Final Fantasy XI Review
Final Fantasy XI (FFXI) is an online only version of the very popular and highly regarded RPG series of games from Squaresoft. While not the first MMOG available for the PS2, it is the first to take advantage of the system’s new HDD hard drive accessory. In fact, it comes preinstalled on the HDD and can not be played without it. While on the subject of game requirements, I should also point out that you will need a broadband connection to play the game so dial-up users are out of luck. Also, while technically not required to play, you are going to want to invest in a USB keyboard. The onscreen keyboard interface is so slow and touchy that if it does not drive you insane during the long involved sign-up process, it will certainly do so while playing the game.
Usually installing hardware can be a time-consuming and tricky process while software is easy to install and run – the exact opposite is true in the case of the HDD and FFXI. The fact that you will be able to install the HDD and have it up and running in less than five minutes will lull you into a false sense of accomplishment because you’ll still be a long way from entering the world of FFIX. There are several forms to fill out, multiple registration codes to enter and login names and passwords to keep track of, and long waits as updates are downloaded to your HDD. This is not the kind of game you can play right out of the box, and you may find that you’ve eaten all of your play time up just getting the game ready to play on the first night that you bring it home.
Even after you’re all signed up getting into the game takes some time. You need to start up your PS2 and enter the system browser. From there you need to select and launch the Play Online icon. This will connect you to the internet and take you into your Play Online account, where you may need to wait for it to check your email or download Play Online updates. From there you need to navigate your way to the games menu, connect to FFXI, download any updates, sign in, select your character, and then you’re finally ready to play.
Now that all of the logistics are out of the way, let’s look at the game itself. FFXI takes place in the world of Vana'diel, home to the nations of Bastok, San d'Oria, and Windurst. These nations are rival states that defeated the evil Shadow Lord 20 years before, but he has begun to rise again and his forces are beginning to cause trouble for Vana’diel. Adventurers are in demand and you decide to heed the call. You choose the nation you wish to report to and your adventures begin.
You begin the game by creating your character. You can select your character from one of SIX races --- and assign him or her to one of six jobs. The jobs are essentially player classes, and as you advance in the game you’ll have the opportunity to further specialize which increases the number of job choices to 15. Furthermore, you can also acquire a subjob, allowing for further specialization to the tune of 225 possible combinations. While the game (eventually) gives you a lot of options in the area of jobs, character models are pretty limited. You get male and female skins for each race and can select from a small list of facial and hair styles, but beyond that there is not much room for customization and you can expect to see a lot of familiar faces in the game.
Once you begin play, you will start out in the capital city of your chosen land. After a short conversation with an NPC you’re on you own, quite literally. FFXI does not give anything in the way of guidance to new players. You’re handed an “Adventurer Coupon” and told to head off and that’s about it. The game doesn’t even consistently tell new players what to do with the coupon, as is evidenced by the slew of queries on the subject in FFXI forums on the internet. After such a long process of getting players to the point where they can actually take a step into the game’s world, some sort of in-game walkthrough, tutorial, initial quest, or anything is needed to get players into the game and erase memories of the arduous task of registering for the game. Instead, new players are greeted by confusion and frustration and the game may lose some new players right off the bat because of it.