Remembering The Glory That Is Final Fantasy XI On Its 10-Year Anniversary

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Illustration for article titled Remembering The Glory That Is emFinal Fantasy XI/em On Its 10-Year Anniversary

Can you believe it has been a decade since the release of Final Fantasy XI? Zasalamel certainly remembers.

Today is Final Fantasy XI's tenth anniversary. I just wanted to take a moment to pay tribute to what is probably the game that has made the biggest impression on me in my lifetime.

As a kid, the SNES Final Fantasy games were the greatest thing ever to me; maybe that's one of the reasons why I like FFXI so much. It feels like a SNES FF game, but one that you can play with friends and that seems never-ending. Unlike MMOs up to that point, FFXI actually featured a real story with cut-scenes. This wasn't just some weak story thrown at you as a bone either; I'd say that FFXI's story, particularly in Chains of Promathia and Wings of the Goddess, is the best story of any FF game. And all of the endgame activities such as Limbus, Dynamis, Besieged, Assault, Salvage, Einherjar and Abyssea actually tied in with the main storylines so not only were these activities amazingly fun but they felt like they made sense story wise compared to the generic endgame raids of most MMOs.

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The music is also some of the best of the series. Unlike with FFXIV where he was asked to do the whole soundtrack, which was probably too much of an undertaking to expect really high quality tracks from, Uematsu was able to focus on fewer tracks and really make them great. "Ronfaure" ( [www.youtube.com] )"Airship" ( [www.youtube.com] ) and "Recollection" ( [www.youtube.com] ) stand out to me. Also the "FFXI Opening Theme" ( [www.youtube.com] ) which was used in the game's amazing CG intro sequence. That being said most of the credit for FFXI's fantastic soundtrack must go to Naoshi Mizuta who thanks to this game has become one of my favorite composers. While he contributed so many memorable pieces, none stand out more to me than "The Sanctuary of Zi'tah" ( [www.youtube.com] ). It's one of my favorite musical pieces period.

The game was also so innovative in terms of its design. It was the first MMO that allowed people from all over the world to play on the same servers regardless of location or platform. It was the first MMO to feature an Auto-Translate feature to help communicate with other people (mainly between Japanese and non-Japanese). The fact that the game was designed to be played with a controller to accommodate console players was also a welcome first. The macro system it employed was very avant-garde as well as it allowed to swap pieces of gear before attacks in order to maximize that attack. You were no longer limited to wearing the same gear all the time. You needed to have a full arsenal of varied gear to be at your best, no matter which job you played.

Another innovative feature was its amazing job system where your character could switch jobs at will and you could level as many of them as you wanted. Other MMOs forced you to make a new character if you wanted to play a different class, often requiring you to do a number of quests over. Each job played so differently that it felt like you were playing a new game every time you decided to level a new job. Tanking on Ninja was a rush like no other I'd experienced in a game. It required a constant focus and concentration which determined if you were going to be a badass that never took a single hit or a scrub that would die in seconds. My favorite job though was Blue Mage. Going around the world collecting all the spells from monsters was an unforgettable experience and playing as a Blue Mage was equally rewarding.

The battle system was also brilliant, as unlike most MMOs where combat is a big mess where you just frantically click on icons, the combat in FFXI was very calculated and strategic, requiring a balance of skill and timing. By timing special attacks and spells together, party members could create powerful Skillchains and Magic Bursts that sometimes were key to victory or at least dispatching foes quickly.

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But beyond all this what made FFXI special was its community, because unlike most MMOs the community in FFXI was just that. The game was designed with cooperation in mind rather than PvP and the game's original steep difficulty really required people to constantly work together and help each other. And people actually did it, there were days when I'd log on and only help other people do stuff and it honestly felt just as good as if I had achieved something for myself, maybe even better. The community was so mature and varied, almost none of the people playing fell into the MMO player stereotypes you often see on TV like in the World of Warcraft episode South Park and such. People from all over the world, all walks of life, all races, all religions, all coming together and half of them were actually female.

It was all such an unforgettable experience. If you read some of the comments on those Youtube videos I posted when talking about the music you'll see that most people that played the game seriously feel the same way about it as I do; it was just that good. I just want to thank Square-Enix for making the game and supporting it the way they have during these ten years and for allowing me to meet so many great people, many of which I'm still in contact with years later.

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Thank you for the great memories FFXI. Here's to you: [www.gametrailers.com]

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DISCUSSION

monstercloud-old
Monstercloud

....Yeah.

This is one of those, "Looking back through rose colored glasses" things. Not entirely though, the music was pretty good, and some of the stories were memorable...but that's pretty much where it ends.

Mind you, I played the game consistently since the NA release until ToAU.

