The Zodiac Age
Of all the changes that come with The Zodiac Age version of Final Fantasy XII, none affect gameplay more than the job system. Originally introduced to the game via the International Zodiac Job System version of the game (released only in Japan back on the PS2), this new system replaced the universal License Board system in the game's vanilla version with twelve separate License Boards that have different licenses based on what job/class you assigned to each character. This, in effect, forced characters to adopt roles and specialize, instead of allowing every character access to every license. The system was changed again for The Zodiac Age version, where every character can now pick two jobs/classes instead of just one, allowing them to be more diverse, and for the different License Boards to interplay with each other.
While most combinations of characters and jobs are workable, there are definitely some combinations that are more powerful than others, and some characters who are just better (however slightly) at certain roles. The purpose of this section of the guide, then, is to inform you of the characters, their aptitudes, what licenses each job offers, what jobs pair well with each other, and generally help you make informed decisions about what jobs to assign to what characters. If that's too much bother for you, a sample party will be provided based off the information and advice in this section, which you can emulate as you please.
Note: Most of this info will be provided in the walkthrough, albeit with less detail.
Licenses and License Boards
Two terms you'll need to immediately become familiar with are "licenses" and "License Boards". In The Zodiac Age, each job/class is essentially just a License Board, which itself is merely a collection of licenses arranged irregularly on a grid. As you defeat monsters you'll earn License Points (LP), which can then be spent to purchase licenses, all of which have a different LP cost. Typically, the more advanced the license, the more LP it costs.
What do licenses do? Nearly everything. The most common are licenses for weapons, armor, magicks and technicks - even if you possess the object in question, a character cannot use it without having the appropriate license. In practice, the only difference between the classes are what licenses they have access to, and hence, what gear they can equip and what abilities they can use. You also have licenses that increase your HP, your damage in melee or your effectiveness with magick, your chance of blocking attacks with a shield, how much Potions heal for, what status effects Remedies cure, how much damage you deal while unarmed, how quickly your ATB bar fills... so yeah, basically everything.
All characters start out with a few licenses unlocked, which represent their basic aptitudes prior to assigning them a job. Vaan, Balthier and Fran can all use the Steal technick, Penelo, Fran and Ashe all come with the Cure magick (being a healer must just be an innate benefit of being female in Ivalice?) and so on. From these humble beginnings, each character can buy progressively superior licenses after assigning them a job/class, being able to buy any license adjacent to an already-owned licenses.
This brings up an interesting bit of synergy unique to The Zodiac Age: "island hopping". When you look at a License Board, you'll notice that some licenses aren't connected to the main grid. Some of these can only be accessed by purchasing the Quickenings in front of them (more on this later), while others can only be acquired by gaining new Espers and assigning them to that character (more on this later, as well). But it's worth noting that licenses purchased on one License Board also end up purchased on the second License Board that character has.
Quickenings are Final Fantasy XII version of a long-standing series staple, the Limit Break. While their gameplay mechanic isn't the subject of this section of the guide, they do play a minor part role when it comes to License Boards. On every License Board each character has four Quickening licenses, behind which other licenses may lurk. The conundrum is that each character can only purchase three licenses on a single board, after which the fourth Quickening license will vanish and any licenses behind that "Quickening Gate" will become inaccessible.
There are only a few cases in which this becomes an issue, but you should keep in mind that a Quickening License purchased on one board will be purchased on any other License Boards that character gains access to. For example, if your Monk/Black Mage picks the 50 LP, 75 LP and 100 LP Quickening licenses on their Monk License Board, those same Quickening licenses will automatically be purchased on the Black Mage board. The licenses that lie behind each Quickening Gate on each License Board are found below:
|50 LP||75 LP||100 LP||125 LP|
|Archer||White Magick 4|
|Black Mage||HP 2 (70 HP)||HP 10 (390 HP)|
|Bushi||HP 9 (350 HP), Battle Lore||HP 10 (390 HP), Battle Lore||HP 11 (435 HP)|
|Knight||Excalipur, HP 10 (390 HP), Revive|
|Machinist||Magick Lore x3|
|Monk||Phoenix Lore||White Magick 9|
|Red Battlemage||White Magick 2||HP 6 (230 HP)||HP 11 (435 HP)|
|Shikari||Ninja Swords 1||Ninja Swords 2||Ninja Swords 3||Yagyu Darkblade & Mesa|
|Uhlan||HP 4 (150 HP)|
|White Mage||HP 4 (150 HP)||HP 5 (190 HP)||Battle Lore|
As you may have noticed, only one class - the Shikari - actually has licenses behind all four Quickening Gates, and that's not a terribly difficult choice to make. You can easily make do without any of the Ninja Sword licenses save Yagyu Darkblade & Mesa. Also keep in mind that many of the HP licenses, Battle Lore licenses and Magick Lore licenses behind Quickening Gates can be gained on your second License Board. For this reason, you may wish to wait until you have access to your second job before buying any Quickening Licenses, just so you can switch between the two of them and make sure you are missing out on anything.