I don't hate FFXI. It hates me and everyone else that plays it.
To anyone thinking of buying this, now at this late date. I would say steer clear of the game. It's old, it's very very difficult and, if it's your first MMO, it will very likely break you. Go play World of Warcraft.
First off; Graphics. I won't even go there (for the sake of being fair) because the game is so old. When it was first out, the graphics were actually top-notch.
Sound; The music is okay in some parts of the game (Starter areas), annoying in others (San D'Oria) and downright non-existant in others (Dunes area). Most of the time because of these things, I had my sound off and was listening to MP3s.
Gameplay; Here is where the game really lacks. At level 10, you are forced to either; (1) Party up, most likely at Dunes; (2) Ask or in many cases beg for a power level (a higher level cures you as you take damage, preventing you from dying.) or; (3) Make a rather feeble attempt at soloing. This game was NOT designed for the casual player. You can NOT solo past level 10 and make any sort of decent amount of Experience Points in any form of reasonable rate by yourself. Even with the new installments of items which increase Experience Points gained, Square Enix has limited them in such ways that make them impractical, at least for the casual gamer. If you actually have any sort of a life and wish to spend any time outside of work actually doing anything in real life, this game quite simply is not for you. It's true, I have seen people play this game and work, but the only way they actually got anywhere was by getting anywhere from 2-5 hours of sleep. Which leads me to my next section.
Ingame Community; Very strong. Or very weak. Depending on who you know and how many you know. This is the game's strongest or weakest point. People either help, or they don't. Let's face it, you won't get anywhere without at least two or more people with you, helping on whatever you need help on. Even for the most mundane of tasks, like most of the quests and missions. If you don't have at least six people with you, you won't even be able to finish FFXI's earliest of expansions. No matter what level you are. People in this game can be great, they can be nice, or they can ridicule you for not having a certain piece of gear, even though they know you can't get it alone.
Ingame Economy; Very bad, very weak. Square Enix does little to nothing when it comes to actively stopping RMT (the guys who sell ingame currency). They allow new accounts with no restrictions and, even when an RMT is blatantly breaking the rules, the GMs take a very long time to remedy the situation, this being AFTER they've answered your call. I have never had to wait longer than 45 minutes for a call to be answered, however, so maybe it's some sort of trade-off. The monsters' drop rates are low to moderate, and selling to NPCs results in gil so meager that you often times wonder why you bothered at all. Which brings me to the only other viable means of making money in FFXI; The Auction House. Most of the higher level items in the auction house are so wildly overpriced, that you need to work for weeks, sometimes a full month, if not more to get a single piece of gear. This wouldn't be so bad if you didn't need multiple pieces for stat swapping. I'll just keep that part simple and mention that some classes will require two or sometimes even 3 pieces of body armor to do a job effectively. Let's not even start in about rings, earrings, belts, etc...
Expansions; The expansions in the game wouldn't be so bad if they were of a reasonable difficulty, and offered some new areas. The ones that I'm specifically aiming at are Chains of Promathia and Wings of the Goddess. Treasures of Aht Urghan added new areas, new gear and it wasn't of an unreasonable difficulty getting to Aht Ughan. Chains of Promathia starts out hard. Especially if you have no idea of what you're doing. It's unforgiving at it's best and downright anger and rage inducingly difficult at it's worst. I'm not in any way making things up when I say this particular expansion has nulled friendships and destroyed linkshells. The biggest problem with this expansion was that it was quite simply too hard and there was no ability to scale it to your party size. So you had to have six or it was a no go. Everyone had to be ready at a specific day and time and often life takes over and they weren't always able to make it, which led alot of times to rescheduling unsuccessfully. The expansion was long too. It usually took more than a week to complete. The expansion is so bad in fact that veterans of the game have yet to complete it and those who have actually completed it, want nothing more to do with it ever again. The expansion set is beyond broken. Wings of the Goddess offered little in terms of new content. Really about all we got was a few pieces of new gear for classes and some revamping of old areas.
In closing; Personally, I feel that this game truely is broken. Look at the endgame items. To get the best weapon for your class, which in this case would be Amanomurakumo (Samurai), it will take four real-life years, once you hit the absolute level cap which was at last check level 75. Items such as Potions for HP are largely ineffective and vastly over-priced. The economy is incredibly weak. The game is old. The expansions are mediocre to horrible. I can not in all good conscience reccommend this game to anyone. The only actual quality this game has that is good, is the community, and even the community is bad in alot of aspects. There are still good people in FFXI, but too few and very far between. Go play World of Warcraft. Yes the graphics are worse, yes the user base can be annoying. There's nearly no community, but the one thing World of Warcraft has FFXI beat in is... you actually have fun in the game. Heed my words or don't. This is only my opinion. You may actually like FFXI. However, if you buy it and find that the game is exactly what I said, you can't say I didn't warn you lol.