Review by MegaPowerNinja

"A very high quality game"

Pre-Review: A number of years back I had heard that Squaresoft was going to put out an Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG). Like many of my friends, I laughed at the idea. I thought Square would never be able to beat EverQuest (the undisputed KING of MMORPGs) So I never really followed FFXI's development. Some time before its release however, I was given the opportunity to beta test Square's first venture into the MMORPG genre. I didn't have very high hopes at the time and thought this would actually be a bad game. I was playing Star Wars Galaxies at the time so I could not really devote that much attention to the little beta but what I played of it.. It was brilliant.

It started off a bit slow, but after the first few levels it got more interesting. Many of the same elements that were present in EverQuest were very apparent in this game only dramatically improved. I'll get into all that in my review.

Graphics: -4/5-

The graphics are pretty good and I have not seen many better. The models all look cool and the different equipment looks really good on them. The multitude of enviornments in this game all look really good and are rarely ever boring to look at. From sprawling plains to forests alive with familiar monsters to a snow covered mountain complete with aurora borealis. Square also hit home with amazing particle effects. I am especially referring to the spell effects. The magic in this game does well to overwhelm one with fantastic visual effects that do well to justify the damage they unload on the wide array of enemies you will face. Effects like these are something Sony Online Entertainment (SoE) was lacking with both EverQuest and Star Wars Galaxies.

This game definitely falls into the category of 'eye candy' It is a treat.

Sound / Music -5/5-

Square has always had awesome audio departments and as usual they never fail to disappoint with either SFX or Music. The sound effects in this game fit really well and the music as always is awesome. I find that in most MMORPGs the music really takes a hit for some reason and is always pretty bad (EverQuest) or unoriginal (Star Wars Galaxies). Thankfully, Final Fantasy XI has been a welcome exception.

Gameplay -4/5-

The gameplay is pretty standard for MMORPGs here, in fact if you have ever played either EverQuest or Star Wars Galaxies you will feel quite at home here. Beyond a certain point it will become incredibly hard to advance in the game unless you are with a group. Many complain about this but its called Massively Multiplayer for a reason. There is always an option to solo but I really wouldn't recommend it unless you have a lot of time and patience. This game is different from all others of its genre for many reasons one of which being the 'Job System'. Players are able to be whatever class they want, whenever they want, and they may also take a second class (or Sub job) to give themselves a bit more selection in terms of abilities and spells as well as giving their stats a nice boost. This adds a lot of variety to the game instead of EverQuest's stale one player one class system. The game also has a somewhat deep story once you get into it (another welcome change to the MMORPG scene) But you really have to search for it. (ie. Metroid Prime)

There is always plenty to do in this game, from just leveling to doing missions and quests, challenging colossal monsters for the the treasures they hoard. furnishing your very own house, growing and maintaining trees you can use for lumber to either sell or work one of many trade skills (such as Alchemy, Bonecrafting, Goldsmithing, etc. I myself am a cook.)

The only thing that might turn some people off is the game is kind of slow paced at low levels, if you get a bad party or if you are trying to solo with a more group oriented class.

MMORPG Factors---

Character Creation 2/5

Not very much freedom here, I'm afraid. You are stuck with a handful of pre-created faces coupled with hairstyles. Just about the only other thing you can you can do upon choosing your face/hair combo is select between two hair colors. I'm a bit disappointed with this creation system but its nothing to really get hung up on. Most of your characters will end up being almost totally concealed by their equipment anyway, caster or fighter.

Development Team / Server Conditions -5/5-

This is another area where Square really shines. Issues with the game are dealt with and patched promptly with very little hassle. I have only seen the servers come down for regularly scheduled maintenance and even this does not last long. Other companies like SoE could really take a lesson here.

As for the server conditions, lag is rarely ever a problem, and I myself have never even seen a single lag spike. This may be due to Square's unique strategy for keeping the server loads balanced. Many people have complained about the "World Pass" aspect of the game and while it may be a little hangup, you have to realize that keeping the load of players spread as evenly as possible is incredibly important to maintaining a pleasant lag-free environment. If you really want to play with your friends though, World Passes are incredibly cheap and require very little effort to obtain.

Addiction Factor -4/5-

Believe me when I say that this is one of the most addicting games you will ever play. Once you get your first character to level 20 or so and start leveling a subjob you will fall into a groove that is incredibly hard to break out of. It is not quite Tetris addictive but as hard as it is to put this game down it would be difficult to tell.

Class/Job Balancing -4/5-

This game does well at defining the roles of most of the jobs in this game. That being said, there are a couple of jobs that never really find their place in the long run.

The only other complaint that I have is that many jobs are rather limited in what subjobs are beneficial for them. Again, you may choose whatever job you want for your subjob but many parties will pass you over for an invite if you do not have what they deem as the right one.

Buy this game?

Even at its old price I would definitely choose this game, even over the critically acclaimed World of Warcraft. Now that it is only 20$ this game has been elevated to the status of ‘must-have'

If you like this game, try:
Final Fantasy series (I - X)
Star Wars Galaxies

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 04/21/05

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