Review by Kichigai

"Worth it if you don't have a PC that can play it, or if you'll play it like a rabid fanatic"

I know I'm going to get shunned from both sides here. Those who said the game was average, and those who said it was exceptional, but allow me to explain myself.

Graphics: 6/10
SquareEnix (SE) goes for character detail with this game, doling on the polys for the characters and enemies, and decide to pull off tricks with tex-maps to try and make the comparatively simple world look better. I can't blame them for this one. I'd rather look at a detailed orc as it whacks me with its ax than marvel at the tiny little shrub in front of me while I sip on a soda, waiting for my MP gage to refill. Where I did get lost in graphics, though, was the special effects. In all honesty, the effects in Final Fantasy VII, VIII, and IX were superior to those in Final Fantasy XI. Not very impressive so far, but then again, I'm only level 10. Stone was rather boring, with rocks flying upward, poison had 2D “poisonous” clouds superimposed over your enemy, and in truth, the 2D tex-maps Sega used in Skies of Arcadia were more convincing. Water just has a bunch of balls of water flying in. Nothing to really make me go “wow,” besides the detail of my cute little Tarutaru's face. Then, there's parts where SE doesn't seem to try, and goes at things with lazy approaches. Let's take stationary flames for example: camp fires or torches. SE decides to try and do the whole wavey-effect that we often see above flames in real life. Except SE doesn't even put the effort in to it that we saw in games like Jak and Daxter, where the effect wasn't great, but they definitely tried. SE just throws up a few random motion blurs and calls it quits. I'd rather they didn't do the effect than do it completely wrong.

Sound: 8/10
Really, it's quite good. It's all very fitting, and not monotonous. Except for things, like the music in San d'Oria, where it can be a bit annoying because of some high points in the song (volume wise). Sound effects are nice, as are the language-less battle cries. I can't say I have any real complaints here.

Gameplay: 7/10
I think SE definitely made the game easy to control, and it plays quite well in a lot of parts, but it's pretty unforgiving for newbies, and the manual really doesn't explain a lot. But, once you figure out how everything works, you're set.

One thing that will definitely limit gameplayablility is the pseudo-requirement of a keyboard, in that you don't need it to play the game, you just need it if you want to play the game well. Communication is really very important, and without a keyboard, it's almost impossible to communicate easily or efficiently.

Replay: 9/10
SE scores high here, without question. The game divides skills up so they have to be raised individually. For example: Dark Magic is raised independently of Elemental Magic, and Staff skill levels are raised independently of Club or Dagger skill levels.

Also, your level changes depending on your job. In Final Fantasy Tactics, you had two levels to watch: your Level level, and your Job Level. In FFXI, SE merges the two: your Job Level is your Level. So, if you've got a level 25 Black Mage, but you decide to switch to a White Mage, and you've never been a White Mage, you're back to level 1. Of course, you can switch back. Basically, though, you can pretty much build your character all over without needing to make a new character, or lose your progress.

Where you lose points on this, though, is that if you choose a new job, you're basically just doing the same thing you did in your last job. If you go from Black Mage to White Mage, you no longer nuke things, but you heal people you come across. If you go from Warrior to Monk, you just use your fists instead of a sword. Still, though, it is kinda fun to do the same thing a second time, but having the experience behind you to do it right.

Innovation: 6/10
Lowest point in the game. But let's face it, it's hard to reinvent the MMORPG. Only so much can be done to the genre. All of the standard MMORPG features are there, but SE does introduce new bits. For example: Linkshells. A Linkshell is basically just a formal Clan. You get a Link pearl that your character “equips” (it gets displayed next to your name, so it's kind of like wearing a badge that says “Neo-Amethyst Linkshell Member, and PROUD OF IT!”) and allows you to talk to other Linkshell members defying distance.

SE also allows trans-world (server) communication using the old /tell feature, and messages. One can transcend the division between worlds and talk to friends on different worlds. Of course, you can't send things trans-world, nor can you just traverse world to world easily. World Passes are available, but I don't know much about them, except that you can have a friend buy one (hefty price, increases with each pass you buy) so you can make your character on the same world he's on.

SE also tries its hand at the creation of an auto-translator, but I found it to be a step backwards in terms of technology, and effectiveness. Sega did an excellent job with Phantasy Star Online's auto-translator, allowing you to build sentences and questions, use pre-constructed phrases, and communicate by custom (or prebuilt) emoticons. SE basically just gives you a list of words and prebuilt phrases, and none of the capabilities that PSO had. Add on to that a limited library of words and phrases (did you know there's no auto-translate entry for the word “level” or “mage”?) and communicating with Japanese players really becomes next to impossible.

Fees/Charges: 7/10
This is key to the success of an MMORPG. SE comes at this from the logical view point that seems to be:

More characters = More wear-and-tear on the server.
More Wear and tear on servers = More maintenance
More Maintenance = More cash needed to be spend
Therefore: More characters = more fees.

SE also jacks up your rates if they find you using bots or mules (characters created for the use of giving you storage space to supplement your own), I believe.

The rates aren't outrageously high either, though they are a bit above average. If I remember correctly, EverQuest was about $10/mo, whereas FFXI stands at about $12/mo (excluding Tetra Master and additional character fees). So, it's a bit higher, but not too much. But, one of the things I found nice about EQ, was that you could buy your subscription in blocks of your choosing, and if you bought 6 months, you saved $10. SE doesn't offer such a niceity, but they do give you a cut rate for your second month of playing.

Now, where FFXI really kills you with the PS2 is the initial investment. $99 for the Game + HDD pack, $19 for a USB keyboard (Datel's board is that much at least), $40 for the Network Adapter (If you don't already have one) and $12 for each month after the second. If you feel like you want to dish out that cash, go for it. It's worth it if you play it enough, or just don't have a PC powerful enough to play it.

Overall: 7/10
The pros outweigh the cons. It's a bit newbie-unfriendly, and not the freshest of games, but it's worth the cash to play it. It'll definitely entertain you for hours at a time. Or days, if you have it. And, after you buy all the stuff, the monthly fee won't break the bank.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 08/15/04

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