Friday, July 13, 2012

Tibia (PC)


Rating: 2 out of 5
Pros: No level cap, huge world map, constant updates
Cons: No sense of community, lots of botters, no sound, dated graphics

When I say Tibia is an oldschool MMORPG, I'm not exaggerating. Developed by CipSoft GmbH, Tibia has been online since very early in 1997. No, that's not a typo. It's undergone numerous revisions and updates since then, and received a lot of cosmetic overhauls and content updates -- but the core gameplay is still the same as it was all those years ago.
 
Tibia is actually free to play, and uses a subscription model where players can purchase a "premium account" to give them additional in-game benefits. This includes faster health and/or mana regeneration, character outfits, mounts, an astounding number of new areas to play, new cities, new spells, etc. The amount of regular content vs premium content is really lopsided, and while you can enjoy the game as a free account it does not compare to the game if you pay for the premium account instead. They recently introduced a way to buy premium "scrolls" for money and transfer them into the game, so you can at least get a premium account for in-game currency rather than cash if you really want -- though it's kind of expensive.
 
The first thing worth mentioning is that Tibia is a 2D RPG, and the graphics are similar to the old Ultima games (Ultima VI or Ultima VII). This means square tiles for everything, but the tops of them can stick up further to show perspective. There are multiple levels of depth and height, but the map clips the levels above and below you so that you can see whatever floor you happen to be on. If you go upstairs you can see the floor and walls where you're at but you can't see the floors above or below you (though you can see the area below you if it extends further than floor you're on).
 
These days there are some small animations, like twinkling orange specs at the tops of torches or tiled animations for different spells, but they aren't very complex nor are they very smooth. Characters and enemies still have what appear to be two-frame animations that just animate faster if you move faster. You can only walk in four directions with the arrow keys, though you can "push" yourself diagonally by dragging yourself with the mouse or using the number pad (this is much slower than walking in one of the cardinal directions). I really wish the game had WASD movement, though it would break the chat interface.
 
The actual game window takes up the top-left corner of the screen. The bottom of the screen is filled with a scrollable chat frame, and you can type whatever you want and hit enter to send it. You can scroll through the previous things and open up multiple tabs for different chat windows like public chat, NPCs, guild chat, private messages, etc. The right side of the screen has a user interface that consists of different blocks that can be minimized and maximized depending on what you want to be visible. This can include your health and mana, skills, inventory, equipment, VIP list (friend's list), containers on the ground next to you that you have open, corpses you're searching for loot, etc. It's nice that you can collapse some of these (like the skill pane) so that you don't have them eating up your screen real estate all the time, but you can look at them any time you want.
 
As for sound... Tibia has none. No ominous background music, no swords clanging or fireballs roaring, no monsters taunting you, no clicks or beeps for interface interaction. No sound what-so-ever. This is one of the few areas that I'm amazed they haven't expanded to in all the years the game has been around. Personally I would love at least some basic roars and clangs, but for whatever reason they have decided to pass on the option.
 
Tibia is a pretty open-ended game, but it's also a huge grind-fest. You start out on an island, which is a sort of training area called Rookgaard. There you learn how to play the game and hone your skills before setting off for the mainland. You fight some of the weaker enemies in the game, interact with some NPCs, do some quests and get a general feel for the game. The map itself is decent sized, and when I originally reached the mainland in the game I got lost a number of times trying to find my way around.
 
There are some varied tilesets for different landscapes, with lots of oceans and rivers around, deserts, jungles, snow and ice, caves and mountains. There are also over a dozen different sprawling towns in the game spread around the map, and each of them has a different theme. The town of Ankrahmun for example lies in the desert, and the whole town looks like it is made of sandstone and the buildings are in the shape of pyramids. The town of Port Hope is in the jungle, and most of the town is built up on stilts with wooden rope bridges connecting buildings that are made of wooden planks. I really appreciate the amount of variety in the looks of the game, and it really helps to relieve the sting of having no sound at all.
 
Leveling up in Tibia takes a long time, and the higher you get the longer it takes. There is no level cap; you can level up as high as you want. Every level gives you additional health, mana and walking speed. Different classes gain different amounts of health and mana, but the speed is constant. At level 1 you practically crawl around the map, but wait until a level 300+ runs by you; he pretty much just glitches across the screen in big spurts because he's so fast.
 
