By Mary Garcia, Onrpg Writer
Final Fantasy XI is Square-Enixs first title in the MMORPG market. First released in 2002, the game has since been released to North America on Windows (October, 2003), Playstation 2 console (March, 2004), and Xbox 360 (April, 2006). European releases followed, with languages in English, French, and German. As of 2008, four expansions have been released. Square-Enixs latest feature is the chance to try the game free for 14 days, no credit card required. Early September some major improvements in gameplay were released, reinventing several features which allow for great new experiences.
New subscribers have the chance to choose between five races; Hume, Elvaan, Tarutaru, Galka (male only), and Mithra (female only). Once a race has been selected, players can choose from six initial jobs; Warrior, Monk, Thief, Red Mage, White Mage, and Black Mage. The player then gets to choose which nation to reside in; The Republic of Bastok, The Kingdom of San DOria, or The Federation of Windurst.
At first, the controls and menus may seem confusing and can take some figuring out. Fortunately, for the PC client, the game has gamepad support, which can be configured in the Final Fantasy XI settings. Users also have the options of changing their keyboard layouts between numeric and compact (the latter being for keyboards without numeric pads, usually laptops).
With four expansions released to date, a new player may feel there is a lot of catching up to do. Fortunately, the development team has since adjusted several gameplay elements to help new players. Characters can now seek a tutorial non-playable character in any of the three nations to obtain helpful information. With the tutorial NPCs advice, adventurers can learn to navigate the towns, use the auction houses, and perform special weapon skills in battle.
Possibly the greatest addition from the development team is the Level Sync feature. New players and old players alike can now enjoy adventuring and leveling together regardless of their level difference. With this new feature, a level 75 character can now have his level synced to his level 15 buddy. In addition to this feature, equipment scaling was also introduced. Instead of being unable to equip armor in a level restricted setting, players will now have their equipment scaled down proportionately to their synced level. The equipment scaling also takes effect in level restricted areas (such as the Promyvions and PsoXja from the Chains of Promathia expansion). With these major features, new players will have an easier and more enjoyable time in the world of Vanadiel.
Graphics and Sound:
For the seasoned MMORPGer, the graphics in Final Fantasy XI may feel lacking, especially when compared with newer games. For a six year old game, however, the overall look is pleasing. PC and Xbox 360 users get a nice, clean, crisp look. PlayStation 2, unfortunately, is the weakest of the platforms. Some users may experience color bleeding depending on their TVs or cables. The text in the menus and chat logs may also seem too blurry. In certain brightly lit areas, the color will display too brightly.
The music in Final Fantasy XI is excellent. Except for a few scores which can become annoying after listening to them repeatedly, the music gets the right mood going. Epic battles become more engaging, and sad storyline cut-scenes become more emotional. For those that are uninterested in the games music, it can be turned off in the configuration.
Although Final Fantasy XI is almost into its seventh year, it is still enjoying much success. With the 14-day trial download now available, this title is definitely worth trying out.
Level Sync feature and tutorial NPCs make starting out easier
Controls & Menus may seem overwhelming at first
PlayStation 2 client may be difficult to obtain
Some music tracks repetetive