Review by paraoh

"A report from Vana Diel"

If there ever was a game where one gamer's review, or especially a commercial gaming site's review would be inadequate to describe a game, Final Fantasy XI would be it.

The game is so enormously massive, so rich in content, and always constantly evolving (with significant changes to the gameplay being made almost every month), no one review could capture the ''essence'' of FFXI.

However, as I set to leave the fascinating world of Vana Diel for perhaps permanently after spending over 3 months and more than 1000 hours on it, I want to contribute something back by providing some player insight into this amazing game for those who are curious.

GRAPHICS: 10/10

Visually, FFXI is stunning. While the graphical quality per say may not be as astounding as say, Resident Evil of Gamecube, or the eye-popping (in more ways than one ^_^), nose-bleeding images of DOA XBV for XBox, FFXI offers real time 3D graphic in a setting that is about 50 times larger than any single game available.

Each character is meticulously drawn, each armor, pants, gloves, boots is individualized and incredibly detailed, and the scenery, whether it be the beautiful, white-sand costal dunes of Valkurm, or the Scottish cliffs facing the ocean in Battalia, or the majestic buildings of Ra Lude Garden, or the snowy hills of Qufim, or the lovely flower bed in La Theine Plateau, (I could go on and on~) is absolutely beautiful. STUNNING. BREATHTAKING.

Moreover, monsters are also very well depicted. Marlboros look more nasty than ever, and those goblins, that can form a TRAIN OF DEATH (the term ''train'' is something you will get to hear quite often ^_^) are so well drawn, they look even cute. Well, sometimes:)

Overall, as a graphic aficionado who NEVER plays games with poor graphics (this is why I NEVER play american games), i have to say graphically, FFXI matched my expectations and even surpassed it in some areas.

MUSIC/SOUND: 10+++++/10

FFXI has the most amazing soundtrack ever in a videogame.
FFXI has the most amazing soundtrack ever in a videogame.
FFXI has the most amazing soundtrack ever in a videogame.

Play the game. Buy the OST. Then try to argue with me.
End of story:)

STORY(?): 10/10

How can there be a ''story'' in online MMORPG you ask? Well, in FFXI, these stories develop in the form of quests and missions. ''Quests'' in FFXI are mini, side-quests that usually require you to find some particular items in exchange for gil (which is very hard to earn), and which can be done in solo (as you will soon note, very few things can be done solo in FFXI). There are literally HUNDREDS of these quests in each of the three kingdoms and other cities, and more are being added weekly.

The main ''story'', which includes the story of Aldo, the young hero who we see in the opening FMV, is developed through ''Missions.'' Now, these missions are quite important, extremely interesting, and very very difficult to accomplish, the latter missions requiring an alliance of up to 18 players to succeed. I will not spoil these missions for you, but each mission contains very interesting cutscenes, where major characters of Vana Diel, and their stories are revealed. Also, if you want to ride the gorgeous airship, you will have to complete up to Mission 10, and raise your RANK to 5:) (Your rank goes up with amount of missions you complete, and you can only obtain some items with a specific rank).

Of course, as is with any on-line game, the true story is written by you, the player. FFXI provides a forum in which player can truly experience a virtual, role-playing life. You will feel real emotions, make real friends, feel passion, anger, and even love through interacting with other players. FFXI's LINKSHELL plays a crucial role in this aspect. Many people still do not seem to understand what Linkshell is, but trust me, it will become one of the most central aspect of FFXI. Your linkshell will become your identity. Just be sure to choose a right color for your pearl and a good group name:) People who think FFXI has no clans... LINKSHELL IS YOUR CLAN!!! I CANNOT EMPHASIZE THIS ENOUGH.

GAMEPLAY: 8/10

Okay. Now I could write an entire 30 page essay on this subject. I really could. There are so many things to talk about here, starting from how to arrange Weapon Skill Combos, how to utilize your specific job skills in Party play, to how to ''fish'' for an enemy safely.

But note that while FFXI gameplay is very interesting for sure, it is VERY VERY TEDIOUS. I repeat, it is very very tedious. If you can level up to say, lv50 in FFXI, believe me, no other game in your life will seem challenging. Think about the hardest game you ever played. And multiply that by 3. You have the gameplay of FFXI:)

No, I am not saying the battle commands or manuvering are hard. You simply press a button to attack automatically, then just decide when to use magic, or your Weapon Skill (Limit Break of FFXI). Very simple.

Of course, there are TONS of strategy involved in how you form your team, how you establish your Weapon Skill COMBO, (ie. only certain weapons and certain elemental weapon skills will combo with others - so your party MUST figure out in advance which weapons to use, and in which order to go - otherwise, your party is doomed when fighting tough enemies) and how to use your specific job skills. Trust me, it is SO EASY to differentiate between a clueless newbie and a good player in party play, because the battle strategies have such depth.

In this sense, FFXI's gameplay is truly outstanding.

The negative aspect, of course, is just how utterly difficult it is to level up in this game. Squaresoft is actively seeking to make leveling hard, and while some players may think this will lengthen the life of the game, many people complain that it is just too ridiculously tough. And rightfully so.

While it is a breeze to level up your job from lv1 to lv10, it will take ages to level to lv30. Then you start back from lv1 again if you decide to choose an advanced job. Repeat. And to get to lv50, be prepared to spend about half of a year playing this game 8 hours a day. No joke. If you can't believe me, just think about this. To fight one monster, a typical step would be;

1) Organize a party (soloing is IMPOSSIBLE as you reach higher level): This could take anywhere from 10 minutes to 2 hours, depending on how many friends you have, how many white mages are available, etc.

2) Travel to a location: this could take 20minutes to 40minutes depending on where you go.

3) Find an enemy: this could take another 10-15 minutes, to find the appropriate enemy to fight, avoid trains, compete with other players seeking same enemy, etc.

4) Fight: this itself takes about 5 minutes.

5) Heal: This process sometimes lasts longer than the actual battle. (You kneel down to heal).

So after a minimum of at least 40 minutes of preparation, you finally win... a whopping 72 EXP. (exp range from 0 - 200 exp per battle). Now good luck in getting 5000 more to go up ONE LEVEL;)

If you don't mind this effort, however, FFXI's gameplay is otherwise outstanding, and it makes you value every battle of every hunt, like in real life. This game is not PSO, where you destroy an entire room of monsters in 3 hits.

SIDE-GAMES, OTHERS: 10/10

There are so many things to do in FFXI, and so many places to go. (And two major continents have not been even opend up yet) It would take too much space to describe them here (and this review is getting too long already). Suffice to say, with dozens of guilds specializing in item crafting, ranging from blacksmith, boneworks, tannery, cooking, etc, etc., you can spend a lifetime just building up your business, producing high qualify items, and selling them on auction or bazaar. Or you could just chill and fish for an evening at hundreds of different beaches, lakes, rivers throughout Vana Diel. There are only about 350 kinds of fishes to catch:)

But what most impresses me about this game is how Squaresoft actively manages it. There is no cheating in FFXI. Period. The game is so well run by paid, professional game managers, you feel like you are living in a communist country sometimes, with your every move being watched. But that assures that FFXI does not disintegrate into a childish playground which some online games turned into.

CONCLUSION

If you are a serious, mature role-playing gamer, and are willing to devote a substantial portion of your life (yes, i am not exaggerating here), this game is god's gift for you. It is something that you must experience to comprehend its enormity. Just be warned though; FFXI can be seriously hazardous to your health, job, and your social relationships. Unless, of course, you value your on-line life more than the so-called ''real one.'':)

See you in Vana Diel!


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 10/05/02, Updated 10/05/02


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