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Platform: Windows 98/2K/Me/XP
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Soft
Genre: MMORPG
Format: CD-ROM
Released: US 10/28/03



Scorecard
Graphics: 92%
Sound: 90%
Gameplay: 95%
Control: 85%
Story: 88%
Overall: 92%
Reviews Grading Scale
 
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Delkfutt's Tower in Qufim.
 
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The Black Dragon gets spanked.
 
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Welcome to Ru'Lude Gardens.
 
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A Dark Knight and companion.
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Stephen Harris
Final Fantasy XI & Rise of the Zilart
11/19/03
Stephen Harris

Some say that legends are the stuff of long lost youth; tucked away in the forgotten attic of childhood memories or the dusty corner of a grandfather’s shelf, we can all remember the magic. I remember the flights of fantasy from my boyhood years; of the tall tales and fables that illuminated imagination. The sense of wonder of being taken from this world to the next was such a blessed part of growing up that remembering those magical moments, in a world of deadlines and responsibilities, has always evoked a sense of longing. But as the legends of our childhood grow old, we find comfort in new escapes as new legends are born. As children, many of us had Narnia, others Fantasia; some still remember Oz. But, in these latter days, we’ve found escape into innumerable worlds across countless forms of media - some transient, many persistent, and all pervasive.

The worlds of Final Fantasy have held much of that same magic, having captivated the imaginations of teens and young adults for over a decade. They have inspired young writers, artists and musicians in as many ways as the storybook worlds of old. This winter, Square Enix has taken their legacy and their legend into a new realm, that of a persistent and pervasive online world - the world of Vana’diel. Final Fantasy XI marks a momentous change of direction for a series lauded for remarkable storytelling, cutting-edge aesthetics and inspiring music. Many fans were horrified, many were ecstatic, and many more were skeptical. How could a Final Fantasy become an online world? How could the tenets of this series remain intact in a genre known for shallow gameplay and absent storytelling? How could they? Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, for in reality, Final Fantasy XI has managed to tread where its contemporaries still continue to falter, yet Vana’diel is still an infant compared to the fully formed cultures of Norrath and Rubi-Ka.

Decisions and Diversity

The world of Vana’diel is populated by many different peoples from four distinct races. The oldest of which are the Elvaan; tall and majestic, this proud race of elves hail from the kingdom of San D’Oria. Renowned for their strength, the Elvaan are some of the finest warriors in the history of the land. Next are the Galka, a hulking race of man-beasts that originally hailed from Sevwell Island, but were driven to the mainland by the giant insectoid Anticans. As strong as they are massive, the Galka are known for their immeasurable vitality, but aren’t the most agile of creatures. The Galka were central to the development of the nation of Bastok, a relatively young nation driven by the humans or Hume. With their adaptability to just about every task, the Humes brought industry and commerce to the far flung reaches of Vana’diel, funded by the ore mined by the incredibly hearty Galka. Last but not least are the diminutive Tarutaru and their protectors, the feline Mithra. Though they may be little, the adorable Tarutaru ("Taru" for short) hold almost limitless magical potential. Their home is the Federation of Windurst, the center of magical learning in all of Vana’diel. The Mithra, however, are more inclined to less studious disciplines. As the most agile of the four races, the Mithra originally hail from Elshimo Island, though the majority of them now call Windurst their home. These graceful felines are cunning as they are playfully curious - and are fierce defenders of the fragile Tarutaru.

Upon entering the world of Vana’diel, players must decide what race they wish to be, as well as their starting job. Fans familiar with the Final Fantasy games will instantly recognize the opening selection of professions: Warrior (WAR), Monk (MNK), Thief (THF), White Mage (WHM), Black Mage (BLM) and Red Mage (RDM). Those who manage to reach level 18 will be able to set a secondary Support Job (SJ), and at level 30 will have access to the advanced jobs of Paladin (PLD), Dark Knight (DRK), Ranger (RNG), Beast Master (BST), Bard (BRD) and Summoner (SUM). The Rise of the Zilart expansion included with the retail version of FFXI also includes the advanced jobs of Samurai (SAM), Ninja (NIN) and Dragoon (DRG). With a total of 15 job classes and the ability to set an additional job as a support job, the amount of variations available for players is far more numerous than most MMORPGs could ever hope to match.

