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Jaded like Guild Wars: Factions

The ranting and rambling of a guy who has grown up on the MMORPG genre for 8 years, and still plays in spite of the general garbage on the market.

Author: Lord_Vayde

FFXI - Love, Hate, and About 2 Hours Looking for Party...

Posted by Lord_Vayde Thursday September 20 2007 at 1:30PM
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That time has come when I address the one game still up and running (and isn't plagued by old age) that I can say has made it into my top "2", those two games that you kinda linger around knowing that you really like both of them, but absolutely can't put your finger on which you like more.

I'm pining to return, but can't bring myself to resubscribe just yet (still waiting to see what happens with the WoW situation, even though its an inevitable reverse-snowball effect) - so instead I'm going to take the opportunity to bitch, moan, and somehow still find the room to praise this enigma of a game that is Final Fantasy XI (or as I like to think of it: Squenix's Last Decent Unmilked Product).

For those who are unfamiliar with FFXI, it is an MMORPG based on the popular franchise of Final Fantasy, with all the expected components. Well, not -all- of them, but certainly some major staples - job types are consistant with most everything you've seen in past FF games (White Mage, Black Mage, Summoner, Dragoon, Thief, etc.), monsters are completely recognizable (Malboros, Mandragoras, Sahagin, Tonberries), and the major recurring "bosses" or otherwise "famous story characters" are there - Cid, Bahamut, Ifrit, Shiva, etc.

The only thing that really changes, much like the rest of the franchise, is the storyline, the world and it's denizens.

Well, that and the combat system. No random battles here, its much like any other game you play where you see monsters in the field, engage them, and yadda yadda. Some people dislike this - personally, I think its a necessity of an MMORPG.

-Anyway-, the game is very appealing. It starts out with some fancypants cutscene that introduces you to your starting city and leaves you to learn exactly what the hell you're doing, however anyone familiar with MMOs shouldn't have a difficult time (unless they're stuck on keyboard controls, which can be confusing). You go out, you level up, you get some crystals to sell. The game is -very- similar to the original EverQuest in many ways. Exp loss on death, quests aren't obvious (nor do they reward massive experience points), and the world is big and dangerous. All things that, in my opinion, are very nice to have.

The game also features something called "Missions". Now, if you've played a Final Fantasy game before, you know how you get told something is going on, and then run around pursuing that something with awesome cutscenes, blood-pumping boss battles, and more. The online counterpart is no different - however the story is a bit difficult to pick up on from the start, and in truth it moves rather slowly until the higher levels (and because it is so top-heavy, its very difficult to view the game as truly 'Final Fantasy' before about level 20, something I do criticize the game for). Once you discover the story however, you'll find that it's as rich and exciting as some of the better games in the series (in my personal opinion, I believe its the best one - it just requires that much more effort to play through.)

The combat is fun, if slow - however the speed allows you to make much more tactical decisions. I find often that while playing my summoner, I may choose to use leviathan's Spring Water instead of a Curaga spell, in order to save myself the aggro. Yes, thats right. I now have situational choices again, something that I haven't had since the games of the early decade.

There is but one, singular complaint I have with the game - something that causes me to drift in and out of loving and hating it...and that one thing is...

Soloing is Nearly IMPOSSIBLE

If you didn't catch that, I'll type it out once more: You cannot, by any means, solo -efficiently- and -effectively- to gain experience.

Note that I specifically said that this is only true for gaining experience. You can, in fact, solo easily for some world bosses, trade materials, and other such things. You can also solo from 1-10 with ease (albeit slowly for some jobs), and you can solo enemies with certain jobs at higher levels for some miniscule experience (100xp every 3-5 minutes versus 250-300xp every 2 in an efficient party.) - and a single job, BeastMaster, is capable of soloing from 1-75, but suffers from being completely useless in many party situations.

To be honest, I dont see it as that big of a problem. Rather, the larger problem is that you can't simply group up with one other person and do a healer/tank combo, or even go triple and throw in a good damage dealer. You actually have to up and grab the full six person party, the appropriate symbiotic jobs, and then run out to claim a camp spot and pull enemies there. Its very much like the old EQ system, but thats just it - of all the things that made EQ good, this was not one of them. Sure, I love being able to take the time to socialize with my party instead of running around on a wild goose chase, but theres plenty of time to do that at other points in the game. Instead, I'm stuck waiting some nights literally upwards of 2-4 hours before I'll get a party invite - and I play a summoner, the only other class that can heal decently next to a white mage. That means I have only one class in front of me on the "party priority" list, and yet it doesnt seem to be my luck that I get many opportunities.

There are some other complaints I would have about the game - imbalanced pvp (but the pve is great enough to make up for this), long downtime (imagine classic EQ sort of regen rates, and only while sitting), and difficult process of obtaining currency.

There are also some great things about the game, they are constantly adding unique content and mechanics and innovative ideas that you won't find anywhere else. The game has enough depth that I could play it for two years and still not have seen or done a majority of the content. The story is wonderful and the people who do play it are often very nice, as you can't expect to survive in a difficult, party-based environment if you aren't polite and dont know how to play your class.

Overall, its just a matter of whether or not you can tolerate the downsides. Personally, I can, but only in small doses. I'm sure I'll flesh out those last 9 levels sooner or later - when that happens, I'm not going to have to worry about that party system any longer...but until then, its like this big dark cloud looming over my head, scaring me away from returning to the game that, in all honesty, at the end of the day, I love and think is an awesome piece of MMORPG ass.

