Coming from a fan of the Final Fantasy series, I was very interested in seeing how FFXI would play out not only online but in the Xbox 360. With the release of Final Fantasy XI from Square Enix, two new things have made there way to the Xbox 360 universe. Onethe first Final Fantasy title to be found on the Xbox 360 or Xbox for that matter, and two, the first MMO on the Xbox 360. The later being a hole that gamers have been clamoring to be filled for quite some time. Final Fantasy XI was originally released over 2 years ago on the PS2 and PC and has had that time to develop communities and a following, so what effect, if any, does that have on the new crop of FFXI gamers creeping into the FFXI landscape?
Let me start by saying that FFXI delivers the usual type of game play in that you level up as you gain experience and manage your persona and items by using GIL the FF currency to buy better weapons, armor and such. It would be impossible to go over every little aspect of FFXI in the length of this review. That being said, the FFXI world is enormous, Xbox 360 owners are also treated to an even larger world with the 3 included expansion packs Rise of Delart, Chains of Promethia, and Treasures of Aht Urhgan in one massive online package. I mentioned the effect of the 360 community for one reason only, I found in my time playing the game it was difficult to join up with others on quests and missions. For a gaming experience built on the community and comrade aspect of an MMO I found that a bit disheartening when looking for a leg up, as it were. Im getting a bit ahead of myself here, so lets back track a bit and go over some of the other points of the game.
The first thing I noticed was that it wasnt the Final Fantasy I thought it would be, gone is the turn based fighting system, gone are the over the top cut scenes, and not too many of the FF characters make the leap to the online experience. Which begs this question to be asked, is it Final Fantasy? That really depends on the player, and Im not even going to start the debate of whether it is or isnt. Instead what I can tell you is that FFXI has a huge learning curve to overcome. The game controls, as in most MMO/RPG, are a little complicated and takes some getting used to. I would highly recommend hooking up a USB keyboard and playing the game the way it was originally designed to be played. Its an easier process to learn and the communication is much easier to carry on via keyboard rather than game pad. Once you actually start playing you will find an immense world to investigate and plenty of creatures to enter into combat with to increase your many traits and level up you character. Speaking of your character, the character creation portion of the game does not offer many options to customize your creation; rather you can customize your appearance and such by purchasing new apparel, weapons, and armor. The game also offers the ability to own a home and decorate it as you like, there is even an interesting FF eBay, where you can auction off items to other players. Gil (Currency) is a hard commodity to come by, but a necessity. This was one of the hindrances I found in the game, it takes too long to find your stride. You will spend endless hours attacking minor animals just to level up, but this is what you need to do to get to the more enjoyable plateau of the game. Once you have reached a reasonable level, done all the learning needed to feel more comfortable with what you are doing FFXI is an enjoyable, but typical MMO. If youre a fan of the RPG aspect of the game youll find yourself having the same amount of learning to do just to get to a point where the experience starts to give something back.
FFXI is what you make it, as in most games like this, but remember this universe has been active for about 2 years, player have grown and developed over that time and 360 users are newbies to the world. Even though this is an Xbox 360 title you are playing on Play Online servers, not Xbox Live. There is a small silver lining to that issue, that being that you dont need to be an Xbox Live Gold member to play FFXI, so no XBL monthly fees, but there are FFXI monthly fees to pay for your Content ID. Your monthly fee to venture into FFXI is $12.95 per month; you do receive a free 30 Day trial with your purchase. Once you pop the disc in the system is prepared for an almost never ending stream of downloading, registering and updating. Your first order of business is to install the Play Online service, after that you need to download the game, updates and register the game and all the expansion packs, this process is very time consuming, Im talking a couple of hours, and if ever a USB keyboard was a must it would be during this initial set up. One other thing to note, the FFXI experience will also take up about 6GB of space on your Hard Drive, now on the PS2 were the Hard Drive was basically worthless outside of its tie in to FFXI I can find no argument, but on the 360, thats a lot of storage space to give up for a game, if its worth it or not, is entirely up to you.
Which is exactly were the balance of this game lies, you. Final Fantasy XI is an impressive MMO/RPG, but really offers nothing new and exciting to the mix. FF fans may find enjoyment in it, but again, you are walking into a world thats been around for 2 years, and while the game looks much better than its prior platforms, the developers have always stated that it wasnt worth doing a complete overhaul to the game just for the 360. So is Final Fantasy XI worth it? Ill tell you how I feel, no. The bang for not only my buck, but time and interest isnt there. It takes too long to get to a comfortable level and without a keyboard, I would recommend you pass. There is another RPG on the 360 that offers much more than FFXI can, although not online, it still is a better experience in my opinion. With a 30 day free trial I would say if any of this peeked your interest give it a try, otherwise save you coin for a game that is built with the 360 in mind and not just using the 360 as a portal to not only another service, but a 2 year old game.
Suggestions: I have no real suggestions because the game inits origianl offering is solid, its just not a good tie in to the 360. I'll reserve suggestions for the 1st Sqare Enix game made with the 360 in mind form the get go.