Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone

Final Fantasy XI Online (PS2)



By Michael Palisano

Square-Enix and Sony have teamed up to bring the long-awaited Final Fantasy XI to the PS2, along with the much-vaunted Hard Disc Drive (HDD.) Players expecting a standard FF are in for a surprise, since the game more closely resembles EverQuest and other traditional PC online RPGS than the typical Square adventure. FFXI's gameplay is more open-ended than the typical Square release, but the real fun lies in meeting other players online and interacting with the community. The gameplay itself starts slowly, but builds momentum as your character earns their way to more exciting adventures. While there are some interface issues that detract from the experience, FFXI is a solid MMORPG that transcends these problems and is definitely worth picking up.

Set in the war-torn world of Vana'deil, Final Fantasy XI Online is an epic adventure where the player is cast in a small role in a much larger battle between the good races and evil beastmen who are over-running the world, causing In order to track their progress, each adventurer is also given access to their own Mog House, where they can store items such as swords and furniture that they have acquired during their missions. The Mog House is your main hub where you'll also be able to manage and select your inventory, and more. Players can have multiple Mog Houses, one for each area in Vana'diel. While the initial portion of the game can be played solo, in order to progress to the more advanced levels, you'll have to form a team with other players. Locating other online players is fairly easy, but the trick is to find players with similar levels and abilities who want to continue the adventure with you. Fortunately, you aren't limited to members of the same race and class, and you can use the different abilities to your advantage. Once you have formed your party, you can communicate with them in a variety of ways. 

Chatting with them while they're on the same screen operates similarly to the way you'd communicate with the AI NPC's in the game, but you'll also be able to talk to them when they're far away using the LinkShell item and giving other players Link Pearls. Once another player has a Peal, they can talk to you from any point in the game, regardless of your location. After you have set up the Party makeup and configuration, it's time to set off for your adventure. Unlike standard FF titles, the game doesn't automatically end when your character dies. Instead, other characters can use magic to revive you, or you'll respawn at your Mog House depending on the situation. As you set out on your team's first initial missions, you'll find that the battles require a great deal of cooperation and coordination amongst the members of your team. FFXI's battle system takes place in real-time, making for some fairly intense confrontations with a variety of boss enemies. In addition to smaller Party based combat, players can participate in larger campaigns known as Conquests. These are large, multiple objective missions where you aren't just fighting for yourself, but the kingdom or nation you represent. The rewards here are potentially much greater than in normal combat, and you can also use the system to make yourself a powerful character in quite a hurry. After you have completed each battle, any treasures are distributed amongst the team by the Quartermaster character. How much treasure you get depends on how the other characters have set up the party and whether they have dibs on certain item types. FFXI's world gradually evolves through this tiered process, gradually introducing the player to more challenging and exciting gameplay as they earn more experience.

In addition to the main adventure, there are a number of side-quests in FFXI. If they reach a certain level and acquire the right credentials, players will have the opportunity to ride the famous Chocobos. Each area has a Chocobo stable, and you can only ride them outside the cities. You can dig in the ground with them to find hidden treasures. You can also play the game's cool fishing mini-game, where the challenge is to catch as many as you can in Vana'diel's many lakes and rivers. Once caught, you can eat them yourself or auction them for extra currency. Finally, there's an almost entirely self-contained mini-game called Tetra Master that is an entirely separate game. As you might have guessed, this is the card game from FFIX, though vastly expanded and more complex than the original game. It's quite challenging and a bit reminiscent of Magic, though with a unique Square feel - however, you need to sign up for this separately and there's a monthly surcharge to keep playing. These mini-games make for an exciting diversion, and are completely optional, meaning they won't interfere or slow down the main quest unless you want them to.

The gorgeous world of Vana'diel is an evocative, richly textured landscape filled with hundreds and thousands of characters to interact with. As you'd expect, the game's visuals are quite impressive for an MMORPG, and fit comfortably with the Final Fantasy semi-continuity that Square-Enix has built up over the years. The world is incredibly large, offering a variety of scenery and worlds to explore. The texture mapping is quite impressive throughout with excellent character modeling that offers a great deal of variation of characters in the game. The music in Square titles is typically beautiful and impressive, and FFXI is no exception. While some of the songs get a bit tedious after repeated play, the high quality and attention to detail that has become Square's trademark is still very prominent with a smooth, highly polished gameplay engine that performs seamlessly for the most part. While the in-game graphics are excellent, the game's spectacular cinema sequences shine as usual, bringing the player into the world of Vana'diel effortlessly. This is one of the more highly polished MMORPG's on the market, and a particularly impressive technical achievement by PS2 standards.

Despite FFXI's expansive play environments and gorgeous graphics, there were some problems that we encountered that unfortunately, detracted from the overall experience. While you'd expect there to be a load of menus in an RPG, FFXI's interface was a bit clunky in this department with counter-intuitive controls that made navigating them a chore. The game's real-time combat system is fairly easy to understand and makes attacking or using magic fairly easy, but it's all downhill from there. Locating other characters wasn't much of a problem, but trading items with them was quite a difficult task, requiring the player to jump through multiple commands to perform a simple task. While the mapping feature is quite helpful and it allows you to place labels on waypoints, the system isn't quite so easy to call up on the fly. The biggest problem with FFXI's interface isn't really a function of the programming or design, but trying to communicate with other players using a standard controller is an exercise in frustration, thanks to the virtual keyboard which requires you to hunt and peck your way through. This problem can be alleviated in two ways: players can create macros for commonly used phrases, or by purchasing a USB keyboard. However, fiddling around with the keyboard and controller at the same time was still problematic, but a vast improvement. Even with these problems, the good news is that FFXI's gameplay is worth the trouble, and most players should be able to make the adjustment quickly.

Given the high-quality of the overall experience, FFXI's lengthy installation and interface issues are comparatively minor issues in the game's overall quality. You have to give Square credit for trying to bring this type of game to console, and despite the awkwardness and glitches along the way, Final Fantasy XI's interface is an acceptable compromise that you can compensate for. These issues aside, the gameplay is what matters most, and for the most part, FFXI delivers an exciting, engaging MMORPG experience with unparalleled depth on any console. Regardless of what character you use and what nation you represent, Final Fantasy XI requires a significant time investment before you're able to reach the more exciting areas. However, players can play for a short time in shorter quests, and make significant progress doing so, but FFXI only gives what you put into it, so you'll need to invest the time before you reach the really interesting areas of the game. FFXI starts slowly, but once you get beyond the initial stages, the gameplay really shines with real-time battles, a lively community of fellow gamers and seemingly endless challenge. Final Fantasy XI's high-price tag may be off-putting to some gamers, but the game's immersive world is engaging and offers seemingly endless challenge and adventure. This is the most ambitious attempt at a console MMORPG to date, and Final Fantasy XI largely succeeds in meeting expectations. This is very different from what console RPG fans might expect, but Final Fantasy XI's vast, heavily populated world creates a unique ex

Grade: A

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