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Final Fantasy XI Review
publisher: Square Enix
developer: Square Enix
PIII 800, 128MB RAM, 32MB Video card, 600MB HD
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Oct 28, 03 (released)
|» All About Final Fantasy XI on ActionTrip|
Final Fantasy is a name that evokes wildly different responses from gamers. For the uninitiated, it brings the typical response of "How can it be a FINAL fantasy if there are eleven of them now?" For most of the others who have played the games, since the first one appeared way back on the NES, they represent one of the high points in role playing game history. The popularity of the Final Fantasy series can be attributed to the exciting stories, varied magic and combat systems and the wide, unique bestiary of foes that the player must wade through on his way to the end game. Of course the popular trend today is to take a well loved franchise and produce a version where all the regular characters have been changed into hip, extreme, in your face, crime fighting super heroes who ride skate and snowboards and battle robots, while drinking flavored coffees and sports drinks creating corporate tie ins that - no wait! I'm thinking of cartoons! In the video game universe, the popular trend is to take a successful franchise and turn it into a cash cow that is the massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG). Final Fantasy has joined the ranks of others like, Star Wars and WarCraft (coming soon) to make the transition from a stand-alone series of games to a MMORPG. Things like graphics, sound, interface design, and engaging gameplay are things that all games (should) have in common when being reviewed, but MMORPGs are a different breed of game, and so they must judged by all of those things mentioned before, as well as a set of criteria unique to the MMORPG environment. First, let's get a little background on the world of Final Fantasy XI (FFXI).
Over twenty years ago, the five free races of Vana'diel faced extinction by the hands of Beastmen, dark magic, and siege weapons who were directed by some unseen Dark Masters. Many lives were lost as great and wonderful cities were ground to ruin by the dark armies. Now a new generation has come of age, after the long, bitter battle when the forces of darkness were finally pushed back.
As you enter the world of Vana'diel, you get to choose from one of the five races: Elvan, Mithra, Hume, TaruTaru or Galka. Which race you choose will aid in the job and sub job you choose to pursue. While your race will add some benefit to the job and sub job you choose to pursue, there is no limitation to how you decide to mold your character. Sure, the TaruTaru are better inclined to be magic users because they have a higher mind stat and the Galka are better fighters due to higher strength and vitality, there are no limitations to prevent you from creating a TaruTaru samurai or a Galka red mage. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
- The Elvan are a tall and lithe race that have ears that jut out from the side of their heads like wing mirrors on a rally sports car. Their high mind, strength and agility lets the male or female Elvan excel at fighter or mage jobs.
- Mithra are a furry's dream come true. The entire race consists entirely of female cat people. (We ARE in a fantasy world here, so let's not quibble over details like procreation.) With their high agility and dexterity, Mithra make excellent thieves.
- The Hume are your standard middle of the road human. While they do not excel in any one job, they are a good balance of all stats and therefore do not have any major drawbacks or penalties either. Since I was unsure what job I wanted to pursue in FFXI, I chose a Hume as my first toon.
- TaruTaru are small and cute. This friendly race has been likened by some mean players to a cross between a Hobbit and an acorn squash. TaruTaru have high charisma, intelligence and agility making them excellent mages of all sorts.
- Galka are huge. I mean if you want a good mental picture of a Galka, take a wall and glue some shag carpet to it. While not as hairy as a Wookie, these guys can hold their own against any Italian for sheer back hair quotient (I'm Italian so relax, I can say that). Another thing that really sets them apart is the thick tail that each Galka comes with. This is the only other race that offers just one sex to choose from, in this case, male. (That's not the case with Italians! Mmm... Italian women - yum! -- Ed.) High strength, hit points and vitality make the Galka a shoe in for the role of a tank.
The race selection process itself is quite entertaining and resembles more of a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit video than the character creation process of a game. When you click on one of the race choices, the screen changes and you are greeted to an animated version of the race you just chose. The music changes to match each different race and sex. So when you select the Mithra, a seductive tune begins throbbing through your speakers as the cat woman rolls around on screen arching her back, moving through various feline like stretches or poses and basically showing off animations that make you smile and look over your shoulder at the same time to ensure the wife does not think you are visiting one of those web sites. Selecting the TaruTaru starts a charming, wistful ditty as the tiny cherubs dart playfully around the screen. The animations and musical scores do a great job of conveying what the essence of each race is all about.
After choosing your race, you then have to select your standard job. Your standard job determines which weapons you may wield, what armor you can equip, abilities you can use during combat and what two hour ability you are graced with. Two hour ability is a special move that can be preformed....wait for it, wait for it....once every two hours (that's real world time Cubby, so use it wisely). These two hour abilities are generally geared to the specific job you have chosen. So a thief can dodge all incoming attacks for thirty seconds when it uses its two hour ability. The standard jobs to choose from include: Monk, Warrior, White Mage, Black Mage, Red Mage and Thief. While the Thief and Warrior are familiar to MMORPG players, the other classes require some clarification.
A Monk is a warrior that shuns armor and weapons choosing rather to rely on speed and fury to rapidly bring a monster to its knees. Or tentacles, whatever the case may be. Monks are martial arts masters and make a nice addition to the MMORPG environment.
The White Mage is the combination of a healer and ability buffer that most have come to associate with clerics in other MMORPGs. The Red Mage is the Swiss Army knife of mages. They can cast offensive spells, can heal if needed and can wear heavier armor and wield a wider variety of melee weapons. Finally, the Black Mage is a magic user that focuses on destructive direct damage and enfeebling spells to take enemies out.
The jobs offered by FFXI seem a bit sparse in comparison to some other MMORPGs and the different classes they may offer. However this is already being rectified to a certain degree as US players receive an add-on with the main game right out of the box (called Rise of the Zilart) that adds two more secondary jobs to the list (more on secondary jobs in just a minute).
8.5 Very Good
Great graphics and animations, rich and polished MMORPG universe, plenty to do in game, stays true to the Final Fantasy franchise, Play Online, Rise of the Zilart expansion and Tetra Master included with purchase;
Currently no PvP, extra costs for additional characters, music gets repetitive, cannot hit monsters while moving.