I still haven’t played a whole lot of Final Fantasy XI yet, but at least I can say I have played it this week. That by itself is definitely an improvement over the hassles of registration I had to deal with last week, even if the gameplay isn’t particularly engaging.
Before I start whinging about Final Fantasy XI it’s important to note that I have not played many MMORPGs before, and those times I tried them out I really didn’t get into them. Probably ten years ago now one of my best friends gave me a two-week free trial to World of Warcraft, and prior to that I had enjoyed multiple games in the Warcraft series, so I was quite keen to give it a go. Plus several of my friends were really into it, and it would have been great to get into it and enjoy the game with them.
However after just two or three days (I’d wager less than five hours into the actual game) I gave it up. The grinding was a boring slog, the missions repetitive, and the story uninteresting. Add in the monthly subscription cost, and it just didn’t seem like a good time at all.
Ten years later and basically no MMO experience in that time, and Final Fantasy XI right now feels exactly like WoW did back then, but without the allure of playing with friends. Whenever I play, I may run into three or four other players wandering around, but that’s it. My primary partner and mentor in-game has told me that once upon a time the towns were just packed full of other players, but thanks to things like Final Fantasy XIV and other newer, more modern MMOs out there, FFXI has just been kind of left out in the pasture.
Perhaps if I tried playing the game back in its heyday where I could stumble upon a group of like-minded adventurers who I could party up with, I’d be having a better experience. I guess we’ll never know. Luckily I have got a super helpful guide in Unigma from Twitter. He’s really been great at leading me around the incredibly disorienting town of Windurst, providing me with helpful tips and suggestions, and helping me to understand general mechanics of the game. Earlier this week I was so underwhelmed by Final Fantasy XI that I very nearly stopped playing in favor of starting up FFXII early, but Unigma’s help has kept me going.
I just reached level 10 yesterday, and according to him and others that means I can now start getting more into the meat and bones of the plot, with more story-related quests and whatnot. I’ve also now met Shantotto, the unofficial face of FFXI. She’s the protagonist that appears in spin-off titles like Dissidia and Theatrhythm as this game’s primary representative, alongside the likes of Cloud, Terra, Tidus, and Firion. Hopefully in time I’ll learn why she’s such an interesting character, and the one deserving of such spotlight.
At any rate, one of my frustrations with the game was the mere fact that I had to reach a certain level before getting to experience more of the plot. In my eyes, a Final Fantasy title should introduce you to the story straight off the bat, then build upon it from there. With FFXI – as is the case with many MMOs, from my understanding – you instead start the game with minimal understanding of what to do, where to go, or how to progress. I was able to partake in several tutorial quests and missions, which are always helpful when starting a new game, but the volume of tutorial quests available here is staggering and incredibly intimidating.
Perhaps veterans to the genre wouldn’t need as much explanation as a greenhorn like myself, but I just found it all to be so overwhelming. I mean honestly, I was given a bit of advice that many players often have a Wiki or guide open while playing FFXI, to help them out whenever they need it. Call me crazy, but I don’t find that fun or enjoyable. If I’ve been stuck at one point for several hours and just can’t work out a puzzle, I’ll consult a guide, sure. But feeling the need to have a guide open the entire time just to make sense of things is a bit ridiculous if you ask me.
I’m doing my best to remember that Final Fantasy XI was a huge game-changer at the time of its release – it predates some of the most prolific MMOs, including WoW, and is still up and running. Squaresoft (they were still Squaresoft back when this game released! Crazy!) and subsequently Square Enix have continued to support it for more than a decade with around a dozen add-on scenarios and expansions in total throughout that time, certainly enough to keep dedicated fans interested and coming back for more.
Coming to such a game so late into it, it would be completely unfair of me to write it off so easily after just a couple hours of grievances, so I will persist. I cannot guarantee I’ll waste time past my allotted 25 days with the game trying to reach a finale that may potentially still be dozens of hours away, but hopefully I’ll be able to wrap up my time with Final Fantasy XI with a bit more understanding of what made the game great. Only time will tell.