The story of the game focuses on the war between the empires of Rozarria and Archadia. In the middle of these two empires stands the kingdom of Dalmasca, which features some city called Rabanastre in the middle of some desert. Another kingdom between these two empires is Nabradia, which is destroyed by Archadia at the start of the game under mysterious circumstances. Princess Ashe of Dalmasca is married to Lord Rasler of Nabradia, who gets killed in the war soon after the game starts, making Ashe a widow, and then orphan as the king of Rabanastre also dies when trying to sign a treaty, murdered by who was supposed to be a loyal soldier of their kingdom, Basch.
Princess Ashe fakes her death and then forms the insurgence (a word who Ashe hates and gets pissed off everytime she hears it; she is always correcting people, it's "the Resistance", damnit) against Archadia along with one of her captains, Vossler. Rabanastre falls in Archadia's hands while Ashe waits for the appropriate moment to take action, which means that she pretty much is getting a sunbath in some remote beach.
A few years after you're suddenly controlling this kid called Vaan who wants to be a sky pirate. He has a friend called Penelo, who pretty much is there. He enjoys killing rats for "training" and stealing stuff from Archadian soldiers patrolling the Rabanastre, so soon after the game starts, he breaks into Rabanastre's palace and steals some big glowing stone, who two actual sky pirates, Balthier and Fran (some tall bunny girl with huge ass) wanted to steal aswell. Then they have to flee the palace with the stone and along the way they find some girl called Amalia fighting alone against some soldiers.
Then they get caught and dropped into some jail who resembles a dungeon more than anything, but Amalia is not with them. They easily escape and along the way they encounter Basch bound to some chains inside some tiny cage. He's the traitor who killed Rabanastre's king in the past aswell as Vaan's brother, but he claims it was his twin brother who murdered them. Yeah, right. Pffft. But Balthier doesn't give a shit and they escape with him, a thing that Vaan doesn't like at all.
Then Penelo gets kidnapped by bounty hunters who are after Balthier, because her role is pretty much being there. They go to find her to some flying city, they end up in some huge ass airship where Penelo is and Amalia is held captive, who turns out to be Princess Ashe, and then they start finding out stuff to defeat the Archadian empire, which is led by Vayne, who killed his own father and seems to be obsessed about some weird shit involving some gods ruling over men's history, and he wants those gods to get the fuck off to control history himself.
The story has its moments but it doesn't have the same feeling other Final Fantasy games have. Arguably, it's not as complex, and there's no romantic involvements between the characters, despite the hints that Balthier and Fran like each other. Character development can be considered subtle.
It can also be very repetitive as there are enemies everywhere, and the distances you have to walk are extremely long in some cases.
Characters level up and can be developed with a License board who grants them right to wear certain equipment or use spells which otherwise wouldn't be able to even if you had them in your inventory.
There are many mixed feeling from gamers regarding this game. Some do not like the direction Final Fantasy is taking, others see it as fresh air. Whatever, if you buy this, it's one of those "rent first" games. A great game, yes, but not for everybody's tastes.
Vaan: "I want to be a sky pirate!"
Balthier: "I'm the leading man!"
Fran: "I'm not a goddamn hippy!"
Basch: "I'm loyal to my kingdom despite all the shit they are throwing at me!"
Ashe: "I'm bossy and want everyone to do what I want because I'm the soon-to-be friggin' queen of Rabanastre, so I have these peeps behind my huge ass to get some stone thingies for me so I can use them against a huge ass empire which is far bigger than my lil ass Resistance. Yep, my plan rocks! It's not suicide at all!"
Penelo: "Hi, I'm Penelo"
Essentially, if you liked LucasArts' Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic series for Xbox and PC for its gameplay, then you will have nothing against FFXII's gameplay. If you liked Star Wars Episodes IV-VI for their creepy-cult-forming stories, then you will fall in love with FFXII, because 90% of what made up A New Hope great is there: the princess without a kingdom, the orphaned boy with an above-average destiny from the desert, his slightly less-important side-kick, the knight of an extinct order, the awesome pirate that men envy and women adore, and his tall, dark, and fuzzy sidekick who used to live in a realm of gigantic trees. Hell, S-E even threw in their own Cloud City, complete with a Lando-character! But he's white and has a funny accent.
Since I cannot respectably portray the plot of this game without spoiling it, I will just go to say that you will not finish this game in the time you can finish KotOR, which took approximately 40 hours, and FFXII has already eaten up 55 hours of my time, and I'm not even halfway through it.
If you played Final Fantasy X and thought the Sphere Grid was too linear in terms of character stat development, then you will probably enjoy FFXII's mode of development, the License Board, in which you have total control of your character's spell development, weapons and armor that he or she can equip, and even which 2 of the 12 total Espers in the game that they can summon.
If you played FFX and thought that the Overdrives were over the top, then you haven't mopped the floor with the faces of boss characters until you've made use of the Quickening system. In contrast to the other games in the series, where each character has a few unique, super powerful attacks that they are able to use one at a time after they've charged their gauge, FFXII gives each character 3 fully offensive attacks that can be CHAINED together with the Quickenings from two other party members for a powerful combo capable of felling bosses before they can lay a hand on you. But, there's a couple of caveats: one, the MP gauge, also known as your Mist Gauge, is shared by both your magic AND your Quickenings, and two, it's also your Summoning gauge. So, you can't summon a monster, perform magic powerful magic, and then unload some serious pain with a Mist Chain without using some ethers or elixirs (if you have only one Quickening unlocked, that is). But, on the plus side, each Quickening you acquire on the License board will give you 100% more Mist at your disposal, so technically, you CAN do all three MP related actions if you have acquired all 3 Quickenings for your character.
If you liked being able to set behaviors in the KotOR series for your party members, in FFXII, you can fully automate your characters that you aren't directly controlling through the use of fully customizable instructions for them to follow, called Gambits. Of course, due to the nature of the Gambits, it takes a bit of practice to remember to check and re-customize these gambits for each area you visit or each enemy you fight, because you don't want your characters to be sitting around casting Shell on each other when you're being ravaged by melee fighters, or sitting around casting any magic when you want to save their Mist Charges for Quickenings and Summons.
For full reviews of the game, try a site like GameSpy, or IGN.
Watching this however, can seriously damage your pride.
Me: pwned at lvl 1 bitches!!!
You(real thinking): Wtf. Amazing
You(hating): He must not have a life, only plays Final Fantasy XII