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  • Final Fantasy XI Retrospective

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    After the success of Final Fantasy X, the series was about to take a completely different direction. So far, Final Fantasy was pretty much a single player game - if you don't count the few you can somehow split into a 2-player experience, of course. With advancement in technology and such an expansive world, it seemed to be the right direction for Square when they developed Final Fantasy XI into an MMORPG. What it became was a culmination of everything the developers had wanted for previous franchise entries but lacked the technology to do. Final Fantasy XI stepped away from the mold and became the first cross-platform MMORPG.

    Stepping Away From The Formula

    Before Final Fantasy XI, barring a few non-cannon entries, the franchise focused on a sprawling story where a single player controlled several party members throughout the game. With this new design, players could make their own hero by browsing the character creation, which had its limits. However, players could now take on the role of hero and decide how to develop that character throughout the game.

     

    Also, with online cross-platform capability, gamers could reach out across the world to connect with others and form their own party. With automatic language translation, it was quite possible to connect with just about anyone via PC, Xbox 360 or on the PlayStation network.

     

    Of course, with innovation comes a host of issues. This was a huge left turn for the series as the fans knew it. It required a paid subscription to play and there were plenty of problems in both game play and servers. However, those who really enjoyed the game do look on it as a labor of love, from beginning to the very last expansion pack.

    Final Fantasy XI Characters

     

    Final Fantasy XI Characters

    Does Our Story Ever Really Begin?

    Our story is set in the mythical land of Vana'diel, once a 'playground' for the gods and their children, all spawned from the mystical Crystal. After the Gods' children became headstrong and wished to become gods themselves, they were destroyed. After seeing this, the Goddess Altana wept - giving life to the main races of the world. The God of Twilight, Promathia, called Altana's actions weak, and poisoned the race with dark attributes. Promathia also created the race of beastmen, which serve as the main antagonists of the game, - and so the spiral of war plagued Vana'diel for all eternity!

     

    Sounds fun, right?

     

    After creating a character, based off of one of these races, the story begins in one of three main countries: San d'Oria, Bastock, or Windurst. These countries are banding together to defeat the evil Shadow Lord.

     

    And that's the long and short of it.

     

    Characters

    Plot Overview

    The plot of Final Fantasy XI is very basic. Like many other stories in the series, it starts off with one main antagonist and then escalates into something far more crazy. Like most MMORPGs, the story takes a back seat to game play. It establishes the setting, the central focus for the game, and lets players run wild from there.

     

    The game contains several 'quest' and story objectives, and background is really dependant on character development. Through character creation, avatars are given strengths and weaknesses and placed in a particular starting area. Players essentially have to work their way up the ladder of their nation in order to go through the game.

     

    Additional story can be added via expansion packs, but these essentially provide more missions and end game content. Overall, the story is pretty vanilla.

     

     

    Fight

    Game Play: The Very Basics

    FFXI is your typical MMORPG in a number of ways, but there are many things the set it apart from other games in the genre. Players create and control one character throughout the game, focusing on leveling up stats and completing quests. This can be done by exploring the world, speaking with NPCs, visiting towns and dungeons, and fighting battles. Of course, this isn't meant to be a solo venture. It's a better experience when players team up and tackle missions together, but there is something to be said about solo exploration.

     

    While there is a lot to this game, much of the enjoyment is found in actual game play; I'm merely providing these simple explanations - so let's tackle them piece by piece.

    Character Creation

    While other Final Fantasy titles have the characters pre-created, this game allows players to create, within limits, their own.  Players could choose from five different races: Humes, Tarutaru, Elvaan, Galka, and Mithra. They could also choose the gender (for most races) and alter the appearance of the character, but not by too much.

     

    From there, players choose a class and an allegiance. The 'class' or jobs were modeled after Final Fantasy III. Six come standard, others are gathered by completing quests or through expansion packs. The jobs work like they have in previous games. Jobs provide your character with abilities and stat growth.