Vayde out, gonna go ogle me some FF screenshots.

BadSpock writes:

You're right that the game doesn't really "start" till level 18-20 or so. 

It's just getting to that point is SUCH a labor. 

1-10 you can solo, slowly and with often setbacks (depending on job) but after that, you have to party 100% to get to level 18-20, when you get to the "good stuff" ... which you still have to party for.

The reason, I think, is that FFXI was really made for the Asian marketplace, where ideas of community and forced grouping are much more accepted. Most Asian society are much more about the group or organization, not the individual.

Westerners like myself are far more independant. Hence, why we see nearly EVERY Western Developed MMO (WoW, GW, WAR, AoC, TR etc) with so much more emphasis on soloing.

I love the Final Fantasy series, the settings, the characters, the style, everything... but I just hate FFXI because it is SO unfriendly towards the user. Even UO was much friendlier, and that was the FIRST mmo.

Thu Sep 20 2007 2:16PM Report
nakuma writes:

this game was absolutely horrible experience.

Thu Sep 20 2007 5:46PM Report
Satimasu writes:

Been playing this game since release in NA. It's definitely a game you'd benefit from starting with friends.  It is slow from the beginning to 20ish, but what game isn't really? After you get the hang of things, it becomes so much easier. It's definitely possible to solo with certain jobs. BST isn't the only one.

 

The story definitely keeps me interested. That is not something you usually find in an MMO. Anyway, this was a good read. I thank you for it, and I hope you do return to Vana'diel someday.

Thu Sep 20 2007 6:02PM Report
Thachsanh writes:

You made several valid points, however, I don't think you are being fair to the grouping system. While FFXI forces you to group very early on, but it's not necessary a bad thing. FFXI has evolved so much since it started. Leveling these days is not as painful as it used to be.

If you look at games like WoW, LOTRO you will see many people just try to level up really fast to get to the end game which is a force grouping event pretty much. You see, people don't hate force grouping, far from it. People love force grouping. Soloing is boring. If WoW was only a soloing game (even the end game), would you still be playing it?

it's the time it take to put a group together is what get FFXI. If SE could somehow fasten that up, instead of taking 2-3 hours to get group, you can do it in 15 to 30 minutes, it's golden. It probably would take changing the core game mechanic to do that so I don't think that it will ever happen. Still, the game is very healthy despite being out for so long and having a force grouping game play.

Thu Sep 20 2007 6:15PM Report
jahar writes:

I  agree Thach.. had hey worked the mechanics so you could function with a 3-5 man party, or that wars could tank on par with the other 2, and rdms heal on par wiht the other 2, then parties would happen alot faster

Thu Sep 20 2007 7:19PM Report
Lord_Vayde writes:

Addressed that actually =P I did mention that the main flaw of grouping is it's anal-retentive "must have a full party of classes that absolutely complement" each other sort of system.

In truth, grouping in any game should do exactly what it does in Final Fantasy - offer a more social experience with the reward of faster experience gain. The problem is that in another game, if I'm waiting to get my group I can still run off and solo (or if I just dont have time to group one night, I have that option). Without that option, it becomes the one thing I would criticise FF on enough that I'd be hesitant to recommend it to my guild.

Still, a great game and I'm slowly approaching that point of resubbing.

Thu Sep 20 2007 7:26PM Report
Nicksiren writes:

I am a long time player of this game, and I can honestly say it never gets boring. It has been mentioned that it takes a long time (depending on job) to get a party, however there are TONS of other things to do than -just- exp (which, btw, is one of the most enjoyable combat systems of any game I have played). I have played 15+ MMOs and I can say that this has the largest amount of content available, easily.

Though, I will definately mention that the -vast- majority of things to do in-game are geared toward high level players. No, I am not just talking about "instances" and "raids" and such, I am just referring to pretty much everything in the game. Things just seem easier once you get higher level relative to than when you are lower.

When people mention how soloing is "impossible" in this game, I have a reason to disagree.  I solo on every job I level when I am bored, just for the shear challenge.  FFXI is a party-geared MMO after all -- no secrets there; soloing is not impossible, it is merely just not as "fast" as party exp. If people were able to exp solo as efficiently as party, there wouldn't be a reason to party at all, taking the entire party-based theme away with it.

Well, that's my two-cents. Enjoy the game guys... and give it a chance!! Too many people turn away from it because the large size may seem intimidating at first glance, as well as the slow start. It is very underrated with the North American community, but amazing nonetheless; you will be pleasantly surprised in the end :)

Thu Sep 20 2007 9:10PM Report
sa1yaman writes:

Will see hows later levels. But I have got from 11-20 in one week, playing 2-3 hrs a day (some time spent crafting).  With Nin/War I'm invited into a party in few minutes. On more populated servers, low level areas seems to be more active then in WOW. And yes, not so recent changes made exping viable having 3 ppl in  a party. 

 

 

Fri Sep 21 2007 5:49AM Report
GatorPaw writes:

I started playing with my son and his friend and I love this game! They on the other hand have gotten bored with it and quit playing. I don't understand how that could even be possible! There is so much to do and so many places to see. The quest are great and are not the go kill x number of mobs. You actually have to use your brain to figure them out. I am hoping that when Wings of the Goddess  is released in November that I can get them to come back. I agree that the lvling is geared towards party-based vs. soloing, but I do go out and level up by myself, I like the challenge, it is much slower but it can be done.

Fri Sep 21 2007 8:53AM Report

MMORPG.com writes:
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