I suddenly realized yesterday that my time travelling the Road to Final Fantasy XV in 2015 is coming to an end soon. Yesterday I hit day number 300 out of 365 of my marathon. I knew I was closing in on the home stretch since I’m up to Final Fantasy XII and all, but I mean, I’m still in the PlayStation 2 era! Looking at it like that, it feels like I’ve still got such a long ways to go. Passing day 300 kind of opened my eyes, and I say that the end is in sight. Just gotta keep pressing on and looking forward to that March release date reveal for Final Fantasy XV. LALI-HO.
As you may have guessed, what with the running trend for the last few months now, I was pretty busy this week and didn’t get as much time with FFXII as I would have liked. This was exacerbated by the fact that I lost the boss fight against my first summon a couple days ago, Belias. He takes the place of Ifrit as the powerful fire god this time around, and he was not an easy foe to fell the first time around.
Generally, getting a Game Over against a boss isn’t so big a deal – just reload and try again. Final Fantasy XII has a leg up on past titles like Final Fantasy X, as the cutscenes are COMPLETELY SKIPPABLE, even if you haven’t yet seen them. My problem with this specific situation was that I had just spent an hour or so prior to the fight working my way through the dungeon, clearing it of normal enemies and finding the hidden passage to reach Belias, with not a single save point throughout the entire place except for the one right outside at the entrance. Then I spent a good 15 minutes trying to take him down, the end of which would have no doubt been quite comical to watch with some Benny Hill music.
I was no longer dealing any damage to him because I was too preoccupied reviving fallen allies and healing. Here I thought all the grinding I did in the sandsea, plus going back to complete all available marks, would have made the next boss or two a snap. OH HOW WRONG I WAS. When he finally took me down I was more than a little upset. Losing that precious progress when I’ve got increasingly less time to play was not an easy bullet to bite.
Anyway, yesterday I attempted the Tomb of Raithwall for the second time, taking my time and going around the long way in order to grind a bit more and making sure to run all the way back to the entrance to save before the battle, just in case. This time Belias was subdued inside of 5 minutes. The fight was almost laughably easy. But what was so different? My characters were only one or two levels higher than before. Oh yeah, it was the Quickenings. Let me tell you about Quickenings, okay? Okay.
Quickenings are the Limit Breaks of Final Fantasy XII. You can unlock them on the license board by reaching the furthest-most corners of the board. There are 18 Quickening spaces in total, and each may only be unlocked once by one character, meaning there are three abilities per. They’re quite unique when compared to FFVII’s Limit Breaks and FFIX’s Trances, however, because they’re not strictly relegated to one member. It’s a bit confusing to explain on paper, but stick with me.
If all three members of my party – let’s say Vaan, Fran, and Basch for example – have one Quickening learned, they can execute a combo Quickening. I can tell Basch to use Fulminating Darkness, then while he’s attacking a timer of about 3 seconds starts ticking down. In that time I can hit square or triangle to use Vaan’s or Fran’s special moves straightaway after Basch’s wraps up. So Basch uses his move, I hit square, and Vaan starts his attack. The timer starts again from where it left off, and I quickly hit triangle. Vaan’s move is complete, and Fran goes for it. Now X, square, and triangle are all grayed out, meaning I cannot select them. I can use R2 to “shuffle” and hope one of the moves appears in white again, meaning I can use it once again in the combo.
That 3-second timer is always ticking while you shuffle though, so you must be quick and accurate with your buttons to make the best combo you can. If you string together a long enough combo (usually three or four Quickenings in a row) before the time runs out, you’ll receive a special bonus attack that deals massive damage. Having said all that, if only one of your characters has learned a Quickening, the potential for combos lessens substantially, resulting in less overall damage done.
In addition, using your Quickening ability sucks up all (that’s 100%) of your MP. If you’ve learned two Quickenings it only takes half your MP, and with three it takes up a third, so it’s incredibly beneficial to learn at least two per character as soon as you can so you’ve got some strong attacks up your sleeve without sacrificing the ability to heal. This early in the game, however, I had only learned one Quickening on four characters when I first fought Belias.
So I went into the fight with two Quickening-equipped teammates and one without, with the same equivalent kept in reserve as back-up. I figured surely I could get worthwhile combos with just two Quickenings, right? Yeah, right. Totally. Except not at all. I used the two Quickenings, did some decent damage, swapped out for the other two, repeated the process, and got Belias down to about just under half of his max HP. That’s when the battle stagnated, leaving me to run around trying desperately to restore my MP as he continued his onslaught of Firaja-all, often killing three of my four party members each time (Vossler was with me a guest at the time).
For my second attempt I paid careful attention to the license board and intentionally made sure all six party members had a Quickening learned. Man alive, the difference in damage between two-Quickening combos and three-Quickening combos is ridiculous. I hit Belias with a 3-person Quickening combo, 2/5 of his health gone. Swapped for the other 3 teammates, did it again, another 2/5 gone. I didn’t even need to worry about having no MP; I just swapped out for my three heaviest hitters after the Quickening onslaughts, and kept assaulting him for another minute until he was down. So much easier. So much less stressful.
I realize I’ve taken more than 1100 words to explain and detail this one fight and the strategy behind overcoming it, but Quickenings are a majorly important mechanic that can literally mean life or death in Final Fantasy XII. The game doesn’t tell you anything about it either, until you stumble randomly upon a Quickening on the license board and unlock it. Now I don’t think the game should hold your hand and walk you through everything, but if I didn’t know about the Quickenings I would have had to wander and grind and wander and grind for several more hours before being able to defeat Belias otherwise. It would have been nice to at least be tipped off that these special abilities were there and waiting to be discovered.
C’est la vie. I worked it out, and I overcame the obstacle on my second try, so it wasn’t really the big drama I’m making it out to be. At any rate, I’m now looking forward to unlocking the next level of Quickenings so I’m not left defenseless after using them.