PlayStation

Man, Final Fantasy Tactics Sure Had A Steep Learning Curve

Earlier this week, I talked to some game developers about why they love Final Fantasy Tactics. But beloved or not, man, does this game have a steep learning curve.

A little background: I never had a PS1, so I didn’t have a chance to play Final Fantasy Tactics. I became terrifyingly hooked on Tactics A2 on the DS, but after hearing so many people proselytise about how the original is the superior game, I wanted to finally play it.

And so I have been. I’ll be writing about the game a lot here over the coming weeks, since I can already tell there’s going to be a lot to unpack. But first: The whole learning-curve thing.

I wanted to share a chat conversation I had with our resident FFT savant Jason Schreier after I spent a couple of hours getting pantsed over and over again by the game’s first difficulty spike, the infamous Dorter Slums.

Brace for a long, sprawling IM conversation!

Kirk: I really just lost Dorter Slums

Kirk: man

Kirk: got shredded

Kirk: am I going to have to go grind in training forever to level my bros up?

Jason: nope

Jason: tell me about your party

Kirk: squire MC (squire) chemist chemist 2 bros

Jason: there’s your problem

Kirk: ok

Kirk: go

Jason: at this point, your characters should all be at least job level 2 in their respective classes

Kirk: I thiiink they are

Jason: at squire level 2, you can become a knight or archer

Jason: at chemist level 2, you can become a wizard or priest

Kirk: yeah but how can I get a bow

Jason: igros castle sells equipment for knights and archers

Jason: gariland sells stuff for wizards and priests

Kirk: ok one sec, getting back into the game

Jason: oh also, save a lot

Jason: because you can get into random battles any time you’re moving across a green tile

Jason: and there’s no fleeing

Kirk: yup

Kirk: I’m already on top of that one

Kirk: so should I make my bro a knight

Jason: yeah so at this point it’s totally up to you

Jason: this is basically where the game starts opening up

Kirk: so what’s a good party

Jason: you might want to make algus and delita knights

Jason: since their AI is dumb

Jason: and knights have the most HP

Kirk: yeah I mean god

Kirk: fucking morons

Jason: a good party for your four guys is knight/archer/wizard/priest for now

Kirk: k

Jason: then when the battle starts you can move your archer-bro up the bigass hill

Jason: with your wizard to help take out bros up there

Jason: keep your knight below to slash shit up and your priest to give him support

Jason: now for the spell system

Kirk: ok ok one sec

Jason: basically what happens is when you select a spell to cast, you can also check when that spell will actually go off

Kirk: i’m making my chick chemist Hilde into a white mage

Jason: and you can hit a button (i forget which) to see the entire order of events

Jason: so like

Jason: if you’re casting a fire spell on an enemy

Jason: you want to get it off before that enemy moves

Jason: so if the turn order says the enemy will go first

Jason: you might not want to cast it on that guy

Jason: but there are a lot of factors involved

Kirk: so ok

Jason: you’ll get the hang of it

Kirk: how do i check turn order

Kirk: I can’t figure that out

Jason: so when you go to cast a spell

Jason: either right, or select

Jason: i forget

Jason: or start maybe

Jason: idk

Jason: play around with buttons

Jason: but there’s a way to see it in the menu when you cast that spell

Kirk: right

Kirk: so it takes a turn, which makes sense

Kirk: it’s like Trails In The Sky in that way actually

Kirk: in A2 you usually cast immediately except with some spells, at least that’s how I remember it

Jason: yeah

Jason: well the maths is like

Jason: everyone has a bar called CT that gradually charges

Jason: and when a character’s CT hits 100, it’s their turn

Jason: but some classes recharge faster than others

Jason: it’s all based on your speed stat

Kirk: riiiight

Kirk: CT

Jason: your main character, btw, gets a shitload of awesome squire abilities that you should learn asap

Jason: including one that boosts speed

Jason: oh also

Jason: when you’re switching everyone’s classes

Jason: make sure you remember to give them secondary skills

Jason: so like ramza should get Guts always

Kirk: so right

Kirk: so like

Jason: some other dudes could get Items

Kirk: I’m gonna do that

Kirk: so I have to learn abilities

Kirk: what was the thing you said I should learn immediately though?

