Developer: Square Enix |
Publisher: SCEA
Players: 1+ Player Game |
Genre: MMO

Release Date: 03/23/04

At this year’s E3, Microsoft unveiled the Xbox 360 and while there may not have been too many real surprises, one of the key announcements made was that Square Enix would be developing software for the next Xbox. The announcement came in the form of the company’s popular online RPG Final Fantasy XI. The game has already been released on the PC and PlayStation 2 in both Japan and the US, but now the series will see life for the first time on a Microsoft console. That alone is significant and shows that MS is at least making some head way with Japanese developers. But all industry politics aside, FF XI is an amazing game and Xbox gamers should relish the opportunity to jump into the vast world of Vana’diel; if you haven’t experienced the game for yourself, this preview will serve as a nice way to start learning a bit about it.

The first order of business in any MMO worth its salt is creating your character. In FF XI, you have five different races to choose from. A brief description of each follows below:

Mithra: The Mithra are a race of cat girls that are fairly well balanced in terms of magic and physical abilities. They are more agile and have a higher evasion than the other races, aside from this, they are also just good old fashioned hot.

Elvaan: The Elves of Vana’diel excel in physical abilities and can even out damage the hulking Galka. Elves also have a high charisma, but are extremely limited in terms of magical abilities.

TaruTaru: The TaruTaru are those tiny little guys you see in all the FF XI advertisements. These little guys are the best magic users in the game, but their physical abilities leave something to be desired.

Galka: The Galka are an all male race of huge creatures that are physically dominating on the battlefield. They make for an excellent melee character, but have poor skills in magic.

Hume: Humes, or humans as we like to call them, are right up there with the Mithra when it comes to being balanced across physical and magical skills. A Hume is a solid choice no matter which job you intend to play.

Each race has its advantages and disadvantages, but the cool thing about this game is that your race doesn’t limit you in terms of which job class you can play. If you want to play as a Galkan White Mage, then go right ahead. You may have it a bit rougher than a TaruTaru would, but it’s by no means impossible. And speaking of job classes, FF XI currently has fifteen to choose from including Bard, Beast Master, Black Mage, Dark Knight, Dragoon, Monk, Ninja, Paladin, Ranger, Red Mage, Samurai, Summoner, Theif, Warrior and last, but not least, White Mage. Each job has its own special traits that make it unique from the others. Initially, only the Monk, Black/White/Red Mage, Warrior and Thief are available, but once you hit level 30 you are able to complete certain quests to unlock the other jobs.

The gameplay in FF XI is extremely group-oriented, and rightfully so considering it’s an MMO. The first ten levels or so go by quickly and can be done all on your own, but after that, you’re going to want to start grouping with other players in order to take down tougher monsters and complete difficult missions. When you group with others, you can have up to six people in your party. In some cases, your party may wish to forge an alliance with another party or two. An alliance allows three parties to group together in order to take down some of the game’s most powerful adversaries.

The combat system is fairly robust and demands group cooperation. Aside from normal attacks, you can use special skills depending on what type of weapon you have equipped. These weapon skills can then be performed in a particular order to pull of 쳫ill chains.Skill chains have a certain elemental attribute attached to them and cause extra damage to your foe. However, timing is critical in pulling one off and not all weapon skill combinations will cause one to happen. On top of this, a mage in the group can cast a spell at the end of a skill chain and stack a 쭡gic burstn top of it. Magic bursts are tacked onto skill chains for even greater damage.

As stated before, the world of Vana’diel is humongous and it’s getting bigger all the time. Square Enix are always updating the game by adding new content, new monsters, new job abilities, and new areas to explore. The game has seen two expansion packs added on so far and a third is in the works, so there’s definitely a very large to-do list for players. By completing the game’s missions and quests you’ll advance through the story which is also ever-expanding as new missions are added.

Now, even though this version of the game will be on the Xbox 360, it is still compatible with the PC and PS2 verions so there is already a wide player base. Due to this fact, it is highly unlikey that the Xbox version will have exclusive content, and really, it wouldn’t make much sense if it did. However, perhaps it will launch with a new set of areas or maybe even the next expansion; we’ll just have to wait and see.

The online system MS has developed with Xbox Live makes the Xbox 360 an ideal platform for SE to port the game over to and so far things seem to be going very smoothly. This is great news for MS and XBL users as Square Enix seems to be taking a keen interest in the Xbox 360 and Xbox Live, “Close collaboration between Microsoft and Square Enix is just beginning. As a company that is dedicated to expanding the boundaries of what is possible in the world of video games, SE looks forward to working with the Xbox team to create new worlds that the Xbox 360 will make possible.t;/I> says SE president Satoru Iwata. Basically, for the Xbox gamer, that translates to, 삯oyah!î?Š

There is much more to the game than I’ve touched on here, but with a game this size, it would be next to impossible to give a full preview of things. Rest assured there is plenty of content and Xbox users have a great experience heading their way. No release date has been given as of yet, but supposedly SE hopes to begin beta testing when the system launches later this year.

This article appeared in the July 2005 Issue of CVGames. You can view this Issue by clicking here.

By Ryan Schaefer – 07/13/05
ESRB Details: Animated Blood, Violence

Screenshots for Final Fantasy XI