Playing FFXI is like watching two 3-legged turtles race. Avoid at all costs!
First of all, I'd like to comment that I didn't level much past level 6 or so. That might make this review seem biased, but I just could not bring myself to spend any more time with this game. According to my buddy, it took patience to get to the later portions of the game where all the fun is. I just didn't find any fun in auto attacking rabbits while resting for what seemed like an eternity in between every other encounter. I'm also not a big fan of grind fests, especially when the interface is so convoluted, but I'll get to that in a second.
I found the graphics on par with a PSX game. That didn't quite bother me, as I'm into retro gaming, but the lack of detail put into the environments made every location seem bare bones when compared to other MMOs. Besides some rocks and trees, there might as well of been just a green landscape with mobs here and there. The character graphics were mediocre. Most MMOs are item-centric, so shouldn't the gear look grand? I peeped a few high end characters on the "World" I played on and they didn't look anything special.
The music got on my nerves, even though it was very similar to standard Final Fantasy tunes. It was just very repetitive, so not only did I grind some levels, but the music also grind-ed on me. The sound effects were very reminiscent of all Final Fantasy games which was cool...although I heard a lot of it scrolling through all the menus...
The interface has to be the worst aspect of this poorly designed and unintuitive game. Tons of menus just to do simple tasks like opening the map screen or selecting an item to use. Targeting mobs, even though it became easier with play, just didn't seem natural. I used an Xbox 360 controller, since it seemed that the game was designed with consoles in mind, but I find the point-click aspect of traditional PC MMOs to be essential for smooth gameplay. Setting up Macros wasn't so hard, since I have quite of bit of experience with it in WoW, but many tasks that one takes for granted in other games literally have to be completed by using macros in this game.
Another problem is the lack of reward. Where are all the skills and spells? In other games you basically get new spells and abilities every other level or so, even at early levels. I didn't get very far, so I don't know how in depth Skill chains and Weapon skills get, but who cares when leveling to get there is like running barefoot through hell?
Not only does installing/patching the game take 4-6 hours, but setting up an account for FFXI has to be THE WORST I've seen in any game.
I'm sure there has to be some redeeming factors to this game or it wouldn't have gotten to many rave reviews from hardcore MMO fans, but with all the stellar games out on the market today (or even 2002+), why subject yourself to such pain and torture to crack this nut?