Review by GMRZno9

Reviewed: 08/24/04

Killing crabs and your social life. Yep, it's Final Fantasy.

With a grand total of ten full games under it's belt, Final Fantasy had to be bound for a major change in it's next installment. And change it did. With the coming of the next installment of the series that was never quite final, the 11th game takes Final Fantasy to the online realm. It makes enough sense. The RPG expertise of Square-Enix transferred to a massively-multiplayer setting works well.

The story is pretty basic stuff. The world of Vanadiel is composed of 5 races of people living under freedom and peace and then orcs and other bad nasties completely ruin it in a big war. (Why can’t they have nice orcs for once?) So, the only people who can stop this are you and a thousand other players.

Start by creating your character. Choose one of five races, Hume (Humans, basically), Elvaan (…elves), Tarutaru (cute monchichi-type people), Galka (burly, huge race), and Mithra (cat-girls… Enough said…). The customization in hair,face, and size is limited, so you can see lots of similar looking players around. You then pick one of six starting jobs, Warrior, Monk, White, Black, or Red Mage, and Thief. Each race carries a slightly different set of attributes to each job, so it may be best to choose a race that fits your most wanted job (Tarutaru are the best mages, for example).

You then start in one of 3 nations, and then you start to play the game. Shortly after you run around as your bad level 1 self, you realize that you should high-tail it out of that town and go get yourself some experience. You then realize that you’ll spend lots of time whacking bunnies and butterflies just to get past your starting levels. Yes, it can get boring as a newbling soloer, but if you stick with it, you can go on to the next step of levling: forming parties.

Once you join a party, the world becomes immediately more accessible, and if you happen to get a well-formed party, you can be soaking up a lot of EXP. Each job brings a specific role into a party. Warriors obviously fight, as well as keep a mob’s enmity on them to protect other party members. White Mages heal, and Black Mages blow crap up. Whatever job you choose, you find that there’s an important role in it for any party.

Once you level up enough, you can get a support-job, which allows you to gain the abilities of another class of a well leveled job. You can switch jobs to level one role for a sub-job, or to add variety to your playing. Switching jobs comes at no penalty and the game even encourages this.

At level 30, you can gain advanced jobs, which are a series of 9 different jobs that bring a whole different experience to the game. Each level you gain until this point is a level worth earning, and just to play with these jobs for a couple levels is a blast (Bard, Summoner, and Ranger are my favorites).

There are also plenty of time-killers in between leveling sprees. Quests, story missions, and crafting guilds are presented, and with time, patience, and a little skill, you can really have some fun. Quests are good for gaining items, equipment, and money. Story Missions help raise your Rank in your home nation, which gives you access to Conquest Gear and also rewards you with some neat presents. Crafting is one of the more deeper side-activities in the game. While it takes some devotion (and lots of money), you can be able to craft some of the most useful items for players and hawk them at the games virtual auction house or in your player-managed bazaar. You can create good industry for yourself and earn gil to help you purchase better weapons, armor, and spells to help gain parties and levels.

Okay, now to talk about some technological aspects of the game. First off, it’s downright beautiful. MMORPGs often had to sacrifice graphics for gameplay, but all the environments are huge, plentiful, and really detailed. It’s sometimes a joy just to wander aimlessly (that is, unless you can get killed by doing that…). The sound effects, while repetitive, are also well done.

Of course, like any game, there are problems. The social aspect is variable from player to player, and, while I found a plethora of helpful veteran players, there are just as many spoil-sports and just plain jerks lurking in the virtual world. Also, the server selection is random, and, while it’s completely understandable for Square-Enix to do this, it can be annoying for people who want to play on their friend’s server (although an in-game item called a “World Pass” is available for purchase, which counters this flaw). The interface is also a little clumsy as it seems designed for a console (the PS2 version came out in Japan first before the PC version), but you can get used to it.

Overall, Final Fantasy XI doesn’t do too much new with the MMORPG genre, but it does it all very, very well. The whole game feels extremely slick. If you’re not into the MMORPG games, FFXI probably isn’t gonna make you convert. But for the fans of both MMORPGs and Final Fantasy, it’s worth the trip. Just be warned. Those who journey into this realm have a hard time coming back…

I give it an 8/10. Now if you’ll excuse me, I got a Red Mage that needs leveling.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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