As for your other skills, Tibia doesn't have the traditional strength, dexterity, intelligence, etc. that you find in many RPGs. Instead Tibia uses a skill system, where your skills get higher as you use them more often. Swing that sword enough and your sword skill will go up a level; cast enough spells and your magic level will go up; catch enough fish and your fishing skill will go up. Skills include axe fighting, sword fighting, club fighting, fist fighting (really worthless in this game), magic level, distance fighting, shielding and fishing.
 
Initially training your skills (leveling them up) is pretty easy, and they go up quite nicely while you're grinding away killing enemies anyway. After a while it really starts to slow down, and you'll find yourself training your skills instead of killing enemies just so you can more efficiently kill them later. This usually involves taking a really weak weapon and hitting some type of enemy that heals itself periodically (like a ghoul or monk) while at the same time having a couple of weak creatures like rats or snakes hit you. The weak weapon insures that you don't kill the creature so you can hit it many times and raise your attacking skill, and the weak creatures hitting you raise your shielding skill in the process. It starts taking hundreds of hours of efficient training just to raise one skill point. A knight is the class that raises melee skills the fastest, and with 99 sword fighting you will still have to hit something with a sword weapon nearly a quarter of a million times to raise that skill up one more point -- and this will take you well over 100 hours of constant training.
 
There are four classes in Tibia: the knight, the paladin, the sorcerer and the druid. The knight can wear some of the heavier armors in the game and wield the best melee weapons. His melee and shielding skills go up fast but his magic level and distance skills go up really slowly. He gains 15 health per level but only 5 mana, and is the de facto tank class in the game. At high levels he has a lot of health and does moderate damage, and this is the class I originally started the game with. You end up grinding up a storm killing weak to moderate enemies constantly to level, and it's really a boring endeavor.
 
Some time ago they introduced "shared experience" into Tibia, and this really helped to mitigate the boring prospect of playing a knight so it's not so bad these days as it was for me. I used to play with a friend who was a paladin, and I stood there tanking strong monsters with my shield and high health. We got some loot and made a little money, but over a year of tanking all these enemies I leveled up from about level 60 to 65. During that same time my friend leveled up from about 45 to over 100. This was because he got nearly all of the experience for killing the enemies while I mostly just took damage from them. Thank goodness those days are over.
 
The paladin is not what you are expecting, as it is the ranged class in Tibia for some reason. It still has access to many holy spells and can raise shielding pretty quick, but it raises the distance fighting really fast and magic level at a medium pace. It gains 10 health per level and 15 mana and is widely considered to be one of the most versatile and well-rounded classes in the game. Since it has a decent health pool, mana pool, does good physical damage and can use a moderate amount of magic too, this is a well-rounded character that's probably your best choice to start out with.
 
Sorcerers and druids are pretty similar in the fact that they both have a ton of mana but very little health. They both get a whopping 30 mana per level, but only 5 health. They both cast a lot of the same spells, both raise magic levels at a good pace and everything else slowly. They differ in a few spells, but those spells are what actually makes them who they are. Every class has some sort of spell to heal itself, but druids actually get two additional spells: heal friend, and mass healing. This allows them to heal another person by name and heal everyone within a few squares all around them. They also specialize in ice and earth magic. Sorcerers get more attack spells instead of healing, and they specialize in fire and energy magic.
 
Sorcerers and druids (and paladins to an extent) can also create "runes", which are basically spells stored in stones. These can be used later by any class that has the required magic level to unleash the spells without spending mana. This is the main weapon in a mage's arsenal, and you end up spending a lot of time and mana creating them so that you can hunt enemies with them later. You can also buy these from NPC shops, but it's not very cost-effective to do so and you're better off making them yourself or buying commonly used runes from other players.
 
All classes can become "promoted" after level 20 at the cost of some gold. This gives them faster health and/or mana regeneration and the ability to use some new spells and abilities, as well as giving them a new title. A knight becomes an elite knight, a paladin becomes a royal paladin, a druid becomes an elder druid and a sorcerer becomes a master sorcerer. This only applies to premium accounts, and when your premium account expires you lose your promotion and continue playing as an unpromoted character until you purchase more premium time, at which point your previous promotion kicks back in.
 