Once a character has been created it’s off to one of over two dozen incarnations of Vana’diel; namely the Final Fantasy XI servers. Curiously, Square Enix has decided that no North American servers were necessary. Thus, all English-speaking players will begin their voyage across Vana’diel alongside experienced Japanese players on the already existing Japanese servers. While the language gap is daunting, they have included an auto-translation feature similar to the one used in Phantasy Star Online which helps, though still needs many common phrases added to its database. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many pleasant Japanese players in my time with Final Fantasy XI; and while I had my initial doubts, I’m quite happy that they decided to unify the player base. I found that there were numerous advantages for North American gamers to enter an already thriving virtual world. As the in-game economy is already established, players won’t endure the headache of erratic prices and many tradeskill-only equipment is already available for use. There is also the fact that the Japanese players are quite adept at teaching new players how to make the most of their jobs. Much of my adventure was facilitated by numerous Japanese players who were kind enough to lend a hand when one was needed. At the very least, players will get a good example of proper in-game etiquette and practice their Nihon-go at the same time.

A Tale for the Ages

The tale of Final Fantasy XI is a very personal story, tailored to every individual who chooses to embark on their voyage through Vana’diel. What is important to note is the atmosphere. The setting of this world is one of impending discord. Years have passed since the Great Crystal War, where the evil Shadow Lord gathered the Beastmen hordes in an attempt to cover the world in darkness. Only though the alliance between the Republic of Bastok, the Kingdom of San D’Oria, the Federation of Windurst and the Grand Duchy of Jeuno were these forces turned back and the Shadow Lord vanquished. Since then, the world of Vana’diel has gone on in relative peace, but like all legends of old, evil is not so easily banished – and comes in many, many faces.

The crowning jewel of Final Fantasy XI is what sets it apart from every other MMORPG to date, the true presence and integration of storyline. The entire game is centered on a singular scripted plot, enhanced by numerous side-quests, NPC interaction and pre-generated story-events. Though thankfully, progression and execution is entirely based on the player. Also commendable is the fact that many of the optional NPC quests and storyline missions are complementary. Players will get to meet recurring central characters in the struggle for Vana’diel’s future as well as those who seek to destroy the current world order. The sheer amount of dialogue available from the average town NPC only makes the game feel that much more like a console Final Fantasy than a run-of-the mill MMORPG. The cinematography and dialogue experienced in the storyline cut-scenes are vintage good vs. evil, which is a very good thing.

The two vehicles used to advance the plot, as well as add substance to the world, are via the Mission and Quest systems. New adventurers will experience the lore of Vana’diel, as well as carve out their legacy through missions they will accept on behalf of their nation. The central storyline is told through these progressive adventures, highlighted by story cut-scenes and droves of rich dialogue. Through these events, players will actively participate in the fight against the impending tide of darkness, ultimately confronting the Shadow Lord himself. The Rise of the Zilart expansion pack is a continuation of the story, taking the players deeper into the more exotic locations of Vana’diel as they learn more about their world’s forgotten past and rise to face an even greater evil on a "higher" plane. Players will meet and interact with the great heroes of each nation as each story unfolds, building their own legend as their journey progresses.

The Quest system, while not as grandiose as missions, is equally enthralling. Throughout the four great cities of Vana’diel, as well as the smaller settlements, there are people in need of an adventurer’s services. These NPC-issued quests come in all shapes and sizes - some as simple as carrying ointment to someone’s spouse, or as complex as negotiating trade agreements between guilds in different countries. RPG fans that grew up with console RPGs will feel right at home with the quest system, as it has been a genre staple for ages - but relatively absent in the MMORPG genre. The simple fact that each town and village is populated by characters that can communicate with players and, on occasion, interact with each other lends a sense of life to an otherwise lifeless genre. In a niche where players have little more to experience outside of scenery, looting and the level-treadmill, Final Fantasy XI is revolutionary.

