The Draw system makes grinding fun

I fucking hate grinding. I cannot fucking stand it. If your game has me gathering crystals to craft into a shield or whatever shit, I will instantly lose interest. I don’t want to play filler. That’s one of the reasons I can’t stand most current live service games, where the focus is on the meta and unlockables, because it makes the game—the fun part of the game!—feel like busy work on the road to something else. I know people love games where you can zone out while listening to a podcast, and although I get it, you could never excite me about a game that’s 80 percent grind by volume, or something like Arcade Paradise. I don’t want to play a job. Unless it’s one of the jobs from Final Fantasy V.

Somehow though, I love the Draw system in Final Fantasy VIII. It is, by definition, grinding. All you’re doing is making numbers go up. Why does it click with me, then? I spent a long time while writing this post trying to answer that question, and I think that makes it work is that there is no roadmap.

If you’re an FF8 superplayer, you know exactly what are the best spells to draw and how best to junction them. Minmaxing has always been present in RPGs, and FF8 is no different. The Junction system can be easily gamed if you know what you’re doing (and I’m sure we’ll talk about that more at some point here). But you know what? I’m a dumbass. I do NOT not know what I’m doing.

The fun thing about the Draw system is that it basically lets you create your own character builds. You get to decide which spells to focus on, and that in turn shapes your characters’ stats. If you want to go hard on elemental spells, you can draw those more often! Or you could relegate Quistis mostly to using status spells like Stop, which I did. Don’t know what Zombie is or don’t care about it? Don’t use it!

When you draw spells, you are continually reshaping your character, without having to explicitly funnel points into their stats. Rather than just being a way to grind for XP, each random encounter is a chance to mold your party a little bit. There’s a lot of room for tailoring characters to the roles you want them to fill, and then (assuming you auto-junction your spells) watching the game turn that into specific character build.

I joked about Final Fantasy V up there, but I think that’s why I enjoy both games so much. In FFV, you’re not just gaining XP to get new abilities. You select which jobs to focus on, and then you can use those job abilities to, basically, roll your own class. The combination of specialized classes and mix-and-match abilities in FFV is delightful.

FF8 is like that too! It’s more of a gradual process, and you do your character-building in the middle of battle.

I love the process of drawing magic. It feels like I’m taking an active role in building my characters instead of just letting numbers accumulate. It’s like sculpting a bonzai tree. Except you can also use the leaves of the tree to set guys on fire.