Review by slayk

"A solid MMORPG experience for genre and developer fans alike."

So, American Squaresoft fans waited with bated breath for the newest game in the famed Final Fantasy line to come overseas from Japan for just over one year and five months. After such time, these fans really had to honestly question getting the game. ''Will it be what I expected? The masterpiece of online gaming that I have envisioned for so long?'' or the doubtful ''There is no way the game will woo me; it has taken so long to come over...there must be something wrong with it.'' Who wins? Honestly, neither really do.

The first perspective I looked for was if there was going to be a story interspersed between my outings to the killing fields. Honestly, I really didn't think there would be one. Much to my surprise, accompanying missions, quests, and even in just talking to NPCs cutscenes emerge, with exchanges that slowly build a literal world around the graphical presence of a kingdom. Lines of tension are evident between some of the characters, true to Square form. At the same time, though, the story isn't an integral part to the game. As long as the pertinent points are taken from the dialog, such as where to go and what to do, the story is irrelevant to the gameplay. Really, it seems to be just put there for the Final Fantasy veterans, because it is what they have come to expect from Square.

In the era of heavy emphasis on graphics, Square has never ceased to disappoint it's fans really since FFVII made it's way to the Play Station. XI continues to this point, but at a cost. If the computer running the game can handle high resolutions, large textures, and bump-mapping, the game looks fantastic. At times, I sit back and marvel at the window I have into this online world. The weather is astounding, with rain coming in sheets; the moon is a work of art as it rises over Vana'diel; the characters move fluidly and naturally. It is truly impressive. By the same hand, the game can look horrid and pixelated when run on a drastically less powerful system; such is the nature of the beast in the PC gaming world.

From the Massively Multiplayer Online RPG view, this game does most things right. The economy works amazingly well, with PCs being able to have their own persona Bazaar for unwanted or crafted items, and there is a citywide auction that provides a fantastic market for all items in the game. As for craftsmanship, there is a full range of skills to choose from, and items to make through those skills.

The fighting system is acceptable, with the standard of trading shots with an enemy until one party gives out. Parties are made fairly easy by the use of a party seeking flag. There are some downsides to combat, though. Targeting is very clunky, and at times downright impossible. There have been many many instances where I have been slain because I could not switch what target I was attacking.

Socially, Final Fantasy XI is quite quiet. From my experience, most players go about their task of mopping up whatever foe, rather than spending time in idle chit-chat. It is quite the different experience compared to EQ or UO. Also, the Japanese players are on the same servers as the American players, creating a language barrier. This really is less of a problem than one would think, as there is a minimally functional auto-translate feature, and emoticons seem to cross all language barriers.

Overall, I find myself being quite happy with Final Fantasy's gaming experience. There are flaws, yes, but they are quite overcome by solid enjoyable gameplay. It really stands out from other MMORPGs.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 11/03/03

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