Review by Airestorm

Reviewed: 11/16/03

An amazing addition to the MMORPG genre! Everquest fanatics, beware! :D

Howdy! This is my first review on GameFAQs, so I hope this goes well and you can walk away a little informed about this game. :)

Final Fantasy XI is an MMORPG, or Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game. Given the competition this game has thrown at other MMORPGs, I think it only natural that you're going to see a few Everquest addicts utterly bashing the game since it’s such a thorn in the side of Verant. :D

After you look past the monthly price of $12.95 (which does NOT include extra characters, which add a fee of $1.00 each to your account per month), the long installation (the game requires 6 gigs of free space on your hard drive), and also the very long patching system, and the hindering world passes (which shall be explained later), you will find an incredible game world waiting to be explored and conquered by a character of your own creation.

Now that I’ve passed up most of the bad, let’s jump into details, shall we? :D

Graphics (10/10) – The graphics... they’re pretty damn good. I’m running an Alienware with a 2800 Athlon XP processor and an ATI Radeon 9800 PRO 256bit, and everything runs smoothly except for times when a lot of people, like 30 or more, get on the screen at once... luckily that almost never happens. Each weapon you equip will have a unique appearance, and the same goes for your armor, making room for a unique look. Speaking of the armor and weapon graphics, they look very neat and intricate, details like buckles, studs, crosspieces, and serrated edges all marked down.
The places you explore are equally incredible. Although sometimes the graphics for the tree leaves and bushes and such, up really close, are kinda lacking the intricacy of the armors and weapons, if they did look as good then it would be a replay of Star Wars Galaxies, where even the best rig on the market stuttered when you turned everything up too high. The monsters are awesome, right down to the beady yellow eyes of a huge Tremor Ram staring at you, to a small fuzzy Wild Rabbit just sitting there waiting to be killed. Hehe. Weather effects are also present, so that journey across the fetid, dark swamp must suck for your elf, ‘cause he’s getting drenched by the pouring rain.
Think I would forget the visual effects? Eye candy! The weapon skills look cool every time you use them, and considering there’s a whole bunch of different skills for different weapons, you basically never get tired of it... not to mention if you chain them together in a correct order, you get weapon chain effects, which might take your eyes off the battle considering how awesome they look. Spell effects, too, from lowly Cure to high level Protect VI, look very, very cool. Come on, just saying Final Fantasy nowadays MEANS great spell effects.

Gameplay (10/10) – Okay, there’s a lot of different parts to XI... let’s pull out a scalpel and dissect, yes?

Character Creation – You’re lobbed into a character selection screen where you meet the creatures you will be dealing with in Final Fantasy... one thing I have to say, the model’s don’t look as pretty in game as they do when you’re creating your character. You can choose from male and female Humes (your typical out-of-the-box Humans), male and female Elvaans (your normal pointy-eared elves, except for the fact that they’re really long armed), male and female Tarutaru (a very short, cute child-like race that are fun to kick), female Mithra (catgirls... woo), and male Galka (really big, really strong slightly greenish people whose arms resemble tree trunks).
Each gender of each race has 8 different faces, and 2 different hair colors. They all look pretty cool, and whose hair colors match very well. There really should be more choices for hairstyles, or at LEAST hair colors. I mean, two colors per face isn’t going to give you’re your pick of the litter. If XI had a character creation like Star Wars Galaxies, it would be utterly amazing. Then, you pick a job, detailed in the section below, and then name your character (a name generator is available for those of you who have no imagination or choice-making skills whatsoever). Pretty standard, for those who have played these types of games before, although it is quite limited. Your bound to see a lot of people who look like you, but that’s where you’re going to be equipping armor and weapons that will look different.