     

    Allegiances are more or less the areas where your character can flourish, gain bonuses, and ultimately grow your character. As you climb your social ladder, the bonuses get better - but if you change your 'class,' the process starts all over again. This is part of the fun in creating your characters - it's important to choose wisely.

     

    Choosing a race dictates the bonuses, allegiances and the class type gamers could settle into. While any particular race could be any class, there are better combinations available. For instance, the Tarutaru excels in magic classes, but they make terrible warriors. Regardless of what players choose, everyone has the same basic background - which leads to some of the issues. The character scope is incredibly limited as far as customization is concerned. There isn't much to choose from and it can all seem pretty bland. But once players decide on a character - it's game on.

     

    Character Creation

    Character Development

    While your character race usually stays the same, players could mix up their classes and allegiances.  While class changes are easier to switch, swapping your allegiance could be pricey and requires in-game currency. But before doing any of that, it's important to explore each city and really take it for all it's got!

     

    Players can also take advantage of auction houses, transportation, item storage and other exciting things in the cities of Vana'diel. Depending on your character's allegiance, a player can explore different parts of Vana'diel and really benefit from climbing societal ranks. By mixing things up, players could discover specialty armor, stat boosts, better weapons and rare items available to certain allegiances.  In order to get stronger, however, players have to level.

     

    Characters level by class, rather than leveling the character itself. A player's rank can grow by completing quests, but certain quests can only be reached by being a particular level. And that leads to the endless grinding. So, joining a guild or group is a very good idea. It's better not to grind alone - misery loves company.

    Healers, Mages and Tanks: Oh my!

    There is quite a bit of fighting in Final Fantasy XI, but it's very slow. Battles take some time, and unlike other franchise entries up to this point, players can actually run around in real-time. There is no 'separate' battle screen, but instead, monsters will just up an attack would-be adventurers. At the start of encounter, enemies can be 'claimed' by a player or a party, and no other player or party can join.

     

    Of course, if things don't go quite as planned, it is possible to die in battle. This results in losing a level or experience, and puts you back at the drawing board. Sometimes it's better to find a group.

     

    During battle, a player can go solo or have a party of up to six members. A varied group is a good idea: filled with magic users, support characters, a healer, a tank, and damage dealers.  Players can choose different abilities according to their class. The idea is to build up a party with 'skill chains' to constantly beat on the enemy with mages backing everyone up. Also, making use of 'Magic Bursts' or the game's limit break can really move battles along.

     

    Battle

    Lack of Murdering and Killing Time

    Two of the main complaints with Final Fantasy XI revolve around the battle concept itself. The first main issue is a lack of Player VS Player. While there is a way to do it, it's only allowed in particular events and seasons. This is an MMORPG staple nowadays, and it was an area the game didn't excel.

     

    The second issue? Grinding. Endless hours of grinding. While many mention this as a 'labor of love,'  it took hours to do. While the game itself could be fun, it also sucked up a lot of time doing unnecessary things. At the time of its release it wasn't so bad, but as the years went on...it lost its luster.

     

     

    Final Fantasy XI Character

    Final Fantasy XI: Final Thoughts

    It's hard to really consider Final Fantasy XI as part of the main series, but this is a franchise that defines itself by changing the formula. Borrowing from elements of the past, and crossing the console boundaries, this game established itself as worthy of the legacy. Though it lacked a decent story and it was an unforgiving grindfest, there is something to love about this MMORPG - otherwise it wouldn't have been the most profitable game of the series.

     

    There are so many things to explore: crafting, mini-games, different job classes, end-game content, and it's doesn't just end when you defeat the big boss. The game goes on. While it can feel like a job at times, it really does have some fun to it. But...good luck playing it on PS2 or XBOX 360 because those servers shut down in 2016. But this would not be the last MMORPG Square Enix attempted...no...there was a much darker, more sinister game planned...

     

    But before that, there were a couple other franchise entries to enjoy!

     

    So, what do you all think? Still playing Final Fantasy XI for PC? Or are you glad that chapter of your life is done? Let us know in the comments below!

     

    Final Fantasy XI Logo



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