Gameplay Tips: Original
Final Fantasy XII took the biggest departure from the series in terms of gameplay, to the point of abandoning the series mainstay of random battles and setting the characters on a map where you can engage enemies at will and fight them on the very same screen. Personally, a huge part of why FFXII is one of my very favorite games in the series is because of this gameplay system: it’s a ton of fun and has so much depth that even after five playthroughs I’m still finding new ways to make the most of it. In this section, you’ll find key tips on conquering FFXII yourself.
Loot and Stealing
At first it seems like FFXII gives you very little gil. You rarely get it as a drop from monsters; unlike the other games in the series, you don’t automatically get it with every enemy you kill. You only occasionally find it in treasure pots. So how are you supposed to buy spells and equipment?
The answer is twofold: loot and stealing.
Every monster drops loot. These items have no practical use; they’re meant to be sold at a shop for gil. Most sell for very little, but kill a lot of monsters and it adds up. Sometimes, selling certain loot will create a new item in the Bazaar for you to purchase; this is how you get both common and very rare items.
If you complete the second hunt mission and speak to an NPC in the Muthru Bazaar in Rabanstre, you’ll unlock a special option in the Bazaar: the Forgotten Grimoire. There are grimoires for each enemy type, and buying them will improve loot drops. Of course, these grimoires cost around 20,000 gil apiece. How are you supposed to make that much gil from the pitiful amounts you’re making from selling loot?
Stealing is how you actually should be making money in this game. Loot drops help, don’t get me wrong, but unless you actively work to chain enemies — and you should now and then, for certain high-gil items — chances are you’re not going to get very good chains. What you should do is steal. Not just now and then, either: you should steal from every single enemy.
Of course, FFXII has a gambit system, so this is very easy to set up. Set “Steal: HP = 100%” as the first gambit on your party leader. This is for a couple of reasons. Your party leader will be a couple of steps ahead of the rest of your party and will typically get an extra chance to steal before the rest of your party catches up to the next enemy you see. Since stealing doesn’t always work, you want that extra chance. Once your party catches up, they’ll attack, and your party leader will stop stealing and shift to the next gambit (presumably attacking). This keeps them out of a “There is nothing to steal!” loop. If you do need to keep stealing for whatever reason, do it manually.
You can also set the gambit to Steal: HP > 70%, or whatever you like, but you’re more likely to end up in a loop where your character has already stolen the item and is just repeating the action uselessly while they’re being attacked by the enemy.
As soon as you can buy it (see here), you should also equip your party leader with the Thief’s Cuffs accessory to improve steals. This will help you steal a higher value item and help you make more gil.
In short: steal from everything, as much as you can. You will still be short on gil sometimes, especially when trying to buy all of the grimoires, but eventually even that will stop being a problem.
A note about poaching: you may be tempted to do it, as it’s an easy gambit to set up and you’d think that you’d get double the items if you both steal and poach from enemies. However, in FFXII, poaching from enemies means you get no EXP or LP. You should generally only poach from an enemy if they have a specific poach drop (which are different from their normal drops) that you need for a bazaar item. Otherwise, chances are you need that EXP more than the gil.
Note about IZJS: Vaan, Balthier, and Fran all come with the Steal ability. The job classes Machinist and Archer can learn it on their license board normally; Black Mage can learn it via the Esper Zalera, and Red Battlemage can learn it via the Esper Hashmal. Keep this in mind if you need Basch, Penelo, or Ashe as your party leader in IZJS.
Hunt Missions, Espers, & Sidequests
There are two main ways to play FFXII: you can stick to the plot and ignore all of the sidequests, or you can do everything.
The first time I play a game, I will often ignore the sidequests unless I have to play them, or they’re short. I typically just want to get through the story and I’ll come back on a second playthrough for sidequests. In most games this is a perfectly reasonable way to go through a game. (Except in open-world games, where the sidequests are the game.)
The problem with FFXII is that if you do this, you will be severely underlevelled and constantly need to grind. The second time I played FFXII, I played through all of the hunt missions and found that I barely had to grind at all — the hunt missions had helped me level up naturally as the game went on. I did them more or less as they unlocked and had no real problems at any point during the story the way I did the first time through. (And I really had problems the first time; I kept finding myself 5-8 levels behind all of the enemies in an area.)
