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"Final Fantasy XII" Beginner's Tips

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I am an avid video game player, and the "Final Fantasy" series is one of my all-time favorites.

Read on for a helpful beginner's guide to "FFXII"!

Read on for a helpful beginner's guide to "FFXII"!

This guide includes tips and advice for those who are new to Final Fantasy XII. It is by no means comprehensive—rather, it covers some important topics—especially battle-related—that I found hard to understand.

For exhaustive FF12 walkthroughs and maps, I suggest going to the motherlode at GameFAQs. The maps and charts are listed at the bottom of that index. The FAQs I use are Split Infinity's and/or Shotgunnova's. I also recommend the guide on Game Mechanics (which includes very helpful explanations of stats, magic, and techniques).

There is a good map of the completed License Grid here.

Playstation 3 Wireless Controller

Playstation 3 Wireless Controller

Game Controls – Getting Around

  • X Button: Action (Talk, inspect an item that's got !! over it, or—most importantly— pause a battle and open the Battle Menu.)
  • Triangle Button: Open the big-big menu (where you can arrange equipment, swap party members, set gambits, examine inventory, or consult the World Map or Clan Primer.)
  • Circle Button: Cancel/back out/close a menu screen.
  • Square Button: Toggles battle menu. (I always forget this and just use X)
  • Cross-Shaped Keypad (called the D-pad in most guides, for "direction"): navigate through menu items.
  • Up and Down Arrows: These are on the D-pad and let you change the party leader when the Battle menu ISN'T open.
  • Left and Right Arrows: They let you jump between characters when the Battle Menu IS open, and also lets you select a target after you've chosen an action (e.g. a spell). Target is the guy surrounded by the hula hoop.
  • Lefthand Joystick: Move party leader.
  • Righthand Joystick: Move camera. When pressed down, it'll pop the camera back to default view.
  • "Select" Button (tiny rectangle above left joystick): Toggles map of current location.
  • "Start" Button (tiny righthand triangle above right joystick): Pause.
A sample battle scene.

A sample battle scene.

Battle Overview


Above is a sample battle scene. The thermometers over people's heads are shorthand for how much HP they have left.

Hit X at any time (even when not in battle) to pause the game and bring up the Battle Menu, which lets you attack, cast magic, use techniques, or use items.

When characters' names are red, that means they're being targeted—note that "target" includes "target of healing spell." Current targets cannot be swapped out of the party.

Adjusting the Party Mid-Battle

Hit Triangle to call up the confusingly-named Party Menu (which I call the big-big menu), where you can choose gambits, poke at the license grid, change equipment, examine inventory, browse the clan primer and a ton of other things—or choose the Party submenu, which is where you can change party members. X toggles members in and out; it will nag you if you have more than 3 PCs (even unconscious ones) in the party.

Remember, if someone's getting healed after a battle, their name will be red and they can't be swapped. I frequently find myself trying to swap party members too quickly after a battle's over. Names will be in red on the Party submenu, and the game will nag if you try to swap them. Back out by clicking O twice to exit to the regular game screen and wait for people to quit flinging potions and cure spells.

Running Away

If you get in over your head, hold down the R2 button (bottom button on the front of the controller, the lower of the two triggers) to FLEE and simultaneously use the lefthand joystick to steer.

The monsters will follow, but run at a slightly slower pace than FLEE. Eventually, most monsters give up and turn back. If not, you'll have to get to the next area on the map. When you turn on FLEE mode, characters stop doing gambits—except if their action thermometer has already gotten up to the "action" point where they're in mid-cast or something, they'll stand there and finish up first. This can get them killed. Don't panic. Just run, run, run, and remember you can phoenix down or bring them back later as long as one party member is still alive.

Right before fleeing, I often hit the Select button to call up my location map and plan where I'm going to run. The Map is a toggle, and monsters won't attack while the map's open. So toggle the map in and out while running to chart your course.

Remember that Save Crystals heal all status effects, including KO!

Status Effects

Some status effects like Sleep, Slow, Disable, Stop, Immobilize, Confuse, and Berserk wear off eventually on their own. But Poison, Silence, Oil, Petrify, Disease and Blind don't.

The following is an incomplete list of the most common status effects and how to remove them; see the "Status Effects" section of this Gambit Guide for a more comprehensive exhaustive chart.

