If you missed it, the Final Fantasy console role-playing series went massively multiplayer about seven years ago, appearing first on the PC, then later on the PlayStation 2 and on the Xbox 360, with mixed results. In any case, the game has continued to run and Square Enix's content team has continued to gradually build out the game with more content for loyal players who have continued to fight the good fight and steadily build up characters that are more and more powerful. Vision of Abyssea, the game's latest content expansion, is built specifically for loyal players with high-level characters and focuses primarily on adding high-end combat areas and piles of desirable loot…and it's up and running right now.
The story behind the expansion begins with the appearance of a mysterious rift in the sky that strikes your character down in the street in a brief cinematic scene. The crusty old sailor Joachim in the town of Port Jeuno observes your character's collapse and points out that the incident must mean that your character's body and mind are in tune with the interdimensional shifts that have brought Abyssea nearer to FFXI's realm of Vana'diel. As it happens, Abyssea is an alternate dimension that has been almost completely destroyed by raids of interplanar monsters that have ruined civilization and killed off nearly everyone living on that world. Your job this time around will be to provide whatever aid you can to the survivors while taking as many of those darned, dirty monsters with you as possible.
To this end, you must acquire a traverser's stone, which is an item that lets you pass across worlds to Abyssea for up to 30 minutes at once, though you can accrue up to four stones' worth of time to save up to a total of two hours. And once in Abyssea, you can also find items from monsters you slay to prolong your stay even further. Unlike previous updates to Final Fantasy XI, Vision of Abyssea doesn't emphasize story and quests as much as it does high-level battles and valuable loot rewards, including colored treasure chests that will grant temporary color-coded enhancements (known in online role-playing game parlance as buffs) along with loot.
In addition, there is a new type of Abyssea-only in-game currency called cruor, which can be exchanged for special character rewards, like full armor sets that provide powerful bonuses (a full suit of Abyssea warrior armor, for instance, provides haste, a speed bonus in battle). The update also increases the game's existing level cap from 75 to 80, so if high-end combat is what you were in the market for, you'll find it here. Abyssea is home to several new species of monster, including the clionids. These are floating critters, which, when killed repeatedly, will respawn more quickly and in greater numbers, making them a prime target for adventuring parties who want to try out their new high-level character abilities and tear through monsters like a meat grinder.
The expansion also offers new fast travel through Abyssea by way of confluxes, which are gigantic floating crystals scattered throughout this alternate plane you can discover, mark on your map, and use to jump to different parts of the new land. These include the new battlefield area, which lets up to 36 players (in a group, or not) hunt down a field full of challenging monsters, leading up to a climactic battle with a single boss monster that drops the best loot in the most valuable chest (though the loot spawns randomly and depends on the battle performance of the adventurer or war party that brought it down).
Vision of Abyssea also adds a new objective (that is, an additional maze level) to the existing Moblin Maze Monger shop, which lets players enter short, repeatable, instanced adventures. The update adds the ninth maze to the shop, Revitalization Team--a very straightforward challenge that pits your team against Gumdrop, a giant (and very angry) yellow slime monster with huge, bulgy cartoon eyes and no visible health bar. Your team has just 15 minutes to try to kill Gumdrop or, at least, lower his health as much as possible. And your score--and resulting loot rewards--will depend on how much damage you can do before time runs out.