FF12 – Building a Tank

FF12’s license system brought a whole lot of flexibility to character creation while leveling.  The downside was that at max level, everyone had access to everything (similar to FFX), making it a mush of character development.  Zodiac Age instead limits every character to 2 jobs, creating meaningful choices.  A White Mage / Knight is great at close damage and healing, while a White Mage / Archer can pluck away from a distance.  There aren’t any bad jobs, just less optimal ones.  A high combo character is better suited to the Bushi class (ninja) since it comes with high combo weapons.

For 80% of the game, you can run pretty much any group combo you want as long as someone has access to Cure/Cura/Curaga.  10% is bosses, and with few exceptions, all are better served with a tank to take physical hits.  The last 10% are the hunts & espers, which after rank V absolutely require a tank.

FF12 has one of my favorite versions of a tank, the evasive tank (something I think Rift did best in the MMO world, though the WoW Monk is pretty close).  The concept is not so much in padding them with extra hit points as much as it’s about increasing their ability to simply avoid damage altogether.  A few hits will get through, but sparesely enoguh so that you can heal through them.

The Shikari job works best for this since it has access to the Main Gauche, a relatively low damage weapon with +34 to Evade.  There isn’t any other weapon remotely close to this.  The best shield you can buy only has +30.  There’s a +75 evasion shield through hunts later, as well as a +90 (though that comes with poison, sap, and slow).  So a clean evasive tank would max out around 83% physical evasion.

And yeah, there’s magic evasion too!  Considering that some of the largest attacks in the game are magical, this is super useful.  It maxes around 65%.  But you can only get the tank for that, and most magical attacks are group-wide.

So the tank is stat-ready.  Next is getting them spell ready.

FF12 has Lure, which is essentially a taunt spell that sticks to a character.  It also has Bubble, which doubles a characters hit points.  The duration of Lure isn’t all that long, and during the re-cast time the enemy can certainly swap targets.  So it’s not foolproof.

The evasive tank only starts being viable once you’ve unlocked all characters.  Then it shines like crazy for the rest of the game, and turns supernova against the toughest hunts.  Gilgamesh in particular.

The general idea is – get the tank ready and a 2nd character that has access to Curaga, Decoy and Bubble (see jobs from above).  The 3rd character is a high combo character with maxed damage.  You then purposefully put them into Beserk mode (they can only attack, but with higher damage) and just let the chainsaw effect go through.  This is pretty much the model every group-based RPG works under, but it’s the only FF where the tools are presented to players in such a clear fashion.

The best part of all this is that it’s entirely optional.  You can kill the last boss without ever having a tank.  It’s less optimal, but certainly feasible – my first run proved that! If you want to play the hard-mode stuff at later levels, then you need it.  That’s some good design balance.

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