Final Fantasy XI
Review by Rememberance
"In the twilight years of the PS2, SE shows they still know how to make a great game"
It seems as if every month a new MMORPG comes out. Either free or pay to play, the market is flooded with MMORPG games that offer the same tired game strategy. Grind, grind, grind, trade, grind grind. Now, if only you could combine the simple addictiveness of the endless grind with say, the granduer of a Final Fantasy game. Well, that's just what FF11 online offers. An addictive game play with the indepth story expected of the FF title. Players are required to depend and work together with other gamers from around the world and on different systems to delve into the story, beat the monsters reach those epic levels. There are a few drawbacks and a few issues, however, FF11 stands as one of the best MMORPGs out there at the moment.
Final Fantasy games are known for their engrossing and deep story lines. Stories and sagas that take hours to finish and when finished, the player is left with a sense of wonder and accomplishment. With the newest Final Fantasy being a MMORPG and completely online with no single player game, many fans were concerned with one thing: How are they going to get the expected Final Fantasy to story to work with an online audience? Actually, SE did a fine a job making it so that their newest FF game had the engrossing story expected of a FF title while making it available to hundreds of thousands of players across different platforms and levels. The basic premise of the story is that 20 years ago a great evil wracked the land of Vana'diel and sent hordes of enemies spewing forth to conquer the civilized lands. Only by allying together and working in unison could the free nations of Bastok, San d'Oria and Windurst drive back the dark. 20 years later, the world is still pulling itself back together. The beastmen *the hordes of evil things* still roam the nations but in much smaller numbers. It is up to your player *if you so choose* to help their nation out and make sure the dark doesn't rise again.
How the story is presented is actually very well done. The games story is broken down into missions and ranks. Each rank has three missions to it. Meaning, if you want to reach rank 2, you must complete the first 3 missions for your nation. With the completion of the third mission you move up a rank. The main story has 6 ranks with Rise of the Zilart expansion adding another 4 ranks. The other two expansions, Chains and Treasures, don't offer ranks, but have their own mission like story segments with final bosses and dungeons all their own. The higher your rank and the more missions you do, the more you uncover the story within FF11. The quests in game don't necessarily continue the story line, they flesh out the world. Each of the 18 jobs have their own unique stories, played out through the flag quests *if the job has one. All the advanced jobs do* and through late game "Artifact Armor" quests. After that, each nation has quests that flesh out its denizens and people, making Final Fantasy: Online feel like a living, breathing world. There is no way to say just how long the game takes to "beat" because being a MMORPG, FF11 never ends. However, just speaking about the story line and what it takes to reach rank 10 and get to the final parts of the chains and treasures expansions, a player can expect at least 80 hours of "game play". That's only in terms of doing the missions. Actually crafting or leveling or just chatting with friends in game, you're looking at near limitless play time.
Like many MMORPGs, how you play and what you do are completely up to the player. FF11 offers 18 jobs and 5 races. With the inclusion of sub jobs *a secondary job added on to your main job* the path should be wide open for many player created job combinations. However, do to how the jobs perform together, you actually have less choices than you would think. FF11 is very gameplay and partied oriented with little room for actual Role Play elements. This is primarily due to how the game is set up. Late in the game, you need tens of thousands of experience points just to level and the monsters give out a max of 300 a kill, people have a need for efficiency and they've weeded out "gimped" job combos. Whether this is right or wrong, that's up to the individual to decide. But in game, that's how the players behave.
Other than just endless grinding, FF11 does offer quite a bit in ways of side jobs, such as crafting. Actually, other than leveling, doing missions and crafting, there is very little to do. The crafts in FF11 are fairly diverse, but only a few will make a player rich. Like the leveling system, crafting is a long process that only gets harder as the player "levels" their craft. Players can make a profit by selling raw materials to crafters for a profit as well. But like anything else, to make a serious profit, the player needs to level. As unfortunate as it sounds, FF11 is a huge time sink, in terms of both game play and story. Most people will say, to get anywhere, you need to be able to lay down several hours a sitting, somewhere between 4-5 each time you really want to play if you want to get far along in the game. This isn't like other FF games where a player could pick it up for an hour, get a chunk of the game done and then save and continue. Everything is slow about FF 11. However, if you can get past the grind and how long just about everything takes, FF11 really opens up and becomes an immersive game.
Unlike other FF games, FF11 is not an active battle system. Well, to an extent. The way battles work is that every monster is on screen at once. When you are attacked or attack a monster, the player enters combat. You can move freely in combat to either move behind a monster or to run away. Each swing of your weapon or each casting of a spell takes a certain amount of time. The bigger the weapon or the higher the level of the spell the longer it takes to cast. Each job has a certain amount of job skills to use in combat. These range from increasing accuracy to summoning a pet wyvern to aid the character. Each character can also use any ability of their sub job that is available, which can add up to quite the list of special abilities.
