Get ready for real time. by Patrick Evans

June 21, 2006 - Let me start of by pointing out that I do not mind the all-too-often practice of porting a game from one system to another. Without porting, I would have never been able to enjoy Grand Theft Auto 3 as I didn’t own a PS2 at the time. Porting, aside from being an easy cash ticket for publishers, can allow players that don’t have the means to plunk hundreds of dollars on a new system just to play a game they are excited to play. But when you port a four-year old MMO from the PS2, I start to take issue, especially when there is very little to offer over the original system’s release.

That oh-so-subtle crack at Final Fantasy XI essentially sums up my entire review of its Xbox 360 incarnation, and though the detailed review below does list plenty of positives for the game, Square Enix does nothing to alleviate the negatives of the original or provide reason for new gamers to join their world, especially at twelve bucks a month subscription fee.

The land of Vana’diel has seen its fair share of destruction, what with the forces of the shadows and beast men reeking havoc across the landscape some years ago. The nations of Bastok, Windia, and San d’Oria have established tentative relationships with one another and deal with the beast men threat on a daily basis. This is where you ultimately come in, choosing one city to pledge allegiance to start, along with your race, sex, appearance, and initial profession. The initial selection is pretty limited, having only Warrior, Monk, Red Mage, Black Mage, White Mage, and Thief to initially choose from, but later on that number expands to nearly twenty with the inclusion of Samurai, Summoner, Dragoon, Blue Mage, and others.

Initially, players that are just starting out will literally have no clue as to what is going on. The first quest that you are issued is to meet with a person to exchange a pass for money, but you better use your map, because they are no where near you. Can’t find them? Ask someone with the say chat, and they will give you their precise location. Wait, don’t know where D-4 or wherever they say he/she is? Oh yea, the map is laid out on a grid, but no one will tell you that. When you finally find this person, they will give you your minuscule cash and send you on your way. In my experience, this is one of the least friendly titles for new players looking to get into the experience.

In fact, the first ten levels of any profession will challenge a player’s patience and not their playing ability. Dubbed the “solo levels,” until you reach level ten or eleven you are pretty much stuck pounding on puny monsters just outside your hometown. The first five or so levels will go by fast, taking on average just two or three hours. Those next five levels, on the other hand, are a pain and will take double that time or longer to achieve. To level effectively early in this game you need a high level friend on your server that can set you up with money for armor, weapons, and that can accompany you to “power level” your character.

When you get past level ten and finally find some combat with party members, the action picks up. Parties pick up experience relatively quickly compared to the dragging solo action, and after level 18 you can finally begin to select sub-jobs. This is, of course, after completing a quest that could take as long as a dozen or so hours to collect the necessary items for this particular fetch quest.

This brings me to my biggest issue with this title- the unnecessarily long time to accomplish anything in this title does nothing but irritate any player without truck-loads of patience. Want to head to Vakrum Desert to level up with friends? If you logged out from your hometown, then prepare for a 20 or 25 minute trek just to get to the place. When you get there, prepare for a wait as parties are tremendously slow to form, especially when there is a shortage on White (note: healing) Mages in the area close to your current character level. Once you find a party, do everything in your mortal power to prevent your own death, because the experience penalty for dying will take considerable chunks of your overall EXP every time you die, and will even knock you down a level if you just recently earned a level-up. More than a few times at character level 15, I would take my warrior to the desert and logoff so I could spend the entire next day leveling, wake up the next morning and spend an hour waiting to find a group to play with. This isn’t fun, this is irritating and counter-intuitive, period.

In purchasing the Xbox 360 version of FFXI, you obtain every expansion pack that has been released for the title on PS2 and PC, including the Treasures of Aht Urhgan. But, it really doesn’t matter because there are restrictive level requirements for everything, including access to the other expansion packs Chains of Promathia and Rise of the Zilart. The power leveling and restrictions based on character level are typical of MMORPGs, but they feel much more overbearing here. Take my warrior, Davereckand, who didn’t attain his secondary profession until over 60 hours of gameplay. You can’t ride a chocobo until level 20, and it’s even further for some of the games coolest storylines and experiences.

What makes all this drudgery worse is that this game has aged poorly in its four year lifetime. Remember, originally a PS2 game, other versions are forced to be retarded visually in order for all systems to run the game efficiently. What this means is that the environments are bland, the character models are repetitive, and the spell effects are underwhelming. Rendering has been improved, of course, to separate the Xbox 360 version, but because of this compatibility issue it looks nothing compared to the potential of the system’s power.

FFXI is a very hard sell to anyone that is new to the franchise. The easiest word to describe it is drudgery, what with its excessive traveling times, difficult leveling structure, and level requirements for anything cool. If you do wish to take a ferry or an airship, the game makes you wait for the next scheduled ship to reach port. That’s what we humans do in our everyday life, and if I wanted to wait for public transportation to take me somewhere that will ultimately end up as a waste of time, I would go and get a real job at Best Buy or something.

By Patrick Evans
CCC Staff Writer

Rating out of 5
Final Fantasy XI (Xbox 360)
Dated PS2 textures in high res do not result in a good looking game.
Archaic menus are difficult to navigate, but the Macros option is neat to tinker around. with.
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Square Enix forces us to read all dialog, but the music is catchy in different areas.
Play Value
Anyone that has played this game before may want the visual upgrade, but fugetabout anyone else signing up at $12.95 a month.
Overall Rating - Poor
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
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System: X360, (original also on PC & PS2)
Dev: Square Enix
Pub: Square Enix
Release: Apr 2006
Players: 1 (multi online)
Review by Patrick

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best