Friday, October 14, 2011

Final Fantasy Tactics Update 1: The Fuss About Flashbacks

The first update of my playthrough of Final Fantasy Tactics actually comes with the first chapter (of four) completed.  While saying that might suggest to you that Final Fantasy Tactics is a short game, I assure you that it is not.  The first chapter is simply a bit difficult to play around in, as the inventory selection is very limited, so much so that changing to some jobs will leave your character unarmed due to a lack of a basic weapon (unless you decide to switch your support skill to "Equip (Weapon type)" which is highly unadvised, as JP is precious so JP Boost should likely be on your character until he or she is right where you want them.  The distinct lack of locations to visit is a big part of the problem with Chapter 1 as well, as only three "Friendly" locations are open, with the rest of seven spaces being openly hostile (meaning random encounters could occur, and also counting the last story mission location), so on top of nothing to buy, there's very little places to -buy- -nothing-.  The game just basically funnels you to complete the first chapter ASAP, it feels to me, is the point I'm getting at here.

The other real big oddity about the way FFT starts is, without spoiling too much, the actual first battle you participate in is in the "Prologue", where you then go into a flashback and that is Chapter 1.  The oddity here is that your main character (in my case Mogs) is level suck for the prologue fight, yet you spend the entirety of Chapter 1 getting him, assuredly, to a higher level.  (Again, in my case, er....32.)  Not only that, but your team is assuredly different, even if you've just used the basic scrubs that come with Chapter 1 (which I didn't; I stripped them, fired them, sold most of their clothes/equipment and recruited my team) than those that fight in the Prologue fight, which, dare I say, would be incredibly one-sided otherwise.  I get that it's just supposed to be the tutorial fight, and it wants to drop you right into the story, but that's always not sat well with me, so I wanted to vent about it here.

Anyway, the majority of Chapter 1 was, unsurprisingly, spent grinding, grinding, grinding, grinding.  Perhaps a bit too much, admittedly, given that I got to an average level of ~31 and my team has already put quite a lot of work into the groundwork of reaching their desired Master Class.  (Which is what I'm going to refer to each final build as.)  I'll cover that a little more in-depth with everybody's progress breakdowns, but suffice to say that this has been a success, as they say.  For the sake of mentioning it, the only reason that Update 1 was the entirety of Chapter 1 was, essentially, the reasons I already described here and that future updates will not be so far into the game.  While I don't want to have a lot of posts about this series and have them every other day, I'm envisioning at least two updates for Chapter 2 and 3 each, and probably three or four for Chapter 4, since Chapter 4 is (obviously) where a lot of the endgame stuff occurs, which I will be participating in.

The final difficulty, really, with doing an 'update' for Chapter 1 is that...well, not a whole lot happens.  What -does- happen is just to set up the story for the rest of the game and it can only really be explained, spoilers or no, as "Political intrigue and shady dealings occur".  The only real spoilers involved would be stating who the involved parties are, and even then that doesn't do a lot since everyone's roles shift dramatically over time and the course of the game, sometimes several times over.  I can try and do a side-update to these main ones that explain the story of FFT (with spoilers that will be marked, so only those who are truly curious/already know or have played the game would dare wander) if I think it's necessary, but I think the bulk of what'll get described here is the important bits.

Anyways, on to the aforementioned important bits:  My team breakdown.  (Note:  Non-Unique members will use their Master Class Portraits)

Mogs, which is me the MC of course, has been playing a lot of support despite being the only member of the team to take solely physical jobs, and at a definite focus as well, since he's only changed jobs three times.  (Squire to Knight to Monk)  Mostly just using Focus to JP-whore and ensure the others get spillover JP from his jobs (Which is a vital tactic for your planning), he's also seen more use with Chakra to give MP back to my spell-casters and general healing than he's felled opponents, though he does have quite a kill-list.  (For reference, I've been taking notes of, well, note-worthy events:  Killing (enemy) with (weapon), being downed, being charmed, etc. and his only noted actions are Killing.)  The most note-worthy thing he's done is holding the 'title' as it were for killing the most story humans. (For noting purposes, I've excluded the prologue battle and the first Chapter 1 battle as neither offers me the opportunity to use -my- team.)

