Review by jeremyw1976

"The best MMORPG out there, but is it enough?"

A massively multi-player online role playing game made by Square-Enix which follows in the Final Fantasy series? I know what you are thinking... Time to go out and buy this monster at all costs. Before you do so I hope you read my review and then make a judgment on how much you really have to put into this game.

I am a huge fan of the Final Fantasy series. The vast worlds, unique items and character driven storylines always kept me waiting for the next release. I've even stood in line at a store waiting for one of these games to arrive via UPS. I have to admit that with each Final Fantasy I always get caught up in the hype and buy it the first day. So if you've waited this long to purchase Final Fanatsy XI then maybe your doubts can be answered by my review.

I bought this game the day it was released for the PS2. Let me tell you that I was very excited not just to get the game, but about the hard drive as well. As any hardcore gamer will know, memory cards just weren't cutting the mustard and I needed some extra storage. I also thought about the future possibilities of the hard drive and my mouth began to water. So what, $100 for the hard drive and I get FFXI for free right? Well not quite and I'll explain why later...

Gameplay - 6
There are 3 times when gameplay is interesting: The first is when you first start playing, learning all the controls and little things you can do in the game is very fun. This learning curve probably lasts about 4 to 6 hours and then you'll pretty much know most everything control wise. The second is when you enter a new area. Exploring is always fun and the key to any RPG especially MMORPGs. You'll spend the first 10-15 hours of playtime in 6 areas and move out from there. After seeing the first 6 areas, however, it becomes a very long time before your character is strong enough to visit new areas. The third time when gameplay becomes interesting is when your character levels up and gains new abilities/skills. Once again this happens at a good pace for the first 10-15 hours of gameplay and then slowly gets worse as you become stronger.

I'd say that the for the first 10 levels, gameplay is a 10 and after that the rating goes down very quickly. The reason being is that in the first 10 levels it is possible to explore on your own, fight many different monsters on your own and even do quests/missions on your own. After level 10, you almost must seek a party to do anything. Depending on you job, this make take an hour by itself. This means that unless you have 2-3 hours to sit and play, you might as well not play because you aren't going to get anywhere. I know what most MMORPG players will say about this, "If you don't have the time to play, then don't!" I agree with this, but I had hoped that the Final Fanatsy series would bring a flow to the MMORPG world so that the more casual gamer would feel the satisfaction of playing only a couple hours a day.

Story - 6
Yes there is an attempt made at a storyline in FFXI. Your character completes missions that progress the storyline. The first few missions are fairly easy to accomplish and there is somewhat of a story that starts to take shape. But it takes so long to level up your character in order to complete each next mission that you sort of lose interest in any storyline that might be developing. I guess the point of a MMORPG is to create your own storyline which you can definitely do so I won't bash the storyline too much. Let me just say it doesn't really matter.

Graphics and Sound - 8
Square-Enix doesn't disappoint in this area, as with every other Final Fantasy game, the graphics and sound are top notch for the genre. I like the uniqueness of the characters and items available. The music doesn't get boring even after playing for hours and hours. We've come to expect this kind of work from Square-Enix in the past and once again they deliver.

Replayability - 10
What would you expect from a MMORPG? This game will take you forever to complete everything. Even if you played 24 hours a day for 6 months you would probably not master every skill, complete every quest, or see every part of FFXI's world. Constant updates are also a part of FFXI and for good measure since FFXI carries the highest monthly fee of any MMORPG on the market right now at $12.95 a month plus $1 per month for each additional character. Don't expect to do everything right away, this game requires patience and whole lot of time.

Final Recommendation and Overall - 6
The cost upfront is worth the $100 if you want the hard drive for any reason. Try out FFXI for a free month and see if you have the time to invest in such a game. What I want to talk about is the $12.95 per month fee just to play FFXI. Is this fee worth it? As I stated above and in the title of this review, FFXI is the best MMORPG out right now, but it is also the highest priced. I have been playing since the game's release and I have to say that I don't feel like I'm getting my money's worth. There have been updates to the game in recent weeks, but then I hear about an expansion pack that will cost additional money on top of the monthly fee. This makes me wonder what sort of service am I paying for?

The bottom line is how much time can you commit to this game? If your answer is 1-3 hours a day, I would save my money for some other game because you are going to get frustrated with the gameplay. If you can crank out 4-8 hours a day then by all means, play this game! Be advised that if you decide to play past your free month, expect that you really won't have time for any other games so the $12.95 per month really won't hurt you much because you won't be buying any other games.

I can only hope that the producers of MMORPGs will take the casual gamer into consideration more in the future. The single player Final Fantasy games seem to focus on the flow and gameplay aspects that the casual gamers gravitate towards and that is why they are so popular in my opinion. FFXI is missing this aspect of gameplay after the initial hype.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 05/26/04

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