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Final Fantasy XII: Level Up

By Shamus
on Tuesday May 15, 2007
Filed under:
Game Reviews


There are two aspects that most people talk about when discussing Final Fantasy games: The story, and the gameplay. In my previous posts I said I was unhappy with both. I’ve started the game over, and I’m still not happy with the story, but this time through the gameplay is really working for me.

In previous FF games, I’d march straight through the game, occasionally taking little half-hour leveling sessions to level up a bit past the monsters and ease my way past the occasional bossfight. This usually worked well. I was doing that here, and wondering why the game was so murderously hard.

For those that played the game: I was level 14 when I reached the Ogir-Yensa Sandsea. I was sort of surprised that the game gave me a level 18 NPC to travel with, and I was even more surprised to see that even with his help the journey through the Sandsea was really hard. Then I had a sort of forehead-slapping “duh” moment and realized that the little bits of leveling I was doing were falling way, way short of what the designers intended.

Final Fantasy 12, a 101-zombie-killing chain.
We just killed over a hundred zombies. Are you guys bored? I’m not bored. I could do another hundred if you wanted.
Now on my second attempt at the game I’ve done some treadmill leveling. In the Lhusu mines I found a nice spot that generated endless foes at a steady pace. I cranked up the combat speed and ran around, slaughtering those foes for a couple of hours. Later I found myself on an enemy airship with laser tripwires. Crossing them would sound an alarm and cause bunches of guards to emerge from the woodwork and throw themselves onto the end of my sword. We were careful to set each and every one of them off repeatedly. The process sort of reminded me of this Penny Arcade comic.

The gambit system makes it pretty easy to automate most of this, so I was reading blogs and writing posts while I nudged the analog stick and kept the process moving. Yes, I realize how absurd it is to look for ways to amuse myself while I’m playing a game. It’s like going to a concert and listening to your iPod the whole time. In the end, this silly behavior paid off. This time around I was level 24 by the time I hit the Sandsea, and it’s like I’m playing Final Fantasy again.

Now, I disapprove of this mandatory level-grinding for the most part. I think XP farming should be optional. It should be something risk-adverse gamers (like me) do to get ahead, not something everyone should be forced to do in order to keep up. Having said that, the game is so much more fun now that I’ve invested the time to get “ahead”.

Final Fantasy 12, $20,000 for bone fragments?
I don’t know why people are so excited about bone fragments, but after I killed all those zombies people were willing to pay a lot of money for this stuff.
And now that I’ve done it, further grinding is pretty painless. My crew can wipe out most foes in just two or three hits. Whenever I find an area dense with foes, I run around and slaughter them for a bit. The constant killing has yielded a lot of loot, which fixed the money shortage problem I was having. In my earlier post I complained that high-level foes were mixed in with lower level ones, just waiting to kill unwary players. Now when I meet these things I can actually survive long enough to run away, instead of getting insta-killed. I even managed to beat one, but just barely. (It wasn’t really worth the time it took to bring him down, but it was sort of amusing to try.)

The other thing I did which added to my enjoyment of the game was to look up the layout of the license grid. The game really, really needed to make the contents of grid squares visible ahead of time so the player could plan ahead. Opening abilities via blind luck sucked a huge amount of strategy out of the game, and using this “cheat sheet” fixed that and made the game a lot more interesting.

Comments (115)

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  1. Neema says:

    Alright sooo I didnt read all the comments, but first off to Nice Ashe;

    Chains give you potentially more loot, better loot, and if you get high enough, heal some HP, give you shell, and give you protect. Right now, because im grinding after the part where the party gets ashe out of her cell but not off the ship yet. (right now, most of the party is 15, shooting for 16 at least)

    Now part of the way im grinding isnt even analog nubbing. You see, at this part, the enemy spawns and comes to you. I just got my gambits set so (after healing priorities), they attack the nearest foe. Working so far; you jus need to make sure that your party leader does not use a ranged weapon, and that everyone can use Cure

    note; i read over somes tuff, and other peoples methods seem better…now..to sacrifice my 10 hours of gameplay to go over and level like that..or no…..

