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Final Fantasy Tactics: bossed around

Final Fantasy Tactics: Belias the Gigas

(Original source image: Square Haven.)

I finished one of those frustrating boss battles in Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions yesterday that make me think that I would be better off doing something like less painful like, I dunno, bang my head on the wall a few hundred times.

This particular boss is found in Riovanes Castle in the penultimate battle of the third chapter. He’s endowed with a lot of health, casts a devastating spell with a large area of effect and can also petrify your units with a glance.

Bottom line, he’s pain incarnate.

But believe it or not, it gets worse.

He’s also accompanied by a trio of spellcasting henchmen who can collectively cut down your strongest unit in a single turn.

On top of all that, this intense boss battle is preceeded by a tough mano-a-mano duel between the main character and a recurring villain. Annoyingly, you’re not allowed to save between the two fights. You can save immediately after the boss fight but not immediately before. There is no good reason for this aside from increasing the frustration level.

And frustrating it was.

I was stuck here for a few days. I failed repeatedly, levelled up, still failed, levelled up again and finally got lucky after several attempts. My Knight managed to immobilize the boss with a sword attack and my Summoner silenced him which prevented him from casting his deadly spells. But even thus incapacitated, he managed to petrify two of my party and his underlings slaughtered another two. The last one standing, Ramza, in what was definitely his last move before his inevitable death, leapt high and crushed the boss’s skull with his Partisan lance.

“THE BATTLE IS WON!”

Finally.

I gained no satisfaction whatsoever from this victory, hard-earned though it was. My winning had less to do with tactical acuity, skill and outsmarting the AI and more to do with levelling up and replaying the battle until that one try when everything fell into place just so.

Why do game designers frustrate gamers like this? We’ve already paid for the game so unlike arcade games, there’s no financial incentive here to force gamers to repeatedly play the same battle until we get lucky.

Is it meant to separate the hardcore gamer from the dilettante? It probably will but I personally think hardcore should mean skilled rather than being bloodyminded.

Is it an attempt to create a memorable gaming experience? Well, this will certainly live long in the memory but it will not be a pleasant memory.

There’s just got to be a better way of doing boss battles.

Posted in Final Fantasy Tactics, Games, PSP.


4 Responses

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  1. Christo says

    Lots of the reviews comment on this, because of the depth and variability of the Job system it is possible to approach a scripted battle with a party that is ideal and wumps the enemy in seconds, or be so out matched that painful death ensues. After a few such episodes I realised that simply grinding didn’t really help, I had to change the composition of my party, a process of trial and error mostly.

    There was a thread I read somewhere that indicated that generally people want a mild to moderate challenge in these type of games, one that they have to exercise planning and skill to overcome, but not something that is so hard that they are instantly crushed. I concur. It is very satisfying when you overcome what initially seemed hopeless by careful movement and use of your abilities. But not on the 4th or 5th attempt at the same battle.

    There was one on the rooftops somewhere that really annoyed me – they were too fast for me always.

  2. Gobi says

    I’ve since learnt the nightmarish battle at Riovanes Castle was not as difficult as I made it out to be. According to a guide and forum posts, the easiest method of despatching said boss was through the use of a low-level skill I completed ignored so you’re completely right about the difficulty varying wildly depending on party configuration. Jobs, individual unit abilities and equipment can make huge differences.

    In retrospect, I also badly underestimated the importance of the Speed attribute and the Haste effect in the first half of the game. I only recognised their true value when a character with perma-Haste joined the party.

    The game does seem poorly balanced, however. There are a couple of characters who join the party who will completely tilt the balance of the game in the player’s favour. If the battle at Riovanes Castle proved nightmarish for me, subsequent boss battles were easy. Bosses scarcely had time to strut their stuff before they would fall to a combined assault from the Sword Saint, Holy Knight and Divine Knight.

    I also found casters to be completely overshadowed by the other job types. It’s hard to justify a spot for a caster who a) is slaughtered before casting b) may miss c) may heal an opponent or d) hurt an ally when you can choose a well-armoured swordsman or swordswoman with the sure-hit Divine Ruination or Crush Armor ability. I would almost always include a caster in my party for battles but they just weren’t pulling their weight compared to the knights.

    I think game designers have a real problem on their hands when it comes to setting the difficulty levels for their games. On the one hand, the game companies are trying to make games as accessible as possible to the casual gamer. On the other, you’ve got gamers (with two decades of experience or more) who want to be challenged.

    Ideally, the difficulty would change depending the gamer’s performance and skill level. It’s 2007. We have dynamic lighting and dynamic sound but not dynamic difficulty. I would settle for difficulty levels I can set at any point in the game.

  3. Christo says

    Yes, the Sword Saint fellow is unstoppable, though I didn’t realise that until the final batte sequence as I had ignored him until then, thinking he was just another foot soldier. Casters improved when the Swiftness skill was equipped, but I still found instant effects to be more manageable and effective. Monk/Dragoon or Samurai/Ninja were pretty deadly.

  4. Gobi says

    I finished the game so quickly I didn’t manage to unlock enough abilities to make the high-level Jobs viable in the final battles.

    But I can definitely envision how a dual-wield Samurai could be devastating. I wonder if a Ninja equipped with two guns would work well. The Ninja’s high Speed would give the build a first strike capability and the long range of the guns would theoretically make it a superb mage-killer.



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