Important status effects to know:

  • Sleep: "Zzz"—remove with alarm clock, Esuna spell.
  • Poison: Purple bubbles—remove with antidote, Poisana, or Esuna.
  • Silence: "..."—remove with echo herbs, Vox, or Esuna.
  • Petrify: character is gray and # count downs over head (gradually turning to stone—remove with gold needle, Stona (NOT Esuna).
  • Blind: dark gray eyeball icon—remove with eye drops, Blindna or Esuna.
  • Sap: HP with down arrow (halves hit points—remove with Remedy Lvl 1 (see below), Regen, Esuna
  • Slow: Clock with down arrow + red shadow below character—remove with Dispel, Haste, Remedy.
  • Berserk: Red flaming bomb icon over head, character attacks and does double damage but won't do anything else—wait for it to wear off, or Dispel
  • Silence (the most important one): Prevents spellcasting, which can disable a heck of a lot of Gambits from working.

At first, you'll have to throw items or cast spells manually to remove status effects.

Eventually, Gambit Shops will have status-effect-specific targets such as Ally: Sleep available. Once these become available and you have lots of Gambit Slots, divvy up all the status effects so that each character is in charge of fixing a few of them. (E.g., you could set Fran to throw an Antidote at anyone who is Poisoned.)

How to Handle Party Status Effects

Most of the time, status effects don't happen too often, so having Gambits tailored to deal with specific Status Effects won't use up your supply of items. But certain foes use Blindna, Poison, or another effect repeatedly. Keep an eye out for this: if characters are chewing through items with Gambits, use the Triangle button to go into the Party (big-big) Menu, and go to Gambits to turn off the Gambit that's eating your stock. Then you'll have to attack the problem manually—choosing spells to handle the problem instead—or find some other way to attack the monster so that the status effect doesn't matter. (E.g., since spellcasting isn't affected by Blind, you could just ignore Blind until the battle's over, and in the meantime set everyone you can to using Black Magic attacks, items and/or healing.)

The status effect info above includes which items fix which status effects—at least most of them. But you may not have this article handy to reference. If you don't, the easiest way to rediscover which items go with what Status effects is to click Triangle (big-big menu), select the Inventory submenu, select Items, and then move the cursor over an item for more info about it. You can't use items in the Inventory menu by accident or on purpose, so once you've determined which item (if any) you carry to deal with a given status effect, you'll have to back out (O button) to the main game screen and then choose Item from the battle menu (X).

About Remedy: The valuable item Remedy, by default, can fix only the most basic/common status effects: Poison, Blind, Sleep, Silence, Slow.

To fix nastier status effects, the character using Remedy has to have activated one of three Remedy Levels on his/her License Grid.

  • Level 1 allows the character to treat Sleep, Sap, Immobilize, Disable.
  • Level 2 covers Oil, Petrify, Stone, Confuse.
  • Level 3 covers Disease, Doom, Stop.

Since I can never remember who has which Remedy license, as soon as remedies are widely available, I get all three licenses.

The spell Esuna can fix the easier status effects. Most status effects also have a specific spell-like Vox (for Silence) that costs less than Esuna. A few nasty status effects require high-level techniques or spells and are not fixed by Esuna. In the case of Doom, only a Level 3 Remedy works (otherwise, just wait until the countdown hits 0; the character will then be KO'd and can then be revived in the usual ways).

When a party member is not in the party (i.e., you've hit the triangle button, selected the Party menu, and replaced him/her), all status effects are paused/frozen. So a poisoned character will still be poisoned later, but won't have taken damage until you bring him/her back into the active party.

Once in a while, when you move to a new plot chunk or into a different area (especially a city), all status effects are removed. E.g., If you bring Vaan back to Rabanastre's Lowtown from the Sewers, the doom countdown from a certain nasty down there will fizzle out. Not that I was panicking or anything.

Loose Guide to Gambits

Gambits are actions you can set characters to perform automatically, unless you seize control and tell them to do something else. This allows you to manage real-time battle without getting totally lost trying to juggle three balls at once.

The game introduces Gambits only after you've had a little experience with manual-control fighting. Gambits are cruise control fighting.

I think of Gambits as a simple programming language following the pattern: If X, then Y.

The X part specifies not only the condition under which to perform the action, but the target of the action, which is why Gambit Shops list gambits (conditions) you can purchase as "targets."

For instance:

Ally: HP < 70% means "Target any party member who has less than 70% of his/her HP."

I believe "Ally" includes self, because I've seen injured healers casting Cure on themselves.

The Y part of the Gambit is almost any action you could select manually from the Battle menu, for instance, Attack, a spell, a technique, or an item.

