If you have the time and patience to reach the end content, then you'll be rewarded with a unique story experience.
The story distinguishes itself straight off the bat, giving the player an amazing CGI cut scene introducing the player to the plight facing Vanadiel; the beastmen invasion. Its now some time after the initial war, and the main countries, Bastok, Windurst, and San Doria are in a cold war. Fighting for influence in the many areas of the games, this translates to where you can set a respawn point when you die, as well as the ability to take part in your nations conquest. This takes place in completing missions and killing monsters, which give you conquest points to spend on items from your nation. Though you start in one nation, you can move to another at any time you please, increasing the content.
The gameplay has many conventional formulas that work, but 11 adds some twists of its own. At any point, you can change your job on your character. Don’t like fighting as a warrior? Switch to a white mage, or try a monk. This cures the ailment that most mmo’s suffer, in that when you max your character, you’ve only got end game content, but with Final Fantasy, you move on to the next job. It’s a pretty cool convention, and it removes the necessity for creating multiple characters.
The story is the greatest aspect of this game, as the missions you partake in actually make you a part of the story rather than just an observer. It’s engrossing to see story unfold around your character, and the missions as well as the cut scenes are varied and entertaining.
In addition to English players on the servers, Japanese players compose a great deal of the population as well. In order to bridge the language barrier, Square has designed one of the most effective auto translators that make partying with other players a snap. Simply type a segment of what you want to say like congr, press tab, and pick Congratulations from the list. It’s brilliant, simple, and quick, and in the heat of battle works extremely well.
The elements that distinguish this game and keep the fan base coming back for more had better be good though, as this game is unbelievably brutal to anybody who doesn’t have 3 hours to spare for a gaming session. Passed level 10, you need a party, and a party is going to take anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour depending on your class. Generally damage-dealing classes take the longest, and healers take the least amount of time. Making your own party is probably going to take you as much time, as if your party doesn’t have the right composition, it’s nearly impossible to effectively grind, and that’s exactly what it is.
Money is extremely difficult to accumulate at lower levels, as very few monsters drop money. The main method of making money is farming items dropped by monsters, such as ores or leathers. These items are in turn taken to the auction house and sold for whatever you can get for it. The system is well implemented, but for someone starting out, the process is difficult and tedious. As a mage, I found buying all of my spells impossible due to the limited amount of money I had.
Traveling is also an extremely tedious process, as getting from one place to another can take up to a half hour with a teleport from a high level friend or an expensive chocobo to help out. This problem is compounded by the limited inventory space for your character, which forces you to take trips to go sell your items and run all the way back.
The game has an amazingly deep and complex crafting system, which gives the players the ability to make almost every item in the game with components found throughout the world. The skills range from the simple fishing, all the way to goldsmithing, which allows you to translate worthless ores into valuable items. The problem is that so much time, money, and know how are required that it becomes almost impossible to level your skill without a guide.
The graphics for a four-year-old game designed for the Playstation 2 are fantastic. The models are crisp, the animations are fluid, and casting a simple and mundane spell like cure still looks great. The monsters are treated to the same effort, with lizards, bats, cats, and wombats all looking great, even after you smash their face in. The environments are incredibly detailed, with environmental and day-night effects altering the look as well as the bestiary.
The sound is awesome, with the musical score highlighting the whole experience. Fighting even a wee beastie treats you to an epic score, which places the backdrop for killing a sprout. On a personal note, this is one of the few games where I haven’t turned off the music and sound effects because they’re enjoyable long after you’ve heard them for the thousandth time. There’s no voice acting in the game during the story scenes, but there really doesn’t have to be.
This game is a terrible choice if you’re not looking for a serious investment of time, but if you’re willing to put up with the incredible curves require to participate in the content, you’ll be rewarded with one of the greatest experiences found online that’s only getting better.