|Final Fantasy XI|
|Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: Out Now
Players: MMO only
The Final Fantasy series has had a huge mainstream following ever since the release of the gem that was FVII for the original PlayStation back in 1997, moving from text and turn-based action to a more vocal and real-time format with FFX for the PS2. Four years ago, while UK PS2 owners were still waiting for the promised HDD to follow the release of the network adaptor, Square released FFXI to the US and Asian public, moving the series even further - online. Now, with typical Japanese conversion efficiency FFXI is finally available in the UK, just a few years behind everyone else…
With the usual Xbox Live smarts, you’re greeted with an online interface, which has to be installed before you even start installing FFXI, called PlayOnline. This looks like it will be the hub for future MMORPGs (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games), as there is a messaging system, account management and game selection (just FFXI at the moment) areas. It’s nice but with the amount that has to be installed, registered and clicked through to even get close to playing the game you’ll wonder why it’s even there. Also, when you log out of FFXI you have to completely log out of PlayOnline too, or like not shutting down a PC you risk losing data! After a marathon session stretching into the early hours of the morning the last thing you want to do is scroll through endless “Are you sure you want to exit the exit confirmation screen” messages!
I chose a Hume character (which looks the most normal) with one of the pre-set faces and hairstyles, which looked a little like Zell Dincht (the guy who uses his fists) from FFVIII. Not many people seemed to notice the resemblance though, and I was constantly hounded by a little Tarutaru white mage called Twot, who kept giving me lip and saying I looked like Ronan Keating! The taunting only got worse when I picked up some new brass armour that made my character look like a cross between a Roman gladiator and an S&M pornstar…
I chose to swing around big swords, since it was the easiest to pick up; attacking is simply a case of locking onto a target, pressing attack and sitting around until one of you is dead. Sometimes you’ll be able to launch a special attack (the bar fills whenever you attack/take damage and decreases when you rest), more special abilities and weapon skills become available as you level up.
Because you’re always dealing damage, although it gets a bit tedious after a while, being a warrior is one of the easiest jobs to level up with. When I say the easiest to level up with I mean I cheated and got a high level white mage to heal me while I whacked the crap out of stuff that would normally squash a FFXI n00b such as myself! As a warrior, you have no healing power so without a mage you have to kneel and heal after every battle, losing some of your special attack power and wasting valuable time. The amount of work required before you’re at a level at which you can start making reasonable XP (Experience Points) returns from your kills (at least Level 10 when you’ll find it easier to team up with other players) is completely insane if you don’t have someone to help you out. On your own you’ll be slashing Savannah Rarabs (bunny rabbits with evil eyes) and Pikmin-like sprites for days and days, meaning your free trial’s up before you’ve even got to the good stuff! That’s assuming you’ve got the patience to hack ‘n’ slash for 30 days that is…. - The fact is, that despite some clever drop down in-game menus that make a myriad of options and actions possible in seconds, everything - EVERYTHING in FFXI takes a long time to do.
The main problems with FFXI arise from Square’s assumption that you’re not going to buy it and play for less than six months, a generous assumption given the attention span of the average gamer these days, and the extra subscription required on top of Xbox Live (although you can play FFXI on only a Silver account). This means that instead of being able to get your teeth into a meaty storyline and stuff you’re presented with hours and hours of tedious low-levelling, attacking the same types of enemies. It feels more like some kind of sick punishment rather than entertainment which is charged for, or perhaps a test of character made by the developers: those who can withstand the first 10 levels without losing heart or falling into a coma are worthy of joining the online community and reaping the rewards. Obviously, by the time you’re high enough a level to be “worthy” your free trial is up and you’re on a £8.99 a month tariff…
FFXI being released on consoles implies that they’re trying to bring the game to the armchair audience. The problem is that that, as far as I'm concerned, MMORPGs are not suited to console play. The whole point of consoles was to bring a relaxed form of gaming into homes, where endless installation wasn’t needed and you could quickly dip in and out of a game when you felt like it. MMORPGs belong on PCs (the text-only chat implies this) and I seriously doubt many casual gamers will be prepared to try something new, even though it’s great fun and it’s easier to crank out the hours on a sofa or bed than on an office chair in front of the PC…
- HUGE world
- Literally too much to do!
- Party & alliance play
- Superb online community
- Not really suited to consoles
- Restrictive at the lower levels
- Takes too long to get to the higher levels
- Can be tedious playing alone
- No party voice chat
- Overcomplicated in just about every way
- Feels more like Everquest than Final Fantasy…
- Terrible tearing and lag
- PS2 GTi graphics