So while I do understand the mentality of “oh, I’ll just do that stuff later” — I really do suggest doing the hunt missions as you play the game, even if you’re playing for the first time. It will help you level up and naturally progress through the game and it’ll show you all of the extra areas that don’t come up during the normal course of gameplay. You certainly don’t have to do all of them if you don’t want to, but if you find you’re having trouble against the enemies in the next plot area, see if you’ve got any hunt missions to do. They’ll probably help. Stick to the lower ranked ones at first, for obvious reasons.
The Espers are a separate undertaking from the hunt missions since they don’t come up as naturally as the hunt missions, and I do consider them more optional on a first playthrough. They’re also a lot harder! But if you’re okay with following a walkthrough that covers just about everything to do in the game, I suggest this one on GameFAQs. This is the one I followed on my second playthrough (since I wanted to do everything) and I found it really helped guide me through the game’s natural progression.
If you’re the type who doesn’t like to follow walkthroughs but you’re not sure when to do all these sidequests, there are a couple of points in the game where you have free rein to run around before heading on to the next plot point. Most notably, after the Tomb of Raithwall, a lot of the map and a lot of the sidequests will open up, but you will likely be too low-levelled to take them on without careful preparation or grinding. The other good point to do a lot of them is after the Stilshrine of Miriam. Basically, whenever you finish a major plot point and the next part involves walking through half the map, chances are you have a lot of sidequests available.
But sometimes you do actually want to level grind and get a lot of levels at once. Hey, don’t worry, I get it. There are a couple of good options for you. This list links to the relevant section in the Game Locations section of this website, where you’ll find guides and tips; these are my personal favorite grinding spots. If you know of another one, I’d love to hear about it!
- Skeleton Death Bridge (Shunia Twinspan, Lhusu Mines)
- Endless Soldiers (Dreadnought Leviathan)
- Bagoly for Days (Simoon Bluff, Nam-Yensa Sandsea)
- Endless Jellies (Pithead Junction B, Henne Mines)
- Auto-Levelling with the Undead (Negalmuur, Walk of Revelation, Stilshrine of Miriam)
- Treasures for Everyone (Cerobi Steppe)
As a side note, this is a game where you can only raise 3 members of your party if you absolutely want to, but you shouldn’t. It’s all well and good if you have three party members at level 50, but if they all get KO’d, you have to put the other three in, and if you haven’t levelled them up, chances are they’re going to get KO’d before you can use Phoenix Downs on your main party. When’s the last time you saved? That’s what I thought.
If you can pull off only three party members, more power to you, but in general you should raise all six if you plan to take on all of the sidequests in the game. If you’re just planning on completing the plot, you’re fine with just three.
The gambit system, while incredibly helpful, can be a little overwhelming. As many times as I’ve played this game, I still find new ways to use it.
Like the paradigm system in FFXIII there’s no setup that will beat every single enemy in the game; you’ll need to adapt to certain encounters. Still, there are some things that you should do to make sure you get the most bang for your buck.
- Set your leader to have Steal: HP = 100%, for reasons described above. Disable it when necessary, but for most of the game it should be on.
- All party members should have Charge: MP < 10%. In IZJS/TZA this is less necessary since the Quickening gauge no longer uses MP, but in the original game it will save your ass many a time.
- While gambits exist for Ally: status = KO and Ally: status = Poison and so on, you don’t actually need to set those for the most part. You can just set Ally: Any » Phoenix Down and they’ll do it. The one time you should set these is when facing an enemy that uses lots of status ailments that you specifically need to heal in a certain order.
- In general, use items rather than spells to heal. Items are used near-instantly; spells have a charge time. In IZJS/TZA this isn’t always an option (adding to the difficulty) but in the original game you can get by most of the game through spamming items.
- You should always have someone in your party who can hit flying enemies. In the original game this is easy; everyone can learn spells, so just set Foe: Flying » Dark, or what have you (until you get Telekinesis). In IZJS/TZA, make sure you have at least one person in each party who can hit flying targets, or just throw motes/knots of rust.
- An easy strategy is to set up Foe: Any » Oil and Foe: Status = Oil » Firaga. Drains MP, sure, but it’s just so satisfying.
