The mightiest sovereign state in Valendia. Originally a republic governed by an active senate, the rise of the military brought about the shift to an imperial system 200 years ago. With the change in governance, Archadia began invading its neighboring lands, quickly becoming the largest realm in Ivalice. While in the past the emperor was traditionally of military extraction, a purge of key figures in the military by the politically powerful House Solidor led to the installation of a line of Solidor emperors which continue to this day.
Let’s see, what excuse does the game give this time for making me walk instead of using that airship that my two sky pirates have...
They’d catch me if I went by air. Right. On foot it is, then.
(I’m kidding, but really, it is ridiculous that a game with characters who own an airship makes you walk all the way across the map. I mean, I love doing it, but the excuses the game comes up with get silly after a while.)
Coastal region lying along the Phon Straits which divide Archadia from Nabradia. Praised for its beautiful beaches of white sand, and lush greenery. A hunter's camp along the coast attracts adventurers and headhunters, forming a community where they might exchange information and rest between expeditions.
So, true story: Archadia is actually my favorite area in the game. I know I’ve said like three different places in this game are my favorites, but I think Archadia’s regions are actually my favorites, because every time I replay the game I end up doing the entire section from Phon Coast through Sochen in one sitting. I absolutely love this entire area. I love the wide open plains, the beach, the fact that you can see forever and how gorgeous it all is. It’s fantastic and I just love running around in these areas.
There are a couple of little secrets in the Phon Coast. There’s a Chocobo path in the Pora-Pora Sands that’s a shortcut to Caima Hills. (You can’t access it until you see the cutscene at the Hunter’s Camp.) In the Vaddu Strand, there’s an unmarked hidden passage straight to the Limatra Sands.
Also on the Vaddu Strand, you’ll find the 4 by 4 grid of treasure pots that correlates to the grid in the Necrohol of Nabudis as to where you’ll find the Zodiac Spear. How on earth anyone was supposed to figure this out just from playing the game, I have no idea. In any case, don’t touch them until you pick up the Zodiac Spear.
In IZJS this is completely different, and is instead a straight line of 16 pots. In Japanese the names of the treasures in these pots provide clues to the three invisible treasures of the game. (If you’re curious you can see how this works out here.)
Also located in the Phon Coast is the Hunter’s Camp, where you can embark on a sidequest to kill all of the Rare Game. Because hey, you’ve been doing a great job so far thinning Ivalice’s monster population. (You can’t start it until you finish the events at Draklor.)
A hilly region reaching to the south of Archadia. Before the widespread adoption of airships as the primary means of conveyance, this region was the highway to the Imperial City, and filled with travelers. Ruins can be spotted here and there amongst the tall grasses, and researchers from Archades often come here to delve into the mysteries left by whatever ancient civilization built them.
So a weird thing about Tchita Uplands is that in the original game, you will probably never see a single treasure pot. There’s just one per area, and each one has a 10% spawn rate. If it does spawn, there’s a 50% chance it’ll be gil or an item. If you put on the Diamond Armlet, you’ll get a lot of gil (20,000) or an item.
I’ve honestly played the original game through multiple times and never seen a single treasure pot on the entire Tchita Uplands despite combing the place from top to bottom. Imagine my surprise, then, when I ran through it in IZJS and found them absolutely everywhere. Turns out they changed the spawns in IZJS to make them quite common, like most other areas, and increased the number — 90 total pots versus 9 in the original.
You can access the Cerobi Steppe early if you ride one of the Chocobos in Phon Coast all the way to the exit in Tchita Uplands, but this is tricky considering there is no map urn to be found for this area; you have to know exactly where you’re going, or plot out the map beforehand. I don’t particularly think it’s worth it considering you can access the Cerobi Steppe as soon as you finish your business in Archades, but it’s up to you. (You also can’t go inside Balfonheim when you get there in this manner; it’s blocked off until you finish the Draklor Laboratory.)
In order to go through the Sochen Cave Palace, you must accept an unofficial hunt from an Archadian you find in the middle of the area. It is, to put it mildly, one of the greatest parts of the game.
You can steal Embroidered Tippets from Coeurls in the original game; in IZJS you have to poach them for it. In both versions it’s the rare item, so you won’t see them often.