Setting/Assigning Gambits

Click Triangle to call up the big-big menu, then select the Gambit submenu on the left. L1 and R1 (the top trigger buttons) let you swap between party members. X lets you toggle a gambit's three options: individual gambit on/off (do this after the other two are set), target, result.

Action can be any action your character has the ability to do: attack, heal, steal, cast a spell, etc.

There are TONS of Gambits, and I'm still learning the system. Therefore, it may be wise to consult this Gambit Strategy Guide on GameFAQ as well.

I figured out Gambits fairly easily through trial and error, but here I'll tell you what I've learned.

Main Things to Know About Gambits

  • The character executes the first Gambit on the list whose condition is met. So consider which one is the top priority, and which Gambits you want to override others.
  • If the action can't be completed because something is depleted (Magic Points or potions, etc.), the character moves down the list.
  • You can acquire additional gambit slots on the License grid.
  • You purchase new gambits (targets, the conditional part of the statement) in Gambit Shops. They're relatively cheap.
  • New, more specific and useful gambits become available in shops later in the game.
  • You can't control Guests' gambits. They will pick fights with enemies you don't want them to, use up all your potions and hi-potions, and leave toothpaste in the sink.

Foe Gambits

Gambits specifying Foe: Condition is the bread and butter of combat. The problem is, the first gambit you get, Foe: Nearest Visible, sends allies scurrying off to pick fights and attract the attention of monsters who may not have noticed you.

There are a couple of ways to mitigate this.

Foe: Party Leader's Target ensures that your allies will ONLY attack a foe after you've told the party leader to attack it. The downside of this tactic is that if you haven't yet selected a target or your target has been killed, everyone will stand around picking their noses until you select a new target.

For better control of belligerent allies, use Foe: Targeting Ally, once it becomes available in Gambit shops. Party members will then respond to foes attacking party members but won't pick fights until provoked. Put Foe: Party Leader's Target above it on the list (if you have the slots for both) so you can still concentrate the party's fire on one enemy. (This is especially effective if the Party Leader has a distance weapon and can thus get off a free shot to start the encounter).

Foe: HP Critical is a useful condition, because it tells party members "eliminate the foes that are almost dead so they stop mobbing you."

Tell your distance-weapon specialists and mages to prioritize Foe: Flying once it becomes available, since hand-to-hand combat specialists can't hit flying targets (except for early-level flappers like bats) unless they use the advanced technique Telekinesis.

Healing Gambits

As soon as you get Gambits, you'll have this one:

Ally: HP < 70% . . .

I advise setting the "Y" half of the equation to "Cure," because if you use "Potion," allies tend to chew through potions.

First Aid is a Technique that uses no magic points but will only work on HP-critical allies and doesn't always heal very much. Balthier starts with First Aid, so I tend to have that in his list, at least at first.

Once my characters start racking up Gambit Slots, I'll create a triage ladder to prioritize the most critical patients, like this:

Ally: HP Critical Hi-Potion

Ally: HP < 30% Cure

Ally: HP < 60% Cure

Watch Out: characters (and GUESTS) have a bad habit of chewing through items like potions. Limit characters from overuse of Items by setting restrictive conditions like Ally: HP Critical (for Hi-Potion).

Potions heal only 100 HP, Hi-potions heal 1000 (I think). As characters level up or boost their magic power on the License Grid, their healing spells will grow stronger.

CURA is very powerful, though costly: it's an area spell healing all the party members near the healer. Once a healer has a lot of MP, it's good to have Cura set on Ally: HP < 30% which tends to happen in tough battles.

Ally: KO is incredibly, incredibly useful, but you don't find it in shops until later. In nasty battles, having several (or all) characters capable of casting Raise or Phoenix Down on someone the moment they fall can save your butt. This does, of course, require a good stock of Phoenix Downs (50 should be more than enough for all but the most terrifying Marks).


Steal is so very important, because in this game, few monsters drop Gil, so you need lots of Loot to sell in town.

But how can you get your thieves to stop stealing and pay attention to battle?

Mostly, I've found it's best to control stealing manually, because it's hard to come up with a foolproof gambit saying, "okay, now stop stealing and attack." There's no Gambit for "you've already picked its pockets."

Lately, I've been toying with this strategy:

Foe: HP 100%—Steal

[Healer's prorities, status effect removal—giving thief something to do while party takes their first swings]

Foe: HP < 90%—Attack

I still have problems with the fact that once the foe's hurt, the HP 100% condition is no longer true, so the thief breaks off the steal-attempt.

