Final Fantasy XI has a long history, the game originally appeared on the PlayStation 2 in 2002 and required a hard-drive to be played. Shortly thereafter the game came out on the PC, which made it a bit more accessible (especially to PAL Gamers). For the unaware, Final Fantasy XI is a MMORPG and is the first time that the Final Fantasy series is playable only online. The Xbox 360 version includes the original game, as well as the three expansions Rise of Zilart, Chains of Promathia and The Treasures of Aht Urhgan. Is the port an addition to the Xbox 360 library or a rush job?
Before you can get anywhere into the game the first thing you will have to do is set the game up. This probably seems like a given but the initial sign up process is really exhaustive. It's essential to have a USB keyboard because it takes about three hours to sign up to everything completely. The first thing you have to do is install the PlayOnline viewer. The Playonline software contains email and buddy list features, it's ends up just adding to the long sign up process After this is done the game will install data to the hard drive and download the latest updates, which takes a decent amount of time. It's after this is done and you think your about to enter the world of Vana'diel that you'll start to get a little frustrated. You then register your content ID and it's time to create a character.
The character creation process is actually pretty straightforward, you can choose from five races which include the Hume, Elvaan, Tarutatu, Mithra and the Galka. The main difference between the characters is really just the attributes of the character so it's not really a concern which character you choose. The positive is that no player is going to be disadvantaged by the race they choose at the beginning. After this the game just drops you into a part of Vana'diel. For the first few hours you're likely to be quite lost because the game doesn't really explain too much so you'll need to talk to other players to get to grips with things.
The game begins rather slowly though which could turn a few people off. It's normal for MMORPG's to start off slow but it seems that Final Fantasy XI stays slow for the first 15 hours or so. At the beginning you're very weak and you basically travel around defeating low level monsters in an attempt to level up. It's possible to complete quests at your city as well and these earn a bit of money. The currency in the game can be used to spend at the shops or at the auction houses. The auction houses are player run so there are often some really great items up for auction. However, When you strip the game play bare you're literally just getting richer and becoming more powerful, like most MMORPG's you're only likely to get out what you put in.
Once you've levelled up a bit and you're a little richer it is safe to leave the city. The game places a large emphasis on encouraging players to team up, which can be both a positive and a negative. If you don't team up with other players then you're likely to have a tough time down the line because everything will be far too difficult. Later on in the game you join a linkshell (like a guild) and this allows you to work as a team to survive. This makes the later parts of the game more entertaining.
The Xbox 360 version is played against players who own the PlayStation 2 or the PC version of the game, so you'll be encountering a lot of different people and they could be from basically anywhere in the world. Due to this version arriving so late it is easy to feel like your a couple of years behind everyone else. The reason these people have been playing so long though is because of the lifespan. There is literally so much to do that the more time you put into this game the more you get out of it. The maximum level you can achieve is level 75, but with a variety of different jobs and sub jobs you're not likely to run out of things to do anytime soon.
Most people would be aware by now that this is the only Xbox 360 game without achievements. I've since been informed that Square Enix have stated that they're looking into how to put achievements into the game but the lack of any achievements at all is a serious disappointment. Even if Square Enix just added tasks worth a couple of hundred points they easily could have added to this later on. The achievements could have been the major reason to pick this version up but unfortunately at the time of writing this review there are no achievements at all and it doesn't look like there will be for the forseeable future.
Graphically the game is basically identical to the version we reviewed a few years ago. Back then the graphics may have been rather impressive but they're starting to look quite aged now. The game has been optimised for a high definition set up, but that's as far as the enhancements go. We didn't find the sound to be as memorable as other Final Fantasy titles, but it is all going to come down to personal preference.
Final Fantasy XI is still going strong after many years. The Xbox 360 version is basically identical to the PlayStation 2 and the PC version released all those years ago. There is nothing overly wrong with the title, except the pacing is so slow and the system isn't very forgiving for new players. If you're willing to put in the time then you're likely to get a good experience out of the game, but if you were that interested in the title it's likely you played it a few years ago. When reviewing a MMORPG there are so many facets of the game that it's impossible to cover all of them, but even when your fifty hours in you're likely to experience something new and that is the appeal of MMORPG's. Final Fantasy XI may have been eclipsed by titles like World of Warcraft but it's still an enjoyable experience, just not as enjoyable as a few years ago.
Thanks to Xamerkapsy for his help with some of the factual information included in this review.