Like more recent additions to the FF family, characters can unleash attacks very similar to Limit breaks or over drives or any other name you wish to call them. These are called weapon skills and can be used any time your TP bar reaches 100%. You can TP by being attacked or by attacking a foe with physical attacks. When used in conjunction with other weapon skills, a party can unleash skill chains, which deal an additional amount of elemental damage, depending on what skills were used to create the skill chain in the first place. On top of performing a skill chain, a mage type character can do even more additional damage if they cast a spell with the same element type as the skill chain performed. Skill chains and Magic bursts are key to quick and efficient leveling in the game. Not to mention, the graphics used when these attacks are pulled off make them very fun to do.
For being a 4 year old game and a game that crosses 3 different systems, the graphics in FF11 are top notch. By no means are they "next gen" graphics like some of the more recent PS2 titles, they are none the less lush and vibrant. There are some very breath taking views to be had in this game. Each monster is fully detailed, some of which tower over the player and leave a person with a sense of awe. Tougher monsters which struck fear into the hearts of players in older FF games make a come back, now, fully fleshed out and formed. You can walk around many of the larger monsters and see them in full glory. The only real draw back with the graphics is how similar all players are. With only 5 races and only a few faces to choose for each, all players will eventually see their twin or triplet or long lost cousin. It's not a very large problem, but the character creation in FF11 is lacking a bit. Also, character armors are a bit bland. Not that they aren't fleshed out or anything, it's just that several armor types look exactly the same. It's not till late game when a player can give their character a sense of individuality. SE is always coming out with new armor types and weapon models, yet, for a long time, your character will look like every other mighty warrior or crafty mage.
In terms of comparison with other the other versions of FF11 *those on the Xbox 360 and PC*, the PS2 version of FF11 online, the PS2 version is perhaps the worst. Not in terms of actual graphics, but the resolution and the little extras in the game are very low for this particular version. This is due to the game having to run on the PS2 hardware, which, unfortunately doesn't have the power needed to run the graphical interface. The PS2 version runs at the lowest resolution and uses the best ingame settings to offer a very stable system. For a game that has to be able to be run on the PC at min specs and on the 360 that pushes the spectrum, a player picking up FF11 shouldn't be dissapointed with how the game looks. All 3 versions play on the same servers and play together. So PS2 players are playing with 360 players and PC players from all over the world. In terms of MMORPGs, the graphics are among the best to be offered. Considering the other systems that are running this game as well, that feat takes on whole new meaning.
In terms of character creation, there are 5 races a player can choose from and 8 different facial graphics. Each face has two different colors for hair. That's it. However, each character can be any job in the game and each character can unlock all jobs and play all jobs. Unlike other MMORPGs, your one character can be and level all the jobs available in the game. So you're never really doomed with how you build your character. Since any race can be any job and you can switch jobs pretty much at will, you can always do something else.
There are 18 jobs in this game, 6 basic jobs that are available at start up and 12 that are "advanced" jobs, meaning that you can only be them once your character has reached level 30 in another job. When you unlock an advanced job, your character doesn't just become that job. Instead, it's added to your job pool and you can now become that job whenever you want. Your new job is at level 1 and you must level it all over again. To some, that is way to much leveling, having to level a main to 30, your sub job to half the level of your main, unlocking any advanced jobs you want, leveling them, leveling other sub jobs, it's very daunting and can get a bit annoying if you don't enjoy the leveling system. But like I said earlier, FF 11 is a major time sink. Everything in this game takes time to do. It can either draw you into the game or force you away from it. Many players opt for a quicker leveling system and go to quicker games for their MMORPG needs. Just be warned before trying FF11, it does take time to get anything done. If you can't commit the time, you probably won't get much enjoyment out of the game.
The sounds in game are very nice. Each zone has its own music and ambient sounds, giving each area its own unique feel. You can hear the sounds of water falls and streams and rain falling and your foot steps as you run from place to place. Unfortunately, there really is no character or monster sounds. You get a few, but not like in other games where you will grunt or moan when struck. The monsters don't growl all the time or call out. Instead, such sounds are very limited to a few special circumstances, such as during a mission cutscene or during a special attack.
Saying that FF11 is addictive is an understatement. This game is highly addictive if you can get into it. The learning curve is high, especially if you've never played a MMORPG before. The amount of time needed to do anything and the dependency on grouping can turn many people off of this game. However, if you can devote the amount of time that this game requires and enjoy grouping and playing with other players, you will find that FF11 offers hours of fun and an engrossing story line. The best part is that your adventure never has to end. As long as you continue to enjoy the game, the game never ends. You can always find something to do, either questing for that scroll you need or fighting that fierce notorious monster, FF11 never ends. If you like crafting more than fighting, you can do that. If you're a fighter at heart and just wish to kill the beasties, you can. How much you get out of this game is up to how much. The game does offer a free month trial period, however, if you buy the game, you can't return it. This is due to the registration codes being one time only use. Very much worth the 50 dollar fee, even if you just play for the free month. If you're a fan of the Final Fantasy franchise or just want to try out a new MMORPG, give Final Fantasy 11 a shot.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 05/03/06
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