Final Fantasy XI Chains of Promathia is an upcoming expansion for Square Enix's online RPG that's set in the Final Fantasy universe. The expansion disc, which will ship for both the PC and PlayStation 2, will add a sizable chunk of new content to the already robust game. To whet our appetites for the new material, Square Enix reps took us on a tour through some of the new areas in the PC version of the game to let us have a look around. We were able to take in the new sights and sounds, as well as engage in a bit of killing (which is always a good thing).
The one slight catch to the tour was that Square Enix couldn't talk about the story elements that will play a large part in the experience offered by Chains of Promathia's new content. While FFXI has quests that relate--to a lesser extent--to the overarching story that serves as the game's backbone, Promathia will feature a stronger emphasis on storyline.
While the story elements in Promathia will certainly make for a richer experience, Square Enix's desire to let players discover them on their own did limit what we were able to see. While we were able to scope out some of the new faces and places in the game, we weren't able to get a sense of how they all work together. This is especially true of the quests, which we weren't able to try. That said, the experience did give us a tantalizing sense of what Square Enix has cooking, and it's shaping up nicely.
For those looking for some bullet points on what Promathia is going to offer, plan on discovering thousands of new items, new monsters, and more than 40 new areas. Our tour took us through a handful of these new areas and let us appreciate the new creature designs, improved graphics, and music.
The first stop was Attohwa Chasm, an arid, rocky area livened up by poisonous gas. The rocky locale featured puffs of dust that were kicked up by the wind as well as some new faces in the game--ant lions--which should be familiar to longtime fans of the FF series. We spent some time hacking up the new foes until dark, when another of the new enemies--corses--appeared. These undead creatures, attired in natty cloaks, aren't your average reanimated remains of the living. They actually possess intellect and can exert control over lesser beings. After we defeated one, we happened on a new item--a corse bracelet.
Our next stop was Uleguerand Range, a mountainous region covered in snow and home to such sights as the Thousandfall Ridge. This area showed off some new enemies, whose names were still being finalized. Before we checked out just what happens when you go down to Thousandfall Ridge, we tussled with eerie ghosts and a snowy bomb that's every bit as deadly and annoying as its fiery cousin. Once we took the leap below to the ridge, we faced off against tigers, rabbits, and buffalo.
A boat heading down the Phanauet Channel, in considerably better weather, was our next stop. Because the version of the game we were playing was still a work in progress, there wasn't a whole lot to do on the ride other than take out river critters (such as fly traps) that were buzzing around and take in the impressive shoreside sights. The plan is to have a variety of different activities open to players while they take the ride in the final game.
After our boat ride, we headed to the city of Movalpolos, a sprawling undergound area built by moblins that looked like something from an Indiana Jones movie. The area we explored consisted of large wooden platform areas that were connected by cave passages. As you'd expect, the locale was crawling with moblins, as well as large bug bears that didn't appear to be as tough as they sounded.
A new area called the Emptiness of Promyvion offered the most dramatic change of pace from the traditional locations we saw on the tour. This dark, twilight area featured a very gray color scheme that gave it an air of decay. The sense of rot was underscored by subtle dust effects and the patterns left behind from your footfalls as your character moved throughout the area. The space was populated by a number of different enemies, whose tentative names were "weeper," "sleeper," and "thinker." These new enemies featured a common design theme, although each possessed distinguishing characteristics in terms of its appearance and color. This common design theme consisted of a body-shaped latticework built around a glowing orb. This fit in well with the area, which consisted of sparse structures highlighted by brightly glowing orbs of energy or pads of light (which could be teleporters) that were visible in the distance.
The last stop on our tour was Bibiki Bay, a waterside area teeming with korrigans and oppo oppos. The beach area featured a quest to search for clams along the shore that we tried briefly. The place we explored was a series of sandy areas by the water that were connected by caves and featured lush vegetation.
As far as presentation goes, the game is sporting some new touches that add a bit of polish to the experience. The graphics are looking good and feature some refinements over the visuals in FFXI. Detail in the game is higher, with finer elements on characters standing out a bit more. There also appear to be more ambient elements in the game, and there's more action going on in the background, which helps give the areas we saw an improved sense of life. The audio has also been beefed up some with new music tracks that pop up in battle and when exploring new areas.
While what we saw was limited, Final Fantasy XI Chains of Promathia looks to be a solid expansion to the FFXI experience. The amount of new content, not to mention the story elements, should make for a worthy and lengthy drain on your time. The improvements to the visuals and audio are looking good and help freshen the experience. Since we were shown the PC version of the game, we're curious to see what kind of visual upgrades Square Enix will pull off with the PlayStation 2 version. In any case, if you're a fan of the original FFXI, you'll want to keep an eye out for the game. Final Fantasy XI Chains of Promathia is slated to ship this fall for the PC and PlayStation 2.