A Multitude of Mechanics

While storyline and side-quests are the hallmarks of a capable RPG, in the world of MMORPGs, players need concrete motivation to break them from the endlessly mundane and boring cycle of leveling. Thankfully, Square Enix has given more than ample compensation for being an in-game patriot and all-around do-gooder. The Mission system rewards players with rank in their countries, allowing them to access higher level Conquest Point equipment (more on that later) and numerous other perks. The airship pass, for example, which allows the player to hop onboard the series’ legendary craft for quick travel between the nations, can be purchased for an astronomical amount of gil, or as a reward upon achieving Rank 5.

While rank is integral to missions, fame is central to the quest system. In Final Fantasy XI, fame is an invisible statistic that increases with each successfully completed NPC quest. Not only does this give players access to higher level quests for even greater monetary and item gain, but also grants players a significant discount at local merchants. Since there are four nations in Vana’diel, players will have to build their fame in each great city if they hope to reap the rewards of their notoriety. Only when a player has performed a significant amount of good deeds for the citizens of Vana’diel will they be deemed worthy enough to embark on the most rewarding quests; such as the pursuit of Artifact Armor.

The world of Vana’diel, while young, has been blessed with tangible life thanks to the thoughtful integration of a developing storyline, central characters, and a wide variety of talkative NPCs. The Mission and Quest systems are incredibly well designed and thoughtfully planned, providing much more enjoyable distractions than endless monster thwacking.

While the Mission and Quest systems are central aspects of Final Fantasy XI’s storytelling, I would be remiss to highlight some of the titles other gameplay caveats, namely Synthesis, Auction House and Conquest system.

Crafting has always one of the unsung backbones of an MMORPG. The ability for players to fashion items for themselves or others have always been one of the most central aspects of a community-based game. Since the very earliest MMORPGs, artisans were the driving forces of in-game economies, setting prices for goods and services; determining the worth of any and every object to pass hands. Square Enix has not forgotten these craftsmen, having masterfully implemented their arts into FFXI, though in an extremely unconventional way. Previously, other games had relied on craftsmen classes, which were more centered on crafting than on much of anything else. In Vana’diel, from the burliest Galka to the cutest Tarutaru, everyone has the potential to be a master trade-skiller.

The ability to create items in FFXI is called "Synthesis." This process requires raw materials, a corresponding elemental crystal, and some skill in that particular trade or trades. Players will gain skill in one of several crafts by continually trying to synthesize items; though, the skill will increase randomly per synthesis, regardless of whether the attempt is successful or fails. Important to note is that a player must join the appropriate trade guild before any real progress in a skill can be made. This is due to the fact that certain synthesis recipes require a minimal trade rank to attempt. Crafting rank can only be raised by first reaching the current rank’s skill cap and taking a crafting test at the guild’s headquarters. Once the rank test is passed, the skill cap is raised for the new rank.

Joining a crafting guild is free, and only requires the player to visit the guild and agree to join by talking to the appropriate NPC. The guild itself is a useful resource, as raw materials (with the exception of crystals) can usually be found for sale from the guild’s store. The guild members will also offer basic synthesis recipes as well as a temporary boost to crafting ability for a small fee. Players may join any and every craft guild in Vana’diel, but it takes diligence and a lot of patience to become a true master. Many of the incredible items that can be made through tradeskills will require proficiency in more than one art, so dedication is a must. In a genre where players define the in-game economy, having an open-ended system such as this is wonderfully refreshing. Players of any race or job can choose the route of the craftsman, negating the incredibly greedy niche crafter-classes that plagued the economy of countless MMORPGs. Since synthesis is more of an option rather than a way of life for most players, the economy is more much more robust with almost everyone participating at one point or another. This lends to a more competitive array of item pricing as good craftsmen can be found at all skill levels.