Sochen Cave Palace
A giant underground complex in Archadia, consisting of natural caverns and the abandoned ruins of an ancient palace. Many of its ways and passages remain uncharted on current maps. From the style of the carvings adorning some of the walls, it is thought that the complex was built at some point during the Galtean Alliance, though no records of its construction remain. A survey mission was initiated to chart the many corridors here, but a particularly nasty infestation of creatures has significantly hampered progress.
You know, I still can hardly believe the mandragora fight is really a thing. I mean it’s just so ridiculous watching your characters chase the damn things all the way around that enormous room. It’s great! It’s just absurd. And someone took the time to animate their death scene! I love it.
I suggest magic, by the way, it’s more efficient than trying to hack and slash at the things and will go faster.
The rest of the Sochen Cave Palace is a little more difficult. Most notable is the fact that you have to follow a specific path of running in circles to unlock a couple of doors. Here are guides for both; basically you have to run in a spiral for the Pilgrim’s door, and run in a circle for the Ascetic’s door. There’s a hint for the Ascetic’s door in the southern room that’s pretty clever, but the other one is pretty convoluted. Of course, you won’t be heading through the Ascetic’s door unless you plan on fighting the Hell Wyrm superboss.
The actual boss for the palace, Ahriman, isn’t particularly difficult; just set your attacking gambits to Foe: Highest Max HP so that you attack the original and not the copies.
District on the outskirts of Archades. With the transfer of governance to the Imperial system, a new city was created, the existing city blocks now belonging to the old quarter. At the time, the under-privileged lived here along with nobles who had lost power with the rise of the Empire, while those with power lived in the new city. Now, several centuries later, little has changed. The residents of the old quarter are largely itinerants and those others outside the protection of Imperial law. Unlike the new city where buildings tower towards the sky, the old city remains brick and stone. Everything feels neglected, abandoned to fate of slow decay. With officials less than inclined to worry about the old quarter's governance, little or no effort has ever been made to revitalize the area.
You’ll exit the Sochen Cave Palace out into Old Archades. Honestly it has always baffled me that this is the case. I realize that it’s a palace full of monsters and such but it’s right next to the slums and no one seems to react to the fact that your party just waltzes right through it. A couple of other people seem to mention that they’ve passed through too and I just. What? Never mind the logic of a cave palace in the first place, why is this a normal way to get in and out of the city.
Video game logic, man.
Anyway. Visually I really like Old Archades and I like that you come here first in the plot; it’s a necessary comparison to the actual city and it makes it clear what a difference there is between the two. It also sets up the whole information-gathering quest neatly.
For some reason, if you missed it, you can buy the map for the Royal Palace of Rabanastre here for 100,000 gil. Considering it’s an unrevistable location — and nowhere near here — I have no idea why this is the case. More importantly you can buy Embroidered Tippets here, which give you 2x EXP. (This is only true in the original game.)
In IZJS two things have changed: you actually have to talk to a totally different NPC rather than Beasley; talking to him doesn’t trigger the cutscene to let you up into the city. There are also now a bunch of treasure pots in Old Archades, but all they contain are Knots of Rust or very little gil.
The Imperial City of Archades
The capital of the Archadian Empire. Still small when it first formed as a city-state, it grew tremendously during the long peace fostered by the Galtean Alliance. When the Empire was formed, the city center was re-located, forming the Archades we know today. Though poor in both natural resources and land, Archades came to prominence as a city of innovation and learning. All information and technology gathers here, and the famed mages and artificers born within her walls are legion. Knowledge, then, is the true strength of the Archadian Empire. The city of Archades forms an octagon with the Imperial Palace at its center. Around the Palace sit the Senate Chambers and other administrative quarters, beyond which lies a booming mercantile district. The buildings in the city center are quite tall, with the lower floors being used mainly as residences. The difference in heights between the various buildings makes this a city of small airships, that being the most efficient means of accessing all levels of the metropolis. More than half the population of Archades is hume, and while at one time all lived near the ground, of late, those of power or particular wealth have taken to living in the higher apartments and traveling exclusively by private airship.
Archades is probably one of my favorite areas on a visual level; it’s easily one of the most beautiful locations in the game and is simply stunning to walk around in.
Part of the main quest requires matching up NPCs based on their information. Only nine pairs are required, but you can do all 28 pairs to get a sandalwood chop. I typically do this at this point of the plot so I have access to Highgarden Terrace for the cockatrice sidequest later. (I also genuinely enjoy the sidequest. I like NPCs and enjoy the worldbuilding.)