  2. NiceAshe says:

    Thanks for the info and right now im at the shrine in the mountains tring to beat the esper but.. guess what.. no luck. what realy made me mad is that my cousin is a level 40 or so now and he is before the shrine and he dont do the grinding stuff eather. he wont tell me his secret but i know that he beat vaine at level 20 somthing and its like OMG how the heck did u do that. but i digress. i made a pact as soon as i lost that i wouldnt return to the shrine untill i got everyone to level 30 or so and at least 3 more espers

  3. NiceAshe says:

    Anyone know where the best place is to train when you are only level 30 and need to be at level 35. Also when you are near the shrine in the mountains and are in need of levelups. plus my lowest is at level 23 and such.

  4. NiceAshe says:

    after much time in… well.. Everywhere just about. i found the best way to level up. go to Archadia and buy 3 (and i mean only three because otherwise u just wasted your money) embrordered tiblits. then put them on vaan of course and then your 2 weakest characters then go the Barahiem Passage (need the Barahiem key first). then from the save crystal, follow the tracks to the right and take the tunnel to the left to the “insert name here” and kill all of the guys here for at least 10000 or more exp. plus double with the tiblit. plus if u are lucky a rare monster called inthuos could be their and if u steal from it u can get a super strong and very dangerous to the enemy sword called the deathbringer. happy training and hunting

  5. tom says:

    the way to make the game easier is before the palace and without penelo to chain dustias to level 25-30, then to get the gladius and kill the werewolves in giza until vaan is levels 50-60, then you can defeat everything until you fight Yiazmat (optional)

  6. d says:

    some of the comments i see are such bs..some of u complaining for ff games to be too hard if u don tdo side quests? ahha come on so for ppl who arent true gamers and dont do side quests and all that how would that work? its like well u can play the game with out grinding or side quests and just go thro the game for the story but if u ewant u can grind..which would mean the game would be insanely easy..easier than ff10 was…ff12 is easy to me i could beat the game right now..but i think thats not how ff games are their ment for u to fight the level 99 boss not the story boss..like in ffx who was the strongest enemy? not seymour or jecht!…the final monster in the arena! theres always a level 99 monster and a bunch of enemies over the final boss of the storys level..thats y ppl who play alot of games play final fantasy..when i play i play to max my ppl out and fight the final hardest boss of the game..watever the hardest challenge is i wan beat it..thats wat final fantasy is all about and thats y it always has the stuff after the story..inff12 vayne is the final..but hes no where close to the strongest..thats how ff does it and it always is greatt

  7. NiceAshe says:

    good outlook on the final fantasy games d: but some like me just play to challege myself and my true limit of my gaming skills. Even know i havent found any games that truly push me to the limit, this one was ehh close. but what i realy want to know is is there a good place to train my guys when they are like high 50s and low 60s when the only good places are the ones that have the levels higher… MUCH HIGHER. like in the secret area of the henne mines and the lower levels of the pharos. i know about the gelamesh or whatever it is trick to get unlimited exp. but i dont want to leave my game on all night long because i got a new system and im afraid that it might overheat like my cousins did. other places that scare me at my level would be the great crystal. O MY GOD. can they get any stronger. of course they can like the freaken OMEGA MARK XII. good god do i not want to see him any time soon. recomended level 99 he says sarcastecly. naw duh. he’s only the strongest boss in the game.