At the end of Chapter 1, he walked away with both Knight and Monk mastered, which is, well, kind of a big deal, especially since his Master Class will be a Monk.  Still, he lacks entry into the Ninja Job entirely which is vital for his build and I'm still debating if I want to give him just a big Move + Skill (Probably Move +2) or Teleport from Time Mage Spillover (which I have yet to get yet).  Still, that decision is a bit far off for now, as is most of the more important ones.
# of Jobs Had: 4
Jobs Mastered:  2
Most Important Achievement (Chapter 1):  Killed Most Story Humans (8)
Progress:  Average

Haplo has been one of the more frantic characters of the team, in that, being my main magic guy, I've had him have a go in just about every Magic (Or at least Chemist-Side) Job that I have.  If it has "Mage" in the Job Title, he's been it assuredly, so long as I have it that is.  Started as a Chemist, he pretty much immediately moved into Black Mage to assist Sakura with getting spillover JP for the hefty JP Cost of Mastering the Black Mage job.  He didn't stay too long, however (though, long enough to grab Thunder, Fire, Blizzard, Blizzara and, my current favorite, Toad) before moving on into Time Mage to grab Haste to ensure the team can outpace the enemy (without relying on Tailwind from Mogs).  Dual-jobbing Time Mage with Black Mage was quite fun for a time, though the only really note-worthy things he did in that time was Haste everybody. 

Then, when my healing problems became an issue to maintain, I threw him into White Mage since, well, that's going to be his Master.  Cure was gained as well as Protect (not much to worry about in the ways of Magic just yet), so as a White Mage with Time Magic as a secondary, he's been the ultimate support character, outclassing even Mogs with that task, even though he relies on Mogs for MP refills.  He's also had stints in Mystic and Orator, mostly just to give everyone spillover JP enough to unlock vital jobs, and is currently an Orator because I just now realized I should be min/maxing everyone's Brave and Faiths appropriately.
# of Jobs Had:  7
Jobs Mastered:  0
Most Important Achievement (Chapter 1):  Killed a Panther with a Stone toss and is the Ultimate Support Character
Progress:  Slow (Mage Mastering is the longest Mastering)

Sakura has, in all honesty, been my little Goddess of Chaos.  Not only has she killed the most things, by far, but she's also caused the most havoc with status effects and has taught me to love Toad.  Sakura's journey in Chapter 1 has been almost as stable as Mogs' with the same amount of Job changes, but, starting out as a Squire and then moving on to Knight, then the shift to Black Mage means that her Job Change spanned the sides and thus, was just a little more eventful.  At the start, when everybody (but Haplo) was a Knight, it really made getting Knight mastered for just about everyone (but Haplo) really really easy.  And while it was nice having four Front-Liners, it had to end eventually and when Sakura changed to Black Mage, I learned that really fast. 

Black Mage, as a job, takes by far the most JP to Master (rivaled only by Summoner I believe) but it's also a really easy class to be in, since it's rather fun.  As I said, she's done well enough at causing destruction, but I've found that, on my many many many bouts in the Mandalia Plains, turning Chocobos into Toads just rocks.  Chocobos, on the whole, are always fearsome enemies, whether it's because Yellow ones can heal for free or the later Red and Black Chocobos can destroy you with spells (also free), you hate seeing them in the line-up, so neutralizing them (since Toad is permanent unless they're hit with Toad again or healed otherwise) is doubly-enjoyable.  By the end of Chapter 1, Sakura did manage to Master Black Mage, so I had to scramble and think of where to put her next.  Geomancer got the bid, as it's a fun class and she needs Job Level 8 in it (as well as a few other classes) to unlock Dark Knight, which is vital to her Master Class.
# of Jobs Had: 4
Jobs Mastered:  2
Most Important Achievement (Chapter 1): Most overall non-story kills (17) and Most Toaded Enemies (7)
Progress:  Keikaku Doori  (I'm honestly baffled that I Mastered Black Mage already.)

