Party Building in IZJS/TZA
So you’re thinking about playing the IZJS or TZA versions of Final Fantasy XII and you have no idea how to build a party. Don’t worry, I’m here to help!
Here’s the most important thing to remember: there are no wrong choices. The jobs are all balanced enough that no matter what team of 6 you pick, you will still be able to beat the game. If you pick six of the same class you will have it a lot harder, but FFXII is pretty forgiving, all things considered, and you’ll be able to muddle your way through. However, this guide assumes that you’re picking six different classes.
Quick disclaimer: this guide is not meant as the absolute best method, or anything like that. There is no best party. This is just my take on it as someone who’s played IZJS twice and experienced every job class.
Note Currently, this guide is optimized for the IZJS version of FFXII, but seeing as The Zodiac Age is a HD remaster of IZJS, the following recommendations should still be helpful. My only caveat is that TZA allows you to pick a second job for each character after a certain point and I won't know how that works until I get to play it. I also don't know if specific licenses are going to change between IZJS and TZA. However, the overall logic behind this guide should still be useful.
Now, the way I play FFXII is with two set parties that don’t change throughout the game. I use all six characters (because why play IZJS if you’re not going to experience all six jobs), and I use set parties so that I can balance the two without needing to switch out characters. This is the setup that this guide will follow.
For reference, the two parties I use are Ashe/Balthier/Fran and Basch/Vaan/Penelo. The parties you use don’t really matter that much unless you care a lot about the individual characters’ stats and how they balance out. I don’t care enough to change my parties, but there’s some discussion of character stats in Character Suitability below.
This is much more important than the actual jobs you pick. There are several main roles you need for IZJS:
The most important member of the party, no question. In the original game you don’t have to think all that much about healing because everyone learns all of the magic and Potion Lores. This is not the case in IZJS. Only three jobs learn Curaga and Curaja; only five jobs learn Potion Lores 2 and 3. You might not find the latter as important, but when your X-Potions are only dong 1500 HP restoration versus the maximum 2850 HP, you’re going to care. (Or worse, if you only have Hi-Potions doing 450 HP.) And if you don’t have someone with Curaja, X-Potions are going to be your lifeblood.
Job options: Obviously, White Mage is the best choice. Having beaten the entire game (including sidequests) without a White Mage, I don’t recommend it. It’s doable, but it is a pain. The backups for White Mage are Knight and Monk; however, what you need to keep in mind is that their spells are locked by Espers. In the case of the Knight, Curaga is locked by Mateus (located in the Stilshrine), and Curaja is locked by Hashmal (located in the Pharos). If a Knight is your primary healer, you have to play through the plot just to unlock your spells. The Monk has a lot of White Magick options, but they’re all locked by Espers — the two in the Pharos, along with Chaos and Zodiark. Curaja is only locked by a Quickening, at least.
Seriously, take my word for it. If you don't have a White Mage, you've just set the difficulty to hard.
Someone should be able to cast offensive magic. How much is up to you — the Black Mage has every spell, while the Red Battlemage has a smaller but diverse selection. Many of the enemies and bosses in the game are weak to some element, and a slew of gambits set to “Foe: element-weak: element-ga” will serve you very well. In this game, the spellcasters aren’t half bad at melee fighting either, so it’s fine to have them attack if no one around is weak to any element.
You might not think you care that much about spellcasting, but trust me, when your mage consistently does the most damage in your entire party because they're the only one with the right element the boss is weak to, you'll care.
Job options: As mentioned above, Black Mage and Red Battlemage. The Uhlan can also learn the -ra spells via Quickening (and a few others via Chaos), if you want someone in your secondary party with the ability to spellcast.
Someone needs to be able to steal. This might not seem so important as to require a role, but here’s the thing: only three characters come with Steal. Otherwise, you have to play certain classes if you want to be able to steal. Vaan, Balthier, and Fran all start with Steal unlocked. The classes that can use Steal without an Esper are Machinist and Archer; Red Battlemage requires Hashmal (Pharos) and Black Mage requires Zalera (Barheim Passage). Given that the vast majority of your gil in this game is going to come from stealing loot, be sure you have a character who can steal in both parties. Equipment is vastly important in IZJS, even more so than the original game, and you can't get it without gil.
This is more about character choice than job options, so you can play whoever. My thief is always my party leader, so it’s not a bad idea to have a character who can take a decent number of hits. It is, however, something you have to keep in mind. This is a good slot to fill with either a physical class or a mage you need to fill. It is annoying that Machinist and Archer are the non-Esper Steal classes, as having them as your party leader means they won't be any good at using their ranged weapons.
