Even though the player figure has had an extra few zeroes added to it, all your favorite Final Fantasy regulars are here, Cid, Chocobos, Moogles, old men with beards who give you odd quests, and a large set of monsters intent on rending you limb from limb at any opportunity they get. But the overriding difference, is that you enjoy this with other players from around the world.
There is intelligent life out there
Working past the rather smooth PlayOnline frontend, you're presented with some simple character creation options. After creating a character from five starting races (Hume, TaruTaru, Mithra, Elvaan and Galka), and selecting one of six basic jobs (Warrior, Thief, Monk, Red, Black and White Mage) you must pick allegiance to one of the three countries, and you're then allocated a server and thrown straight into the game with some basic equipment and a tiny amount of pocket money.
Sold to the midget with the pointy hat!
The economy that you must enter into to earn your gil is mostly player run, with items being sold for gil to other players through the auction house system which is based in all the major cities. You will probably conduct a lot of business through these, from small 100 gil transactions to 100,000 gil for Swords of Asskicking (+1). Outside the cities, away from the auction houses and merchants lie the wildernesses of Vana'Diel.
It always rains on the plains in La Theine
It is in these areas where players will find the animals, fiends and roaming beastmen that they must combat in order to gain experience points. At first, one person will be able to take on the low level creatures outside the cities, however, as the player gains in strength, the experience gained from low level creatures will (eventually) drop to 0, while the experience requirement for the next level goes up. This is when you have to travel through the lands of Vana'Diel with fellow players to defeat more powerful enemies in good old fashioned Final Fantasy style. There is a massive assortment of weapons to hit things with, armour to stop being hit by things and lots of magic to spice fights up. The basic 6 jobs are also added to by 9 "advanced" jobs, which can be unlocked through completion of quests, these include dragon slaying to become a Dragoon, to showing a ruby weather effects to become a Summoner. Quite a lot of the equipment that your character can wear can be gained through assisting NPC's by giving them items, or fighting specific monsters that lurk deep within the dungeons.
Toasted Orc tastes like Chicken
Regardless of what job that you and your party have, fights are filled with usual Final Fantasy flair, except you are free to move and engage, and your attacks are limited to the delay of the weapons you are armed with or the casting time of your chosen spells. This means that battles are very fluid and this is assisted by the easy to use and unobtrusive menus. Players are also free to create macros, which can execute multiple commands at the same time, while informing your party of what you are doing. Death isn't much of a trouble at lower levels, you only lose 10% of the experience required to get to the next level, however, at higher levels, death will make you lose some hours leveling work. It is also possible to delevel if you lose enough exp. At higher levels though, White Mages can revive KOed players, which minimizes experience loss.
Aside from killing monsters by the hundred, you can perchance linkshells, or receive a linkpearl from someone else. These items allow you to speak to anyone else who hold a pearl for that group. This is basically how you join a guild/clan. Through linkshells, it is possible to communicate with players across the world, although you should remember that these are players as well, and it is expected you treat them respectfully, most people inside a linkshell will look out for their members, and gaining knowledge of advanced concepts in Final Fantasy XI (Skillchains, where to get items/weapons, etc) can be quite easily done through linkshell groups.
On orders of the Federation of Windurst
As you rise in fame and level, you can undertake missions, which are specific to the country in which you pledged your allegiance. These missions further FFXI's storyline leading the player to discover what sinister forces are at work in the deepest corners of the world. With this mechanic in place, every player can become a hero of Vana'Diel, every player can follow the storyline and it is this aspect of Final Fantasy XI that keeps it true to its roots. The three nations of Vana'Diel are also contesting for control of the neutral areas outside the city boarders. By fighting tough monsters, you obtain elemental crystals (Used for item synthesis) and your country will gain a few points towards possession of the area, while if you die, your country loses points. These points are tallied every week and countries will gain or lose areas, or they will slip back into neutrality. When a country takes possession of a region, the outposts will be staffed with helpful NPC's and merchants in the cities will sell produce from those areas. There is also a limited PvP (Player vs Player) currently implemented in FFXI, and Square Enix promises more opportunities to beat your fellow adventurers up.
There is so much to do in Final Fantasy XI, go fishing, cook stuff, make armour, join linkshell groups, kill Goblins. The world is Vana'Diel is such a large place, just don't forget to send everyone else postcards.