Final Fantasy XII

In fact, the License Board governs far more than abilities. Everything from hit point boosts to what kind of weapons characters can equip has to be unlocked with License Points earned in battle. It's up to you to weigh the pros and cons and make your choices; you can also only guess what abilities might lay down the road, because squares on the license board are blank until they're activated by a neighbor. Certain spots can open more than one ability: all the low-level attack spells (Blizzard, Fire and Thunder) are grouped into one square. The catch here is that you have to buy these spells from the magic shop in town once you've unlocked a character's ability to cast them. The License Board is only half of the equation, basically.

Final Fantasy XII has all of the ingredients it needs to be an excellent adventure: a compelling character customization system, quick battles with a strategic element, and a story that grows steadily more intriguing as the hours pass.

By hour seven, we'd teamed up with a pair of fugitives on a flying motorcycle, encountered the intrigue of the mysterious Judges, been thrown in jail and forced to fight, had a brush with a renegade princess and freed a war criminal who may turn out to have been framed. The most obvious thing after playing several hours of FFXII is that it's bound to be a huge game - and slowly build the mystery brick by brick over the course of dozens of hours. It'll take hours more play to uncover its secrets - like the Espers, or summoned monsters - but so far, it's an entertaining and well-built game that deserves the exploration it demands.