Jobs – The system that makes the game unique is the ability to change your job, and, after completing a certain quest, to equip a sub-job. It reminds me of Final Fantasy Tactics somewhat, but only with more versatility. In addition to 6 basic classes that you can start out with - Warrior, Monk, Thief, White Mage, Red Mage, and Black Mage – you can later attain what are called advanced classes, which are Summoner, Beastmaster, Paladin, Dragoon, Dark Knight, Ninja, Bard, Samurai, and Ranger. Each class has its unique perks and abilities that come from previous Final Fantasy games... for example, ninjas can dual wield weapons, making them real powerhouses, while Red Mages are a combination of swordwielding and magic casting, a jack of both trades but a master at neither. A dragoon wields a spear, can use the fabled Jump ability, and can call a Wyvern to fight by her side, whereas a Summoner can call old friends that we all know, such as Shiva, Ifrit, Titan, and Carbuncle. A Summoner practicing in front of town freaked me out by summoning a very tall, kinda evil looking Ramuh when I didn’t expect it. Very cool. :D

Sub-jobs – While you level your first class normally, at level 18 you can do a quest for your sub-job. A sub-job allows you to equip another job that can never be a level greater than half of your first. For example, I have a level 21 Thief right now, and I just got my sub-job and I’m training my warrior side. Right now it’s level 1, but even if I level it all the way to 20, When I switch back to Thief and set Warrior as sub-job, I’ll be a level 21 THF / 10 WAR. When I got level 22 Thief, the cap on my Warrior would automatically go up, so I would be level 11.
It’s a little confusing at first, but considering you can train any job you want and equip them however you want, it allows for almost endless party strategies and tactics, not to mention it allows you to play what you want to, when you want to. And since jobs cannot be changed in the middle of a battle, and since you need to start over in a job to level it up, either for usage as a main or a sub, it can’t be considered cheap or too powerful, as you have to pour your blood, sweat, and tears into it, not to mention you’re limited by only being able to have two jobs at once, the sub, again, being half the power of the first.

Partying – Typically, in XI you’re going to party up with other people. The game puts great emphasis on grouping up, and you’re going to need to at higher levels to gain any sort of experience. This means that you have to search for a group every time you play, and *that* means you’re going to be paired up with a new conglomeration of jobs every time you party. This introduces the need to create and modify strategies, and also spices up gameplay with the need for variety. After all, you could really use 2 white mages in a party, but 6 white mages aren’t going to be doing much damage to anything. A lot of the official “missions” that develop the storyline (yes, there’s a storyline, although it’s very limited) and award you with rank encourage you to work with other people to finish them, as they are tough and, as such, you need help.

Missions/Quests – Before the Final Fantasy XI Beta, I played Star Wars Galaxies for a little while. Even though it was pretty fun, the missions you did to gain credits were amazingly boring and repetitive – you always had to do the same damn thing, and that’s why I stopped playing. XI, however, has a wide variety of quests you undertake. Espionage, rescuing children, delivering animal hides, putting down beastmen, making donations to the church, finding rare gems, helping a mother and daughter get back together, getting caught between sibling rivalry, and more. There nearly no end to the quests, and how different they are from one another, and so you’ll never get bored of them as it’s always something new, for a different purpose. Some of the quests are sometimes frustrating, but what’s a game without challenge?
In addition to the normal quests, you also have official, country-oriented missions. You carry out your job as a soldier in employ of your nation, and they in turn reward you after you do your duty. The more missions you get, the more ‘rank points’ you receive, and when you complete certain missions, your rank goes up, allowing you to purchase stronger, specialized equipment from your country’s own vaults with points you get for killing in areas not under your nation’s control... but more on that in a second.

