Review by SINZAR

"FFXI: Painfully average"

Let me first start off by saying in this review I will be comparing it to EQOA in some areas, I am not going to make an argument for one game or the other, it is purely for comparison.

FFXI is an average MMORPG hiding behind the trademark Square-Enix (S-E) high production values. Aside from blatantly obvious features which are mysteriously missing (no auto-stack function for example) this game's clear agenda of cash-grabbing will slap you in the face early on. Yes I realize this is a business and the name of the game is money, but when its just so obvious as it is in this game, it bothers me. What takes away from what would of been a great game is a number of factors but I believe it all stems from the job system which the entire game is based around.

Job System - As mentioned, I believe this is the root of all evil. It was designed to let players make any combination of jobs they wanted and to give the players a sense of originality, however, that is simply not the case. Yes, you can make a Ranger/Summoner or a Warrior/Bard but combinations like these will not only get you shunned by the community, you will also find they do nothing for you play wise. It would simply be a waste of time to go off of the regular archtype path. You will end up being a standard healer/caster/tank/melee/support class that is the same with all games.

Another problem with the job system is that it causes storage problems (which is another topic and will be covered with more detail later). If you make a level 75rdm/60War/40Brd/36Whm/15Blm/10Thf/5Sam you will have no room in your mog house to hold all the items needed for all these classes, as well as the regular misc items every player needs, it comes down to the obvious fact that you can play probably 4 jobs until you need to start doing costly mog safe expansion quests.

Grouping - Grouping is very fun. 6 players all truly needing to work together to pull off skill chains, magic bursts and exp chains make grouping a very good time and makes the grind go by quickly. However at around level 30 you will hit "a wall" in which grouping suddenly becomes very difficult. I believe this is once again related to the job system and I'll of course explain why; When players hit this wall, many will decide to simply level up their subjob (which can only be half of the main job) or start another job all together. At level 30 you can start doing the quests for advanced jobs which also thins out the players at this particular level. You will find that the area most people level up at from 13-20 (Valkurm Dunes) will have 100+ players there during the peak hours making it easy to find a group and make a group. At level 20-25 most people then go to Qufim Island and there is about 50+ players there, this is where most people will find that you need patience when it comes to grouping. You may need to wait an hour or more to be invited into a group or to finally get a group together to do some exp'ing, and this is just the beginning. At level 25-30 people go to Kazham and level up in the jungles around there and the trend of player thinning continues, at any given time there could be 30+ players in the area, once again you will find that patience is needed. Simply ask yourself, is waiting 1-3 hours to get invited into a group or make a group really worth it? The harsh reality is that the higher level you get, the less players there are to play with and the more patience is needed. Now I have patience, however I have NO patience when I need to wait 6 hours to put a group together! That is simply uncalled for and thanks to the job system, if people get bored of waiting they go level up another job which makes it even harder to find people for groups your level because there are even less people. Most MMO's require the players to have patience when leveling up during the long grind, but in this game you need patience to also get a group together to start the long grind.

Storage - In the early levels I found the storage to simply not be enough so I made a mule (a mule is another character used specifically to hold more items, and since I was making another character it comes with an extra charge). They know people make mules in all these games and they made it essential to have one and they even made it convenient thanks to those NPC's that send things to other characters. Their primary purpose is for transferring to and from the mule without the use of a 3rd party, of course you can send things to other real players and that's convenient also, but without it the players would get along fine.

Controls - It took me quite awhile to finally get a feel for the awkward controls in this game. I use the term awkward in reference to the other only console MMO currently out for the PS2, EQOA. EQOA's controls are optimized far better for us consolers, and I feel S-E should of taken more time to polish them. If you are in a group with 5 others, it can be very difficult to actually find the enemy in the mess. You use the D-Pad to move the cursor to all selectable targets, teammates included which means you have to scroll through the teammates to get to the enemy, I simply don't understand why they couldn't of made the option to only scroll through NPC's and Teammates separately like EQOA did. I never had the problem with the menu system as some people have, the macro system is also good but if you use a number of different jobs you will have to constantly delete and re-add macro's because you'll have run out of spots. Overall the controls are bad at first, but once you get a feel for them they become nearly a non-issue.

Environment/Graphics/Sounds - As mentioned before, this is where S-E's high production shines. The graphics are truly beautiful, the music is perfect for each area and this truly makes you feel like you're in a real live world. Fighting in Valkurm Dunes was a real treat with not only the graphics but the sounds. You go from the wild chaos of a fight to the relaxing sights and sounds of the tide coming in as you stand there on a gorgeous beach. Many times I stopped in my tracks to just admire the scenery, this truly is the most amazing looking MMO I've ever played. One thing confused me though, how come I could go from a zone that was pouring rain into another zone that was completely dry?

Community - I have real issues with this area. The out of game community is outstanding, there are many fansites dedicated to this game and if you need help finding out some info, you will have no problem finding it on the web. Everything you need to know about this game is on a website somewhere. The in-game community is a different story. If you shout in a town, you will be criticized, the players want the cities to be deathly quiet and I can't understand that. I wasn't one to shout, but when I see other players shout out asking a question, or saying something to a friend, I can't count how many times I saw another player telling the person to "shut up and take it to tells".