  8. NiceAshe says:

    i learned a great secret to all those that have beaten zardiark. if u have beaten him and u missed the zodiac spear then i have good news for u. i was look around the internet when i found something “VERY INTERESTING” i dont know if it is true or not but im hoping it is because i missed the spear. well if u notice the 16 chests on the phon coast, remember u have to have beaten zardiark first, well u need to open the chests in a certain way. whatever that way might be u need to open ALL 16 chests. and yes it will afect the chests in the nechrol of nabudis. well go there and open the chests in the same way as u did on the phon coast. now go to the henne mines and get back to the spot where u fought zardiark and i mean the same room. there will be a chest in the middle of it. (MEGA WARNING NOW. MEGA WARNING NOW. U NEED TO HAVE THE DIAMOND ARMLET ON TO GET THE GOOD STUFF. U NEED TO HAVE THE DIAMOND ARMLET ON TO GET THE GOOD STUFF). open the the chest with the DIAMOND ARMLET ON. i cant stress how impotant it is to have it on. inside it could be a number or items like the DRAGON WISKER, EXALABER, TOURNESOL, especily the ZODIAC SPEAR. yes i said it the zodiac spear and not only that the chest will constently reapper in the same spot with the same items in it UNLIMITEDLY. now like i said this is something i have not tested myself before but im hoping that it is true because i really need that spear. if anyone tries this please please o please o please write on here the results and tell me if its true or not.

  9. Leboutaine says:

    What do you want from an RPG? To simply just “stroll” through the game and not have to overcome any possibilities? The game would then become pointless and far too easy. If you never had to level up, then what would the game ever be about, other than you “acting out” parts of a storyline. It would be like an interactive movie, where you have absolutely minimal control over what happens.

    The things you people want to moan about these days is just bizarre. There’s a reason why you aren’t making games and other people are. You only need to “grind” in FFX12 if you want to complete elite marks or do much of the side quests. It makes sense that there should be harder monsters in different and more rare parts of the world, otherwise what “menacing foes” would there be? If you could just simply walk through the whole game without any difficulties, where would the fun be in that? Please, I’m dying to know just what you’d propose, because it seems to me that the idea of an RPG would be infinitely changed to suit those people who know nothing of tactics and battle experience.

    Woeful comments here!

    • Shamus says:

      Leboutaine: The question is: What are you so ANGRY?

      I’m not sure what your problem is, but people are stopping by to mention that the game would be more fun for them if it worked a little differently. And you stagger in here and demand an explanation for why they want things the way they do. AND you failed to notice that this post is nearly two years old, so nobody else is reading this thread.

      (I read it because it’s my site.)

      There ARE other reasons to enjoy a game than for raw challenge.

      Think about it. I’m sure some will come to you.

    • Vic 2.0 says:

      I’m inclined to agree. I think it MUST be about tactics and strategy (which, oddly enough, the author of the article says he’s in favor of) because I NEVER had to grind just to get through the story. Optional quests and marks, sure, but not the story.

      But since there is the option of simply “level-grinding” (which is great about FF, that they give you that option), people tend to lean that direction and then complain about it. That’s a very common them in criticism of FF12, I find, complaining about the way YOU CHOSE to play it. “The game plays itself!” Well turn the gambits off, goofball! “All my characters have the same abilities!” Well who made THAT happen, hmmmmmm? It goes on and on.

  10. Auberon says:

    Well, Shamus, I guess I’d go with Leboutaine, here. No offense, really, but I was reading your site in search of some oppinions about ps2 rpg’s in general. And I guess these observations are a bit too demanding.
    Again, no offense. I guess I’m kinda old school. The improvement FFXII represented in it’s strategic depth and development in plot (and many would desagree in here) gives quite a contrast, if compared, as mentioned, with older games. Grinding is completely secondary, as far as I can see, and when it becomes a choice, it is still enjoyable for the gambit strategy and for the opportunity to enjoy the scenary.
    And even if it is an old tread, and an old discussion… Well, there’s allways the possibility of an ocasional curious reader – such as I – to show up. And there’s allways the pleasure of a good argument, of course!
    By the way, I loved the site. Congratulations!

  11. Meh says:

    can we just get a cheat so we can just watch the cutscenes from the start of the game to the end with no playing at all. That would make a great game.
    (that was a joke)

    • Shamus says:


      Why don’t they just make you fight each and every monster ten thousand times before you gain a level. Just think, the game will be thousands of hours long! Won’t that be awesome?
      (That was sarcasm.)

