Final Fantasy XI is a Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG), which allows players to simultaneously participate in a virtual world on a series of servers. You will not be alone adventuring within four different nations in Vana’diel; but rather you will adventure along with a host of NPCs, and (for the first time in the history of the Final Fantasy series) other online players.
Final Fantasy XI Online also gives you, at no additional cost, an expansion pack, Final Fantasy XI: Rise of the Zilart. This bonus expansion will give you additional areas like Norg, Allepa Desert, Kazham and even Ifrit’s Cauldron. Also, additional job abilities like Dragoon, Ninja, and the Samurai will be available once you reach certain levels in the game.
Players begin with a choice of starting countries, races, and class. Final Fantasy XI’s variety of game play elements include various job abilities, craft building, random combat, and the battle for regional supremacy. Regional supremacy is basically where your character gets assigned a signet of your representing nation to take part in the Conquest Campaign. In Conquest Campaign all nations fight to gain control of different regions. Defeating enemies with your nation’s signet equipped allows your nation to control regions. Nations receive goods and resources from regions under their control; so the more land you control, the richer your nation becomes. Furthermore, you will receive a greater amount of conquest points for defeating enemies in regions under another nation’s control – a bonus for those pesky Conquest Point quests.
The most exciting aspect of gameplay is combat with a six-man team: forming alliances to expand in number and conquer, completing missions, or just leveling up. Parties are vital in completing the various quests you will embark upon throughout your travels through the Final Fantasy experience.
Final Fantasy XI Online has intense social gameplay as you work doing various jobs: selling, trading and talking to other online players. It is entirely possible to have a satisfying gameplay experience without ever delving into the story. You can hunt those new monsters, craft those new items and level up your character without ever worrying about following a story line until you are good and ready. Whether advancing the plot or not, Final Fantasy XI Online has staggeringly deep gameplay and tons of variety. There is a lot to learn, but this also means you can learn what you want, when you want, and at a pace most compatible for you. What other Final Fantasy game allows you to do that?
I must say that I have never seen an MMORPG that looks better then Final Fantasy XI Online. Square-Enix have done an amazing job of expanding the Final Fantasy universe into this larger than life 3D realm. The graphics are astonishing; crisp and colorful with great animation – despite the fact that it’s on the PS2 and not the PC. Final Fantasy XI Online has gorgeous, lush backgrounds, and you will soon feel lost in its realistic worlds where cities actually feel like cities, rather than a scattering of buildings whose only purpose is to house NPCs and the occasional item dump. Each village, town and city has its own unique look and architectural style as well.
Character models are awe-inspiring with their level of detail, yet each is animated with great precision and variety. You can actually see playable characters change in appearance as you purchase new gear, armor, and weaponry. Finally, the use of colors in the animations (particularly the summons – Shiva is absolute eye candy) makes this MMORPG easy on the eyes. The clean graphics of Final Fantasy XI Online make it a gaming pleasure to wander around and explore – it’s a genuine standout in the MMORPG genre.
The audio doesn’t disappoint either; with you being able to hear winds soar across the hills and rain pound on the ground as you stomp through fields; you can even hear the cave bound echoes of roaring monsters and slashing swords. Fans of the Final Fantasy series will recognize many familiar sounds and musical elements. The epic music fits well with the game’s feeling of adventure without distracting from the social game interplay. Although these sounds are similar to previous FF releases, and help unify this game with its predecessors, the inclusion of more new elements would have been a welcome addition to this brand new title.
Final Fantasy XI Online is filled with many challenges to add to its replay value. The variety of quests taxes your leveling ability as well as your ability to make friends. Few of the missions can be completed as solo adventures, which is a rarity in modern MMORPGs. Adding to the replay value is the ability to make sixteen different characters; should you be bored with one you can always move on to another. However, this is not advised since you can always change the class of your current character without incurring any penalty. Then again, playing the game as one of the magic-heavy but hit-point-weak Taru Taru race, is an entirely different experience compared to tromping around as one of the bruiser Galka.
One warning! Final Fantasy XI online can be addictive and is sure to devour your free time, as it did mine. You will be playing for hours; trying to build your characters levels, working at all your different jobs, selling and trading, crafting your skills in woodworking, fishing, alchemy and cooking. Combine this with the ability to create multiple characters, along with completing a vast array of missions and quests, and it gives Final Fantasy XI Online an extremely high replay value.
Gameplay challenges come in all shapes and forms, whether via hack and slash or item creation. Indeed, it will take considerable dedication, practice and patience to master item craft; but item synthesis pays off big, however, when you cash in on unique items, weapons and armors.
Combat challenges the casual player too through the ability to build and level up individual skills; decking yourself out in weapons and armor appropriate to your job and level, and consistently upgrading these items. There’s more to this combat then brute force; Final Fantasy XI Online has a Tech Point (TP) system, which allows for skill chains. Skill Chains must be practiced as a group because it allows parties to unleash devastating attacks by carefully choosing the order in which players use their weapon abilities. This TP system works like the previous Final Fantasy’s limit break system, except the TP gauge can go as high as 300 percent. Players can choose to use their TP to unleash weapon abilities as soon as possible or hold it back to increase for a more potent attack. Add this tactical use of techniques to some brutal enemy AI and you have a recipe for some epic fights. At later levels the monsters become so difficult that massive alliances of parties (we are talking over 30 people at once here) are required to even face these foes. No, no matter how high and mighty you think your level 70 Elvaan Death Night/Black Mage/Summoner/Dragoon/Samurai is?he still can’t take on the King Behemoth on his lonesome.
Final Fantasy XI Online is an all round great game, which longtime fans will enjoy and newcomers will be able to pick up without too much trouble. It has one of the greatest MMORPG story lines ever to grace the genre, but it’s the fact you can choose whether or not to take part in the story that gives you access to such excellent gameplay. Taking a break from the story line and just going out to level up, form teams, take part in money making schemes and completing missions and quests at your own pace gives you an incredible sense of freedom. And freedom goes a long way in a good MMORPG to giving you the best in experiencing open gameplay through a pace of your choosing.
This is what I, and other RPG fans, want; the freedom and control of not only the story but of the gameplay as a whole. This allows players to have fun and take part in another great aspect of gameplay: the social depth of Final Fantasy XI Online. Finally, there are many people within the Final Fantasy XI Online world who are ready, willing, and able to help; whether buying and trading, healing, or just assisting on quests. There is simply no reason to be shy any more, Final Fantasy fans.