Developers: Square Enix Business Division 11, Acquire
Publisher: Square Enix
Graphics – I can’t be unbiased about this; sprite graphics are my favorite, and they are done as well as can be here. Every zone is colorful and alive, and I stopped just to look at it often. The game’s look is art.
Sound – The music is standard fare, but it never annoyed me playing the same stuff over and over like some games do. It’s only voiced and acted lightly, mostly in essential parts. There are English and Japanese voices to choose from, and the characters say things in combat while doing moves, which also didn’t annoy me, which is rather amazing considering how many battles you go through.
Gameplay – The world map is rather large, and you can wander it as you please. Each area has a fixed level, which is the only thing stopping you from going some places too early. Still, you can run through and equip a passive that lowers random battle rates if you are willing to risk it and save scum. You are given eight characters to choose from, each with what is called a path action. Every town has NPCs that can be investigated, items stolen or purchased from, challenged, or guided, which adds them to your party. Each path action has two versions, rouge and noble. For example, Therion, the thief, can steal items, or Tressa, the merchant, can buy them. Noble actions have level/money requirements but always work; rogue actions have a percent to succeed or fail, and if failed, you eventually lose reputation and cannot use path actions in that town. You may restore your reputation at the tavern with money, which can be expensive.
Now for the combat, the game has random battles that trigger as you walk around. When in battle, every enemy has weaknesses that break their shield, then when done so, your attacks do much more damage. If an enemy is weak to, say, a sword attack and has two shields, you need to hit them with two sword attacks to break the shield. Then they are stunned, lose their turn, and take more damage. When an enemy is first encountered, you don’t know what these weaknesses are. You just use your moves and find out the hard way, or one character, Cyrus, has the unique ability to identify one weakness at the start of a battle, and the Scholar class has the analyze skill to reveal them as well.
Also featured is “boost mode,” where every turn, your character gains one point of boost that can be used to a max of four at once to power up your attacks, heals, and add turns to buff durations. Whether it is better to save them up or use them immediately depends on each battle.
Every character has a base job they cannot change and can equip a second job that gives them the abilities and passives of it as well when JP -, job points, are spent. You are encouraged to change the job freely to gain the passives of other jobs to round out your team. All of the game’s battle strategy lies in having a well-rounded team that can hit all weaknesses, having good passives that are needed, and managing your boost points correctly.
Story – Eight travelers, going through individual stories. Each character has four chapters, and the stories are much smaller in scale than in other games: no world-ending threats and banding together here, just personal stories. The characters don’t even interact outside of what is called “Banter,” and this only shows up starting in chapter two and only sometimes at that. Still, it makes it extra special to see them talking to each other, offering comments on what is happening. The characters get along well, and I enjoyed reading it; however, little there was. Unfortunately, you can see the stories have a formula that each follow, and you’ll begin to guess accurately what will happen as it goes on, but I still enjoyed it. There are also plenty of side quests to do that require path actions and lots of backtracking. These were mostly filler, and I needed a guide to doing them without wandering aimlessly.
Short Summary – This is just an amazing, lengthy game, easily 50+ hours, and that is not counting the post-game stuff. There is lots of grinding. As a result, you may find it repetitive. On the other hand, it looks fantastic, sounds well enough, and the storyline may or may not pull you in depending on your tolerance of smaller-scale stories, with only a little interaction between the game characters.
***** Five out of Five Stars (Great)