Review by Esker02

"An MMORPG reserved only for the most hardcore gamer..."

Introduction
I've been here on GameFAQs for many years, but have never taken the time to contribute anything to the extent of a review. However, I honestly feel one is needed here, as I don't believe there is a wealth of popularity or information available to prospective subscribers of Final Fantasy XI for the Xbox 360 console. I will attempt to be as matter-of-fact as possible, but know that I have a strong background in Final Fantasy games and a fair familiarity with MMOs in general. So then, on with the review.

Graphics
Best to get this over with. As this game is many years old, do not expect the graphics to be anything spectacular. They have not been redone for the purpose of the re-release on the 360 console, and subsequently fail to impress. I knew this much when I went in and so was not expecting anything more. If you keep these facts in mind when you purchase it, you will not be disappointed in terms of graphics. I felt while playing that the terrain felt empty, or rather barren. Many open fields or canyons or what have you featuring nothing more than creatures to fight or the chocobo mounted traveler flying by was something I felt could have been improved.

Audio
A long history of musical prowess in the Final Fantasy history surely must have at least one memorable tune, right? Unfortunately, completely wrong. The Xbox 360 does remedy the problem by allowing you to play your own music while you grind of party, but in terms of what the game brings to the table, it leaves a very, very bad impression in terms of sound effects and soundtrack. Audio is perhaps the least important category of all, so I'm not going to gripe on this any further.

Gameplay
Gameplay in any MMORPG is a very complicated subject, as there exist many levels of it. One is soloing, partying, and the overall experience. As such I am going to separate these four things and judge them more clearly.

Solo gameplay
Realistically, there is no solo gameplay. A new character being controlled by a well seasoned Final Fantasy player with a grasp on Job systems and leveling up systems (Jobs working like the older Final Fantasy games in which you can choose a job, switch it around, level up another class, switch back, etc) can usually level their first job to around 12 in a fair amount of time solo. From about this point, you'll hit a wall. The creatures you've been training on are now too weak, the ones you need to fight are too strong. You have to party, or grind it out ALREADY. Most people decide to go party, those more determined to solo have a long way to go in terms of work. You're probably saying, "But Esker, this is an MMORPG, shut up about soloing, that's not what it's about." and that is very fair, and so I will.

Partying
So you've reached your double digit level and now must party. To it's credit, this keeps with the Final Fantasy tradition of establishing parties to take down creatures. Regardless, you have a learning curve in front of you. A steep one. In parties, at nearly any level, if one player slips up his job then the entire party is done for. If a White Mage is off healing by one second and your tank falls, the party will most likely die. Unlike some of the MMORPGs I've experienced, there is a terribly obvious and dramatic difference between job classes. Sure, that sounded a little foolish, of course there is a difference between job classes, but it goes beyond that. A solid damage dealer not specialized in equipment for tanking can be hit for much more damage than the tank the White Mage just accidentally let die, and mages can be one-hit-dead by something a Warrior their same level was tanking easily. As such, one off ability, spell, misunderstood request, results in the entire party dying. Thinking about running away? Not happening. If your tank falls, there WILL be more deaths. Monsters out speed you, ALL of them, and will not hesitate to follow you as far as wherever the next zone change happens to be, all the while continuing their attack. Partying will only proceed to get more complicated at the later levels, through the addition of new classes and sub jobs, further complicating roles, along with Magic Bursts and skill chains.

Overall Experience
In a battle system where it is so easy to mess up, missing the timing of a magic burst or a brief moment of lag, resulting in the massacre of your entire party, there is an unbelievable lack of forgiveness in death. Dying does not merely damage your armor or lower your stats temporarily, but instead it reduces your experience. And no, that level up you just experienced doesn't protect you, as you can actually de-level if you happen to die enough / close enough to a level up. In theory, you could go from level 50 to level 20 if you hit a bad enough streak of luck. Granted, that would take a severe streak of terrible parties, but nevertheless the harsh reality of actually losing hours of your life to an irresponsible party member, or even a responsible party member with a thunderstorm nearby, or even the best player in the game going AFK for even a few seconds, is a tough one.

Additionally, in terms of interaction with other players, you will be placed in a server with players from all around the world, English or no, Xbox 360 or PC, and will have to overcome this. The Auction House is an excellent way to bypass the process of buying / selling, but there are other things you need to overcome. For instance, common phrases are universally translated if inputted the right way, appearing to each player in their native language. And you will absolutely need to master this, as well as master battle macros (to automatically inform party members when your mana is low, what monster you're pulling, how close you are to using a "limit break," etc) if you want to succeed in the world of FFXI. As such, you'll probably, and actually need to invest in a USB keyboard for your Xbox 360.

Conclusion
So there you have it, for better or for worse I've tried to lay out exactly what you're getting into when you purchase FFXI. Also, there is a massive download when you first turn it on, but that's true with any long-standing MMO that updates regularly. So why did I leave FFXI with a 6? The graphics are excusable, the audio was absolutely unforgivable in my opinion, and the gameplay is very, very exclusive. If you find yourself with the ability and internet connection to comprehend the idea, and sometimes ever changing roles behind classes and subjobs, FFXI's battle system might be perfect for you. You will likely make enemies from more experienced players who literally lose their experience and possibly a level from you as you attempt to overcome the imposing learning curve. Even if you have been gaming for your entire life as I have, and master this fairly quickly, you are then the higher leveled player that has to deal with newbies messing up their jobs and getting you killed. If you have tremendous patience, desire, skill, and are willing to overlook the outdated graphics and poor audio, then this game may be perfect for you. If anything I described turns you off, I would suggest not getting the game, as it is just as unforgiving as I've laid out.


Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 06/15/07


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