There are a wide variety of enemies in Tibia. At first you'll mostly kill simple enemies like rats and spiders; then step up to orcs, minotaurs and dwarfs; then to cyclops and demon skeletons. Eventually you'll be hunting vampires, dragons, mages and ancient robots. You'll come across massive demons, spell-slinging warlocks, turtles, sea serpents and giant spiders -- there are a good number of different enemies to tangle with.
 
There are only a couple dozen of each type of weapon or armor in the game, and you can't really enchant them or place gems in them or anything special to improve them. This means for much of the game you'll be using the same equipment, with only a small upgrade here and there. Some of the lower stuff you can buy from NPC shops, but most of it you have to find rarely in a strong monster or buy from another player who has found it. There are also a spattering of quests here and there, some of which can net you some decent rewards, but unlike most modern RPGs many of the quests are tough. You won't find many "go out and kill 10 skeletons and bring me their bones" quests in Tibia.
 
What offsets some of the ease of having no level cap is the fact that Tibia has a rather harsh death penalty. If you die, you always lose some experience and some percentage of your skill progress. You also have a chance to drop some of your items. There are some blessings you can travel around the map and acquire, and while they do cost money they lower the percentage of everything that you lose. If you have all five blessings you won't drop any equipment and will lose only a small percentage of your skills and experience.
 
CIP updates the game frequently as well. It receives minor updates here and there, but twice a year they have major updates; one in the summer and one around Christmas. These major usually add new items, creatures, towns, hunting areas, outfits, etc. to the game. They also nearly always update at least some of the graphics, so over the years tibia has become pretty polished despite it's simplicity. It's nice to see such an old game still being given attention.
 
Years ago I played this game a lot, mostly because it was a simple game that worked on dial-up internet, but these days I don't play so much. I get in the mood to play it occasionally, so I do for a few days, but it doesn't hold my interest so much anymore. Over the years a lot of the player base has changed, and now well over half the players don't speak English at all. There are also a multitude of cheating "bot" characters who run programs that make them automatically run around killing enemies, leveling up, collecting loot, etc. This clogs up so many of the good hunting areas that sometimes it's hard to find somewhere to kill things, especially as a free account where you don't have as many options to start with.
 
CIP claims that they're against all the cheaters and botters, but they've really failed hard at stopping them or even slowing them down. Between the lack of real players as opposed to botters, and the fact that even most of the real players you do find can't speak English, Tibia has lost much of it's sense of community that it once had. A couple of years ago English was the official language and you "had" to speak English at least in public channels for that reason. They seem like they just don't care so much today. With the increased popularity of RPGs and MMORPGs, Tibia is just too dated to compete so they had to relax some of their rules to keep people playing. Now around a quarter of the player base is from Brazil, another quarter is from Poland, a pile from Mexico and another pile from Sweden and then it finally gets to the United States population.
 
Tibia is still a decent game that still has potential, but unless they do something drastic to restore the community feeling that it used to have and get rid of the botters I cannot recommend the game. Walking around aimlessly for an hour looking for a place to kill some enemies isn't fun, especially when you can't find anyone who speaks your language to kill time with. Coupled with the fact that when you're in town your screen is constantly spammed with bots who are trying to sell gold, it's not a great experience anymore. To top it all off, the game was $5/month once upon a time; now it's about $12/month. For that price I could play any number of better games like Warhammer Online or World of Warcraft.

Pass on this one unless they do some serious overhauling.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Fruit Ninja (Android)


Rating: 4 out of 5
Pros: Polished gameplay with achievements and unlockables
Cons: There's really not much to this simple game

Fruit Ninja is a simple little game from Halfbrick Studios for Android 2.1+ and iOS devices. Actually, simple is probably an understatement; the entire core of the gameplay consists of swiping your finger across the screen to chop fruit in half. However, for the $1.22 price tag ($0.99 for iOS) it offers some moderately fun casual gameplay that you can get through in short periods of time while you're out and about away from your primary gaming systems.
 
