Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Final Fantasy Tactics: Shout

Two weeks ago I looked a bit at Ramza's tailwind skill which can be used to increases someone's speed by one. Using it gave up short term power for long term power but in a way that wasn't terribly action efficient. In a long fight, or if you had nothing better to do, then it was certainly good. But if you could actually go and chop someone in a relevant manner that was probably going to be a better plan. I did make one error in that post (your turn counter is not actually truncated at 100, so extra speed which results in ending up at, say 105 will leave you at 25 after taking a non-move action instead of at 20) which removed the need to hit specific breakpoints but is otherwise a fairly minor deal. Tailwind was good as a first action when the enemies are still far away, and is a great way to power level, but in terms of just winning fights it wasn't stupidly good or anything.

It turns out when you get to chapter IV in the game Ramza learns a new ability which trivializes tailwind. This ability (shout) can only be used on Ramza himself and gives +10 brave, +1 physical attack, and +1 magical attack on top of giving +1 speed. Now I can make future actions come faster and be more powerful. Does this change things in any way? Well, I've also been rotating Ramza through different jobs to see what I can unlock (I could just look it up but I mostly play on the bus and figure it'll be easy enough to unlock them all this way regardless) and I happened to have him as a black mage during a random encounter in a river. The enemies all spawned far away and slowly made their way up the river. Rather than run up to meet them I just stood around shouting at myself while my other characters cast buffs on each other for experience. After 4 or 5 shouts an enemy finally got into range, and I killed him in one shot with a black magic spell. Not just killed him, massively overkilled him. Kaboom! The next fight I was playing as a chemist, shouted 4 or 5 times, and then was able to autoattack with my gun for about 12% of the enemy's max health. Huh.

Do black magic spells scale in a stupid way with extra magic attack? Are guns just really bad? Would a dragoon scale up to one-shot land faster than a chemist? Is it worth just shouting up at the start of every fight in order to become an awesome killing machine? One thing to note is that the extra speed actually didn't help my black mage very much at all. I'd start charging a spell and then get 2 more turns before it would resolve. Taking an action during one of those turns would have cancelled the charging spell. So maybe the solution there would be to learn the really fast spells and scale up my magic attack more? Or find the ability which removes charge time on spells!

The formula for spell damage is MA*Q*{faith modifiers}. The faith modifiers are basically a reduction in damage based on both your faith and the enemy faith. Multiply the two together and divide by 10000. Since faith goes from 0 to 100 this can't be an increase and will almost certainly be a decrease. Especially for non-Ramza characters since if they get a faith of 95 or higher they quit your party and run off to join a monastery or something. Q is a constant depending on the spell you're casting. It ranges from 14 to 32 for the basic series of damage spells. Comparing Q to the charge time makes it seem like the high level spells are actually worse damage per time than the lowest level spell. Fire 4 does hit a bigger area, but that's dangerous given how long it takes to charge anyway. So if I'm boosting up my speed it seems like going back a tier or two makes sense. Assuming I use tier 2, Q will be 18. Assume I have 90 faith and my target has 50 faith and every point of magic attack will add 8 damage to my attack. So I don't really see how I was scaling so absurdly... Maybe the enemies in that fight just had really high faith, or were the right zodiac sign? I do think I was using an ice staff which multiplies my MA by 1.25 when casting ice spells, and I was casting ice 4 with the 32 Q. So I guess each MA was adding 18. It doesn't take too many 18's before you start exploding enemies with 200 health! Especially if the spell starts doing 144 on its own. Or if they have high faith.

Looking at guns the formula for damage done is WP*WP where WP is the listed weapon power of the weapon. So neither the physical attack stat or the magical attack stat are used here. No wonder it didn't seem to scale very well with shout!

Spears, on the other hand, do damage of WP*PA, so every point of PA will do an extra WP damage. My current spear has 11 WP, so this will scale better than black magic spells do at high speed values where the 4th tier won't resolve before you get another turn. Jumping does an extra 50% damage with a spear, and charges based on your speed instead of a flat value, so a dragoon seems pretty absurd with shout.

Punching, it turns out, is even more absurd. It does damage of PA*PA*{brave modifier}. Brave modifier in this case being 1 because shout maxes brave. So going bare handed will quickly scale into stupidity. For the most part it would require you to be in melee range which is worse than the dragoon but it turns out if you jump without a weapon you do PA*PA damage anyway. You do lose the 50% bonus for using a spear, though. Oh, and all the monk abilities do PA*PA damage too... And the monk heal scales off of PA. So being a shouted monk just seems really good. (It's no surprise this may be the best path to beating chapter 3 Wiegraf... There you have to use different abilities to get +1 speed or +1PA or +5brave but you can totally do it.)

But is it worth doing all this or should I just shout once to start the fight like I used to do with tailwind? Well, assuming you never move you'll be spending 80 speed every action you take. Assuming a base speed of 8 (it does go up as you level) and a base PA of 12 (just a guess) then a monk with X applications of shout will do how much damage per clock tick?


In order to use shout X times you need to spend 80*X speed worth, but the number of ticks that'll take is complicated because your speed changes as you progress and does work in discrete chunks. So I just did a spreadsheet to work out the damage done in Y total ticks given X shouts. I used increments of 10 ticks (the time to take one action with no shout stacks) and looked to see what value of X maximized the damage done for that value of Y.

Number of TicksOptimal Number of Shouts
10, 20, 300
150+25 (or more)

Of course, some of these values are just silly. 25 stacks of shout means you're punching for 1369 damage per go. I'm pretty sure damage in this game is actually capped at 999, even! And even if it wasn't, most enemies seem to have max health in the 200-400 range. 8 stacks alone is enough to one shot someone with 400 health. And really there's not much difference, if any, between an attack that hits for 50% of the enemy health bar and one that hits for 98%. Either way it takes two hits to kill them. Getting from killing them in 2 hits to killing them in one hit is a big help though, and if I only had one character killing the enemies it probably makes sense to shout them up to that point. I do get to bring 5 people into each fight so in a sense it seems like I shouldn't only have one killer but in practice it often feels that way. Ramza is high level thanks to the Wiegraf fight but the rest of my team is pretty weak. This means the enemies tend to be able to kill my other guys in 1 or 2 hits themselves. My plan for the most part involves three people standing around casting raise spells on each other, Ramza being awesome, and a dragoon/thief who just kinda stands around and sometimes jumps for a third of an enemy's health bar. And I'm not sure what else to do at this point. I could make Ramza into a dedicated rezzer and just whittle the enemies down with someone else but that'll probably take way more time than just shouting 8 times and then killing off the enemies!

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