Review by siuche2k
FFXI - In need to learn from other MMORPG while being a gem that other MMORPG should learn from
Graphics has always been a strong field for Square Enix and FFXI is up there to shine among the latest MMORPGs in the market. Even after 3 years from its initial launch, FFXI still carries one of the best scenaries in any MMORPGs. Most outdoor locations remain bright and clear during day time and gloomy at night. This makes entering new areas worthwhile since travel will consume quite a bit of time in FFXI, even when you're riding your Chocobos around. Huge waterfalls, deserts, snowfields, to cities and ports, FFXI gives distinct feelings to each location that you may visit.
As we're not comparing the game to the latest PS3-level of graphics, FFXI is comparable to most PS2 titles that Square Enix released in the past few years. Unfortunately, although there are numerous armors and weapons that will alter the look of your character during the game, the lack of options to fully customize all facial and body features with your character is one of the weaker spots comparing to non-MMORPGs such as Oblivion or The Sims 2.
Music is also a strong field for Square Enix, and in FFXI, you will be listening to some beautiful pieces, that is, if that particular area has "music". Outside of the location with music, most areas gives you "Environment Sounds" such as noises of wind, insects noises, or just plain silence. This may be done on purpose to give a more remote and outdoor feeling to the area.
Battle sounds are clear and smashes on monsters does match the damage that you've done. Somehow, I just miss the "Victory" theme when a monster was defeated, wish they could make that an option for turning on or off.
This is where FFXI loses most of its glory. The grind for FFXI is worse than most MMORPGs in the market, if not only being the worst. Solo is basically a restricted option for only a few job classes in the game and the grind for experience to level up really tests the patience of its players. Level cap is current at 75 although Square Enix tries to slow you from leveling even more by putting quests to break level caps every five level starting at level 50. Upon reaching Level 75, you're given an option to put your experience points into Mermit Points which is spent to further finetune abilities of your character or learn some additional skills. Unfortunately, the work for all the experience points and mermit points are not very rewarding since even at level 75, you still need a group of at least 4-6 people or sometimes up to full legion of 20+ people to take on some of the harder areas / dungeons.
Other than grinding levels, you are welcomed to craft your own items like most MMORPGs these days. However, be reminded that most "good" items are etiher being auctioned or rewarded after beating special monsters, or if you're just lucky enough to stumble upon treasure chests which many players spend hours camping and hunting for. These items comes with blood and sweat (well, more like time and tears) and the rewarding feeling is strong once you get your hands on the piece that you've longed for from days of camping (real life time) around.
In terms of team play, FFXI offers a private-chatroom-like item called "Linkshell". However, as Square Enix has put it, these Linkshells are nothing more than a "contact device". There are no guilds or castles for you to take as your own and there are certainly no guild v.s. guild PVP battles for those who desire for such PVP action. The closest thing to PVP you can get is a sports game called Ballista where you do get to attack other players while you're on the field to shoot some goals.
What other MMORPGs should learn from FFXI:
FFXI is definitely an experience that any gamer should give a try. The story behind FFXI is broken into different chapters, and each time you advance a chapter or called as Mission, you are rewarded with cutscenes. These cutscenes and storyline that makes "boss battle" more epic than ever, and FFXI is so far the only MMORPG that uses cutscenes to really move the story forward and gives some significant purpose in advancing in the world of Vanadiel.
What FFXI needs to learn from other MMORPGs:
Square Enix is definitely designing FFXI with gamers in mind, however, the research done is certainly not enough as the world of Vanadiel is ruled by Square Enix's ironfist. You're required to play the game in a certain way that Square Enix has determined. Form a party, spend time grinding craft levels or job levels, the world of Vanadiel is big but the things you can do is limited. Player Guilds is definitely lacking in FFXI, which makes your experience with Vanadiel dependent on who you're talking to each time you log on, rather than associating yourself to a group that you can act and fight together with. (or unless you have met someone online that regularly logon the moment you do) Another common factor from other MMORPGs that FFXI really need to learn from is variety methods to gain experience points. Quests that rewards experience points and gold, experience points from helping other players, or simply rewarding experience points from visiting different people or seeing certain scenery (like WoW or EQ2) are definitely welcomed.
Overall, FFXI is a good game that tests your patience. It is very unfortunate that Square Enix is too afraid to let players advance and try to slow the process and keep the players around by putting high amount of obsticles before you. (With each job capped at lv 75, it still takes forever for a player to get all jobs up that high, enough time for Square Enix to reel in the cash from each player dedicated to do so) On the other hand though, if you have the time to look at the monitor from hours to weeks on doing the same thing over and over again, you'll be greatly rewarded for your patience when you finally got what you want.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
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