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6  |  Everquest with Chocobos
fishbulb , 10/23/2003 8:54:14 AM
Hey there. Would you like to pay 13 bucks a month to play a game? Are you interested in in spending around 100 hours of your life to reach oh.. lets say, level 20 on an RPG? No? Okay, stop reading. This game isn't for you, no matter how much you might want it to be. I'll give you a second to go find another review. I've written some good ones, go search for them...

Okay, so the rest of you. Hi there.

Final Fantasy XI is the newest addition to the growing genre of MMORPGs that have spawned from the popularity of Ultima Online (and the structure of Everquest). For those of you who haven't played any of that type of game it plays like a regular console type RPG, but you only control one character who you create yourself, and everything takes about 100 times longer to do. The basic structure of this type of game allows your character to gain experience points to level up so that you can fight monsters which give you more experience points, and to craft items from lesser items that the monsters drop. FFXI does not stray from this formula. There is a character creation system which allows you to choose from a few starting races with traditional RPG elements (the small, but good at magic Taru, the big burly Galka bear looking monsters, the I'M A FURRY OR AN ATTENTION WHORE sexy catgirl Mithras, and Elves and Humans of course). As for your character class, at the start of the game there are six to choose from (warrior, monk, theif, black, white and red mage), but once you reach level 30 you unlock the ability to complete quests that unlock more advanced classes (Summoner, Dragoon, Samurai, Ninja, Paladin, Dark Knight, Ranger Beastmaster and Bard) which have more unique skills and abilities, and when you reach level 18 you can complete a quest that allows you to have two jobs at the same time (one being 1/2 the level of your primary job) to add more individualism to your character. You can also choose which of three cities you begin in, with each of the cities having a different 'theme' (the industrial Bastok, the woodsy Windhurst and the assholish San Dioria) and different crafting guilds within it, as well as different missions and quests to complete. Although over 300 hours in this house were devoted to the game we were only able to complete nine missions from Bastok. I have no idea how many there actually are in total. Most of the missions and quests consist of 'go here and gather this item and return it to me' but there are also a few with more nebulous content, like to slay a certain monster or a certain number of monsters within a given time. The vast majority of the game, however will be spent crushing worms or joining up with a party to crush worms with a different name who can do more damage; actually after about level 10 you won't be crushing any worms on your own, you will need to join a party for safety and experience. The missions and quests at least give you some structure and reason to your endless leveling up cycle

So, what makes FFXI different, or what even makes it a Final Fantasy game? Well, Square loaded the game with things from their Final Fantasy series, starting with the character classes (White, Black and Red Mages, Dragoons etc...), peripheral characters in towns (theres a guy named Cid in Bastok, one of the three starting cities you can choose from) and monsters (Malboros, Tonberries etc...). They also decided that no Final Fantasy game can exist without a big world threatening plot, and have included one in this game, including cut scenes at important moments (which I believe is a first for MMORPGs but I haven't played that many of them). And of course, Moogles and Chocobos. The game also has a nice healing function. After being attacked you can sit down and heal your health and mp and unlike pretty much every other thing in the game it does not take a remarkably long time, actually it's rather short. The zones are massively large, and can take 15 minutes to run from one side to the other. Eventually you earn the right to ride on a Chocobo to make the running time lesser, but you can only pick one up in a city, and a couple other random areas, so while they are helpful, there will still be times when you just have to run for 10 minutes to get somewhere. Apparently Square has managed to keep the high level game busy with monsters and items but I wasn't able to get anywhere near that during my playtime on the game, so I can't offer any specifics.

The biggest problem with the game isn't in any of its systems or designs. Its the other people playing the game. Although many of them are perfectly normal people who are just trying to enjoy an RPG set in a Final Fantasy-like world, many people take the game very, very seriously and expect everyone else around them to do the same thing. A lot of players are insistent on acting like playing FFXI is a job, and not a game. I understand that it takes a good number of hours to complete some of the missions, and some of the harder monsters require specific strategies to defeat, but there is never an excuse for people to forget that the number one reason to play a game is 'fun.' Even though the game hasn't been released for any platforms at the moment, there are already sites (like this one...) up for 'clans,' complete with absurd rules of conduct and play. Goody goody gumdrops. Can't wait to run into them.

So, after all that, what do I actually think of the game? It's alright. I'll be playing it when it comes out on the 29th. It definitely has a lot to do and keep you occupied. It's a massive undertaking though, taking hundreds of hours to produce the kind of results most gamers expect from an RPG in 40 or less. The true key to enjoying the game is to treat it as a social experience, meeting new people and making groups of friends you know mesh with your personality so that you can at least spend your worm-smashing time with people who you don't wish you could stab.

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