinding and getting item drops; by that point your characters should be able to handle the Wild Saurians. If you have the grimoires unlocked you can chain the Worgens for Throat Wolf Blood, which sells for an excellent 1360 gil. Since you’ve gotta go over there for hunts/sidequests it’s worth the time while you’re there to chain some enemies and get some loot.
There’s also a fishing minigame at the South Bank Village, but... I have never done it! I keep forgetting it’s in the game — it’s another one of those things I never discovered myself through playing the game and only found out about online. I’ll have to try it later. Apparently Gilgamesh shows up at one point?? I need to see this for myself.
A note about the Barheim Key sidequest — as mentioned in the section about Bhujerba, keep the Great Serpentskin so you can give to Dantro’s wife for the medicine. You get a Golden Amulet if you give every single possible item to his wife for the medicine; in the original game it’s not as important, but in IZJS where you have fewer opportunities to get them, it’s very worth it. This sidequest does unlock early in the game, too, so that’s something to keep in mind.
A vast savannah spreading to the south of the Royal City of Rabanastre, the environs of which vary drastically between dry and rainy seasons. Large dark crystals lie scattered here and there across the savannah. During the dry, they absorb the suns radiance and glow with an auric brilliance. A village of nomadic herders is located near the middle of the grasslands. During the rains, the villagers relocate to the mountains. While the reside in the grasslands, the menfolk rarely return from their herding, leaving the women and children to their own devices in the village. These nomads know the art of capturing the energy of the dark crystals in chunks of magicite, called sunstone, which they then bring to market to sell. The animals by which they make their living are primarily of cockatrice stock.
So the Dry is dead boring. I know, I know, you have to go through with the sunstone quest as part of the plot and the first time through I suppose it’s interesting but by my fifth playthrough I just didn’t care anymore. Then again this is what I get for playing this game so many times.
I actually do find the weather cycle interesting, though, and the fact that it’s based on the ingame clock is pretty neat. It starts cycling after you get to Eruyt Village, and after that it’s 1 hour of rain, 2 hours of dry. You can tell what season it is by looking out at Giza Plains from Rabanastre’s South Gate, another helpful mechanic.
In order to reach the extra area in the Rains, you need to chop down six dead trees; they’re not hard to find. These trees will then float down the river and form a bridge to the Tracks of the Beast area, which is where you fight the Gil Snapper mark and find the Feather of the Flock key item, which is required for the cockatrice sidequest.
During the Dry, you’ll find a couple of Werewolf enemies, who during the beginning of the game will be level 19-21. Some players like to use this as a grinding spot; I personally don’t, as I like to use the hunt missions to level up naturally as the story progresses. It’s there if you want to use it, though.
Watch out for the elementals during the Rains; there are two of them, the Storm Elemental (level 25) and the Mardu Entite (level 45). The former is typically much more manageable during your first visit, while the latter should usually be avoided.
The Garamsythe Waterway
An underground waterway running deep beneath the Royal City of Rabanastre. Built and rebuilt over the centuries, no one alive knows all of its labyrinthine ways. Some are said to lead even to the royal palace. There are stairs leading down to the waterway in Lowtown, but they are normally barred to keep unwelcome visitors down in the sewers where they belong.
This is a really fun area, and not just because it’s where you finally get a full party. The parts of the waterway you explore during the course of the story are fairly straightforward, but it’s actually quite an extensive area, as you discover if you try to get the Esper Cúchulainn. (I always get lost and have to follow a walkthrough step-by-step.) Fun fact: there is actually a hint in the game as to the operation of the sluice gates! It’s in that one house in Lowtown, the one where the Seeq kid was hiding from the Wraith mark. Of course it’s a very vague hint, so how on earth you were supposed to figure it out from that I have no idea. FFXII is pretty bad about ingame hints. (There are a couple of other hints from NPCs in Lowtown, but honestly, they’re very vague.)
