Final Fantasy XI might not be what you were expecting. Square have made a brave decision to take their most popular franchise and make a game that is only playable online. But has that decision paid off?
There is no mistaking that Final Fantasy XI is a true Final Fantasy in every sense. Similar to the very first game in the series, you start off with a choice of six jobs (Warrior, Black mage, White mage, Thief, Monk and Red mage) and you can form your party from any combination of the above. The difference in XI is that you now have six people per party and most importantly, you have to go out and find these people from the other 2500+ players on your server. This is as much a part of the game as anything else. You don’t have to form a party if you don’t want to, but Square have tailored this game so that parties reap many more rewards than solo players.
The world of Vanad’iel is ruled by four countries: Bastok, a republic where mining and alchemy play a big part in the economy; San d’Oria, a religious kingdom with strong spirit; Windurst, a trading federation with a large supply of natural resources; and Jeuno, a neutral country occupying a key location. Your allegiance must be pledged to either Bastok, San d’Oria or Windurst at the start of the game, and the story will unravel in a different way depending on which you choose. All of the countries used to live peacefully together until darkness was brought into the world by the Shadow Lord. Darkness brought unrest and bitter fighting within each country. But now, with so many lives lost, it is time for the different races and nations to fight together and reclaim peace. And that’s really one area where this game differs from the typical multiplayer online RPG. There is no player-killing. In fact, no harassment of any form towards other players is tolerated by Square. Game Masters exist to see that any unfriendly gamers are promptly dealt with.
Graphics-wise, this game is splendid. There is some unavoidable slowdown in highly-populated areas, but the landscapes are varied and expansive. From the barren wastelands of Tahrongi to the dense forests in Jugner, every landscape on earth seems to have been included in some form. There are many species of monsters, and even within the species, there are sub-species with clever graphical touches to distinguish them from their counterparts. An example of this is the difference between goblins – while the fighters wear metallic helmets, the mages wear leather masks. Battle effects are numerous, and with a well-balanced party it can turn into a bit of a fireworks show. This wouldn’t be a Final Fantasy without a huge array of magic, and Square seldom disappoint in this respect. On top of that there are many weapon skills – comparable to limit breaks – which also add sparks to the show.