WHY Isn't Character X Doing Anything?

1. When a PC character joins the party, his/her gambits are OFF.

To turn on gambits for a party member:

Hit X for the Battle menu,

left or right until on the D-pad until you get to the new character,

down on the D-pad until you get to "Gambits,"

and X again to toggle their Gambits on/off.

2. Oops! Gambits are off.

If you're in the battle menu picking magic or items or attack, you could accidentally scroll past Gambit, hit X, and toggle off someone's gambits. If you notice a character is standing around picking his/her nose in combat, this may be the cause. The other possibility is that the character's gambit conditions aren't being met or can't be fulfilled (for example, if you've set a mage to shoot Fire at available targets, and the mage is out of MP, the mage will await further instructions unless you've put a general attack farther down on the list).

Quickenings, Step by Step

Individual quickenings don't do much, but a "chain" (or "combo") of Quickenings can unleash cumulative damage, often 10–20K of hit points, or even more. If you chain enough of them, an additional attack is unleashed that splashes damage onto every enemy in the vicinity.

Acquiring Quickenings

There are 3 character-specific Quickenings available for each character, acquired by activating one of 18 slots scattered around the edges of the License Grid. Once one character has activated a Quickening spot, that spot is removed from the Grids of other characters. Each activated spot on the board is a [i]Quickening Level[/i].

You can tell which characters have what Quickening levels in the Party (big-big) menu accessed by the triangle button. One orange ball by their name = 1 level, 2 balls = 2 levels, etc.

Characters can unleash Quickenings in combat if A) they have MP and B) they have the license for it. When they have enough MP to activate a Quickening, their MP bar on the battle (main game screen) will turn from blue to yellow.

Quickening MP Costs/Damage Vary by Level:

  • At level 1 (one Quickening license activated), characters need ALL their MP to activate a Quickening. All MP is consumed.
  • At level 2 (two Quickening licenses activated), characters may choose the level 1 quickening they learned earlier, and it will require/consume HALF their total MP. Or they may choose the second quickening, which is twice as powerful but requires/consumes all MP.
  • At level 3 (three Quickening licenses activated), the level 1 quickening will require/consume only a third of all MP, the level 2 quickening ability will require/consume two-thirds of all MP, and the level 3 quickening will require/consume all MP. Each level does more damage than the previous ones.

What this means is that a character with 3 Quickening levels could choose to unleash the powerful, ferocious level 3, or choose to start with level 1 and save MP for two more level 1s or a level 2.

MP cost is not the only consideration. The other consideration is TIME.

The higher the Quickening level, the longer the animation is that unleashes it. DURING that animation, you get a chance to unleash another Quickening . . . if you hit the right button before the timer runs out.

Button Mashing: How To Activate/Use Quickenings Once You've Acquired Them

Okay. Assume your characters have Quickenings. There are gold bars next to their names in the battle screen, because you've used Ethers or the Charge technique to restore their MP or otherwise found a way to reserve enough MP so that their Quickenings are available.

How do you start a Quickening chain?

1. Initiate a Quickening

  • First, select a party member who's ready to unleash a quickening.
  • Hit X on the battle menu and select MIST.
  • Select Quickening and the particular quickening you want him/her to use.

1, 2, or 3 Gold balls show whether the Quickening you're selecting is level 1, 2, or 3.

  • Finally, select a target. (Often the boss is the only foe in the battle, but you still need to select it with X.)

2. The Quickening Screen

Once a target is selected with X, the regular battle screen disappears, and a flashy animation starts showing the character vs. the foe. The length of the animation depends on whether you chose level 1, 2, or 3.

Don't be distracted by the flashy animation. Keep your eye in the lower right-hand corner of the screen.

3. Select the Next Quickening in the Chain

In the lower right-hand corner of the screen, a chart of one or more characters appears, from which you choose somebody to unleash the next Quickening in the chain.

The chart lists: 1) a button to push 2) character name and 3) one of his/her quickenings.

The button to push isn't random. The triangle button always corresponds to the first (top) character in your active party's list, square always goes with the second (middle) character, X always goes with the third (bottom) character. It's logical, since the triangle, square, and X are sort of like top, middle, and bottom on the controller.

PROBLEM: The game doesn't give you one of the Quickenings the character has ready, it simply picks randomly from the list of Quickenings a character has learned. If the character has the MP available for it, the writing will be in white; otherwise, it'll be grayed out and nothing will happen if you select it.

