Final Fantasy Tactics 1.3 is a fan mod that attempts to balance the generic Jobs and tune the game to be a challenge even to knowledgeable and skilled players. It’s not for the faint of heart. FFT1.3 seems to address some of my complaints about the original FFT and stands to really test my knowledge of the game.
One of the first big notes I took after the first three missions is that the characters I choose for each mission really matter, both in terms of mission success in the short-term and getting key characters enough XP and JP in the medium-term. From the first mission I had to pick who I wanted to make great, then stick with them. And in battles, I needed to be very conscientious with regard to making sure my characters were getting the JP that they need to keep up the progression pace. Just fighting to survive and win wasn’t good enough–I had to find something useful for each character to do each turn, even if it was just putting a relatively useless buff on an ally, so that my characters could catch up with Algus and Delita, two ally story characters controlled by the AI in the first few missions.
My first attempt through the first three missions (Gariland, Mandalia Plains, Sweegy Woods) I did not do a good-enough job of leveling up my characters, so I was stuck without any Wizards for the fourth mission, Dorter Slums. I needed my starting party to consist of some combination of Wizards, Priests, Marksmen, and Knights–not a bunch of red-cheeked Squires and Chemists. Delita and Algus were both level 4 or 5 by the time I hit Dorter, which meant the enemies were going to be at least level 5 and have real Jobs. I couldn’t bring rookies to this battle and hope to survive. The Marksmen and Wizards you face here have enough ranged firepower to overwhelm the healing efforts of a couple of Chemists–much unlike Mandalia Plains and Sweegy Woods which I had no trouble winning by playing defensively with a 2 Chemist 2 Squire team, focusing damage while healing whenever possible.
When I noticed that I was unprepared for Dorter, I tried to train up characters by fighting random encounters in Mandalia Plains. Wow, that was a mistake! The random encounters in 1.3 are quite tough–no place to bring a rookie to get him a few easy levels even this early in the game. The fact that Delita and Algus were level 5 meant that even the highest-level characters I could deploy were outleveled by the opposition by two whole levels. Though no damage or hit-rate calculations use character level directly, the enemies the game generates for random encounters use the player’s party’s highest level to guide how many abilities the enemies have have. As such, what should be challenging but fair battles for a level 5 party were murder on my party of level 3 characters. After trying a few random encounters and meeting brutal failure, I reassessed my entire progression strategy. I found out the hard way that the first few ability unlocks and job unlocks are so important that when the enemy had them and I didn’t, it was game over.
On my second try through the first three missions I did much better. I ensured I’d accumulate enough JP by setting up a trap in Mandalia Plains to pin an enemy Squire in place so that I could have my characters heal Delita and Algus repeatedly and farm some XP and JP. I was careful to avoid leveling past Delita and Algus, though, because in 1.3 enemy gear and levels scale with the highest level character in your party for all battles. If you outlevel the gear that you can buy in shops, you’re stuck with junk while the enemy has level-appropriate equipment. This means more damage and HP for enemies that are already at an advantage in numbers and positioning.
With a more advanced team I managed to complete Dorter, the first major hurdle in 1.3, on my first try. It felt great!
I’ve had lots of fun in these first few hours of play! This fan mod has forced me to engage with the game on a much deeper level than I ever had before, and for that I’m very thankful. I’ll be tackling the next couple of missions over the coming week. Expect another report soon.