The Linkshell format I strongly dislike, other MMO's reward guilds that can work together properly and get along well, but with the Linkshell format I couldn't help but get the feeling S-E didn't want people to make tight-nit guilds. Most players will be in multiple Linkshells, and use them mainly for chatting, some players have built the guild formats I mentioned, but they aren't rewarded with much. If you can make a high-end Linkshell, you will find there's not much to raid. I'm surprised that a game that has been out for 2 years has the sparse amount of end game content that this one does.

Maps - Many people have complained about not having a map in games like EQ, well in FFXI I'm going to complain about the fact that there is maps. To me, part of the fun of a MMO is exploring, but with this game there's no need to explore because you can simply buy a map. There is no adventuring in this game, you don't need to get a party together to go find a far off city such as Jueno (speaking of cities, there aren't very many in this game which I feel takes away from the real world feel), you simply buy a map and follow it yourself. If you're new to an area, don't bother exploring it, simply look at the map and find out where you want to go. A personal preference of mine would be to encourage the exploring by writing the map as you explore. By this I mean if its your first time in a city like Jueno, you should have a completely blank map, then as you run around the city the map will start to take shape, that way it would encourage exploration, but also serve the convenience of having a map.

Customization - A non-existent issue in this game. Expect to see your twin over and over and over. There are so few choices in both the monsters you fight (you'll be fighting the same monsters at all the levels, they'll just have different names) and in the armor you wear. Even when you are a level 75 Rdm, you will look just like the other 75 Rdm's out there. You can't build your character's stats in the direction you want either, everybody is the same in this game, and that is really disappointing.

Servers - You cannot pick what server you want to start on unless you get a worldpass to a specific server, then you can start on that server. If you and 3 friends both got the game at the same time, chances are you won't end up on the same server.

What I believe to be a bigger issue though, is that the servers are integrated meaning North American, European, and Japanese players are all playing together. Can't we all just get along? Yes, and we do, however there is a noticeable split in the server between English speaking players, and Japanese speaking players. I played the game during the day, during the Japanese peak hours, and I had problems getting a group in even the most crowded areas simply because I couldn't speak Japanese. I completely understand why, I don't hold any grudges against anybody because of that don't get me wrong, but was it really wise to force people who can't communicate properly to play together? I think there should of been a choice during player creation to put whether or not you wanted to be on a straight Japanese speaking server, a straight English speaking server or an integrated server. I'm not saying this game is bad because of that, I'm saying it can and does cause problems within the community and essential shrinks the server in half unless you speak both languages fluently.

Misc. Issues - These are just some of the other minor gripes I had with this game:
a- The Auction House - It's not a real auction. You can only have 7 auctions going at a time, which means if you have a backlog of items that you need to sell quickly to make room in your mog house for other items, you need to pay the extra monthly fee for a mule.
b- The Economy - Entirely player run and can be very frustrating when you put something up for sale on the AH for 2,000 gil and not have it sell because the new going rate is 1,500 gil. The prices change so much sometimes you'll just want to kill the other players for undercutting people so much. Here's a quick money making scheme - buy scrolls from regular merchants and sell them on the AH. You can buy a fire scroll for only 900 gil from the merchant and sell it for 1500+ gil on the AH.
c- No Auto-Stack - This one bugs me so much. How can a "top notch" developer like S-E NOT put this simple feature in? Some items can be put in stacks of 12, so if you're out farming beehive chips, when you get 12 chips they don't stack into 1 nice neat little pile and stop taking up room in your inventory, you have to do it yourself. Not a big issue, but it's still very baffling to me.
d- Loading Issues - In EQOA I could run from Qeynos on the West coast, to Freeport on the East coast without a single load time, in this game every time you change a zone there is a load. During this time, if somebody says something in your group, Linkshell, or sends you a tell, you will not see that message. It's very irritating to type up something to send to a tell to somebody only to get the message that they didn't receive it because they were zoning. This is the first game I've ever played that had an issue like this.
e- Buddy list - I found no use for it. In other games I would use the buddy list to essentially keep tabs on players who I wanted to group with again, in this game it doesn't list what job the person is currently using. If you need a Whm for your group, you can't check the buddy list to see what Whm's you know are on, because it lists no jobs, just the names and unless you want to go through and ask everybody "are you a level 20 WHm?" there's no real use for it that a Linkshell doesn't already provide.

In conclusion, this game isn't bad, its very average. I was disappointed because I bought into the hype, I didn't expect FFXI to be a $100+ gamble, but that's what this game is. There are many problems with this game and I'm a little confused how so many reliable sources have been raving about how great this game is, because it simply isn't great. If you don't have a lot of time, this game will be a waste. I feel you need at least 20 free hours a week to be able to play this game from 30+. If you only have, say, 3 free hours a night, don't bother. The free month is pointless for a PS2'er, if you try it for a month and don't like it, guess what? You can't take the HDD and the game back to a store, it's yours forever.


Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 08/02/04

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