What’s so good about… FINAL FANTASY XII?

Gambits! The soundtrack! Balthier! Here are five reasons you should be excited to play this classic RPG.
By Duncan Heaney

FINAL FANTASY XII THE ZODIAC AGE is now available on Xbox GAME PASS! But what makes the game - and THE ZODIAC AGE in particular - such a classic? Here are just some reasons we think it’s aces:

1. The Zodiac Job System

The levelling system in THE ZODIAC AGE has been revamped from the original FINAL FANTASY XII release. The Zodiac Job System included in this latest release allows for much greater level of specialization among party members.

Character progression in FINAL FANTASY XII is managed through License Boards. Rather than automatically levelling up, you instead control how your character grows by selecting tiles on a grid - for example, you can select squares to upgrade health or magic, make them hit harder, or imbue them with entirely new abilities.

In the original release, all jobs, and the associated skills, were contained on the same board, but this has changed with the Zodiac Job System. Now, every job has its own unique License Board, and each time a party member joins, you assign them a permanent role in the party.

What job they take is entirely up to you, and over time you’ll also be able to imbue them with a secondary job too, extending their usefulness in different situations. And new to the Switch and Xbox version is the ability to reset jobs - so if you’re worried you made the wrong decision, you can have a do-over.

All said, it’s a system that retains the flexibility and depth the original License Board system was known for, but makes it easier to use, and gives you much more incentive to switch out your party to try out new tactics.

2. This is the game that introduced the Gambit system

The Gambit system is one of the most innovative and rewarding systems built for an RPG. With just a few button presses, you can set incredibly precise tactics for your party in battle.

For example, you could get a heavy hitter like Basch to always target the enemies with the most HP, so you can focus on taking down the toughest targets first. You could get Penelo and Ashe to always focus on the party leader’s target, but break away for healing duties if your band takes a battering.

Or, you could have Fran toss potions at enemies every time you damage them, thus self-sabotaging your chances of winning a fight. I mean, that would be silly, but hey - the system’s flexible enough to let you do it.

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Somehow the Gambit system affords all this control without becoming complicated or cumbersome. Easy to use, but with incredible depth it’s something you really must try for yourself. Bear in mind that the same strategy won’t work for every foe, so be prepared to experiment - something that will be easier than ever before thanks to another addition added in the Switch and Xbox One version.

You can now set up to three sets of gambits, and switch between them whenever you want. Previously, you’d have to manually rebuild your commands when you needed to change your strategy, but now you can have some alternative behaviors ready ahead of time.

3. It’s been given a facelift

While FINAL FANTASY XII originally came out in 2006, it’s had a bit of work done for its latest release. The PlayStation 2 classic has been fully remastered in true HD, so characters and movie scenes are crisp and clear.

It’s a particular visual treat on the Xbox One X, where you can play the game in super-sharp 4K. The game has never looked better!

4. The soundtrack is joy

The FINAL FANTASY series isn’t short of amazing music, but Hitoshi Sakimoto’s score for the twelfth mainline game is particularly special. Take ‘Dalmascan Estersands’ for example - that’s an amazing track that makes the soundtrack worth picking up alone!

In FINAL FANTASY XII THE ZODIAC AGE, the music has been re-orchestrated so it sounds better than it ever has before - this is definitely a game you’ll want to play with the volume set high.

That said, if you’re a purist, don’t worry - you can still use the original PS2 release’s soundtrack if you prefer.

5. It has Balthier in it

Those who’ve played the game before know that there’s one particularly good reason to play FINAL FANTASY XII - Balthier.

Everyone has their favorite FINAL FANTASY character, but Balthier is one of the greats. The self-proclaimed leading man is suave, smart and always ready with a snappy one-liner. Plus he’s a sky pirate, which as professions go is up there with ‘ice cream taster’ as one of the coolest.

That’s just a small sample of the wonders that await in FINAL FANTASY XII THE ZODIAC AGE. There’s loads more we could mention, from the excellent hunts, including that battle with Gilgamesh, to the fact you can now carry items into New Game+.

But we’ll leave you to discover them for yourselves. The game is available on Xbox Game Pass now. It's also available to buy on PS4 and Nintendo Switch .