Review by Jenshin

"A good first attempt at an online rpg by Square-Enix"

It took me quite awhile after its release for me to buy this game. I've been a notorious fan of the Final Fantasy serious since before I can remember. When I found out that this time around it was going to be a purely online game, I was very weary about approaching it. After a few of my buddies from school convinced me to, I purchased this game right in time for Winter Break. So here I am, 20 hours or more later, and here are my initial impressions. (*Disclaimer* My opinion is subject to change in the future, so take this review lightly. Don't want any hardcore mmorpg or ffxi player flaming me ;_:)

Graphics 8/10

+: Ah, the Graphics. Its sad that in this age of gaming it has become an essential aspect of a game's character. This game is no exception. The graphics in this game establish the massive living world in which it takes place. The detail is extraordinary and the models are all designed perfectly. Square-Enix did a really good job putting the world's visuals together.
-: Even though the character models are great in detail, I think they could've done a better job with the emotions and facial expressions of the characters. Especially, after a game like FFX, I was expecting alot more in this department, but the merits of the graphics outweigh the flaws.

Sound 8/10

+: I was quite stunned at the quality here. The sound effects are quite nice, especially on a good sound system. It helps to further pull you into the FFXI world. The soundtrack surprisingly, imho, is better than FF X's. It is not simple ambient music,but rather it more resembles more traditional console RPG music. I was very pleased by this.
-: The only real complaint that I have in regards to the sound department, is the lack of music in alot of the areas. This of course is just a personal preference, so if you are a gamer who turns down the music or plays your own, this won't matter to you.

Gameplay 7/10

+: The interface is great and really easy to use once you get the hang of it. SquareEnix managed to keep the console feel to the game and the menus (mostly because of the ps2 version). When first starting out any activity in the game there is an initial stage of awe or wonder towards the gameplay involved.

-: And yet, this is where the flaw lies as well. The gameplay is a bit too straightforward for my taste. I hate to say it, but this game (especially earlier on ) seems to encourage hack and slash style gameplay. The way the battle and ability system is setup leaves the casual rpg gamer with a dull taste in their mouth. Much time is spent leveling up and the reward from battles is mediocre. The system is setup in a way that seems to encourage partying. Depending on the difficulty of the monster, there is a set amount of experinece points you recieve if you defeat it. Monsters that are even matches or higher are usually the cause of death when soloing. While encouraging people t0 party with each other seems to serve the game's intended purpose, the division of experience often makes partying nothing more than a chore or insurance plan. Side activities such as fishing, smithing,etc. can sometimes be more addicting and distracting from the rest of the gameplay.

Story 5/10

+: This is the category which I critique the hardest. The very fact that this game has a story and plot is a added plus to the game. The way they handle the cutscenes and fmv for each individual is quite impressive. The mission and quest system too seems to hold some promise.

-: So why the low score in story you ask? Well, for one, being over 20 hrs into the game and I havent experienced any real storyline is a major downside. I must reiterate though, that this is a MMORPG,so there is not much story to expect to begin with. There are many who play this game and those like it merely for the hack and slash qualities. The storyline overall from what Ive seen and herd is standard at most. Nothing that really stands out. Also, since the world relies on other players for supporting character roles, you must rely on others to fufill the void of scripted party members or characters. Dont' get me wrong, there are characters and npcs (such as Cid), but they are all lacking substance from my experience. Perhaps after 40 hrs+ into the game something will develop?

Controls 9.5/10

+: Very nice intereface and easy to learn. Its a refreshing not having to use the standard mouse/keyboard combo as with other pc games.

-: Nothing really to mention here.

Overall 7/10

+: Pleasing graphics, great soundtrack and sound effects, simple controls, neat jobs and hobbies,honorable japanese companions
-: Lack of substance in many aspects, mediocre gameplay at times, lagging plot and storyline, repetitiveness, selfish and sometimes ignorant american companions

If you are looking for a nice MMORPG with a console rpg feel to it, then FFXI is partially what you are looking for. It is by far the most engaging online rpg that I have come across with the exception of maybe Project Entropia. However, once you get through the tourist stage, you will have to decide for yourself if the 100+ hours and dollars will be worth it all in the end. I hope that you found this review helpful and I would appreciate any POLITE critiques or suggestions via email.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 12/31/03

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