Set up a Winning Team in Final Fantasy XII

Unlike many Final Fantasy titles, Final Fantasy XII requires a lot of thought and strategy when it comes to making sure each character is able to play their correct part in battle. While previous entries in the series rarely presented a situation in which you could make a mistake in the choice of abilities or equipment for your group, Final Fantasy XII puts all of a character's development in your hands. Every character can learn every ability or equip any item. It's up to you to choose each of their roles, and if you don't prepare them properly you can find that the game is significantly harder. This guide will tell you the dos and don'ts of acquiring licenses for your characters as well as leveling, and what equipment you should use to get the best out of your build.

Specialize Your Characters Early

Every character starts in roughly the same place on the License Board, and in the original US version of Final Fantasy XII, the board is the same for everyone. It can be tempting to just take everyone through the same license path, after all once a Technik or Magick is unlocked, every character can use it. Why not just give everyone everything?

The answer to why this is a bad idea lies within the subtle split in license groupings. All related licenses are roughly located next to each other, so the more licenses of one type you unlock, the easier it is to continue down that license path. While early in the game you won't notice the habit of unlocking everything keeping you down, but by mid-game, you'll find that you'll be unable to unlock the licenses for the latest items and spells due to the lack of License Points.

To avoid this situation, choose a role for each character early on in the game. Decide if they're going to be a brawler, a speedy rogue type, or a Magick-centric character and plot out where you'd like them to be by mid-game.

Screenshot of Final Fantasy XII

Square Enix

Level Your Characters Equally

This is one of the hardest tenants to follow, not just in Final Fantasy XII, but in almost every JRPG ever. Undoubtedly, you'll end up picking your three favorite characters and instinct will have you sticking with them at the expense of other characters. However, Final Fantasy XII lets you switch any non-targeted or KO'ed character out of battle at will, meaning more so than any other Final Fantasy, your B team should be an integral part of your battle strategy.

Battles are hard-fought in Final Fantasy XII, and unless you grind for hours and hours you'll frequently find yourself severely outclassed in each new area you enter. This makes it essential to have a backup team that can either stay alive long enough to revive your main fighters if they go down, or preferably is strong enough to hold their own.

Additionally, many late-gate and optional bosses have one-time massive attacks that hit the entire party, usually resulting in them being KO'd. If your back-up isn't strong enough to last through at least a few powerful attacks, you might find yourself unable to progress further in the game.

Always Upgrade to the Best Equipment

Though characters in Final Fantasy XII get stronger as they level, most stat increases come from the weapons and armor they have equipped. Final Fantasy XII is a tough game, and unlike previous entries in the series, you can't really get away with not upgrading armor and weapons as new ones become available.

This is another reason for narrowing your character's weapon and armor specialties. It takes a lot of License Points to unlock licenses for the mid-high range weapons, and new weapons don't really matter if you can't use them.

However, new weapons and armor for a party of six can be prohibitively expensive. Gil in Final Fantasy XII is primarily made from loot you receive from slaying monsters, so it's easy to get stuck in the vicious cycle of needing more money to buy better equipment so you can defeat tougher monsters to get better loot drops. The best tactic to use is to buy updated equipment for your three primary characters when it becomes available and then swap their old equipment back to your three backup characters.

By rotating old equipment back to your backup characters when you buy new equipment, you're getting only a slightly weaker backup team and only have to pony up half the cost of equipping your whole team.

Set Up Your Gambits Properly and Keep Them Updated

In Final Fantasy XII, you can set up routines for your characters to follow called Gambits. You can only directly control the movement of one of your characters at a time, and it would be exhausting to try and input all battle commands for all three characters manually, so it's very important to have the right Gambits set up so that for the most part your characters can take care of themselves.

As you proceed through the game, you'll get an ever-increasing number of Gambits, and you'll gain a better ability to refine your character's automatic actions. When you start out you'll only have two gambit slots, and the most complicated things you can set up are to attack the nearest enemy or the party leader's target and to use a Potion or Phoenix Down on an ally when needed.

By the time you reach the end of the game though, you'll have a total of 12 Gambit slots unlocked, and you'll be able to do anything from cure specific status ailments to targeting an enemy based on strength, HP and MP. A team with the correct set of Gambits can become unstoppable in the end-game with very little input from the player.

It's useful to have a different set of Gambits in mind for different situations in the game. When you're out hunting enemies for loot items or poaching, you'll want to make sure that each character is set up to facilitate that activity to the best of their ability. When fighting bosses, you'll want to tailor your Gambits to each boss. Some constantly hit the party with status ailments, some need to have Protect, Shell, or Haste dispelled. It's up to you to come up with the Gambits that serve you best depending on the situation.

Take Time to Grind

In each new area in Final Fantasy XII, the enemy's levels jump dramatically. Unfortunately, it takes quite a bit of experience for your characters to level up, it takes quite a bit of experience for your characters to level up, so if you're just playing through the game you'll almost always find yourself at a disadvantage. Eventually, you're going to come to a point you just can't get past, either because of frustration or sheer inability.

When you find yourself in this situation, it's time to go back to the previous area you came from and grind it out. Take an hour or two and continue to defeat the enemies in that area, and once they get extremely easy for your team, proceed to the area you got stuck at and grind until those enemies are ridiculously easy. You'll only absolutely have to do this once or twice during the course of the game, but if you're looking to face down the optional bosses, it can take hours and hours of training before you become a match for them. On the upside, grinding will net you plenty of loot to sell so you can get the best equipment available.

Don't Be Afraid to Take a Break

Some of the bosses in Final Fantasy XII are obnoxious, even if you're at a sufficient level to beat them. They cast status effects, split themselves in two, are faster than you'll ever be, and hit you with spells that affect a large area. In general, they have capabilities that'll never be available to you, and you have weaknesses that they don't.

It's easy to find yourself overwhelmed at times. Bosses like Ahriman can make decoys of themselves, up to five of them in fact, and each decoy can slam your party for real physical damage. This added to the fact that he can poison and immobilize you makes for a tough fight no matter how well your party is prepared. Sometimes it's just the luck of the draw as to whether a boss fight will go your way, so if after a few attempts you don't succeed, don't be afraid to save, take a breather, and come back later. The more frustrated you get, the more mistakes you make, so often the biggest bane in a fight is your own attitude. Calm down and when you come back you'll have a much better chance at victory.

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