Gameplay

While the job system and the jobs themselves were refreshing, the forced leveling and upkeep of jobs were not fun. Just for those who don't know, You could choose your job, and a "sub job", which was a job you had, capped at half the level of your current job (75 Bard/37 WHM), and while you weren't "forced" to keep your subjob leveled, there were certain jobs that if you desired a certain playstyle, be it solo or in a party, you pretty much had to keep leveling your subjob, even if you didn't like playing it.

On top of that, you needed to play inventory management if you remotely wanted your character well equipped. God help you if you wanted to invest and level a mage and melee job. While it is possible to upgrade your storage and inventory space, it is not at all feasible for poor players, or even the moderately wealthy. Sure, prices may be different now, but back then you could easily spend more than 250k for just 5 inventory slots, which you start at just 30! It might not sound bad, but if you factor in monster drops, food, drinks, your equipment (You don't have free space if you equip something), and any quest items, you'll be forking over more money so you can create mules.

And just to add onto that expense are jobs that require consumables in order to play - and they aren't cheap. Arrows are expensive, even if you don't buy the top quality arrows/bolts, so if you wanted to play Ranger, then you either better pony up the dough, or learn to build them yourself, which is just as initially costly and much more of a time sink than anything, same goes for Ninja's and their tools.

The UI was clunky and unintuitive. There were no drag and drop buttons for skills, you had to macro every single ability if you wished to bind it to a hotkey. Oh sure, you could use the menu, but in admist of a battle, who wants to do that?! And you only had one bar - you'd have to scroll through action bars if you wanted to use up more than 10 macros. Have fun!

One more thing on jobs - If you wanted to do certain missions/BCNMs, you better have the right job for it, or you are not getting an invite/help. While the job system is somewhat flexible, there are quite a number of fights that require certain jobs in order to beat them. Does the mob have several AoE abilities? Ninja is useless. A nasty 2hr? Better hope there's a RDM/DRK to chain stun it. In otherwords, you could have had a fantastic set as a BST, or a BRD, but that doesn't mean you're going to gain support for CoP 2-5.... speaking of which...

Community

Oh sure, people are willing to help - assuming you've removed all risk and set up the perfect group composition.

Getting help for majority of the mid-high level content was tough. I can't really blame them fully, as the game was a complete grindfest, and you could actually lose levels if you died enough times, and until much, much later into the life of the game, you had to use lower level equipment on level-capped events (more inventory management, yeah!), but if we're going to say the majority of the community was helpful, my experience says otherwise. I could of researched different ways of doing the fight, but it didn't matter... most weren't willing to take the risk or time to help out.

Even in XP parties, people demanded optimal setups. Remember how much DRGs used to be shunned? DO YOU?! My DRG hit a wall at 61, forcing me to level a different job. Granted, I had the most fun in that game playing a BST, but even leveling my NIN, and gearing as DPS to be more effective in parties, got me 0 non-BST party invites.

"People from all over the world, all walks of life, all races, all religions, all coming together"

And by "coming together" he really means, "no one could stand each other".

Well... not completely true. NA had the idea that JP players were god players, and receiving one of them into their party was a blessing. Of course, this isn't true. They're just players. They may of had more experience at the start, but it wasn't long before all players had the same knowledge as JP players did.

JP players were some of xenophobic players I've ever played with in any game. Despite there being a translation system, the vast majority of comments next to JP player's names consisted of "JP ONLY" or (Japanese) = O (English) = X" It made it much more of a chore to get a party together.

Segue!

Squeenix!

As much as people love to bitch about Blizzard catering to the people, at least they are paying attention to the community enough to listen. For all the troubles it was to level each job, it took way too long for SE to come up with a way to remedy people's leveling blues with the level sync. To think how quickly Valkrum Dunes would of gone by, or Garlaige Citadel... Of all the MMOs I've played, Square Enix is by far the worst when it came to listening and caring about the plight of the FFXI player. They got better later, but it was far too late for most people.

The billing... yes, even that was bastardized to take more of your unsuspecting money. If you were foolish enough to subscribe near the end of the month, at the beginning of next month you would be charged again, even if it was the 28th when you signed up. This applied to your trial too, where your 30 day trial could become a 3 day trial. How could you fuck that up?

There's plenty of other complaints, like how every profession was a test of patience, or the variety of leveling monsters, or the lack there of. And I know I'm going to get a bunch of people, "That's not like how it was for me!" "I have a different experience" "Most MMOs are no better/worse than FFXI!"

Remember the game however you like, not my goal to change it, and it'd be a waste of time for you to try to dispute my experience of the game.

Oh, and I know the game is much in various number of ways now, but I'm talking how it was then.

tl;dr - FFXI wasn't that glorious.