The Auction House (AH) is where players come to sell their items to other players for fun and profit. When a player visits the AH they have the choice of buying or selling. When they chose to buy, they are given a categorical breakdown of all the items in the game. Players can clearly see how many of a particular item is for sale and how much the item has sold for over the last 10 transactions. They can then choose to bid on the item until they either match the seller’s buy-out price or reach their spending limit. The past transaction records are incredibly useful for those who choose to sell, so they can immediately have an idea of what the going price for a particular item is and set their buy-out prices accordingly. Buyers can also estimate what their opening bids should be thanks to this utility. Ebay eat your heart out! What’s even more interesting is that item prices can vary greatly from location to location, giving the astute traveling merchant a chance to rake in the gil. When an item is placed on auction, it is held in the AH for several Vana’diel weeks (roughly three real world days) until it is sold. If the object is purchased, the funds are sent to the seller’s delivery box in their in-game residence: their Mog House. If the item remains on the rack for the duration, it is returned to the seller in the same fashion. Placing items up for auction is incredibly simple, though a small fee is charged for using this service. Those who choose to put items up for sale in Jeuno, however, will have to pay a much larger fee for taxes.

Hail the Conquering Hero

The Conquest system is another gameplay endeavor that adds a level of depth to the experience that is much appreciated. While the nations of Windurst, Bastok and San D’Oria are allies against the Beastmen horde, they each long for territorial expansion. They accomplish this through the exploits of its citizens: the players. As each player chooses a national allegiance when they create a character, they have the ability to profoundly affect their nation’s standing in Conquest. Outside of each great city are regions that are under constant barrage from the Beastmen and the prying claws of the other nations. By speaking with any gate guard in their nation’s capitol, players will be endowed with the spell called "Signet."

Signet designates the player as participating in the Conquest struggle. As the player defeats strong monsters in an area with Signet active, they will add to their nation’s score for that region. If a player dies to a monster with Signet running, the Beastmen will gain points in that region. Periodically these scores are tallied and compared, with a victor being declared. When a region is under your nation’s control, several benefits are gained. Players will be able to set respawn points at the entrance to each conquered area (called Home Points); they will have the benefit of having a guard in the region that will renew their Signet, as well as enjoying a decreased monster population in the region.

Signet, however, isn’t just limited to acquiring region points for your nation. Crystals, the catalysts for synthesis, can only be obtained from defeating monsters in areas that are under control of any nation while Signet is active. Players will also receive conquest points from vanquishing enemies while the spell is still valid. Conquest points are spent at Signet guards to purchase incredible armor and weapons that aren’t available in stores or via synthesis. The higher the player’s rank, the better the conquest items which are available. The amount of conquest points received is determined as a percentage of how much experience points are gained from defeating an enemy. The catch is that while players receive a higher percentage of conquest points in areas controlled by Beastmen, they are unable to gather crystals. Also of note is that crystals cannot be obtained from creatures that are too weak to give xp, regardless of region or Signet activation.

When each Conquest cycle is tallied, an overall nation is announced as the leader of Vana’diel. The nation that achieves first place in Conquest during that cycle will find that they have more items available for sale in stores, noticeable discounts, as well as merchants selling goods from their conquered regions. Also, the best conquest items are only available when your country is in the top spot.

Of Swords and Sorcery

Combat in Final Fantasy XI is performed in tried-and-true Active-Time Battle (ATB). Namely, this is real-time combat based on turn-based controls influenced by player and enemy statistics. When a player or party engages an enemy in melee, they are locked onto their prey ala The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. They are free to move around the enemy within a certain radius while their strikes are automatically delivered based on their statistics. If a player wants to target another enemy in the crowd, they may do so via the menu interface, but will have to wait until their next estimated attack turn. While this keeps combat fast-paced and visually impressive, sometimes the camera angle is limiting, making the player easy prey for an enemy who happens to wander within striking distance. This is made even more aggravating in that choosing to run from a target involves actual disengagement from the lock-on mode, which can take precious seconds. Players can choose to turn off the lock-on feature, but will have to endure absolutely haphazard camera tracking.