Jason: gained JP up

Jason: for everyone

Kirk: how do i do that

Jason: ok go into the menu

Jason: go to job/abilities

Kirk: yeah

Jason: there should be a big menu with every class

Kirk: yup

Jason: for each character, you go into each class and you can learn abils there

Kirk: yes

Kirk: aah

Kirk: JP Boost

Kirk: is that it?

Jason: oh yeah, sorry

Jason: some of the abil names were changed for PSP

Jason: “gained jp up” was psx

Kirk: so if I learn that

Kirk: for Squire

Kirk: and I’m a knight

Kirk: I’ll still have it?

Jason: yes

Kirk: k

Jason: you have to equip it, though

Jason: each char can only use one support ability at a time

Jason: one reaction, one support, one movement

Kirk: ooh

Jason: so for each character, you have to learn JP boost, then equip it

Jason: abilities are different

Jason: active abilities, that is

Jason: i think they’re called “command” abilities

Kirk: great

Kirk: this is great

Jason: so if you have a knight, and you set his secondary ability to squire abils

Jason: then you can use all squire command abilities

Jason: but not all squire support/movement/reaction abilities

Kirk: ok hang on parsing that

Jason: those are separate

Jason: ok basically

Jason: go to one of your dudes

Jason: and go into the menu where it lists all the jobs

Jason: then go to squire

Kirk: ohh

Kirk: hang on

Kirk: so first I have to activate JP boost

Kirk: I have two lightning bolt abilities

Kirk: an arrow

Kirk: a looping arrow

Kirk: and a foot

Jason: right

Jason: i forget which arrows are which

Jason: but one is support, one is reaction

Jason: foot is move

Jason: the two lightning bolts are command abils

Kirk: right

Jason: so those can all be mixed and matched

Jason: once a character learns an ability, he can equip it at any time

Jason: so once Kirklton has jp boost, he can put that in no matter what class he is

Kirk: right

Kirk: got it

Kirk: not everyone has enough jp to get jp boost yet

Kirk: but they’re close

Kirk: we’ll have to win another fight or two

Kirk: probs on the way to the castle to get a bow

Jason: so do that before you switch classes

Kirk: right

Jason: since remember, they all need to be getting squire jp

Kirk: well

Kirk: my mages are all good

Kirk: oh aaah

Kirk: they have to be squires to get the jp

Kirk: right right

Jason: not necessarily

Jason: remember the sharing thing

Kirk: is move+1 necessary? my black mage isn’t close to getting it

Jason: ok so yeah, as long as you have one or two squires, everyone will learn at least a tiny bit of squire jp

Kirk: aah got it

Kirk: I don’t want any squires

Jason: it’s nice, but not necessary

Jason: right so

Jason: when you’re grinding

Jason: you can have one person be a squire

Jason: so everyone else gains that jp

Jason: and can get jp boost

Kirk: riiight

Jason: since jp boost is necessary

Kirk: do you grind with training?

Jason: what do you mean

Jason: ok here’s the thing about grinding

Jason: you basically never need to grind

Jason: unless you have specific goals

Jason: like “hey i wanna get this ability right now”

Jason: but what you can do is

Jason: in one battle

Jason: kill every monster but one

Jason: weaken that one

Jason: he’ll run away to a corner of the map

Jason: and then just have all your characters wail on one another

Jason: or use random abilities

Jason: because they gain JP/exp for every action

Jason: so that’s what really matters

Kirk: right

Jason: you can get hundreds and hundreds of JP in one random battle just by having your characters attack each other for a little while

Kirk: god

Kirk: hahahaha

Kirk: how the fuck did anyone learn this

Kirk: I guess they read the manuel

Jason: nah

Jason: there’s a bigass tutorial section but in the original version it was garbled and wrong

Jason: so we all just kind of

Jason: fucked around

Even a week or so later, transcribing and re-printing that chat, I understand more of just what the hell Jason was talking about than I did at the time. But any way you slice it… well, Final Fantasy Tactics is not a welcoming game.

That’s OK, mind you. Part of the fun of these older games is leaning on the expertise of folks who have been playing them for more than a decade. (I found a similar thing when I played through Final Fantasy VII alongside Leigh Alexander a few years ago.)

I’m well beyond Dorter Slums now, and have got my head around a lot of the game’s rules and intricacies. I’ll have much more on Final Fantasy Tactics in the near future. And hey, if you’re playing along, I’d love to hear your tips too.