The other thing about the Garamsythe Waterway is that you can fight Orthos there, a mark that forever entertains me. FFVI is my other favorite Final Fantasy and I love that Ultros has pulled a Gilgamesh in recent years and started showing up in some of the other titles. Of course, in FFXII, the only way to spawn him is to create a party of Ashe, Fran, and Penelo, because Ultros is a slimy git. You can then punch his face in for it. I’m not actually sure why he’s called Orthos in this game given he’s a direct reference to Ultros; chalk it up to weird Square things.
I typically wait to fight Cúchulainn until I have access to either Curaja or X-Potions. If you can do it before then, honestly, my hat is off to you; I really hate the Cúchulainn fight and put it off as long as I can every time I play the game. Cúchulainn sucked in FFT and he sucks here. (I did steal a Minerva Bustier from a Foobar last time, so at least the whole thing was worth it in that regard.)
Royal Palace of Rabanastre
A short walk north from the center of Rabanastre will lead you to the gates of the royal palace. Before the war with Archadia, this magnificent structure was home to the Dalmascan royal family, and barracks to the order of knights that served them. It is currently employed as a living quarters and apartments by the recently appointed consul from Archadia. The palace itself was built several centuries ago and has since been home to many Dalmascan monarchs, King Raminas being the most recent. Numerous additions have been made to the palace over the course of its long history (the Royal City of Rabanastre having several times fallen under the control of foreign powers through invasion), but the overall bearing of its architecture is true to the original Galtean design. Within the palace are secret chambers containing documents and treasures belonging to the royal family. Few who live beyond the palace walls know how they may be found.
Don’t pick up anything in the cellar in the original game; they’re forbidden treasure pots. More on this here. Free game in the IZJS edition.
A great dungeon, created when the Archadian army sealed off the lower levels of Nalbina Fortress. Originally a complex lowtown region. In addition to the usual collection of petty thieves and murderers, its inmates include political dissenters and prisoners of war from the Dalmascan and Nabradian armies, all thrown together without discrimination, separation, or order. An oubliette has been created in the depths of the fortress to hold those prisoners whose cases await judgment before the Court of Archadia.
Don’t pick up anything in the area after you get your stuff back; forbidden treasure pots. More information here. Once again, free game in IZJS.
I find the whole concept of the Nalbina Dungeons pretty dark. Like, seriously, Archadia, you just stick everyone in there and forget about them? Wow. Of course, they keep Basch alive because he’s a convenient political prisoner.
An underground passage beneath the fortress at Nalbina. Originally a railway to carry goods into the fortress, the passage was closed with the introduction of airships as the primary means of transport. The abandoned railway line is now rife with Mist, and the dwelling place of many fell beasts.
A quick tip; this should be obvious but just in case you have trouble with the power going down, kill the Mimics as quickly as you can and it’ll go back up. When you first enter an area they tend to be fairly close to you but will then run for the power sources; target one with your party leader and make sure your other characters’ gambits are on Foe: Party Leader’s Target, and your characters will chase after them. You might lose track of them, but by then you should be far enough along to see where they’re going.
Barheim Passage is one of those areas that you go to early in the game and then head back to much later for a sidequest and find entirely new areas for. That one locked door in the wall? Yeah, you can totally open it. That bridge across the lake? You can get there. That’s one of the things I love most about FFXII: anything you see, chances are that not only you can get there, you can straight-up walk to it.
Worth noting is that the shopkeeper in the Barheim Passage, Burrough, changes his stock after the events in Giruvegan; in the original game you can pick up Hermes Sandals from him at that point. He also sells the Ardor magick after you complete the Pharos.
In the IZJS version, he sells the Scourge magick after Giruvegan. He’s also the first person in IZJS to sell most of the gambits when you first meet him; the full stock isn’t unlocked until after you get out of the Barheim Passage for the first time. Also, bizarrely, in both versions of the game you can find Burrough in Nalbina Fortress and he talks about how he successfully got out, and then you come back later and he's back in the dungeon and his shop's better. What? I don't even. Video game logic, man.
