As you explore the various areas of the game, you will come across the monsters that inhabit them. The battles in Final Fantasy XII take place in real-time, right where you encounter the enemies. There is no transition to another screen for fighting, so you will be aware of your surroundings at all times when exploring areas outside of towns. Enemies appear as red dots on the mini-map and you can tell when you have been targeted by enemies when running past them, as there will be a red line from the enemy to the character being targeted. You might also see a blue line appear when you are in the midst of combat, which happens when one of your characters targets an enemy.
Note: Some enemies in this game will not attack you on sight, which will be designated as their health bar being green. Most of them will only attack if you attack them first, but some become provoked by using Magicks near them, such as with Entites.
There are two ways to fight foes in this game, either manually or with Gambits. While out in the field, press the [X Button] to bring up the battle menu, where you can see the usual assortment of options, such as Attack, Magicks & Technicks, Mist, Gambits and Items. Select Attack to physically attack the enemy with your currently equipped weapon. Magicks & Technicks are exactly as they sound, letting you use skills in battle, while Mist is a special command that allows you to use Quickenings and summon Espers. Gambits are special AI commands you can set up for your characters, such as casting Cure when a character’s HP goes under 50%, but during battle, the menu only allows you to turn them off and on. Items should be self-explanatory.
Whenever you perform an action in combat, a bar next to the character’s name in the bottom right corner will fill up and once it’s full, that character will perform said action. Once a character performs the action, there will be a very small amount of downtime before they are allowed to perform another. This small window differs depending on the action preceding it, with it taking a few seconds after using an item, as an example.
You only control a single character in battle, but you can switch to any of the others easily. You just need to press up or down on the directional pad to switch to another character, where you will take direct control of that character from then on. Also, by bringing up the battle menu and pressing left/right on the directional pad, you can switch to another character’s commands and perform an action with them. This makes it easier to control hectic situations, like when you need an extra heal or want to push that last bit of damage to finish off an enemy.
You can also switch out your active party members with your reservers at any time, as long as they aren’t being targeted (their name will be in red) or performing an action. This extends to even if they are KO’ed in combat. If you wish to escape any combat situation, excluding bosses (there are one or two exceptions to this), simply run away or hold down the [R2 Button], which makes all of your characters stop what they’re doing. The majority of enemies will usually stop pestering you if you stray too far from the initial combat area, but some will continue to harass you until you enter another zone.
Whenever an enemy is defeated, you will receive experience and License Points (LP). The LP is used to buy new stuff from a character’s License Board, which will give them new abilities and allow them to put on new equipment. One of the most important things that can happen when an enemy is defeated is that they can drop loot. A lot of enemies have four different drops, with the common item drop having a drop rate of 40%. Chaining can increase the base chance of items dropping, which is detailed in the Chaining Enemies section below.
While you can manually control every single action for your party, it’s much better to leave things up to Gambits. One can think of Gambits as commands for the AI to perform actions and it’s entirely possible to create a basic set of Gambits to perform simple actions. You do not have access to Gambits at the beginning of the game and will need to wait a little bit before you get to delve into the meat of the game mechanic. While Gambits seem like a simple thing, there is a bit of understanding that needs to be had before you just start making Gambits.
Gambits are made up of two parts, technically three, but there are only two entries for each Gambit. You have the target, which consists of either the enemy, yourself or an ally. The second part is the condition, such as if your health dips below a certain threshold or if an enemy has a specific ailment or buff. The last part is the action taken, like using Cure, attacking and such. For example, you have a Gambit set up as Ally: HP Cure, which would have your character casting Cure on any ally whose health dips below 50%. Actions will become available as you get more in the game, while the targets/conditions become available to purchase.
The most important part of Gambits is priority. You will start with four total Gambit slots and can purchase more on the License Boards, with there being a total of 12 slots. The higher up a Gambit is on your character’s list, the more priority it is given when a character takes action. Let’s take a look at an example. You have Foe: Any -> Attack in the first slot, then the same Cure Gambit mentioned above in the second slot. If you’re in a battle, then that character will prioritize attacking over using Cure; in fact, the character will never use Cure while fighting a foe.
