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The Quickening

My progress in Final Fantasy XII came to a halt several days ago when I came face to face with the toughest boss so far. This was one of those obstacles in RPGs that seem insurmountable, apparently designed as an exercise in frustration and humility, but beat the cold corrupt bastard I finally did. How many sessions it took, I don’t know since I lost count after the first half a dozen attempts. Yet every failed attempt was a revelation as I slowly but surely improved my tactics and crucially, discovered the true value of one of the game’s unique features.

The FF12 boss in question is found near the end of the Stilshrine of Miriam, a rather long dungeon with a few hairy encounters for my party of level 20-plus characters. My first encounter was comically brief as I could only watch in astonishment as my party was annihilated before I could even formulate a plan of action. Subsequent attempts were scarcely better. The situation was strikingly familiar and having learnt my lesson from the last time, I put a little more thought into my tactics instead of blindly entrusting things to chance.

It took me a few tries to figure out the best opening moves to make. Do I hit the boss with everything I have at the outset or do I concentrate on wiping out his deadly summoned minions first?

It turns out I could do both.

The Quick and the Dead

The key to victory was the Quickening, FF12’s character-specific special attacks, available to characters who’ve unlocked them on the License Board. Quickening attacks deal above average damage but their true value is realised when you chain together several Quickenings. As the active party size is three, I initially assumed that the maximum number of chained attacks possible was three and thus underestimated their true power.

Now, the manual does mention in passing it’s possible to recharge Quickening attacks during a Quickening attack (which means you can potentially achieve more than three chained hits) but it doesn’t emphasise how important this is when dealing with bosses and other HP-heavy foes. What also goes unmentioned is chaining together three or more Quickening attacks results in additional AoE damage — an essential bonus when you need to quickly eliminate a boss’s summoned allies.

There are two downsides to Quickening attacks. Recharging characters’ Quickening attacks during a Quickening attack (the key to putting together devastating boss-staggering combos) requires quick reflexes and the second complication is the recharge option is offered at random which means you don’t always get the opportunity for devastating chained hits.

I’m sure all this is spelled out explicitly and in excruciating detail in a FAQ somewhere but as is my habit, I’m playing through the game relying solely on my wits and skills (such as they are). It can be embarrassing to realise you’ve overlooked or underestimated a crucial gameplay element — as I did — but it’s very satisfying when you overcome a difficult obstacle on your own (as I eventually did).

It’s especially satisfying when the problematic boss that caused you so much grief is finally humbled and further humiliated by being turned into a summoned minion.

Suck it up, Mateus.

Posted in Games, PS2.

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