The most notable thing about Ivalice is the huge number of sentient races living in it. Much like Final Fantasy IX, there aren’t just humans walking around — there are all kinds of different races present in Ivalice. Final Fantasy XII features the most races of any Ivalice game by far, though only two are playable (hume and viera).
An interesting thing to note is that most of these races originated in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, a game that doesn’t actually take place in the “real” Ivalice but in a dream world. The original Final Fantasy Tactics only starred humans, apparently due to a cataclysmic event that wiped out the other races. (Or that fact that it was made years before Square came up with them. Take your pick.)
Humans, obviously. I believe the name hume originated in Final Fantasy XI, but I might be wrong on that (I never played FFXI). Humes make up the largest population in Ivalice, and most governments are ruled by humans. Five out of the six playable characters are humes, and all of the guest characters are humes as well.
In short, this is a story about humans and human interests, and the other races are just there for background. They’re interesting background, don’t get me wrong, but they’re not the focus the way they are in some of the other Ivalice games.
The bunny women. Beautiful and long-lived, Viera are split into two groups: those who have left the Wood, and those who have not. In modern-day Ivalice there are quite a few of these, among them the sky pirate and playable character Fran. Viera outside of the wood have found their place in all walks of life, and can be spotted in many cities across Ivalice.
The Wood in question is Golmore Jungle, located on the continent of Kerwon in the south. There lies Eruyt Village, which is visited during the main course of the story. The viera there are deeply spiritual and live in seclusion, keeping themselves apart from the wars and strife that trouble the land of Ivalice.
To be honest the viera of FFXII remind me a lot of the elves of Lord of the Rings; then again given LotR’s influence on fantasy in general the idea of a long-lived race in the forest with special abilities is kind of a trope now. The fact that they look like bunny women is certainly unique. Male viera do apparently exist, just in separate communities from female viera.
Humanoid race, their bodies covered in small, hard scales, with distinctive long, drooping ears. Bangaa are nimble and strong, living up to twice as long as the average hume. In manner and intelligence they greatly resemble humes, and as such as the most integrated of the humanoid races in hume society. Even so, some humes call the bangaa "lizards" behind their backs, but this is considered a slur, and is like to deeply offend any bangaa within hearing.
Bangaa are one of the races you see all over Ivalice, and while Ba’Gamnan’s crew might make you think that they’re uncouth and unintelligent, have a chat with just about any bangaa NPC and you’ll find them to be quite fascinating. I really like bangaa and have ever since FFTA; I would have loved a bangaa party member in this game. Oh well.
The official strategy guide points out that the many different skin colors of bangaa lead people to believe that this influenced their personality traits — for example, a blue Bangaa would have a strong sense of justice — but that most bangaa of the current era have mixed blood so this is no longer the case.
As a side note, while bangaa might seem to be predominately male, one of Ba’Gamnan’s crew is his sister Rinok; the pimary distinction between the two is that she seems to have hair. I don’t recall seeing any other bangaa women in Ivalice, though.
The Final Fantasy standard! FFXII’s moogles look very different from what you might know from the series, but they’re actually taken straight from FFTA. There are six main moogles siblings that serve as NPCs for sidequests and helpful gameplay features — Montblanc, the head of Clan Centurio; Nono, who works on Balthier’s airship, the Strahl; Gurdy, who runs the chocobo ranches; and Horne, Sorbet, and Hurdy, who run the Moogling teleporter in Rabanstre. Montblanc and Nono both originally appeared in FFTA.
You’ll also find plenty of moogle NPCs around the various cities, some just sitting around, some running shops (such as the one in Bhujerba), and there’s even a short quest in the Salikawood where you have to find a bunch of lazy moogles who are slacking off.
What I like most about the moogles of FFXII is that they really feel like they’re part of the world, and not just that cute little creature that shows up now and then. They have a place in society — moogle technology is the backbone of modern life in Ivalice — and you see them in various ranks, such as Montblanc being the clan head. Given how hume-centric the game is, it’s great to see moogles getting some screentime. (Also, their designs are just adorable in this game.)
Nu Mou are a kind of doglike race, with long tails and lots of fur. Most live on Mt. Bur-Omisace, which makes sense given their proclivity towards magic and Mist, but a few show up in the other cities. They are the last of the five races to come from FFTA.
