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Final Fantasy XI may not be the game you anticipated, as Square has boldly chosen to make their renowned franchise exclusively playable online. The question remains: has this decision been successful?

Undoubtedly, Final Fantasy XI embodies the essence of a true Final Fantasy game. Similar to the series' first installment, players begin with a choice of six jobs (Warrior, Black Mage, White Mage, Thief, Monk, and Red Mage), forming a party from any combination. The key distinction in XI is the expansion of the party size to six members, which must be assembled from over 2,500 players on your server. While forming a party is optional, Square has designed the game to favor those who choose to do so, with parties reaping greater rewards than solo players.

The world of Vana'diel comprises four governing countries: Bastok, a republic focused on mining and alchemy; San d'Oria, a spiritual kingdom; Windurst, a trading federation rich in natural resources; and Jeuno, a neutral country in a strategic location. Players pledge allegiance to either Bastok, San d'Oria, or Windurst at the outset, and the storyline unfolds uniquely based on this choice. Although these nations once coexisted peacefully, the Shadow Lord's introduction of darkness caused discord and strife. Now, the time has come for various races and nations to unite in pursuit of peace. Notably, unlike other multiplayer online RPGs, Final Fantasy XI does not permit player-killing or harassment, with Game Masters strictly enforcing this policy.

Graphically, the game excels. While some slowdown is unavoidable in densely populated regions, the expansive and diverse landscapes are impressive, ranging from the desolate Tahrongi wastelands to the lush Jugner forests. Numerous monster species, each with distinct sub-species, feature subtle graphical touches that set them apart. For instance, goblin fighters don metallic helmets, while their mage counterparts don leather masks. The abundant battle effects create a spectacular visual experience, especially when accompanied by the vast array of magic that is characteristic of the Final Fantasy series. Additionally, various weapon skills, akin to limit breaks, enhance the visual display.

Gameplay 4 / 5
Soundtrack 4 / 5
Replay Value 5 / 5
Storyline 4 / 5
4.5 / 5 Great!