Basically fruit flies up from the bottom of the screen, does a little arc and then falls back off. You are tasked with slicing it out of the air before it falls again. There are three gameplay modes: Classic, Arcade and Zen. Classic mode is usually the longest lasting, as you can continue playing indefinitely as long as you have lives remaining (unless you slice a bomb, then it's game over). You start out with three lives, and you lose one each time a piece of fruit falls off the bottom of the screen. You can obtain an extra life for ever 100 points though, so missing a piece of fruit here or there isn't usually a deal breaker.
 
Arcade mode lets you play for exactly one minute, and the goal is to slice as much fruit as possible while avoiding bombs again. In Arcade mode you have some bonus banana fruit that appear to help you occasionally by either slowing down time, making a fruit frenzy (lots of fruit on the screen for easy points) or doubling your points for a while. Zen mode is similar to Arcade, except that you are given a minute and a half but there are no bananas or bombs to deal with. This makes it exceptionally easy to swipe your finger back and forth rapidly near the bottom of the screen and not miss any fruit -- though you do get a few less points this way because it's harder to get combos (multiple fruit in one swipe). If you let a pile of fruit get on the screen at once and then swipe it, the combos will net you a lot more points overall.
 
Other than that there isn't much to the game. There are a few unlockables like different colored blades for swiping with and different background images, as well as achievements and worldwide leaderboards. Some of the unlockables are easy, like slicing 250 watermelons in classic mode or getting a combo with a strawberry 40 times. Others are a little tougher, like getting a combo in Zen mode after the timer stops or cutting 125 fruit without missing in classic mode.
 
The graphics are rather simple, but they are shiny and sleek. There really isn't much in the way of animation aside from the spinning pieces of fruit, but some of the effects like the swipe and the splatter when you slice fruit are rather nice. The game has a polished look to it, and that's especially important when you're dealing with simple games. The sound effects are about what you would expect from swipes and splatters, and the music is surprisingly decent even though it does get repetitive.
 
The controls for the game are the same as for the menus; just swipe the fruit icons. It's pretty responsive on my Motorola DROID 4 and I haven't noticed any stuttering or slow down. A pretty decent game overall, I'm giving Fruit Ninja four stars and recommending it to anyone who likes casual puzzle-type games that are a little more involved and faster paced. If you're not sure, grab the add-supported Fruit Ninja Free; it's the same exact game with all the levels and unlockables intact. It just displays advertisements after each game, which is not obtrusive at all to the gameplay.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Final Fantasy Tactics (PSX)


Rating: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great story, diverse cast of characters, many different ways to play
Cons: Cutscenes can be really slow, especially between chapters

Final Fantasy Tactics was developed by Square and released in early 1998 for the Sony PlayStation video game console. It was among the first strategy/tactical RPGs that I had ever played and soon became one of my favorite games for the PlayStation. It had all the flair and depth of a Final Fantasy title combined with the strategic gameplay of a game like Fire Emblem or Shining Force.
 
[Story]
 
Soon after the Fifty Year War with one of it's neighbors, the Kingdom of Ivalice is thrust into another war after the death of it's king. This new war, the Lion War, is a civil war that revolves around who should be the heir to the kingdom. The king had two children, Princess Ovelia and an infant son named Prince Orinas -- and since the prince was but an infant, whoever was appointed his guardian would rule in his stead. The ambitions and manipulations of the Queen's brother Prince Larg the White Lion, and the King's cousin Prince Goltana the Black Lion lead to what is later termed The Lion War.
 
The story is pretty deep and complicated, but that's the overriding plot arc. House Beoulve has pretty high standing in the realm due to their contributions in the Fifty Year War, and you take on the roll of the youngest brother Ramza Beoulve for the game. Not only does he have to deal with the two lions throwing the world into chaos with yet another war, but the Glabados Church with its secret agenda as well to complicate things. The story is wonderful and well fleshed out -- it contains many twists and turns, intrigue and betrayal, but there's so much to it that at times it gets a little hard to follow.
 
[Gameplay]
 
The main world is a flat map with locations that work similar to the world map in Super Mario Bros 3, but you start out with only a couple of these locations visible with a line connecting them. Moving onto the next open location usually starts a battle (or occasionally a cut scene) and when you finish that battle it unlocks an additional location or series of locations to advance the story. After the initial battle the dots representing the different locations change colors so that you know you're finished with that area, a blue dot for a town/castle and a green dot for a field location.
 