Kasey has, for lack of a better term, been my solid, behind-the-scenes, sleeper physical guy so far.  While Mogs has always been the -main- Physical guy, Kasey's jobs has been mostly the same, with the exception of Archer and Thief which are playing up to his Master Class strengths.  Much like everyone else, he quickly made the shift from Squire to Knight and stayed there until he mastered it, which was where I started wondering just where to take him.  Archer is....well, one of the easiest 'required' (in the mindset of my goal here) classes to get, so it was right there waiting for him when he mastered Knight.  So, for a little while at least, I had him in Archer if just to get a couple Aim abilities to have while I figured out what to do with him.  Eventually, I realized that Thief was necessary for my plans and, being an Archer, speed is fairly vital (I -think- certain classes affect Base Speed gain for level ups) so he went into that.

Even as a Thief, however, his front-line position has never been contested, and he's felled quite enough foes with the knives a thief must use, which is more than welcome.  Though he's mostly been sharing the same jobs with Emily, he's just had more opportunities for the kill, I suppose.  Thanks to all that Thievery (Note:  None of my Thieves have stolen anything yet), he unlocked Ninja and is currently one of those.  Again for the speed, the spill-over and because innate Two Swords is just so good.
# of Jobs Had:  5
Jobs Mastered:  2
Most Important Achievement (Chapter 1):  Killed (Story Character Spoiler).  (Hint for those who've played the game:  Screw this character.  This is the only reason why it's so note-worthy is because that guy sucks.)
Progress:  Above Average

Where Kasey has been my behind-the-scenes guy, so has Emily in a sense, but in a less overt way.  She's been somewhat of a Utility character thus far, taking on Jobs just for the Spill-Over while always keeping her own Master Class in mind.  After Knight, she made the jump with Kasey to Archer and then to Thief.  Eventually, however, she then went into Geomancer to bring everybody up in levels for that, and ultimately found herself in Monk.  With her Master Class being Dragoon, I've been considering the speed element, which is why she's spent time in Archer and Thief.  If I'm right and Jobs affect base Speed growth, then the naturally abysmal speed of a Dragoon can be offset by these early gains.  If not, there's always Haste.  Her going into Monk is purely for her own benefit, however, as Mogs had already mastered it and, while I enjoy having another person to Chakra around, I'm hoping her Monk levels helps her PA growth in the overall, so she hits that much harder when she stabs things from two tiles way and/or jumps on them from across the map.

She likely would have been a Dragoon already, but I do worry about the Speed gains a little and Dragoon is one of those jobs that is just impossible to buy for in Chapter 1.  No spear is available for purchase and, while I might be able to scrounge one up somewhere (I don't know for sure) I haven't found one.  The other option would be to throw on "Equip Sword", of course, but that's cutting into the sweet sweet JP gains severely.  But for now, she's just fine and fills whatever spot necessary well.
# of Jobs Had:  5
Jobs Mastered:  2
Most Important Achievement (Chapter 1):  Most Panthers Killed with a Sword (5)
Progress:  Above Average

Overall, I think I've done pretty well with my team management so far.  If anything, I've gone a bit out of my way, rather than being behind 'schedule' (which is impossible, but you know what I mean) and the surprising progress I've made more than shows for it.  My team's overall level has stayed fairly close (I'm averaging it at 31, even though I have 3 32s, a 31 and a 30), so nobody's really getting left behind, which tends to happen in the first Chapter, given the majority of your story battles only offer four slots because you're generally dragging a guest or two along.  In those situations, I've rotated Kasey and Emily in and out of the fourth slot to combat that and tried to use Tailwind to catch them up in a random battle afterwards, and I'd say I'm doing fairly good. 

The only real hurdles I'm seeing is Sakura's overall journey to Dark Knight and Haplo's Journey to Mastering Black Mage (Or at least getting all the spells), but aside from that, this is looking like a smooth travel.  My next update should likely be about half-way through Chapter 2, and I almost shudder to think at the progress I'll have made by then.  I also believe I'm going to make a few secondary characters to fill certain roles (a Treasure Hunter for one), and may feature them in the next update as well.  But until then, that's been my run at Final Fantasy Tactics so far!

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