I consider myself a somewhat hardcore MMO gamer. I've played them all. WoW, EQ2, LotRo, AoC, WAR, etc. Basically if it was an MMO, I've played it. I was first introduced to MMOs back in 2003 with the launch of FFXI. Since then games have come and gone, mainly as of late with the a few large titles missing their mark by a considerable amount. The only game other than FFXI that I've played religiously was of course WoW. But enough of that, let's get on to the real point... what happened to my beloved FFXI?!
Likely if you've played FFXI before, you know it's a very unique game. Despite it being a complete mob grind to capped level, it's all group based. Sure, you can occasionally solo here and there for a few XP, but the bulk of your leveling is going to be done in full groups, camping mobs for 2-4 hours each XP session. But you know, it's damn fun to me for some odd reason. Or.. at least it used to be. Back during the first 2 years of gameplay for myself I pretty much ate, slept, and drank the game. Back then skillchains and magic bursts were king. Where having a BLM in your party meant XP chains and large burst damage. Back then people had to work HARD for their AF, limit breaks, WSNM fights, Sky access.
Now after a few years and a 2 expansion packs, I find myself coming back to the game, and finding that the subscription base has held steady at 500,000 subs or so. But I also found alot of things have taken what was once FFXI, and turned it more casual. When I played years ago, I had a 75 Monk, and a 75 Ranger. Rangers used to be KINGS of DPS. We used to stack our Sky groups with Rangers. Now.. RNGs need to work very hard for their damage, which is subpar compared to some classes. But that's not really what gets my goat. I joined a group a few days ago on my Scholar (which is now 47 or so). We had a PLD, BRD, SCH, SAM, SAM, and a BLM. I came back to the game with 2 other people, one playing the Bard, and one playing the Paladin. We had suggested that 2 SAMs set up some skillchains for the BLM to burst. All we got was laughter! "ppl dont sc anymore lol". I was in shock! It was one of the greatest things about the game, where groups had to work together to pull together this great XP. A SAM and a THF throwing together a huge distortion SC with a big old burst on it.. nothing was as badass as that.
From what I can tell now, it's all about melee and "TP burn" parties in the newer areas for merits. I guess what works best is what people are going to do, right? I guess I'm living too much in the past when it comes to FFXI. I miss the days of the SCs, bursts, and painfully numb XP loss on death. Where you'd be camping against 8 other people to claim the Valkurm Emperor, and when you claim it, you get this rush throughout your body even if it doesn't drop. Forming groups for Sky access, and going through the amazing storylines with 10+ other people.
Those days are gone. But with the addition of the Maze Mongers, Level Sync, and a continued effort to add storylines.. it's still the best damn MMO on the market, and I wouldn't give that up for anything.