You can't actually enter any of the locations except during battles, but when you're at a town or castle you can bring up a menu to interact with various things inside. Buying or selling equipment, hiring random soldiers, visiting the pub to listen to rumors or take on jobs, etc. Taking on jobs is a nice way to get backup characters some experience as you'll have to play without whatever characters you send for the number of days that the job lasts. In Final Fantasy Tactics one day is goes by for every dot you move on the world map.
 
Green dots are just extra stops after you complete the initial battle, but they do have a chance to spawn a random battle at that location. Unlike story battles in which you fight the same group of enemies at the same level with the same equipment every time, random battles scale to your level and have a random assortment of enemies in them. So if you decide to level up a bit to make a certain story battle easier, you still may find yourself having a tough time with some of the random battles just because the enemies may be much closer to your own level and have more abilities to use.
 
During battles the game switches to a 3D-looking view where the map is made up of isometric, diamond-shaped blocks. The maps are relatively small, and you get to take a party of (usually) five characters into battle against the enemies. Sometimes you'll have "Guest" characters in your party, who are characters tagging along for a portion of the story line. They are completely controlled by artificial intelligence, but often lower the number of characters you're allowed to bring into battle so that you're sitting at five total. The enemies may number anywhere from two or three up to over a dozen. Characters and enemies both move around the blocks based on their move and jump stats, with the move referring to how many blocks you can move in any direction and jump referring to how many blocks you can climb vertically.
 
Some maps are pretty flat and jump is useless, but other maps are really vertical, to the point of obstructing the view of the camera and being annoying. Thankfully you can rotate the camera to four fixed positions, one at each point of the diamond-shaped blocks, but sometimes you just can't see very well. R1 and L1 rotate the camera around, R2 slightly changes the camera angle (up and down to two preset heights), and L2 zooms in and out of the map a little bit.
 
There are probably 20 different enemy types ranging from different classes of humans, to Chocobos, skeletons and dragons. Most of the monster type enemies have different versions as well, who have increased power and a different name but look exactly the same except for a color palette swap. There are also a number of boss encounters during the story battles, and these can range in difficulty greatly. If you've leveled up a bit and are just there to win the battle as soon as possible they are mostly easy enough. On the other hand, if you're not too leveled up and you wish to steal something in particular from a boss you may find yourself frustrated beyond belief. (The battle with Marquis Elmdor comes to mind here, where he has a full set of unique Genji Gear to steal.)
 
Final Fantasy Tactics is a turn-based tactical RPG, and battles use a system based on Charge Time (CT). Characters fill up a CT bar at a rate equal to that character's speed, and when it reaches 100 that character gets it's Active Turn (AT). Speed will vary depending on the character's current class/job and what equipment he has on, so you may have one character that gets a couple of turns before another character gets one. Charge time can be viewed easily because it fills up a third bar directly under the character's health and mana bars.
 
A character's spells and abilities have their own seperate speeds as well, so if you're casting a higher level spell like Cure 4, Meteor or many of the summoning spells it will likely take multiple turns before it gets executed. You have to be careful casting spells that hit an area on the ground, because if it has a long CT the enemy you cast it on may have moved out of the way before it ever gets cast. In some cases where you have a specific enemy targeted so he can't escape, he may walk over and stand beside you so that you get hit with your own spell when it hits him -- making CT management really important.
 
You gain experience and job points when you perform actions in battle. At the end of each battle you get some money, and usually some random bonus items as well. These bonus items can range from a small amount of money, to potions or elixirs or even pieces of equipment. Also, when any character or enemy dies they get a timer that counts down as their normal turn would have passed. It starts at 3 and when turn 0 passes, that character's body disappears forever (and can no longer be revived, so you can permanently lose characters). When it disappears it leaves behind either a crystal or a treasure chest. If you step on the crystal you can restore your health and mana, or sometimes gain some abilities that the dead character had (if it was a human). The treasure chest will usually give you a piece of equipment that the dead character had equipped, or else an item like a potion or a phoenix down.
 
[Characters]

Aside from Ramza, there are a number of other named characters you can recruit throughout the game. Cid makes an appearance like he does in just about every Final Fantasy title, but in Final Fantasy Tactics he's known as T.G. Cid or "Thunder God" Cid and is of the class Holy Swordsman. The name is fitting, because when you get him during the storyline he can almost single-handedly win battles for you for a while.
 
