Despite my lack of experience regarding writing a proper guide, I thought it would be a good idea to type up what I thought was good about playing the twelvth of the popular RPG series. Since completing the game, I've had an idea also about how to get the best out of the game if you are fortunate to purchase/borrow/obtain this game.
1. How good is the game?
2. How does it play?
1. If you are not interested in RPGs, then I would find this game difficult to recommend, as RPGs have always been more concerned with more patient, rather than action orientated gameplay. If you can accept, like or love the role-playing game, then this is a must buy. The quality of the voice-acting is very high, higher than that of the usual video game standard. The computer-generated cut-scenes are breath-taking, the music is sweeping, and graphic in-game are of a very good quality.
A lot of thought has gone into how the game plays, and everything feels just right. The story is also very intruging, and the presentation owes as much to an Arabian Nights-style adventure as it does the evoking of Star Wars through the forms of transport in Ivalice. If you are not sure about this, and have had a disassociation with the series for any reason, then maybe you should read part two below, just in case you need to know why I would recommend it.
2. The FF series is primarily associated with random battles, stat-crunching and lavish stories. Most recently, the eleventh FF game changed the way battles are fought from an intrusive encounter to a more natural 'spot the enemy and decide to encounter or run away' system. This is a very good system, and shown off excellently at the start of the game. You can see which person is targetting which enemy, for example, with lines of sight that appear, showing you when your character is eager to engage an enemy, or when that enemy has spotted you.
It also would be extremely time-consuming to enter in commands (attack, cast spell, etc) every time you get into a battle. This is where the 'gambit' system comes in. From a menu assigned to each character, you get the opportunity to assign a command in a certain situation (i.e., if you set 'Self HP < 40%' and assign the spell 'Cura' to get back your energy, this automatically happens when the health of the character goes below that amount. Putting further gambits will allow the characters to handle more situations that you find monotonous, and I found this a very, VERY valuable tool when I had to keep accessing a menu and halting the game as a result... very handy. You need to buy gambit commands from a shop though, and I suggest doing this early (they are cheap :-) ), to speed the game up a bit more.
In order to get more spaces for gambits, however, you need to unlock them on the licence board. This is one of the systems I find less appealing; instead of being able to use weapons, armour, magic and accessory items straight off, you have to be 'licenced' to use them. After killing an enemy, you get one or more licence points to spend on using them. The more rare or powerful the item/spell is, the more points it will cost. I found this a bit restrictive, but it can allow you develop the character the way you want.
I like the fighting a lot, and you have two major powers at your disposal; summoning espers and quickenings. Espers are a big creature/god that fights alongside the character who unlocks them (you have to fight them first, then buy them for a character to use on the licence board). However, I found that the early espers become a bit redundant because of there low rank and power, and you can only use the esper and the character who uses it in the fight.
No, I'd suggest you get your characters quickenings. Using a full magic bar, you can string together strikes by the characters available with a quickening. Combine about three of the same rank and you hurt the others around them. I use that a lot more.
And there are the side quests. It is always helpful to talk to the people around to find a quest of some sort, but the best thing is to hunt a 'mark'. A mark is simply a bounty on a monster. Get the info off a board somewhere, talk to the person who wants the monster killed, then fight it. Return to the person, collect the bounty. You get a rank on how many normal monsters and marks you dispatch, and if you join the clan in the home city, you can access more marks, get more money/items... you get the idea. This is fun, if you can find the creature, and I would recommend getting the easy marks early on, then test yourself against harder marks when you level up. Watching yourself and other characters progress this way is interesting.
When I completed the game, I didn't complete many of the marks and side quests, but I spent my time on it, and found it an extremely rewarding experience. I felt I could certainly complete the marks/quests later, and the main story and characters kept me hooked. This is a great game to see off the second Playstation console.