Final Fantasy XI User Review
Unfortunately, I need to begin on a low-note. Graphically, this game was a huge let down to PS2 users. The PC and Xbox360 version of this game were noticeably better. I had the luxury of playing this game on both the PS2/3 and PC, and the difference was clear. In comparison, images were grainy, text was less legible, and special effects would sometimes run together. This was all especially disappointing when you consider that it is graphically fairly low quality for a PS2 title despite the fact that MMO's typically cannot produce top notch graphical detail due to bandwidth issues.
On the flip side, the overall gameplay can be pretty fun. There are 20 different job classes, 5 different races, and 3 countries of origin to select from. You, obviously, cannot change your race at any point throughout the game, but you can at any time change your job class from your mog house - your own personal living space and storage facility - or change your allegiance.
You start off with a choice of 6 different jobs, but after reaching level 30, there are 14 more you may reach through quests.
There are quests galore, as you can expect, and all give you varying degrees of awards from job types, gil (the Final Fantasy monetary unit), items, or for mere storytelling factor. Each expansion pack has it's own storyline, all of which are interesting and fun to follow.
Exploration is a major plus. In what is probably the largest world in Final Fantasy history, there are always new dungeons and places to visit. The game consistently has events such as "Besieged" which host a large scale battle between hundreds of players and enemies.
Improvements to the game since it's release are ten-fold. There are virtually zero glitches now. Leveling up is not nearly as big a chore as it once was. Not only do low level enemies give you more exp (which is given based on your level versus theirs), but there are better items to give experience, there's the now just over a year old adventure manuals that can give training regimens for bonus gil and exp, and the use of training points from said regimens that can be used to claim status buffs for any job. This advancement makes soloing much easier, although it is still difficult to get very far without a party.
Which brings me to my next point about parties. It is still an issue, in my opinion, about the extreme necessity of playing with other people to get anything done. If you manage to find yourself in a high quality linkshell -FFXI's version of a guild- you might find that putting together a party for events, quests, or power-leveling is quite easy. However, if you prefer to play more on your own and don't like to organize groups, it can be a chore to put a party together.
SE has countered this to some extent by incorporating a 'level-sync' system within the last two years. Before, you used to be forced to find a party of people near your level. However, now you can sync everyone's level to a specific party member. So, theoretically, you could have a party full of 5 level 70's and 1 level 15 character all fighting together at level 15. The benefit of this, of course, is that everyone achieves experience as if they were at level 15. Since this game gains exp by the difference between ones level and their enemies, the level 70 characters are still earning the same exp totals as if they were fighting high level enemies at their own natural level. The backlash comes from the inability to further a weapon or magic skill level beyond what a level 15 player could achieve. So it is not beneficial to do this all the time.
Basically, most complaints about this game were centered around the difficulty of leveling up (deleveling has been limited too) and the necessity of fighting in parties. While these are both still issues, they are so incredibly improved upon since the original release that the game will seem like a completely different experience. When I first started, it took me 2 months to hit level 25. Now it would probably take 2 or 3 days. So yes, it has been improved drastically. There have been many other additions including additional skills for job classes, but there are too many to list in a single review.
Sound is a bit echoey, if that's a word. Sound quality isn't as good as my PC version, but it's still decent. I still feel warm to the music in different areas, but I have grown tired of the same battle sound effects. I would like to see more customization in terms of your characters voice.
Control is very difficult to grasp at the start. When you first begin, you will find yourself fumbling over the controls to get a grasp of the game. Once you become comfortable, however, there is enough customization to allow you to become extremely efficient in battle. So while it's a curse to learn, it's a true blessing when you learn how much this game allows you to have an immense amount of control. Unfortunately, it is difficult enough to deter people early on.
Although there is no voice chat (a huge detriment, to be sure), you can hook up any usb keyboard to your PS3 and some PS2's to use for control and for chat. Still, let's hope that FFXIV has voice chat. I understand that the auto-translate feature through text is necessary to communicate with people from other countries (game supports English, French, German, and Japanese), but my Linkshell is full of English speaking individuals. Life would be much easier if we could make plans via our voices instead of through mad texting while fighting. Besides, not everyone has a separate voice chat server, and who wants to use up all their Macro's -customizable shortcuts- just to communicate something?
Replay value is just massive. I mean, it's an MMO, and I don't care who you are... there's always something else to do. You could have gotten this game on release, lived on welfare checks, learned how to live without sleeping, and you will still not have done everything possible in this game. Although it's hard to develop an ultimate goal, it does give the user the ultimate decision making power about how to live out their character's life.
Lastly... you have to pay a monthly fee for it. Which admittedly sucks, but it is a necessary evil for this game. It would not be as high a quality if it was free. It simply could not operate without a fee. There are always improvements and additions. Games like this would be impossible to maintain without a fee.
That being said, if you hate paying for this type of thing, obviously this game is not for you. If you don't mind, and you have a lot of time to kill, this is actually a very fun game. The online community is very welcoming, and it will only be a short time before you find a linkshell all of your own.
If you played before, give it another shot, for sure. If you haven't, you may want to wait for the new FFXIV to be released, but I still think you will enjoy it. It's by far one of the best MMO's out there, and far more complex than it's World of Warfare competitor. If you want to get into an MMO and you love Final Fantasy, this one is the obvious choice, for sure.
Red Mage for the win!
This user review does not reflect the views of the PSX Extreme Staff.