After spending some 25 hours on Final Fantasy XI, I have come to realize that it's the best massively multiplayer RPG game I've ever played. Ok, no, wait, it's actually the first MMORPG game I've ever played, so that was a moot point. Generally, MMORPGs do not interest me. They just seem too drawn out, even for me. I never really saw a fascination with the genre until I sat down with Final Fantasy XI. This is a game everyone at PSX Extreme has been keeping tabs on since it was first mentioned over 3 years ago. Our excitement only increased when FFXI was first playable in Japanese at 2002's E3 and then playable in English this past E3. Well, the release of FFXI is right upon us, as the PC version is a mere 2 months away, and the PS2 version is a mere 5 months away.
Vana’diel’s world is gigantic. There are three countries for you to choose from: Bastok, San D'oria, and Windhurst, and it'll take you roughly an hour to travel to each one by foot. Whichever country you choose as your home, your allegiance will be set from there on. Before starting the game you will select a character from five different races, including: humes (humans), elvaan (elves), galka (beast), mithra (they are the feline/cat-like looking race) and the tarutaru (the adorable little critters). Whichever race you choose it'll then be up to you to decide what job status you want to grant your character. The list of jobs is, but not limited to: dark mage, warrior, white mage, pink mage, thief and a monk. So, in some ways the game casts similarities with Final Fantasy VI's and Final Fantasy Tactics' job-system.
Much like every other RPG game known to man, you can purchase new weapons, upgrade your weapons, purchase new body armor, upgrade your body armor and etc. Also, in case you haven't noticed from the screenshots, your character's appearance changes as you give him new articles of clothing/body armor to wear.
The battle system is rather straightforward; you lock on to an enemy and choose to attack it. From there on, your character will automatically fight it (that is if you left your battle settings at default). If you have magic attacks or special weapon based attacks you wish to use, you can use those too - so, obviously, you aren't limited to the same physical attacks. Though, keep in mind, in order to use magic or thief likes abilities, your job class must permit you to use whatever abilities you desire. So, unlike previous Final Fantasies where all characters have the ability to do black magic, white magic, and so on and so forth, in FFXI you have to be part of a certain job class. But, displaying its flexibility, FFXI allows you to switch job classes at any time. So, let's say you're a level 12 warrior and you wish to become a black mage as well, you can do so by going to your Mog House and talking to the moogle there. The moogle will change your status and you will begin working your way up as with a new job. Then, after you reach a certain level with both jobs, you will be able to use both your warrior and black mage job classes simultaneously - or so I've been told. Also, after gaining 20 levels of experience, you will be allowed to purchase a Chocobo and explore the world of Vana'diel. Summons can also be found in FFXI, and I've already seen somebody cast Carbuncle right in front of my eyes - it was quite the pleasure to look at. Obtaining summons requires you to run some jobs once you reach a certain level point (I believe it's level 14). All in all, there's just tons and tons to do in Final Fantasy XI, much more than I can possibly write out with my poor and delicate fingers.
Final Fantasy XI's aesthetics are wonderful; and I'm not speaking about purely technical things such as textures, bump mapping and etc. The art direction in Final Fantasy XI is incredible, and arguably the best the series has seen. Vana'diel is set during a traditional medieval era, and that is something I've been hoping to see in a FF game for quite some time. Everything about the game looks sharp; be it textures on buildings, character detail, or special effects. Then again, there is nothing to be surprised over, seeing as how, after all, this is a SquareSoft game.
The most to the point thing I can say about Final Fantasy XI is that it is 'fun'. I was never an MMORPG player prior to my experience with FFXI, but I think I've just found myself a new genre to dive into. MMORPG fans, and more importantly die-hard FF fans (such as I) will find a whole lot to enjoy out of Final Fantasy XI. The PC version ships October 29th, and the PS2 version will ship early in 2004 with a PS2 hard-drive, as well. Until then, we hope you have your pre-orders set.
8/18/2003 Arnold Katayev