Friday, February 6, 2009

Late to the Party: My Final Fantasy XI Impressions

Hey, geddit!? Get that pun I just made? See, because you can have a "party" of people in an RPG, right? But "Late to the Party" is a phrase that means something besides that! I just wrote something with two meanings! Yeah you can leave that Nobel Prize for FANTASTIC WRITING FROM A SEXY GUY on the desk.

Anyways, as I mentioned last week, I bought my first MMORPG recently. Final Fantasy XI arrived in the mail this week and I spent most of Wednesday playing it. Like I've said before, I bought the game because I could play it on something besides my abysmal computer, and because I have a pretty big soft spot for the Final Fantasy series. It's the only numbered game in the installment that I had yet to play (besides maybe FFV, which I actually forget whether or not I tried), and the concept of riding around Chocobos and fighting Tonberries in a new world crafted by Square-Enix's capable design team was definitely a promising one.

So in my first 10 hours or so of gameplay, does it live up to that promise? Keep reading and find out.

I got the game on Tuesday night, but I didn't actually get to play at that point due to the install time. See, I'd gotten not only the main game, but all the expansions, and on top of that I had missed about six years worth of system updates, so my 360 had to download a pretty hefty amount of material in one sitting! It took about 4 or 5 hours total, so I slept through that process and when I woke up Wednesday morning, the full game was installed and I was ready to play.

Unfortunately the first thing I noticed about the game was a bit disappointing: the character creator is TERRIBLE. It started out not so bad and fairly standard: you choose from one of the game's five available races, and for three of those races you could also choose a gender. Humes are the standard Human race, Elvaan are basically elves, Mithra is the catgirl race, Galka is the "big beefy hairy man" race, and Tarutarus are basically what would happen if Bilbo Baggins got really, really drunk one day and made babies with an adorable teddy bear. I chose a Tarutaru male, firstly because they seemed to be the only race open to males that wasn't also a direct ripoff off WOW, and by extension Dungeons and Dragons, and by extension western fantasy in general. Secondly, because this race was "finely attuned to magic", and magic using classes are generally awesome. Thirdly, because AWW THEY ARE SO CUTE AND I COULD CUDDLE THEM TILL I DIE

Anyways I chose Tarutaru Male, and this is what I was offered for character customization. I could choose between six possible Faces. These selections didn't actually change the way my face looked at all, but rather modified my hairstyle. Then I could choose between two colors for each hairstyle. After that, ding! Character creation complete! That is AWFUL. Maybe other races have more variety but WOW. I think the funniest part for me was that they didn't just let you choose your own hair color, but had "Color A" and "Color B" for each selection. Your Tarutaru could have a blond ponytail and a white ponytail. You could have a shaggy hairdo that was either brown or red. So why is my Tarutaru apparently biologically incapable of having a red ponytail or a blond shag? Obviously the source of their mysterious innate magical abilities comes from their hair and how it doesn't want to be more than two different kinds of colors depending on their proximity to a hairtie.

But whatever, after I got over that I chose my Job Class, which would be pretty familiar pickings if you've ever played either FFIII or any of the Final Fantasy Tactics games: Warrior, Monk, White Mage, Black Mage, Red Mage, and Thief. After some heavy consideration I finally chose White Mage. Then after that it was a matter of choosing my name and starting location. After choosing the default Tarutaru hometown because it was foresty and neat looking, I was ready to explore the fast world of Vana'diel as Wigglewum, the Tarutaru White Mage!

Aww, look at him. He sure likes waving!

After a couple of cutscenes, and a few tutorial tasks, I was fighting bumblebees and leveling up like nobody's business. I've heard a lot of babble about how it is really really hard to level up in this game, and maybe that's true later on, but after a little more than a day's worth of gameplay I'm Level 8, which isn't necessarily WHOA FAST, but seems like a steady enough progression to me. Unfortunately, leveling up has been getting harder to do by myself, because not only am I a walking punching bag due to being a physically weak magic casting class, I'm also a healer and thus have no offensive magic abilities to speak of right now! Luckily, nearly all the other players I've bumped into are surprisingly nice. Really high level guys have invited me into their parties just to help me out, and even those who haven't would heal me if they noticed me fighting a tough monster, or revive me if they were passing by and noticed I was dead... which unfortunately has been a pretty common scenario lately. And they'd always do this for free! After hearing tales of WOW being pretty much Douchebag Central as a community, it's been really nice to play in this kind of environment.

Overall, the game's pretty neat, and I'm enjoying it so far. There is a part of me that wished the game felt more like a Final Fantasy, though. There are several things Squeenix could have done in this regard, like use one of the franchise's already existing worlds as a starting point. Ivalice, the world of Final Fantasy Tactics and Final Fantasy XII, seems like a perfect fit for an MMO. That world had several unique races, each suited for different various tasks and abilities, and there's already like a billion classes to work with. Instead FFXI features a new world, Vana'diel, and that's okay, except another name it could easily be called is Generic MMORPG Land aka We Took WOW And Made It Japanese, The Continent. I mean, you do have Chocobos running around and Mogs run your house (I haven't gotten to toy around with the house system just yet but it should be fun), and the game'll probably pick up more as I run into other Final Fantasy staples, like Cactuars and Cid. There's just part of me that wishes it felt even more unique.

Still, it's not as bad as I make it sound, and in the long run it's a small complaint considering what the game does have to offer. What it doesn't have in terms of unique storyline, it makes up for with neat gameplay features, a battle system that feels like Final Fantasy while still also being MMO-ish, and an enjoyable community to play in. And I'm enjoying myself a good deal, so it's obviously doing something right!

Anyways, those are just a few early impressions. As the free trial period wears on, we'll see if I get either addicted or bored. Right now I guess it could go either way, but I've been resisting turning away to go play some more during the entire writing of this blog post, so I guess that bodes pretty well for the former! I'll probably update you guys on my progress, I guess. If you want me to?

1 comment:

Chief said...

Update us guys on your progress!

That way I might actually play this.