BUT: You can reset the list, rolling the virtual dice again, by hitting the R2 button. That's the bottom trigger button on the front right side of the controller.

ALSO: If a character is out of Quickenings, a fourth option may appear beside her name in lieu of a Quickening's name: Mist Charge. This refills available Quickening levels for that character. (Note: the refill doesn't actually refill MP; this refill only lasts until the chain of Quickenings runs out.)

Mist Charge doesn't activate a new Quickening; it just makes them available for that character. You'll still have to select a new Quickening after the Mist Charge, before the timer runs out. So:

  1. If you see Mist Charge, hit that character's button
  2. Immediately hit that character's button again, because you've guaranteed he/she will have a Quickening available.

How I Handle Quickenings

Before big boss battles, I try to get as many characters as possible with as many available Quickenings as possible in the same party, which means a greater chance of chaining Quickenings together. I may use Ethers or the technique Charge to boost MP. I may run characters in circles (their "constitutional") to get back MP. When MP bars turn gold (with a faint "chink" sound effect), it's battle time.

Before selecting the initial Quickening's target, I get my thumb ready to hit triangle, square, or circle, and my index finger ready on the R2 trigger. I check out which of these is most likely to bring up an available Quickening (depending on who else has MP sufficient for a Quickening) and remember that character one is triangle, character two is square, character three is X.

Then I hit X to start the animation.

As soon as the animation starts I look for a character's name in white (meaning that Quickening is ready to launch) OR "Mist Charge." Then it's bop-the-mole time, trying to select the button that corresponds to the name in white.

If I don't immediately see a white name or "Mist Charge" to hit, I press the R2 trigger button and try again.

Believe it or not, this turns out to be no harder than Tidus' Overdrive in FFX, once you get the hang of it. You just have to have your eye fixed on the lower righthand part of the screen and be able to see whether the top (triangle), middle (square), or bottom (X) character is white (ready to launch) or grayed out (no MP available).

Miscellaneous Tips

  • One thing in the game that isn't immediately clear is that once you tell a person to attack, they'll automatically attack whenever their gauge fills up until you instruct them to do something else (or something interferes). Don't keep choosing Attack, or you'll be interrupting the attack gauge that was already building.
  • Later in the game, you'll be able to return to nearly every place except the Rabanastre Palace, the Nalbina Prison, and a few Imperial spaceships. If you're having trouble dealing with an area (or a Mark), leave and try again later.
  • You can get Loot OR Items off foes. The game automatically files them in the right part of your Inventory.
  • In the Inventory sub-menu of the Party menu, press the Square button to be able to sort items/armor/weapons/etc. by strength or quantity.
  • Loot is stuff to sell so that you have Gil to buy equipment and more items, since monsters seldom drop Gil in this game. The only Loot you gotta hang onto is Teleport Stones, which activate orange Save Crystals and let you jump back to other Gate/Save Crystals you've seen before. After you've sold specific kinds of Loot, special items become available in the Bazaar at discount prices, often under generic descriptions and names so you can't tell exactly what you're buying until you've bought it. See the Loot Guide I mentioned at the start of this page for detailed info on Loot.
  • Guests can't be controlled. They do as they will—come and go when they feel like it. They tend to use up your potions—even hi-potions—in combat. Thanks, Larsa. Vossler is also very talented at running into traps. You can try to push him to one side before proceeding across a trap-laden area. (Remember, Libra shows hidden traps.)
  • Go to taverns to check the Billboard regularly for more Marks. Leveling up as they become available helps prevent you from getting creamed when your party moves to a new, harder area as dictated by the plot.
  • It's easy to lose track of the plot because there's so much to do, explore, and hunt. Take notes. The World Map and/or your Location Map will often have your next goal marked.
  • There's an incredibly strong spear called a Zodiac Spear which is only available if you AVOID opening treasure chests in four places. It is then available in the Necrohol of Nabudis /Chamber of the Highborn. But it's not worth restarting the game to get it.
    1. Near Old Dalan's house in Rabanastre Lowtown
    2. SE corner of Cellars in Royal Palace of Rabanastre (when Vaan's breaking in to steal the treasure)
    3. Confiscatory in Nalbina Dungeons (right after you finish the bare-handed battle with the three Seeqs, and Balthier finds your weapons).
    4. 16 treasure chests in a grid lying on the Vaddu Strand on the Phon Coast.

© 2009 auronlu