Review by evilbob65535
"A decent game that could have been spectacular."
Final Fantasy Tactics was a brilliant game. It was the best use of Square's job system ever implemented, and a spectacular tactical game to boot. FFT Advanced expanded on that game with a comprehensible story, multiple races that learned different jobs, a clan system based around random quests, and further development of the world of Ivalice. The three major drawbacks to FFTA were the use of the horrid Final Fantasy 9 learn abilities from items system, which is easily one of the worst systems Square ever invented, the law/judge system which introduced needless randomness, and the imbalance of power among the jobs. It looks like the third problem has been addressed, but sadly the second problem was simply changed and the worst part of FFTA was imported directly into FFTA2 and somehow made even worse.
That said, FFTA2 is a great game, and if you're reading this to find out if it is worth your money because you're new to the FFT series or you're looking for a great turn-based tactical strategy game, then I agree with every other review on this site: it is. It is fun, and a disparately needed addition to this under-developed genre. However, if you didn't like FFTA, then you should know that you probably won't like FFTA2. It is both a great expansion from the original game that manages to fix several of its flaws while simultaneously magnifying two of its worst.
The first and biggest flaw is the inclusion of the FF9 learn abilities from items system. Like many Final Fantasy games, you earn Ability Points for your actions in battles, and these are used to learn new skills. Sadly, in this game, your ability to learn new skills is extremely artificially restricted because you can only learn abilities based on the specific items you have equipped. For example, you can only learn the Cure spell as a white mage who has the White Staff equipped. This means that if you want to learn another white mage spell, you will need to find another white mage item and equip it instead. Not only does this mean your skill set is completely restricted to what equipment you can lay your hands on, but unlike the previous FFTA the main way to get new equipment is to trade in loot (enemy drops) for items at the bazaar. These loot can also be gotten from quests, which are assigned somewhat randomly. This semi-random loot/equipment generation system means that you can go for quite some time in the game without access to some of the basic items that are required for you to learn the skills necessary to access better or different jobs. The result is that your job development is frustrated or halted, simply because of the poor access to different (not necessarily better) items. This is all in addition to the fact that you're forced to use items you don't like or that are not optimal, and that your primary focus in the game is to become an item collection agent who can never dump off old or poor equipment due to the fact that it might be useful (read: required) to level another character up. This extremely poor system is a very frustrating choice for what could otherwise have been such a wonderful game, and seems designed to artificially increase the difficulty in a random way.
The second biggest carryover flaw from FFTA is the law system, which was tweaked somewhat but also made more broken. This works to effectively give you a pre-set restriction on battles that it is in your best interests to avoid. For example, you may be given the restriction of no ranged weapons - so you can't use a bow, or you have broken the law. The good thing about this system is that it isn't as penalizing as the first FFTA game: the results for breaking the law are fairly minor although since one of the rewards you can get for following the law is additional items, due to the first major flaw you'll want to follow it as much as possible to maximize the chance you'll get the item you so desperately need. The bad thing is that in what seems to be an effort to increase variety, they have created laws that are even more confusing and arbitrary than the first game. Some make following the law impossible during battle: if you are restricted from attacking anything with a lower level than you and the goal is to defeat all enemies and one is a lower level, then you are forced to break the law. This kind of match up should have been avoided in the programming: the game should not give you situations where the law is impossible to avoid. Again, the primary motivation of the inclusion of this system seems to be to increase the difficulty of the battles in an arbitrary way.
Fortunately, the third biggest issue with FFTA seems to have been addressed, as there is a much more even distribution in the power level of all classes. And the addition of two new races which also have their own unique class options is nice, although due to the very limited class options for these races it almost feels like they were added an afterthought. The music and graphics, while extremely similar to FFTA, are both still very good. And the storyline is somewhat similar to FFTA as well, although in basic plot device/advancement only.
Again, if you want to know why FFTA2 is good, read any of the other reviews online that rave about what is, at its heart, a wonderful turn-based tactical strategy game. And it is, at its most basic level, still a brilliant, beautiful, challenging game by a company that continues to dominate this tiny genre and produce some of its best contributions. But sadly, what could have been a spectacular game was made only ok by the inclusion of elements that seem at best designed to frustrate players and at worst to hamper your game altogether. If the game wants to be more challenging, the developers should work on the enemy AI, create more classes and more skills, and generate new and better tactical maps. The learn abilities from items system and the random law system certainly makes the game more challenging, but only by adding a sense of randomness to the battles that is far more frustrating than rewarding. But, if you feel like you can stomach these major hindrances, the game underneath these systems is still rewarding and fun.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 07/31/08, Updated 08/01/08
Game Release: Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift (US, 06/24/08)
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