I was actually pretty disappointed that you don’t really see the nu mou much in FFXII given how big of a role they have in FFTA; there are a couple of NPCs you get sidequests from in this game, but otherwise there are no voiced nu mou NPCs and they never show up in the plot at any point. A shame, because they’re a really fun race.
Moving on now to the new races introduced in FFXII:
Humanoids of great girth, considered somewhat duller and cruder than humes. Though they appear ponderous, they move with surprising alacrity, making excellent warriors whether on the attack or defensive. However, their barbarous natures and lack of courage find them engaged more often as bandits or worse. Very fond of gemstones, gold, and other shiny objects, with which they richly adorn their bulky forms.
Seeq seem to get the short stick a lot in the game. Like the bangaa, they’re definitely discriminated against by some; they’re common in the cities, but since they’re much less human they tend to have a lower class. The fight in the pit in Nalbina Dungeon presents the seeq in a particularly unflattering light, but there are plenty of seeq NPCs you can talk to in Rabanastre and the town of Nalbina. Still, they don’t have any actual role in the plot; they’re really just there for background.
Seeq return as playable characters in FFTA2.
This race of large-framed, well-muscled humanoids have bodies covered in thick fur. The Garif adorn themselves simply with ornaments of stone and bone, preferring natural objects over those crafted or otherwise unchanged from their original form. The one exception is their masks: each is unique, and is worn for the duration of the owner's life. The Garif worship magicite as a sacred substance, and possess deep cultural knowledge of the stones.
A reclusive race living far to the south, in the Bancour region of Ivalice. The party visits the village of Jahara during the game in order to learn more about the magicite, which factor into the history of the race. According to the ultimania, the garif live in villages separated by sex (like the viera); the garif met in the game are all male.
Personally I really like the character designs for the garif. Other than that I don’t have a whole lot of opinions on them; you don’t spend much time in Jahara. An NPC in Rabanastre tells you that the garif apparently put their masks on shortly after birth and never take them off as long as they live. The NPC then justifiably wonders what they do when they get an itch. I love this game because now every time I see a garif that's all I can think about.
Race evolved from crustaceans to bipedal humanoids. Their hides are extremely hard, covered with stiff bristles of needle-like hair. Customarily, they wrap themselves in cloth, though whether this is for protection against the elements, or to hide their hideous appearance, none can say. Extremely aggressive by nature, all attempts at integrating Urutan-Yensa into hume culture have ended in tragedy. Though they recognize no state, they are fiercely territorial and war between Urutan-Yensa tribes is incessant.
The Urutan-Yensa are native to the Nam-Yensa and Ogir-Yensa sandsea, and are killed in absolute droves by the player when you head through there because they’re everywhere. Despite this I actually like them a fair bit, mostly because of the optional little scene with the Urutan-Yensa Queen once you reach the Nam-Yensa Sansea. It adds a surprising amount of depth to a race that otherwise would just be an unremarkable enemy that you spend a few hours slaughtering as you explore a couple of areas of the map on your way to the next plot point.
That said, they are a dead ringer for Tusken Raiders, making FFXII feel even more like Star Wars.
Humanoid race closely resembling humes, save for the small horns atop their heads. Diminutive in size, even adults grow no larger than Hume children. Unable to breathe untreated air, they must wear filtering masks to survive. The greater part of baknamy live in poverty, and their frequent association with criminal activities has led to much prejudice and hatred of their people among hume society.
For the most part, baknamy are just an enemy; unlike the Urutan-Yensa they don’t get any kind of plot or anything. However, there does exist a baknamy merchant deep within the Necrohol of Nabudis, who at least lets you buy rare stuff you can’t get anywhere else. If that doesn’t offer some redemption, I don’t know what will.
The fact that they can’t breathe oxygen makes me wonder how they evolved in the first place, though. Like, it’s a neat idea, but how does that even work? It reminds me of the Grunts from the Halo series, who breathe methane because that’s what their home planet’s atmosphere is, but how exactly does a race on an oxygen-based planet evolve that way? (There very well may be a logical explanation; I always was terrible at science.)
This is the race of Marquis Ondore’s aides. No others show up in the game, and nothing further is known about them in FFXII. Cid in FFTA2 is a rev, but as far as I know there’s no connection.
The race of Gran Kiltias Anastasis. Honestly for the longest time I thought he was a rev; they look fairly similar to me and you see Anastasis so briefly that I didn’t realize he was something else. Given that he’s the only helgas you ever see I suppose you could assume that his special abilities (the whole dreamsage thing) are due to his race, but who knows.