|Final Fantasy XI|
Publisher: Square-Enix - Distributed by Ubisoft
Release Date: Out Now
The ironically named Final Fantasy series makes a welcome return to our screens in its 11th instalment… Yes, ELEVENTH – and I’ve played all of ‘em. Taking the action online for the first time, Squaresoft have acquired the talents of Enix (creators of popular Japanese RPG Dragon Quest) to bring us a new flavour of RPG goodness. With 20 years of experience between them, expectations were high for FFXI, but can it possibly live up to all the hype?
After waiting what seemed like several light years for the game to install, and messing around for a further forty minutes getting it to display properly and move at more than ten frames per second, I was ready to create my online alter ego. You’re given the choice of five races; the standard Humes, regularly proportioned and clearly the beginner’s choice, the typically light-footed and pointy-eared Elvaan, the tiny and strangely cute TaruTaru, the large, hulking and ugly Galka and the mischievous and cat-like Mithra.
As you progress in the game you earn the ability to allocate a support job, allowing you to gain abilities from another class to complement and improve your main. Although there’s no wrong way to develop your character, the choice of support job can prove very important in later levels.
You’re then given the choice of 3 starting cities; Bastok is the industrial capital, home of the Humes and Galkas, and all very brown and grey. San D’Oria is the Elvaan city, bursting with intricate architecture and very nice to look at. Windhurst has a more natural appearance, full of trees, streams and lakes and populated by TaruTaru and Mithra tribes. The world of Vana’ diel is a vast one; between the 3 main continents are literally hundreds of zones crawling with nasties for you to hack, slash, bash and prod your way through. At first travelling is difficult, as you’re hampered not only by the sheer size of the world, but also by the numerous baddies that chew your arse as you run by. At later levels you’re able to rent Chocobos (big, yellow birds that seem to appear in every Final Fantasy game) to speed up the process, or travel instantly by airship, but the easiest way of getting around is to pay a kind Mage for his teleportation services.
The game’s system requirements aren’t too excessive, and you’ll find that as long as you meet them FFXI will look and move rather well. As with a lot of online games, lag and frame rate are often an issue, but looking at the amount of textures on screen its clear to see why there would be the occasional bit of slow-down. The character models are superb, and although facial features are a bit generic I can’t fault the detail and movement, clearly a lot of work has gone into them. Areas look varied and realistic, with excellent wood, grass and stone textures covering beautiful rolling landscapes. One gripe I have is the fog effect, standing still it looks great but as soon as you move the slow-down is terrible, and I get the feeling if it had been left out, nobody would miss it.
Progression through the levels is pretty typical of the series; kill stuff to gain experience, gain enough experience to reach the next level. Missions and quests are given by the various NPCs dotted around the world, and you’ll find very early on that to finish some of them you’ll need to make some friends, as they’ll be too tough to do on your own. You’ll also find plenty of shops in the cities to spend your hard-earned Gil (your currency) in, either to tart up your character with some fancy new armour or buy maps and spells to aid you on your quests.
Unlike a lot of online RPGs, FFXI has an excellent support network, and although downtime can be a drag servers are updated almost daily to fix bugs and add new features. Overall I enjoyed playing the game - Initially it’s difficult to get into, and often seems too complicated for its own good, but as with most of the Final Fantasy series, you’ll have to persevere in order to see the best of what’s on offer.
- Huge worlds and a primarily friendly online community.
- Great scenery textures and character models.
- Incredibly in-depth – FFXI has more menus and options than you’ll know what to do with.
- Occasional slow-down, especially in foggy regions.
- Requires a lot of time and perseverance.
- Almost too complicated for its own good.
- Requires that you devote huge amounts of time.