- Set at least one member of your party to have Self » Libra. It’s convenient and you’ll be glad you had it. I usually do it on my party leader, but any member of your active party works.
- When you hit lategame, it’s a nice idea to set up gambits of buffing spells for the party — Hastega, Protectga, Shellga, Bubble, etc. The downside is that this takes up a lot of MP. Typically you won’t need all of them at once; I usually just run with Bubble and/or Haste at once. I also tend to switch most gambits to Self in the original game once they’re unlocked simply to keep everything neat and to keep multiple party members from throwing status-healing items at the same injured person.
Keeping all of these tips in mind, a typical setup of mine in lategame for a party leader looks something like this:
Steal: HP = 100%
Any: Any » Phoenix Down
Ally: Any » X-Potion
Any: Any » Remedy
Foe: Flying » Telekinesis
Foe: Nearest visible
Charge: MP < 10%
Self » Bubble
Self » Libra
I typically leave Hastega duties to other party members. I also tend to keep my party leader using items, and will have other party members using spells, since I can better manage their health. Like I said above, though, it’s a better idea to change your gambits up throughout the game — you won’t have access to a steady supply of Remedies until lategame, and it’s more likely that you’ll need to use a bunch of your gambit slots for status healing items.
Forbidden Treasure Pots
Looking for the ultimate weapon in the original FFXII? Then it’s a good thing you’re reading this site, because there are absolutely no hints in the original game. FFXII is pretty bad about ingame hints in general, but this is probably the worst one; at no point at all does it tell you that if you open four specific treasure pots, you’re not going to get the game’s best weapon.
This only applies to the original FFXII; this entire mechanic was removed in IZJS, which has an entirely new ultimate weapon. (Said ultimate weapon has a spawn rate of 1 in 10,000. You decide if it’s better or worse.)
Anyway, the four treasure pots are in the following locations:
- Outside Old Dalan’s house in Lowtown, Rabanastre. You can actually see it in the cutscene just outside the door. Don’t open it.
- Royal Palace of Rabanastre, cellar, southeast corner. I personally never open any of them just to be on the safe side.
- Nalbina Dungeons, confiscatory. When Balthier, Fran, and Vaan get their equipment back, the treasure pot is the southern one. Again, I just don’t open any of them.
- Phon Coast, Vaddu Strand. There are sixteen treasure pots arranged in a four by four grid. I can never remember which of them it is, so just don’t open any of them.
You are now safe to go to the Necrohol of Nabudis. I use “safe” loosely, because the area is incredibly dangerous for a low-levelled party, and now that you know that the best weapon of the game is there, of course you’re off to go get it. (In all seriousness, it is a pain in the ass to get it at a low level; I do recommend not going until you’re around level 40 or so, and it does wreck with the game’s difficulty if you get it early.) If you screwed any of this up, you can get a Zodiac Spear from a pot in the Phase 2 Dig of the Henne Mines, but it has a 1/1000 chance of being the Zodiac Spear and requires the Diamond Armlet. More details here.
In IZJS, you can still get a Zodiac Spear; it appears in the Special Charter Shaft of the Henne Mines, with a 1% chance to spawn. However, only the Uhlan can equip it.
The Final Fantasy series has included an incredibly hard superboss ever since Final Fantasy V; remakes of the previous games have included superbosses. Final Fantasy XII’s superboss, Yiazmat, is named for the game’s director, Yasumi Matsuno, and until Lightning Returns it held the record for the superboss with the most HP in the entire series.
Indeed, Yiazmat has a whopping 50 million HP, and since you can’t break the damage limit in the original game, fighting Yiazmat typically takes hours. Beating him is, to put it lightly, a feat.
I haven’t done it myself; I have a save in the original game where I can attempt it (I have a level 95 party or so), but the prospect of a six-hour fight is something I don’t exactly look forward to. I never got around to it in IZJS, either... but since there's an achievement for it in TZA, I no longer have an excuse. In the meantime, you can find some strategies for beating Yiazmat on the FF wiki.
That’s it! If you have any other gameplay tips for Final Fantasy XII you’d like to offer, or if you have any questions about what I’ve written here, feel free to shoot me an email!