The array of combat options available to each job class varies, but all of them enjoy a respectable amount of variety and role responsibility in team play. I genuinely enjoyed how well FFXI incorporates teamwork into being effective in combat. This is done via Skill Chains (renkei) and Magic Bursts. Weapon skills are special techniques that can be executed when a player’s technique bar reaches 100%-300%. These are akin to Limit Breaks of the console Final Fantasy’s, and just as effective. While players can execute these specials on their own, their real potential is unlocked when two or more complementary weapon skills are executed in a pre-determined order. This results in a Skill Chain which does additional elemental-type damage to an enemy. A Magic Burst is when a spell caster throws in the corresponding elemental magic the instant the Skill Chain effect is activated. This can result in a massive multiplication of the original skill chain damage. This methodical combat combo system is frighteningly effective if executed correctly and requires a good amount of coordination from all contributors beforehand. There’s nothing quite as exhilarating as executing a perfectly conducted Skill Chain and consecutive Magic Bursts that allows you to drop an opponent in seconds who would have decimated your entire team within moments.

A Tapestry of Colors

The Final Fantasy games have always been known for their artistic prowess, whether through remarkable visual design or cutting-edge CG, the series is synonymous with eye-candy. So how well does this hallmark stand up in genre plagued with functional blandness? Quite remarkable actually. While older MMORPGs have chosen to rely on simplistic character models, uninspiring locations and insipid recycling of artwork to keep gameplay smooth on aged PCs, Final Fantasy XI easily stands up and occasionally surpasses the newer breed of more video-card intensive persistent worlds. The game, without a doubt, has the most stable graphics engine to ever grace a PC screen.

Character creation variety is a cornerstone of any successful MMORPG, as it’s the primary method of establishing your in-game individuality. Sadly, the character creation options in Final Fantasy XI pales in comparison to the depth of customization as Star Wars Galaxies or EverQuest. Thankfully, the character modeling and animation easily puts these contemporaries to shame. From combat maneuvers to social emotes, the attention to detail is stunning. Each player character and monster mob is so remarkably well built and animated; you’d swear they were pre-rendered. The fact that all armor and equipment are actually modeled onto your character, instead of just different texture maps, is well-received and lends a great deal to the aesthetic appeal. Though, the game suffers from a severe lack of variety in armor and clothing until characters are mid-level, where equipment variety explodes in tandem with the introduction of the advanced classes. Role-players might also be disheartened to know that there’s no trace of "social" or "fashion" armor for more cultured activity.

The world of Vana’diel itself is as diverse as it is large, though doesn’t offer the sheer acreage of established MMORPGs such as EverQuest or Anarchy Online. In this case though, less can actually be more. From the gleaming beach sands of Valkrum to the overflowing tropical flora of the Yuhtunga, you just can’t help but admire the love Square Enix’s artists have put into Vana’diel. Each area has its own unique characteristic theme, flora and weather. From deserts to swamps, players won’t find much repetition from playfield to playfield, even though some of them aren’t gargantuan. The cities of Bastok, Windurst, San D’Oria and Jeuno are architectural marvels that are designed to resemble functioning cities with designated districts rather than the haphazard explosion of lifeless buildings you find in many other MMORPGs.

The bestiary is a tribute to the lore of Final Fantasy. From malboros to chocobo’s, the fans will encounter just about every notable creature from the series at one point or another, in addition to enemies never before encountered in a Final Fantasy title. Sadly, this variety isn’t as bountiful as it should be. While there are numerous unique Notorious Monsters in the game like the legendary King Behemoth, the garden variety Beastmen and wildlife don’t have much diversity. From the very opening hours of the game until well into the mid-levels, players will find very little outside of stronger versions of the same dozen creatures they’ve come to despise over the course of their in-game career. We don’t even have the comfort of palette swapped enemies to designate them from their weaker brethren. While the menagerie of foes does grow as you venture out into some of the more exotic locations, I found the overuse of several monster models across the first half of the level spectrum a bit tiresome.