Ramza, Cid, a Chocobo, and 5 more special named characters make up your main cast. To further that total there are 5 hidden characters in the game, including a well-loved hero from a previous Final Fantasy installment. In addition, you can hire random characters in most towns if you need to fill your ranks until you receive all of the named characters throughout the story, or to train especially for specific roles you may need filled.
 
You can even recruit monsters into your ranks, and those monsters will lay eggs to give you even more monsters. Sometimes it gets excessive and you have start dismissing monsters as they start multiplying like rabbits. Sometimes enemies will lay eggs of a different tier monster as well (the one that looks the same but with a color swap), like a Behemoth laying a Behemoth King egg or a Chocobo laying a Red Chocobo egg for example.
 
Any of the human characters can switch between a number of different classes, or jobs as they're called here. The total list of jobs includes Squire, Chemist, Knight, Archer, White Mage, Black Mage, Monk, Thief, Oracle, Time Mage, Geomancer, Dragoon, Mediator, Summoner, Samurai, Ninja, Calculator, Dancer, Bard and Mime. It's a pretty extensive list, but you unlock them over the course of the game by leveling up earlier jobs.
 
For example, when you level up the Squire job class to level 2 you unlock the Archer and Knight jobs. Leveling Archer to 2 gets you a thief, and Knight to 2 gets you a Monk. A level 3 Monk gets you a Geomancer, and then the fun starts. If you take the Geomancer to level 2, the Archer to level 3 and the Thief to level 4 (yes, three separate jobs that each have prerequisites) then you finally unlock the Ninja job. If that sounds like a lot of leveling to unlock, just wait until you want to try out the Calculator or the Mime!
 
The special named characters that join your party each have an additional job that takes the place of Squire in their list of jobs. These jobs have different abilities, some of which are so good that the character is irreplaceable (like T.G. Cid), some situationally useful against certain enemy types (like Meliadoul), and some downright useless to the point of making you never want to use that character (Malak). These special jobs make using random characters pointless once you have 5 named characters.
 
As you accumulate job points you can learn different abilities specific to whatever job the character is at the time. A chemist for example can spend 30 job points to learn how to use potions. 90 job points can teach them to use a phoenix down, and a whopping 900 job points to learn to use elixirs. When you spend the points to learn a new spell or ability they are gone, and you must accumulate more to learn more abilities. Once you've learned every ability for a job, that job becomes mastered and has a star by the name in the job selection screen so that you know there's nothing else to learn there.
 
Different jobs also have innate abilities that are always active as long as the character is doing that job. A chemist for example can always throw items like potions or ethers a certain number of squares to hit an ally who's not standing near them, but if you want to do that with another class you must spend 350 job points to learn the "Throw Items" support ability. A ninja can inherently equip a weapon in each hand, a white mage can always use white magic, etc.
 
Each character has two stats called Brave and Faith that effect different abilities in different ways. High faith improves the damage that character does with magical attacks, but it also increases the amount of damage they receive from magical attacks. You would think that characters you use as front-line melee fighters would be best kept at a low faith level, but since low faith also makes cure spells heal for smaller amounts, that might not always be the case if you heal with spells instead of items very often.
 
Brave affects things such as a Monk's attack power, your counter-attack rate if you have "Counter" learned and equipped, etc. One of my favorite abilities is "Blade Grasp", which gives you an evasion rate that's dependant on your Brave level. If you've got 95 brave, then you'll evade 95% of melee attacks used against you. Talk about powerful! Conversely, really low brave helps you discover rare items if you're using the Chemist's "Move Find Item" ability so it's nice to keep one character with low brave (with 70 brave you would have a 70% chance to find the rare item and a 30% chance to find the common item on a block that has a hidden item when you step on it). That's the only time I'm aware of that low brave is more useful than high brave.
 
You can raise and lower brave and faith during battle with certain abilities, and for every 5 points the stat goes up during a battle it goes up 1 point permanently. Use caution however, because if a character's permanent brave level drops to 5 he will leave your party forever because he's a coward, and if the permanent faith gets up to 95 they will leave forever to pursue a life devoted to religion.
 