  12. acabaca says:

    Bitching about “mandatory grinding” in an RPG is iffy because it’s both easy and valid to interpret such complaints as “I suck at this game and I’m blaming it on the game”.

    Games traditionally expect the player to reach a certain level of (real-life) skill before allowing him to proceed. RPGs have the unique trait that they allow us to replace that real life skill with grinding. But if we have to grind, isn’t it just an admission of suckage on our part? A failure in our strategies, our character builds? Traditionally, we would be punished for that by not being allowed to progress until we have gotten better at the game. Games that allow us to exchange that penalty for a bit of busywork are being lenient on us, not strict.

    Now, this argument doesn’t fit JRPGs very well because they are usually about as strategically deep as tic-tac-toe. But I don’t think it’s ever a reasonable expectation to be able to defeat enemies by mashing the attack button. Some games are like that – oh who am I kidding, almost all JRPGs are like that – but it’s a strike against them.

  13. PsychoStarFish says:

    I am so awesome
    Unbelievebly I got Reks up to lvl99
    It took weeks of boring training
    Day after Day
    Kill after Kill
    And now its just an awesome decoration I have
    He does outstanding damage better than what lvl99 Basch can do
    I destroy all obstacles in my way with Destruction and I leave my carnage behind for others to witness my power
    XP Farming is a big help for pass the game with ease
    The Lushu Mines is one of my favourites
    It is so easy train in this game
    I am awesome

  14. Kathy says:

    In general, I don’t mind having to grind a little in order to take up a boss, but in this game I end up having to grind way too much. I especially get pissed off when I spend 3-4 hours leveling up my characters, only to find out that I have to gain another 5 levels in order to scrape by on the next boss/area. Even though I generally fight every single monster available in every area I enter, I still have to grind. Currently, my main three characters are up to par with the boss im at, but my other three are almost 10 levels behind. Some people say that if you do the side quests the extra leveling up is minimal, but I hate doing side quests in games. Side quests shouldn’t even be essential in reaching the appropriate level. Nevertheless, I love this game. The story line is awesome and I find it fun finding every bosses’ weakness and defeating them (barely) based on that.

  15. Russell F says:


    “Mandatory Gridning” does not exist in Final Fantasy XII.

    There are people who have beaten the game without a single character leveling up. I’m sure there are videos showing it on Youtube. If this is possible, then presumably it’s possible to do it at near any level. It’s just more DIFFICULT.

    If there are multiple enemies you don’t want to deal with, spells like Sleep, Disable or Stop can make it so that you don’t HAVE to. Or at least knock them down long enough to run away. These spells also work well for crowd control in general.

    I understand you’ve already beaten it, but the comment on “Mandatory Grinding” really bothers me. It’s a bit of a pet peeve issue for me.

    • Vic 2.0 says:

      Ditto. I know I never had to grind just to get through the story. And I know what you’re talking about, the people who play it without leveling. One example is what the call the 122333 game; people can look it up.

  16. Amanda says:

    Ahhh, “Mandatory Grinding.” The great debate, right? I feel like leveling up/money making is kind of a part of the RPG process. It’s something a lot of gamers just take in stride, and being voluntary in a lot of games, you can pass it up but may end up having a more difficult time winning through a lot of later battles. I spend a lot of time XP farming and building up my money supply in any RPG, regardless of “need” just because that’s how I play them. -shrug-

  17. daniel24 says:

    i was lvl 17 before i first found penelo

  18. daniel24 says:

    i think that grinding is just another way to get to the top to be the strongest but everyone has there opinion so i guess it doesn’t matter if you do or don’t like grinding or wether you use it or not the point is is the game fun and did you like it

  19. Pablo says:

    I’s not mandatory grinding. You also are supposed to do the hunts and side quest that makes you lvl up and be prepared. Hunts usually give you money and also usefull items that are available much more later in the game. And for instance side quest “Barheym’s key” will help lvling up and getting one of the best 1 handed swords.

