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I've just started playing Final Fantasy 12, and I got to the point where Balthier and Fran join the party. I looked over their stats and saw that Balthier only has 6 attack power, whereas Vaan and Fran both have closer to 20. Balthier has no other skills useful skills when you first get him, so he's really only capable of attacking.

He does have a 2-handed rifle, and I noticed later that those tend to have much lower attack power than bows or swords or other items. Are these weapons just bad, or is there something I don't know about how they work? Bows require arrows like rifle require bullets, and bows have much higher damage than rifles.

A general overview of how damage is calculated in general would suffice, but a focus on the above confusing circumstances would be even more useful.

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

Ignoring scalar effects like Bravery/Faith/Protect/Last Stand/etc., every weapon attack is a product of the weapon's damage roll and its statistical bonus.

Damage rolls are generally calculated by multiplying the attacker's Attack score with a random number between 1 and 1.125 before subtracting the target's Defense. There are several exceptions:

  • Axes, Hammers, and Hand-bombs don't use the normal 1-1.125 random value range, and instead use a range of 0-1.111 (which would seem to indicate that they're far worse than normal weapons, but they can make up for this in the statistical bonus below).
  • Guns, Measures, and the Healing Rod and Rod of Faith ignore defense altogether: they take the attack value times the random value of 1-1.125 and square the result. However, these weapons have no statistical bonus, so they're best used by lower-level or statistically inferior characters.
  • Pole attacks are reduced by the target's Magic Defense rather than physical Defense.
  • Unarmed attacks default to an Attack value of 11 if the attacker has not yet acquired the Brawler license. Even with Brawler, the normal Attack value is ignored in favor of the average between the character's Level and Strength.

The statistical bonus of an attack depends on the weapon equipped. Each weapon type has a primary stat and a secondary stat which contribute to the damage bonus. The way the bonus is found is usually 1 + ( ( PrimaryStat + Level ) * SecondaryStat ) / 256. Because the statistical bonus multiplies the damage roll, both stats are important, but as your level increases, primary stats contribute more and more to the damage you do with that type of weapon. Stat breakdowns (and formulary exceptions) are as follows:

  • The primary and secondary stat for any Sword, Greatsword, Spear, Crossbow, Rod, or Pole is Strength.
  • The primary and secondary stat for an unarmed attack is also Strength, but the stats are not added to 1 after being divided by 256; unarmed attacks can only ever be more damaging than armed attacks if the attacker's combined strength and level are significantly higher than his Attack score with any weapon.
  • The primary and secondary stat for a Mace is Magic.
  • The primary stat for a Katana or Staff is Magic, but the secondary stat is Strength.
  • The primary stat for a Dagger, Ninja Sword, or Bow is Speed, but the secondary stat is Strength. Additionally, the stats are divided by 218 after multiplication, not 256.
  • The primary stat for an Axe, Hammer, or Hand-bomb is Vitality, but the secondary stat is Strength. Additionally, the stats are divided by 128 after multiplication, not 256.
  • Guns, Measures, the Healing Rod, and the Rod of Faith do not calculate a statistical bonus. They are treated as having a statistical bonus of 1.

To apply this to your situation, it makes most sense to equip Balthier with a Rifle early in the game, unless his Strength is absurdly high, in which case you might be better off leaving him unarmed and giving the rifle to someone else. As his stats develop, you can use the info here to determine which weapon types you should pursue.

Credit where it's due: I arrived at this answer by reading Arthellinus's "Weapons Analysis" FAQ at GameFAQs and summarizing his somewhat lengthier and mathier analysis.

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Reading far enough in the linked article, however, unveils the sad truth that none of this really matters: by the time your levels and stats are high enough that formulaic differences would produce significantly different damage numbers, the 9999-point damage cap stops raw damage from mattering compared to attack speed and combo-potential. As Arthellinus concludes: "I do think there's significance, but not enough to force you to confine any one character to any specific weapon class. The game's not hard enough nor particular enough for it to affect the experience. Just do whatever you want." –  jsnlxndrlv Oct 10 '11 at 23:07
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The 2 handed rifle says it has low power but that is only it's base attack power. U also have to equip him with bullets which have separate attack power to the rifle but the 2 add together when both equipped and thus make a more powerful attack. Also there are many different types of bullets with different attack powers and status effects I.e. Silence, paralysis, sleep etc inflicted on enemies. I know it's brief as I haven't played the game for a couple of years, but i hope this helps.

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Aren't arrows the same way as bullets, though? And bows deal significantly more damage than guns. –  StrixVaria Oct 10 '11 at 21:22
    
Give the rifle a go and I'm sure you'll be pleasently surprised. It does take a while to be able to purchase more powerful bullets but they are definitely worth waiting for. –  Daniel the destroyer 21 Oct 10 '11 at 21:24
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You should ignore the attack power when comparing guns to other weapons.

Guns bypass a monster's defense. So you'll notice that at your party's current level, Balthier (or whomever) equipped with a gun is no slouch as an offensive weapon. This becomes more and more significant as the monster's go up in defense power (and the guns available also increase in attack power). It's also possible to luck into some very powerful guns about midway through the story, making their advantage even more pronounced.

In fact, there are ways to power level by using guns (since you can damage enemies that a +30 attack sword wouldn't dent).

Guns cannot be parried or blocked. Guns add to your character's evasion as well. Additionally you can stack the status effects of various kinds of bullets and also do knockback attacks - adding a few more advantages to guns.

The only huge drawback is how long they take to load.

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I've seen Balthier do more damage with a gun than other characters do with "standard" weapons (i.e. sword, bow, etc.). This is because guns ignore the foe's defense. Also, they never miss, they can't be blocked, and they can't be parried. It takes a bit longer to load, but I'm a big fan of guns in FF-XII.

The only reason the attack power is so low is because every other weapon take into consideration either the target's defense or magick resist, whereas guns do not; therefore other weapons have to compensate by having a higher attack stat. Being a long-range weapon, they're also excellent at felling flying enemies. You won't have to change your weapon or gambits to suit a flying enemy when using a gun. Since guns are long-range, the character wielding a gun potentially avoids any damage or harmful status effects an enemy might throw your way.

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