previews\ Sep 14, 2003 at 8:00 pm

Final Fantasy XI - PS2 - Preview 2

Final Fantasy has to be one of the most popular names among the gaming community and beyond. A lot of people that don’t even play video games know what Final Fantasy is. The series began on the original Nintendo and are now on their tenth Final Fantasy on the Playstation 2, along with multiple branches such as Final Fantasy Tactics, Final Fantasy Adventure, and Final Fantasy Legends. Each game has always been a separate story with separate characters, sharing only a few subtleties as kind of a bonus for the gamers in the know.

Once the series hit number ten, they started taking risks. Their very first “sequel” recently hit store shelves in Japan. Final Fantasy X-2 is the series’ first true sequel and continues the story of Final Fantasy X. Square-Enix also released a real-time Final Fantasy on the Gamecube called Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles in Japan. While both of those games are on their way to the States soon, the one that will hit first is Final Fantasy XI; Square-Enix’s first MMORPG.

For those unfamiliar with the genre, MMORPG stands for Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game - and it’s just what it sounds like. Most of the characters in the world of Vana’diel are other people like yourself, playing from the comfort of their own home. Making friends and exploring Vana'diel with other people is a huge part of the game.

Final Fantasy XI will be coming out for both the Playstation 2 and the PC, and both versions are capable of playing with each other. The way the controls are mapped out for the PS2 is very nice. You can accomplish all the necessary commands from the PS2 controller, but having the keyboard is a huge help. The keyboard allows for many hotkeys, making the gameplay smoother and less of a hassle. Also, chatting can be done via an in-game keyboard for those PS2 owners without a USB keyboard. Final Fantasy XI also supports the use of a USB mouse, making for a very PC-like experience. Personally, I like the Dual Shock/USB keyboard combo. The Dual Shock takes care of all the necessary commands and is easier to control your character with, but for some of the deeper commands and chatting purposes I like to have the keyboard handy.

Chatting is a very important part of Final Fantasy XI…you have to communicate with the other players somehow. Final Fantasy XI has many chat functions to help you talk to who you want to talk to. There’s different ways to chat; you can either Say, Shout, or Tell something. The command “Say” allows players within a small radius to hear you. “Shouting” something allows players in the same area as you to hear you. If you use “Tell” with a player’s name, you can chat with just them no matter where they are. Other options such as Party and Linkshell narrow it down even further. Party keeps chatting within your current party. A Linkshell is something that you can equip to your character, linking you to a community of players with that same Linkshell all over the world of Vana’diel. Linkshells are great since it makes meeting people even easier, plus you have an entire community to ask for help or tips.  

The game looks great on the Playstation 2. Environments are absolutely beautiful and detailed. The cities have all the facilities you would expect, including guilds, different shops, pubs, etc. You even have your own house that a little moogle watches over. During your travels you may find things like tables or paintings that can be used to decorate your house as well. One downside, though, is the extremely long load times. It takes a pretty long time to load up Final Fantasy XI, but once in the game it’s not too bad.

From the beginning, Final Fantasy XI offers five different races and six different jobs. When starting, you are prompted to configure a character. Your choices are Human (male or female), Elvaan (male or female), Tarutaru (male or female), Mithra (female only), or Galka (male only). After that, you pick a job; Warrior, White Mage, Black Mage, Red Mage, Thief, or Monk. Finally, you pick a name and city to start in.

The battles are in real time, but use traditional turn-based rules. In other words, you click an enemy, choose attack, and sit back and watch the fight. Depending on your job and level, you can get abilities or spells to use during battle. All the lower level spells from other Final Fantasies are there, such as Fire, Ice, etc. Hopefully other Final Fantasy spells become available later, such as Flare or Ultima.

Most battle abilities are learned by leveling up, but there are other skills you can learn outside of battle. Things like fishing, cooking, and metalwork level up with practice. To begin playing around with the skills, you first must sign up with a guild. They will then give you some crystals and inside tips on how to make certain items. Creating items is as simple as finding the right ingredients, then combining them with the right crystal. This is called Item Synthesis. Since Synthesis uses up the crystal, it’s up to you to find more of those crystals to continue practicing your skills.

Crystals can be pretty hard to find during certain times. For example, you cannot obtain crystals in an area that is not controlled by your country. At any given time, you can check who is in control of any area in Vana’diel. To control a certain area, you must have “signet” cast on you. This marks you with your area’s crest, and now when you fight and kill monsters you are gaining conquests points for you country. Gaining control of territory is a huge part of Final Fantasy XI.

Final Fantasy XI is riddled with tons of side missions called Quests. Quests are mostly favors that take a bit of exploration to find. NPC’s all over Vana’diel will ask you to do them some sort of favor. Upon completion you are rewarded, making Quests a fun way to pass the time and level up. They’re also excellent ways to meet new people. Aside from Quests, there are the more official Missions. Missions are assigned to you by the country, and usually have a larger payoff. You almost always need to go on missions in a group, since they’re pretty tough when first assigned.

So far Final Fantasy XI has been a fun and addicting experience. There’s nothing like running through a beautiful world and battling monsters with a new friend. The deep job and skill systems make for hours of exploration. It’s also exciting to wonder what’s waiting for you later in the game. Will you see more Final Fantasy monsters out there? More spells? Final Fantasy XI is definitely going to broaden the appeal of MMORPG’s to more gamers. So far it’s shaping up to be one of the best online games the PS2 has to offer.

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