  20. silly mikey says:

    what you people are talking about when you say no grinding in games is a game like Legend of Zelda.it makes perfect sense,really…i guess what would be a really good system is one that takes a more realistic approach:running builds stamina which would help you hit harder for longer with out taking breaks.lifting weights or some such to increase your strength to hit harder/move faster.the only experience one should gain is in yourself,as in experience on how to kick this guys ass,and learn to chain moves together to make effective and even awesome looking kills.and of course upgrades in equipment here and there because in the real world,a sword made of steel will more preferable than one of iron,and one of folded steel more than steel.

  21. Profile Hits says:

    Thank You For keeping it on point and on topic –

    Best Regards

  22. Altair says:

    I totally agree with Kathy. I was lvl 10 when I get to Dreadnought Leviathan for the first time only to get owned at the prison door. Fine, I went back to Lhusu Mines to level up until I am satisfied. It sure feels much easier. At least my healer’s MP isn’t drain that much. It was really comfortable.

    So off we go to the tomb of Raithwall at lvl 20. No problems at all and I am sooo happy. Guess what? I am now at Ozmone Plain and I getting my ass kicked so hard by two Zaghnals, I will need a save crystal every 2 fights in order to regain my MP. I didn’t get the best weapons but I do equipped my tank with the best armor + weapon I can buy. Initially I though they are not the normal mobs because of the huge increase in HP from the ones in Gaza Plain. I ran around the area and I was shell shocked. I don’t know what to do with this game anymore.

  23. Holy judge says:

    you guys are retarded! so what if you have to grind…thats one thing you HAVE to to do in most RPG’s!!! to me, the grinding is to let you enjoy the combat and the feeling that you are making the game easier on your self. yes,bosses are supposed to be difficult and fun..but not to where you get your ass kicked a thousand times then finaly get lucky with a critical hit or somethin. if you dont like to grind,oh well get over it. any one else agree with me here???

  24. doco says:

    I only ran through the mines twice for the bone fragment money, and the only grinding was to get three demonsbanes from the raithwall chest.. I’m at Bur Omisace and there’s no area besides feywood that I can’t at least explore without dying. I had been killing king malboros under Rabanastre to find the Mousse and it made me lol when the storyline had me kill normal ones.

    Level 26, with all the best equips around.

    Did every side quest, nothing that felt line grinding..

    Quit bawwing, the game is easy.

  25. TutengBatute says:

    we are just talking semantics here. RPG games are multi faceted and cant be categorized into being non-grinding and grinding genres. true, you can finish most RPG games w/out going into any side quests and BUT i assure you that you’ll barelay pass through the bosses by a hair if not at all. 1 memorable end boss is sephiroth, which according to 1 review about it, the creators said the boss matched the level you were at so it doesnt matter how much you level grinded, the difference would be w/ the skill and the items. and yes, hard core RPG gamers, by experience knows that the FF franchise usually has harder side quest boss that the final boss for the main story. thats what set apart ff7 among the rest because of what they did for sephiroth’s level matching set up. id still play the ff franchise any day compared to any out there :o)

  26. chris azure says:

    hey when I fisrt started the game I found a way to get one of the stong weapons the “kotetsu”, I just sat there and killed warewolves of giza plain all day long. I’m barly at the sandsea at level 40 and it took alot of paitent, an alot of combos, but its good when you can get all your charator’z to have kotetsu’s

  27. Odin says:

    101 Chain ? Boring..i make till 400 to 600 chain..still not boring.can make till few thousand,if i want

  28. Irah says:

    Except for the fact that chains cap at 999. Quit trollin’. This thread is dead.