Anyway, when you get the Barheim Key, you can come back here. I recommend being around level 40 or so, though you can do it earlier if you’ve got good healing gambits. The place is way bigger when you come back, and it turns out that that bridge in the distance is full of undead. Dammit.
At the end of the dungeon you’ll find Zalera, who uses many of the classic Level-x spells. You can fight Zalera at a prime numbered level to avoid getting hit by them, but this puts you at risk of getting hit by Prime Level Death. Your call. You also only have 5 minutes to fight Zalera; if you don’t beat it within that time you’ll have to start over. This is made more difficult by the fact Zalera starts the fight out by taking no damage from anything. Thanks buddy. All things considered though it could be a more difficult boss considering what this game throws at you sometimes. Once you beat Zalera you can walk through there to get to Garamsythe Waterway, further proving that this entire game is interconnected.
A fortress built on an oasis located between the old kingdoms of Dalmasca and Nabradia. Defended by high ridges and barren sands, long it stood firm against generations of aggressors. Nalbina Fortress and the merchant town that sprung up in its shadow made the area a focal point for local commerce. The treaty to end hostilities in the war with Archadia was signed at Nalbina, yet immediately after the signing, the Dalmascan king was slain, and as a result, the Kingdom of Dalmasca came under complete Archadian Imperial rule. In the two years since the war and occupation by Archadian forces, the fortress has become a key strategic stronghold against the distant, yet ever-threatening, Rozarrian Empire. Works continue to this day to repair the damage which the fortress suffered during the war. Recently, markets where antiques and rarities can readily be had have sprung up in the outer wards of the fortress, taking advantage of the steady flow of traffic which passes through this midpoint between Rabanastre and Nabudis. It is this pivotal location that gives the fortress its unique character. Many are the travelers who visit Nalbina Fortress to witness this ever-booming oasis that refuses to silt over in neglect, or crumble before the blistering winds of war.
Technically you don’t have to come here until significantly later in the game, but you can go there as soon as you exit the Barheim Passage. It’s worth it at that point in the game; there are quite a few things to be bought from the shops.
Two guards block the passage north to the Mosphoran Highwaste until after the events at Mt. Bur-Omisace, but you can get past them as soon as you finish the sequence of events at Raithwall’s Tomb. Simply rent a chocobo and ride it through them. The guards — Gibbs and Deweg, this game’s reference to Final Fantasy standbys Biggs and Wedge — will be pushed aside. You’ll then be able to reach the Highwaste super early and have access to the excellent shops there. I also suggest talking to the NPC July, as talking to her before you do this will net you an extra reward when you reach Archades much later on.
One of the vast deserts of the Dalmascan region situated to the west of Rabanastre. Few roads pass through this waste, and as such it is little frequented by merchants. In Dalmasca Westersand, the sandstorms are more greatly feared than the beasts; so much so, in fact, that whole societies of natural philosophers in Rabanastre devote themselves to their study.
The Westersand is perhaps the most optional area in this region (aside from perhaps Nalbina Fortress); every other area is at least visited for plot reasons. The Westersand makes up for it with plenty of enemies to fight and some interesting weather features, by which I mean frequent sandstorms.
There’s not a whole lot to talk about with reference to the Westersand; I don’t typically grind there and only pass through as necessary for marks and sidequests. I like the Ring Wyrm mark a lot; it’s fun to fight really big dragons. Just watch out for Immobilizega. The Earth Tyrant is also fun to fight. Do be sure to steal a Gnoma Halcyon from the Gnoma Entite before kitting the Earth Tyrant if you plan on making the Ultima Blade; it’s much harder to get sandstorms in the Westersand after you fell it.
In the IZJS version, you can find the Diamond Armlet in the “island” area of the Windtrace Dunes. It’s a 25% spawn and appears against the cliff edge, but it’s certainly nice to have it that early in the game. Just run back and forth until it spawns.