It is only when you’re not in combat that the character will use Cure on someone if his/her health is below the threshold (50% in this case). Because of this, it is important to list your Gambits in the order in which they are important. As an example, you would want a resurrection Gambit as the first slot, simply because bringing someone back to life will be ideal. Next would be a healing gambit, since it’s always helpful to keep your characters’ HP topped. The last Gambit on any character’s list should always be an attack one, as you don’t want them to not resurrect, heal or cure ailments. A good example setup for Gambits for characters is the following:
- Ally: Any -> Phoenix Down
- Ally: HP Cure/Potion
- Ally: Status=??? -> Respective curative
- Foe: Any -> Attack
Of course, that’s just a simple list that will likely get you through basic stuff. As you play through the game, things will get more complicated, as enemies will have buffs, you will want to cast your own buffs, you won’t be able to cure all ailments and much more. The hardest part about setting Gambits for a fight against a boss is not knowing what the boss can do (which is why you’re reading this guide, of course). There is likely going to be a lot of tinkering with Gambits as you fight a battle, too, as bosses can bring up new attacks later on in the battle.
Whenever you kill enemies of the same type, you will notice a counter appear in the bottom right corner of the screen, above where your stats are located. As this counter increases, it will "level up" at certain thresholds and this will increase the quality of the loot that drops from chained foes. The majority of enemies in the game have four different tiers of drops, which are common (40%), uncommon (25%), rare (5%) and very rare (1%). All of those are the base values you will get when you kill an enemy for the first time or when your Chain Level is at one.
As already mentioned, the Chain Level will increase as you kill more enemies of the same type. It will level up, but when it does depends solely on whether you pick up the loot bags that do drop. If you do not pick up any loot at all, you should get your Chain Level to increase every 6-10 kills (guaranteed to get it every ten kills). So, that means it’s possible to reach the max Chain Level in 18-30 kills (Chain Level 3), which will increase the loot chances considerably. The chart below shows the drop percentages for each of the Chain Levels.
|Chain Level||Common||Uncommon||Rare||Very Rare|
Now, there are three main ways one can lose their Chain Level, with the obvious one being the defeat of an enemy that isn’t the same kind you are chaining (ex. killing an Imp if chaining Bombs). Another way to lose the Chain Level is by touching a Save Crystal. Lastly, you can lose it by entering any area where you are forced to control Vaan, like a town. When you have control of the Strahl later on in the game, you don’t actually lose the Chain Level when using it, so you can actually form some strategies around some Rare Game and their rarer drops by chaining enemies in another area.
Effects of Weather
Weather can actually make a great impact in the game, both inside and outside of battles. The only real contribution it has outside is making certain enemies spawn, with one such example being Entites. Outside of one area in the game (Giza Plains), weather is pretty random and you can try to trigger a certain condition by just going in and out of a zone. As far as combat is concerned, weather conditions affect how effective certain magicks and weapons perform, such as Thunder being slightly more powerful when it is raining. The only weapons affected by the weather are bows and crossbows, which has reduced accuracy during windy weather, heavy rains, blizzards and sandstorms. Don’t forget that the increase/decrease in damage applies to both your characters and enemies, but enemies can have the Ignore Weather augment to negate it (the Agate Ring accessory has the same property).
|Sunny/Cloudy (Wind)||Fire (1.2x), Water (0.5x), Wind (1.5x)|
|Rain||Fire (0.5x), Thunder (1.2x)|
|Rain (Wind)/Heavy Rain||Fire (0.6x), Thunder (1.2x), Water (0.5x), Wind (1.2x)|
|Snow/Snowstorm||Fire (1.2x), Ice (1.2x), Water (0.5x), Wind (1.2x)|
|Sandstorm||Fire (1.2x), Water (0.5x), Wind (1.2x), Earth (1.2x)|
|Sandy Area||Earth (1.2x)|
|Watery Area||Thunder (1.2x), Water (1.2x), Earth (0.5x)|
|Snowy Area||Ice (1.2x)|