As visually remarkable as Final Fantasy XI is, there are still issues that keep the game from being a seminal experience. Firstly, the color palette seems washed out for a series known for its vibrancy. I’m not sure if this is a result of being a PC port from the PlayStation 2 version, but many of the colors seem so muted in some areas almost to the point of being monochromatic. The overall effect is that of taking a console Final Fantasy and turning the color setting on your television to down to about 3/4 of normal. This isn’t a fatal flaw, but compared to the more colorful MMORPGs like Asheron’s Call 2 and Shadowlands, it’s a curious problem. Another bothersome aspect is that the game seems to completely ignore the anti-aliasing (AA) and anisotropic filtering (AF) capabilities of the more capable video cards on the market. While the game offers mip-mapping and bump-mapping, there’s no reason why AA and AF shouldn’t have a significant effect on the game’s visuals given that the game runs in DirectX. At this point, even with maximum AA and AF settings, jaggies and texture pixelization are still very noticeable. Had higher resolution option been available from the outset, this would have rectified much of the problem. As it stands, players must tweak the game’s settings in the Windows registry to bypass the configuration menu’s limited choices. There’s also the fact that the game doesn’t offer a windowed mode and suffers from complete meltdown if the windows key is hit on accident. Hopefully many of there issues will be addressed in subsequent patching.

Another noticeable graphics pitfall is the presence of polygon pop-up in the horizon. For example, in the Gustaberg Region, players can see entire mountain ranges materialize out of nowhere, while in Valkrum Dunes, palm trees magically appear as you get close to them. I’m almost certain this is a result of the original graphics engine designed for the limited video memory of the PS2, but for PCs with more than enough memory and video processing power to handle seamless worlds, its irritating. I would have liked to have seen Square Enix take a fade-in approach to distance objects instead of polygon pop-up, but as it stands, it’s unsightly.

Another visual faux pas is in how FFXI draws-in its character models. Namely, players and NPCs are rendered after the background has rendered, sometimes with a significant pause. This also extends into crowded regions, where the game decides to display only those players within a certain radius, extending as you move through the crowd. The problem arises that when you move out of your original position, the players and NPCs around you fade out to make way for others in your path. If you wait around in the same position long enough, your radius will extend to display all character models around you. Though, should you move, the game snatches up those errant visuals to re-render them based on this positional hierarchy. While this doesn’t happen very often, it happens with alarming frequency in the busiest area of the game: the auction houses in Jeuno. I have spent countless minutes searching for a teammate who was evidently standing inches away from me, only to be invisible because the game chose to render the other 12 other players in the vicinity. I can understand that this might have been done to alleviate lag due to overuse of system resources, but its painfully irritating to really *be * lost in the crowd.

Despite several graphical and chromatic pitfalls, Final Fantasy XI remains one of the most visually appealing MMORPGs on the market with fantastic character design, animation and world variety. The addition of several new areas, jobs, enemies and effects with the integrated expansion only enrich an already gorgeous experience - provided your video card has the muscle to handle it.

The Melody of Life

The name Nobuo Uematsu has been synonymous with Final Fantasy practically from its inception, even though he’s done a great deal of collaboration on these titles in recent years. Final Fantasy XI is no exception. As the creative offspring of Uematsu in addition to Naoshi Mizuta (Parasite Eve 2) and Kumi Tanioka (Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles), the score is exceptionally robust, though Uematsu’s contribution was minimal. The vast majority of the soundtrack was written by Mizuta and Tanioka, but still maintains the majesty of the series. Uematsu’s major contribution was in the opening anthem, taking the classic Crystal theme from Final Fantasy’s past, enriching the simple melody with an orchestral cacophony and an accompanying chorus. The assortment for each town is ideally suited to each locale. The Grand Duchy of Jeuno sports a pretentious little harpsichord melody that perfectly suits the old-world richness of this wealthy city. In contrast, the simple port town of Selbina enjoys a lighthearted accordion tune. The combat music is enjoyable, but after enough repetition it gets tiresome. Thankfully there are variations to the battle theme if you’re indoors or in a boss encounter. The expansion pack areas also enjoy new music as well as revamped combat music, so there’s a refreshing change of pace when players reach these new locations.