Now, that makes a nice three-person party. However, there’s a fourth role to consider. This is one that, ideally, should take the slot of the black mage on your second team.
What do I mean by support? Easy: magic. White and black magic are all well and good, but do you really want to play FFXII without Bubble?
In all seriousness, this role is optional. You don't have to have a support caster — you can get through the game without green and time magic just fine. That said, it will make your life a hell of a lot easier. You can get accessories to do the job for you, sure, but it is always easier to be able to cast the spells you need.
Now, for Time Magic, a lot of the spells depend on how much you really need or want them. Most of the time, a mote will do the trick. However, the Time Battlemage does learn all Time and Green Magic naturally, so they’ve got excellent coverage. The Time Battlemage is also the only job to learn Float; without one, you’ll have to resort to the Steel Poleyns accessory in several dungeons to get past traps. Additionally, if you don't have Float and are using Steel Poleyns, any guest characters you have with you will set off every trap in sight. (Learn from my mistake: do not go to Nabudis in IZJS with a guest character and no way to cast Float.)
Job options: As mentioned, the Time Battlemage covers all of this. The Machinist learns all high-level Time Magic spells (including Hastega), but it’s locked by Famfrit so you’re not getting it until the Pharos. The Black Mage learns all Green Magic spells naturally, so they’re a great user of Oil/Firaga, can buff everyone with Bubble, and restore MP with Syphon. Red Battlemage is useful for Green Magic but not Time Magic; they only learn the first 3 levels and not much of use past Reflect.
You probably noticed above that the roles I talked about were very magic heavy. Does that mean that the physical jobs of the game aren’t worth using?
No. I beat the game with just a Black Mage and otherwise a complete team of physical jobs. It was, undoubtedly, harder than a team of mages, because FFXII is really geared towards magic. But it was an interesting challenge, and certainly let me appreciate the different physical jobs. You can beat just about every enemy in the game purely through smacking them with weapons; magic is just easier and quicker.
In general, you should pick the physical jobs that do the following two things:
- The job has a magick or technick that fills a role that you need in your party, but isn’t all that good at it on its own (e.g. it’s locked by Espers, not much of a magic stat, etc)
- You need someone to deal massive amounts of melee damage.
That second one is hugely important, by the way. Mages are all well and good, but the bulk of FFXII is running around and smacking enemies with a weapon. Every single physical job in IZJS excels at it. They all have their pros and cons, but when it comes down to it they get the job done.
The one thing you do need to keep in mind is this: be sure that you have at least one ranged fighter per party. You won’t get Telekinesis until the Cerobi Steppe, and even then only three jobs can use it. Mages can do this with magic, but any physical job with a ranged weapon serve as well.
Several of the physical jobs can use the technick Shades of Black, which uses a random Black Magick on the enemy. While random, there’s a good chance that the higher level spells (Scathe, Scourge, Flare, etc) will come up. This technick alone is a great offensive for a physical job against bosses and rare game with seemingly impenetrable defenses. Larsa also has it, and setting him to use it while he's in your party is an excellent idea. However, some characters are going to be lousy at using Shades of Black if they have a bad magic stat (see the next section).
Other than that, it really doesn’t matter what physical job you pick. Find one that fits your party setup that you like. Pay close attention to what augments it has — I really mean that part about Potion Lores above, and it goes just as much for Remedy Lores. Machinist, Archer, and Shikari are the only ones that get all three Remedy Lores. Do you want to ever be able to use the Nihopalaoa trick effectively? Make sure you have someone with all three Remedy Lores.
A final note about picking jobs: while for the most part you can give any character any job and be just fine, there are a few things to avoid.
- Fran, Basch, and Balthier all make terrible mages — their base magic stats are awful. Not knowing this I made Balthier my Black Mage and Fran, as a Knight, ended up my main healer. Do not make my mistakes. Fran is at least a little better than the other two, but not by much.
- Fran actually has the best vitality. Feel free to make her a tank.
- In a similar vein, don’t make Penelo your main physical attacker. Penelo has stupendous stats for a mage; use them.
- Ashe has the most balanced strength and magic stats, so she’ll do well as either a mage or physical attacker. Vaan tends a little more towards strength, but is a decent mage.
Again, I made terrible mistakes and still beat the game and sidequests, so don’t think that these things are a dealbreaker. The beauty of IZJS is that it’s incredibly balanced, and you can beat the game with just about any team you put together. (I essentially ended up making a hardmode for myself with the jobs I picked, which made the game fun in a different way.)
Hopefully, this guide has given you some ideas on how to put a party together for an IZJS playthrough. If you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to drop me a line! I'm happy to help, and I also don't mind being told I've gotten something wrong if you've got a correction.