Combat – How should I start? Basically, you run around until you see something you want to kill. You target it, whether using the screwed up mouse controls or the precise keyboard controls, and then either attack it, cast magic on it, make a ranged attack on it, or use an ability on it, depending on what you want to do. In combat you are allowed to switch targets, perform ranged attacks, use magic, weapon skills, job abilities, call for help, disengage and more, all using the trademark little menu that most RPG games (notably Final Fantasy, heh) use. Each hit you land on the enemy will build up what are called Tactical Points, although I prefer to call them Technique Points because if you get a certain amount, you’re able to fire off a powerful skill called a weapon skill.
Depending on what weapon you’re using and what skill level you’ve currently attained with it, you’re able to use different abilities and fire them off one after another for what’s called a Renkei effect, or skill chain. This happens when you connect a weapon skill and a party member connects another weapon skill that can be chained with yours about 3 seconds after. If done correctly, after your partner’s damage shows up, a pretty graphic will flash on the enemy, detailing one of the Renkei types, such as gravitation, fusion, or scission, and more damage will be dealt to the enemy. Thus, it’s possibly to get a lot of free hits on your foe, and usually it comes out to be pretty powerful.
A bonus is the Magic Burst effect. Each Renkei has a different elemental affiliation, for example scission is earth and impaction is lightning. If, say, impaction was achieved through a weapon skill chain, then, that black mage in your group, if his timing is right, could achieve a magic burst by casting Thunder at the correct time. If he does it right, the spell has a chance to do 2 to 10 times more damage! And since spells are really damaging later on, such as thunder, that’s going to do a hell of a lot of damage. I’ve heard that the timing is tricky, but if you can do it right, it will, no doubt, put a dent into your enemy’s hp.
In addition to Renkei, there are also normal class abilities, which complement each other quite nicely and encourage parties to have diversity in what is composing their groups. For example, warriors provoke the enemies off the mages to keep them alive and to keep themselves established as tanks; monks boost their barehanded damage and can utilize chakra at later levels to restore hp and mp; thieves steal items, sneak attack from behind for incredible criticals, and also trick attack from behind another party member in battle for massive damage. Everything flows together quite nicely in battle, and although there are a lot of bad parties, when you get into one where everyone does their job correctly, it becomes a memorable experience.
By the way, if all this managing skills and abilities and stuff sounds hard, don’t worry – the game has an macro system that will allow you to do stuff with the flick of a ctrl or alt key along with a number. You also get to have up to 10 sets of these that you can switch between, so you can make other job’s macros without losing or having to delete your current ones.

Conquest – In Final Fantasy XI, you fight for your country. In the game, you aspire to make your country number one, whether it’s the mining republic of Bastok, the magical Federation of Windurst, or the chivalrous castle kingdom of San d’Oria. The payoff for doing this is that your country becomes more popular and more powerful – cool items that weren’t in your city’s stores before appear there, your nation has more specialized items available for your selection, with the proper rank and conquest points, and stuff, for the most part, costs less. In order to get your country on top, you have to kill in areas with a spell called Signet affecting you, which basically shows your allegiance to your country.
Signet, in addition to making crystals drop from enemies, adds the experience you get from monsters to your country’s total in that area. Tallies are taken every so often, and when one country gets the major lead, they influence and then eventually control that region. But that’s not all – when you kill enemies with Signet on, not only does your country get stuff, but you also get magical little things called Conquest Points. When you save up your CP, you can eventually buy the aforementioned specialized stuff from your country’s vaults that you won’t see anywhere else. So, in effect, it’s a win-win situation... you should always have Signet on you, because there are no ill effects, and you gain a lot.

World Passes – Okay, for those of you who haven’t heard all the people whining about it, there’s such a thing in FF called a world pass. When you create a character on XI, it’s sent to a random server... you can’t pick where you go, and thus you have a crap chance getting in the same server as your friends. World passes are little passwords you can buy in-game (with in-game money, i.e. gil) to allow players creating characters to come to your server. Now, I understand it’s not necessary, and yes Square did screw up. But, past that, it’s not a problem to buy one at all... it doesn’t take a phenomenal amount of money to buy one, and considering there are easy, repeatable money quests available as soon as you start, it takes only a little while to rack up the dough. It’s NOT a problem... for people who aren’t lazy.

Other stuff – Let’s see, players sell stuff to each other through an auction house, but it really isn’t an auction – first person who bids on or above the price specified by the seller gets the item. Think of it as an eBay reserve price kind of thing. Players, for the most part, are friendly, and will answer newbie questions without much of a hassle. The Japanese players, whom we share the servers with (which are, on a side note, named after famous Final Fantasy summons, monsters, and personas), are very friendly, although most of the time they can’t understand much of what you’re saying but will pause to heal you, help you out with a monster, or cast protect on you. That also raises the question of how English speakers and Japanese speakers are able to speak with each other... and that is a slight problem, but I, for example, have invited many Japanese players into my party, and in addition to the fact that they are ALWAYS very friendly (the few non-amiable people I’ve met on Siren have ALWAYS been English speakers), it’s quite easy to get by with the little English that they know, and also the simple to use translation system that is currently implemented, although the number of words and phrases you can translate IS limited. PvP is coming (Player vs. Player), but it will be only conquest related for now... but we don’t know how that will exactly work. Ah yes, until level 20, you run around to get to every place you need to... but then, when you complete a certain quest, you get – YES! A chocobo! Your feathery, beautifully rendered yellow friend will be available to rent to get you much faster to where you want to go! Later on in the game, when even higher levels are achieved, you gain access to airships that run from each town’s ports other towns, making travel painless... not to mention some mages get different warp spells, as well.