For even more complexity each character also has a Zodiac sign, and different Zodiac signs have different compatibility with other signs. If your sign and the sign of your enemy are compatible you will have a higher chance to hit them, charm them, steal from them, etc. If the enemy is of the opposite sex it increases the chances even more. If the signs are incompatible, the sex is the same and the enemy is using a good shield you may find yourself with a ridiculously low chance to do much to them. In that case you're usually better off to walk away and move another character over to deal with that enemy.
 
There are a decent number of items available in the game as well, including a number of different consumables to cure various status ailments and a wide variety of weapons and armor. Not only that, but there are different types of equipment for the different classes. Most jobs have their own specific types of weapons; ninja swords, katanas, knight swords, harps, daggers, bows, maces, etc. There are more than a dozen different swords, along with another handful of knight swords, a dozen shields, etc. There are also a couple of different types of armor and helmets, like light armor, heavy armor and robes for different classes to equip.
 
There are many accessories too, like feather boots to cast float on your character permenantly or an angel ring so the character has permenant reraise. Cloaks to raise your evasion rate or bracelets to protect against various status ailments. In addition, there are a few items such as the ribbon and some perfumes that can only be equipped by female characters
 
[Presentation]
 
While the graphics aren't anything spectacular, they are really detailed. The random generic soldiers all look similar, females with one sprite and males with another, but they have a different sprite for each of the different jobs that they can become which means a lot of variety anyway. On top of that, each of the special named characters looks unique and nothing like anyone else, but the downside to this is that they don't change their appearance when they change jobs. I think the characters look much, much better and are far more detailed than the characters in the other PlayStation era Final Fantasy games.
 
The world map looks nice, but there's really nothing to it because it's just a flat plane with dots and lines on it. The battles look really good though, with nice textures on every block. Different height elevations gradually climb with angles and inclines, so it's not like a world made entirely of Legos or anything. The settings and locations really look nice, and there's a good variety to them. One level you may be on a wavy desert with cliffs and cacti, and the next you may be near a giant waterfall with rocky cliff faces and a wooden bridge, and then the next you may be in a town with multiple buildings and roads where you must fight your way across the roof tops to defeat your enemy.
 
The sound effects are pretty standard but they work well, but the music is really outstanding. We get a nice mixture of dark and brooding tones to make boss fights seem more harrowing, slower melodic music to enhance particularly emotional cut scenes and faster enthusiastic pieces during random battles on the map. The music really adds to the atmosphere and does nothing but enhance the game. The only piece that I really got tired of was the piece that plays at the start of every battle while you choose which characters to fight with. After about the hundredth time you listen to that same piece at the start of every single battle you really start wishing there were 2 or 3 different tunes that it cycled between for some variety.
 
The cutscenes are the one bit of negative. They look real nice and are rendered using the game engine, but they go really slowly. Even worse are the screens of text between chapters that tell more of the story... these scenes go r... e... a... l... l... y... slow! To top it all off, they can't even be skipped which is a huge bummer. After playing through the game a couple of times, I really don't need to be forced to sit through one screen for 5 minutes as it slowly displays four lines of text. I usually end up taking the time during those scenes to take a break and use the bathroom, grab a drink, etc. Aside from those minor negatives however, the presentation of the game is exceptional.
 
[Conclusion]
 
Final Fantasy Tactics is one of my favorite PlayStation era games, and probably my favorite tactical RPG of all time. It's one of the first games I ever bought for the PlayStation, and I've actually picked up 3 different copies over the years as the first ones got scratched up or lost by my younger brothers.
 
There are a whole lot of positives: a good number of enemies, a good amount of different equipment and tons of customizability on how you want to play. There is a wide cast of unique characters with their own reasons for fighting and their own unique skills that they bring to bear. The grand storyline is deep and involved, and the style of the game really brings it all together into an epic saga that shouldn't be missed.
 
If you can't pick up the PlayStation version of the game, you can still grab Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions for the PlayStation Portable (PSP) or the iPad/iPhone. Supposedly it's really similar, but with additional jobs, items, characters and cutscenes (now with voiceovers). In one form or another, this is one game that should appeal to a large variety of people and everyone should at least look into.
 
There's so much more I could say about this game, but you really have to play it to truly appreciate it.