  29. cikgu azim says:

    itried to play the game many times and still not finish the game..thanks for help

    • CONQUEST says:

      Are you really playing for good? this is my way :
      1. when balthier and fran at party , minimum level : 6
      2. at airship (the first judge boss) min level : 12
      3. miriam (sorry forgot the writing) min level : 17
      4. phoan coast min : 35/30?(reserve party min 28)
      5. PHAROS AT RIDHORANA : 48(reserve party min 33)
      6.FINAL BOSS : 52-55(reserve 38)

      sorry if it’s not enough (how to go with it : )
      this is hard
      1. level 6 = just attack and run if you cant defend / survive
      2. kill the archadians’s soldier then the judge , use mist with great combo to kill it in 1 blow
      3. try to get the blood moon to get past it a bit easier
      4. this is hard if you in level 30-35 i suggest to level up to 39/40 but i made it with level 30-35 though , just use libra and DONT DIED. just make sure you got a powerfull armor ok ?
      5. libra again, flee flee flee, boss, cura/curaga/curaja , attack , bravery (attacker) faith (caster),protect,shell,haste , do it reapeatly , note : stock up alot of phonix down if you aren’t as smart as the game maker (no offense ok ? ^^)
      6.FINAL BOSS : kill if you want to kill the guard, the machine are pain in the back , suggest you just run , basch twin brother boss :
      a. before get there, prepare your self (max hp , protect,shell,haste,bravery,faith) finish it fast (suggest not to use mist of you will be hard getting the final boss) he will cast renew, after this use summon ( the 1 mark ) and make the best of your esper and kill it
      b.vayne 1 : Larsa in party, before enter , use buff protect ,shell , haste, ect, curaja , kill it fast, or you will regret it (after this battle your hp maybe at 30% or less)
      c. undead vayne (vayne 2) : renew , attack the sword of holy , darkness, thunder , first then the other , protect shell haste again . summon esper if you need , adramalach i will suggest , KILL KILL KILL !!(if you cant, just use reserve party) damage and won (maybe hp only 10%) phew this is hard nay ?
      D. final boss : use reverse team, and renew the main team , attack , fast fast , when it physical resist , just cure your team, shock spell if you can , when it magicc resist , use physical and haste team , when it use both resist : !!
      >renew , cure yourself, off your gambit , use hi ether to heal mp , use esper when he use both resist, then use quickening !! WIN !! YOU WIN ^^

  30. CONQUEST says:

    not so bad, but i have level 17 before even get balthier and fran at my party :P it’s easy, just tell me if you want to know how, it’s not so long even without the gambits, you can just kill and use the equip that attack enemies with super damage for westersand , comment if you want to know how

  31. The Truth says:

    “In previous FF games, I'd march straight through the game, occasionally taking little half-hour leveling sessions to level up a bit past the monsters and ease my way past the occasional bossfight. This usually worked well. I was doing that here, and wondering why the game was so murderously hard.”

    That is intriguing, because I’ve played the game through without level-grinding AT ALL and had no real trouble. It is probably something to do with your strategy. The way you have your gambits set up, etc.

    “The other thing I did which added to my enjoyment of the game was to look up the layout of the license grid. The game really, really needed to make the contents of grid squares visible ahead of time so the player could plan ahead. Opening abilities via blind luck sucked a huge amount of strategy out of the game, and using this “cheat sheet” fixed that and made the game a lot more interesting.”

    Actually, if you took the time to notice, the weapons are organized on the License Board so that you can easily find whatever license you need. Spells are with spells, shields are with shields, guns are with guns, etc. And it does in fact tell you the CATEGORY to which any given license belongs, so it narrows it down pretty nicely for you. You didn’t need the “cheat sheet” at all, just to be observant.

  32. Vic 2.0 says:

    I never had to grind much to get through the story *shrugs* But remember, if you get tired of the game “playing itself”, don’t be a fool like a lot of 12’s critics – remember that you can simply turn some, most or all of the gambits off!

    As for the license board, part of strategy is PAYING ATTENTION. If you do that, you will notice that all the licenses are categorized, so it shouldn’t really hard at all to figure out where you need to go next on the board… without a “cheat sheet”.

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