Okay, we passed the big part. :D

Sound (10/10) – Like most Final Fantasies, the music in this game is memorable. From a merry tune for the port town of Selbina to the dutiful, chivalrous music for the castle kingdom San d’Oria, from the lonely, acoustic sounds of barren Gustaberg to the adrenaline-pumping battle themes, the music is perfect for this game. I wouldn’t buy the soundtrack of this game, but that’s only because I don’t have an abundance of money. :D
Some areas don’t have music, but that only immerses you deeper into the ambience – wind blowing across the La Theine plateau, the wet splashes of your feet touching swamp in the Pashhow Marshes, the soft and suddenly harsh hisses of geysers in Dangruf Wadi, and many more. A lot of the ambience makes you think you’re there, and more than once have I, like others, been startled when I heard a thunderclap over the Konschtat Highlands.
In addition to music, you also have sound effects, and it’s all perfectly tunes – sword slashing, club hammering, orc grunts, males and females with their own unique sound sets, the baritone of Galkas and the feral cries of Mithra, and the pathetic death sounds of the miniature Taru Taru. :D It’s all there, and for the most part it’s really good. A few exceptions here and there where they could have done a little better, but you really can’t complain with such a stellar job.

Replayability (9/10) – Welcome to the smallest section. :D Well, obviously, since it’s a MMORPG, that means that there is no clear cut end to the game... it’s basically whenever the player feels satisfied with the level of power that they achieved. But considering that you can play as one of 15 classes, and then you can also start in one of three cities, replayability is high with either a new character or switching to another job with your existing character. It’s basically experiencing the game all over again, but in a new, refreshing manner as you play a completely different way with a different job. :)

Controls (8/10) – Well, the controls are extremely awkward, if you’re using a mouse. Your avatar responds sluggishly, it’s very hard to turn him, and the system is just a pain in the neck. Then why did I give it an 8/10? Because you use the keyboard for this game! Either you can use a FPS WASD configuration if you mess with the options a little, or you can use the default numpad controls, which are quite simply and easy to use. Without typing, you can almost play this game with your right hand if it weren’t for the need of the ESC button to cancel out of windows and manus and such (as it is, 1 on the numpad is currently unbound... why the hell didn’t Square set 1 to ESC so you CAN play the game with only your right hand?). There a nifty little autorun function so that when you’re moving, you can be a lazyass and not touch the keyboard while your character goes in a straight line, but usually you need to turn him while hes autorunning so you just press the 4 and 6 keys as needed. I’ve heard the issue that there is no strafing, but why the hell would you need strafing in this game? While manipulating the numpad for walking around, with your thumb you can easily maneuver the camera with the arrow keys right nextdoor, and thus is makes for a nigh-perfect control interface (at least, I don’t see a problem with it. Maybe if you get too used to another game, this could be irritating for you).

Summary (10/10) – Well, how to end... it’s been a lot of writing, and kudos to you who’ve stuck around. :D This game is amazing. I highly recommend buying it, and then kicking back to enjoy killing stuff and doing quests, getting stronger in anticipation that one day PK will come so that you can beat the crudmuffins out of your fellow players. It is a fun experience, and I’ve already spent a lot of hours dedicated to it and playing, playing, playing! Usually, when this game gets bashed, it’s usually a diehard Everquest fanatics pounding it since it dares to step into the arena with EQ. While I’ve never played Everquest, I know that this game is very, very fun, and a lot of people FROM Everquest play it. Again, after passing through all the undesirable aspects of the game, of which are few and which are mostly temporary, you will definitely find an awesome game to play until your pants bust.

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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