If there’s one small complaint I have with the acoustic accoutrements of Final Fantasy XI is the lack of voice-over for some of the story-intensive missions. The summoning of the Crystal Warriors and the confrontation with the Shadow Lord, among other memorable events, would have had that much more of an impact had they been voiced. As it stands, the game has a few voices during combat, but nothing outside of the usual grunts and groans. Also, there seems to be a small bug with the music cutting out in areas after certain spell effects or weapon skills that’s a touch annoying, but nothing that can’t be fixed with patching.

Overall, the audio in FFXI is not only aesthetically pleasing, by paying genuine homage to its lineage, but also incredibly substantial given the sheer scope and breadth of Vana’diel. Fans of the series will find the score to be occasionally jovial, sometimes dramatic, periodically intense, and thoroughly Final Fantasy. The game also enjoys surround sound for those PC gamers who have capable sound cards and meaty speakers. While this installment might not have been entirely Uematsu’s ship, he had some incredibly capable first mates that made this particular voyage a memorable one.

A Legend Indeed

What can be said of Square Enix’s endeavor into the bustling world of MMORPGs? Final Fantasy XI is an experience that draws from the creative lineage of titles past and emerges as a legend in its own right. As the first MMORPG to truly bring storytelling to the genre, I can’t praise the developers enough for their efforts. Combined with masterful visual and acoustic appeal, there’s so much to appreciate about the world of Vana’diel that I’m at a loss for words. The hefty amount of activities players can indulge in is a refreshing change of pace in light of its contemporaries. Also, the simple and logical outlay of each mechanic makes the experience that much more accessible to gamers new to the genre. The remarkable integration of team mechanics in combat, coupled with the diversity offered by the support and advanced job systems, make for a hearty dose of gameplay. After years of stumbling along as the bastard child of the role-playing genre, MMORPGs have finally found their beacon and high water mark. While the game is not a perfect experience, there are so many positive attributes about the adventure that most issues are negligible.

Despite my praises, I am certain there are those who will chose to disagree, and as an MMORPG, there are some facets that will never change. It is important to realize that, while the game honestly lives up to its heritage, the experience may not be enjoyable for everyone. The world of Vana’diel is vast, challenging, and can require a significant investment of time. There’s also the tremendous emphasis on teamwork which is necessary to fully experience the game. There are some gamers that might feel uncomfortable relying on others, and even more who might not have the time to dig their heels in for the long run. Though, for those who enjoy these social and explorative aspects - Final Fantasy XI will keep you happy for a very, very long time. For the die-hard MMORPG fans who might find the game overly simplistic, I simply say that the experience is a remarkably enjoyable change of pace.

Final Fantasy XI performs above and beyond the call of duty as an MMORPG and as heir to a prestigious lineage of role-playing games. The only real shame is that PS2 owners will have to wait for several more months before they too can live the legend.





Special thanks to Sasage, Geese, Yoshimildo, Junkersh and Rycky for the best Qufim hunting team I've ever had the pleasure of joining. Thanks for your patience with a gaijin like me. A very special thanks to Hachima for being a great translator and fellow RDM, Waterlily and her entire Linkshell, without whom I would have never managed to see the gates of Jeuno in one peice. A huge thanks to all of my fellow LS mates in ZOHAR for putting up with my insanity. Also, to Endymant - you've been the most patient and loyal friend I've had in my time in Vana'diel, even if you are a THF. Finally, much love to each and every player i've had the pleasure of teaming with, or chatting to, on the Leviathan server - it's been real!



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©2001-2003 SQUARE ENIX CO., LTD. All Rights Reserved.
Title Design by Yoshitaka Amano.
FINAL FANTASY and Vana'diel are registered trademarks of Square Enix Co., Ltd.



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