Not a whole lot to talk about with regard to Archades; unlike Rabanastre you really just come here for the plot and a couple sidequests.
Weapons research laboratory located a short distance from the administrative district in the northeast of Archades, sponsored by the Archadian Imperial Army, with Dr. Cidolfus Demen Bunansa as its head researcher and maker of policy. Research is divided among airship design projects, sundry weapons projects, and magickal endeavors. In recent years, particular attention has been paid to magicite research, with great strides being made in the manufacturing of magicite and improved methods of drawing energy from the stones. A strict security system is in place to ensure that none of the knowledge in Draklor Laboratory leaves its doors without authorization.
Unless you’re following a walkthrough, this can be one of the most frustrating areas in the game. I typically look up a map just because I don’t want to deal with remembering where the hell I’m supposed to be going.
(And — honestly — I have to wonder why the whole red/blue switch mechanic is even there outside of it being a video game mechanic. You could justify it as Draklor being full of dangerous research and needing lots of security, sure, but then wouldn’t they come up with something that wasn’t, I don’t know, not ridiculous? But this is a video game and there has to be at least one level with a ridiculous security system that makes no sense, so I guess this is it.)
The only items to be found here are various pieces of equipment or motes; they might not even be worth the time. Other than that this area is just here for plot. Which is good, I mean, coming here is the whole reason for this portion of the game and I enjoy this part a lot. It’s just not a fun dungeon.
Prosperous port on the Naldoan Sea renowned for its rich fishing grounds. In addition to fishing, the port is known for its shipwrights and their numerous contributions to the advancement of seacraft. Though demand has dropped with the spread of airships, the wrights are still able to turn a profit on their craft. The power in Balfonheim rests with the sea captains and pirates of wealth. Though belonging in name to the Archadian Empire, well-placed regular bribes have ensured the city autonomous governance. The city itself is small, being a classic port town, with many stone-cobbled alleyways winding between buildings which hug the curve of the hills. Fresh seafood can be found in the market stalls daily, along with many other items brought by traders and pirates. Several waterways run through the city, some carrying drinking water, others used as canals for the transport of goods. The manse of Pirate King Reddas stands in the western quarter of Balfonheim.
So the first time I played FFXII I had accepted by this point in the game that this was not a Final Fantasy game where you could walk into random peoples’ houses and open their treasure chests. There are only a handful of houses you can actually enter, after all, and I’d accepted that it wasn’t a thing in this game. Imagine my surprise when I got to Balfonheim and the thing I’d been missing for so long was right here for the taking.
(Of course I took the game up on it. I love stealing from NPCs.)
The shops in Balfonheim are great, and update a couple times in the original game — after you get the Treaty-Blade and after the Sky Fortress Bahamut appears. In IZJS they only update after you get the Treaty-Blade. If you need Teleport Stones or Gysahl Greens and don’t feel like riding on an airship, you can buy from Dyce, who somehow survived the explosion of the Leviathan and made it all the way to Balfonheim just to stay here for the rest of the game so you can buy stuff from him. Good for you, Dyce.
You can take on a minigame with Reddas’s pirates; it’s just a race down the street. I assume it’s a reference to the racing minigame in Final Fantasy IX. It’s about as fun as the one in that game, by which I mean not at all.
Hilly highlands area in the east of Archadia, through which the highroad to Balfonheim Port passes. Air currents are notoriously unstable between Cerobi and Balfonheim, making land routes here as popular as those of the air. In the past, villagers in the region erected windmills to catch the winds from the Naldoan Sea, and used them to mill grain from the harvest. With advancements in the use of magicks and machineries, however, the windmills fell into disuse and now stand merely as a reminder of the past.
The Cerobi Steppe is a completely optional area; at no point will the plot direct you to come here. Those who do, however, will find themselves well-rewarded, for many of the game’s best items can spawn in treasure pots. This is the one area of the game where having the Diamond Armlet is a requirement to get the good treasures.
I personally enjoy using the Cerobi Steppe as a fun level-grinding area. I don’t particularly grind against any enemy in particular, I just run through the whole area looking for treasure pots with all my characters wearing Embroidered Tippets and fight whatever enemies I come across. When I find a treasure pot I switch my party leader’s accessory to a Diamond Armlet, try my luck, and continue on. Given that this area contains the Shield Wyrm — a regular enemy with over 60,000 HP — it’s not exactly a walk in the park, but it’s fun to slowly work your way through.