I admit it. I'm quite a newb to the Final Fantasy series. I never played too many of them; I played a little FFX on my Ps2 before it broke; and a little FFIII on my DS; but nothing too extreme, or in depth. I never even finished those two.
But I've been tired of having to play my MMO's on 'low setting' on my laptop, which if you all haven't gathered by now; isn't that powerful of a rig. I'll be getting a new Desktop within the year; one that will be able to play anything I want it to. But for now; I'm stuck with consoles and non-OpenGL 2.0 games for my laptop.
So I began looking into console-MMORPG's, which I spoke a little of in a blog not too long ago. I read a little about Final Fantasy XI Online; and checked into the prices. It's not that bad of a price, if you buy the collection deal. $20 for a MMORPG, with all four expansion sets, and I can play it at highest graphics? Sounded like a bargain to me. I placed a special order at my local PlayNTrade, the store owner had no problem ordering it (From where, who knows!), and got me a new copy.
About 4 days later, I got 'The Call', that my order was in. I went down the next night, and picked up my copy, along with a can of Monster Energy drink (Mean Bean ftw), as I planned on staying up for quite a while that night. I rushed home, after a short stop for Milk, OJ, and ketchup, and popped the CD in.
For those that don't know; Final Fantasy XI plays through a program called 'PlayOnline'. It is the client that allows the Playstation 2, PC, and Xbox 360 versions to interact with each other (Or so I assume). I personally was on the Xbox 360 version. In order to play through PlayOnline, you need to pay a certain fee. The monthly fee for PlayOnline is $12.95, but that's not all you need to play Final Fantasy Online. You also need what's called a 'Content ID'. These run for $1.00 a month. So all in all, you pay $13.95 a month for Final Fantasy XI.
So when I popped it in, the CD began installing the PlayOnline software. It was no real big deal; it installed it fast. I decided to copy the CD's information to my harddrive, so it would play faster; and play more silently. That took a little while, but no longer than 30 minutes.
Registration took a little while however. I didn't have the Chatpad for my Xbox yet; so it took quite a while to enter all my information. They require your name, residence, e-mail, password choice, and your debit/credit card information (Which includes entering your name and residence again, along with the actual card's information). For some reason, it wouldn't accept my credit card's information, and it reset the entire form, so I actually had to do this twice; using my debit card. Total registration time took a good hour or so; due to having to type using the on-screen keyboard. But as far as starting up the game; that wasn't the worst part.
After registering for the PlayOnline; it had to install the actual FFXI game as well. That took about 30 minutes, same as copying the CD to the harddrive. I wonder now; thinking back on it, if it just did the same thing or not. Finally after finishing the installation, I began to start it up. And I hit a wall of patches. This took the longest of the start-up time. Over 10,000 files to download, it took 2 and a half hours to finish, plus another hour to install the files. I was patient though. I read the instruction manuals; read forums, played some other games in the meantime.
And finally it finished. It was late at night, almost 1 AM. I planned on staying up atleast another two hours to enjoy the game. I started the game up, and was instantly taken into the world of Final Fantasy. I began creating my first character. From what I found on forums, melee classes, like most MMORPG's, were easiest to play for your first time. So I created an Elvaan Warrior, playing in the city of Windurst.
Elvaan's, like the sound of their name, are Elf type creatures, tall, with pointed ears. I played a female, as I always enjoy a MMORPG more when there's a better view. Though that doesn't always make a game better ( See "Now for a game, that's not so great" dated February 21st 2009 in my blog). As soon as I finished setting up how my Warrioress looked, I was carried through a cut-scene, introducing me to the world I was about to adventure in. The cut-scene actually was pretty good. I didn't find myself struggling to find a way to cancel it; like I do in World of Warcraft; or Warhammer Online. I read through the storyline; and enjoyed the scenery of the game; watching the lives of the Tantaru that lived there in Windurst.
Spoilers ahead about the beginning of the game. Nothing too big; but it gives away the beginning of the Windurst city choice. Skip to 'Spoiler End' if you don't want to spoil the beginning.
As soon as the first cut-scene ends, I'm started in a new cut-scene, one involving a little Tantaru. I can't quite tell the difference between children Tantaru, and Adult Tantaru, so I can't honestly label them as either. One tantaru however; a male, begins talking to you, as you stare out onto the waters near the city. He speaks to you about why you're staring out, and about what you're doing in Windurst. More of a curious thing; than confrontational. His sister comes along however, and shoo's him off for being so rude; and they speak of their general greeting customs; which is to offer help to any new comers in their city. So they offer their help to you; and allow you to ask them questions, about where you are; and so on.
After a while, they tell you that you should visit Jack of Hearts, which I later learned was a creature of some sort; called a Cardian. I'm not quite sure of the Cardian history; but it seems like they're similar to 'golems'. Created as puppets by the magics of the world, and treated as slaves almost; used to guard area's to the best of their ability.
As I learned from the forums and other things I read; Final Fantasy XI Online is a team-based game. It's almost impossible to go through the game without being in a party often for grinding. But in the early levels; it's not so bad. My first quest required me to go talk to a guard...a guard I had no idea where they were; so I decided to skip that quest, and go off on my own, and explore. I soon found the world was a rather dangerous place. When I exited into the fields of West and East Sarutabaruta, I found the world populated by bumblebee's, and small Mandragora. They were easy for me at the time, I was able to victoriously slay many of these small, weak creatures, and was quickly leveling my job and my combat skills.
Here was where I learned to fight. There was no actual tutorial to my knowledge, that I was able to find, or go through; so everything was new to me. It wasn't that hard to figure out though, thankfully. In no time I was in the heat of battle with the screaming mandragora, and the stinging bee's. I soon hit level 3, and found myself itching for more. But I decided I shouldn't get too far ahead of my quests, so I decided to try to find this guard. I went on my way; and began learning more about the workings of the game, such as that 'War Warlocks' can cast a signet of my nation's homeland, that allows me to gather crystals from my fallen foes, and how to create food.
These quests set me up for more adventuring, and I began following through the storyline. Running missions and small quests, from finding a rock, to recharging magical orbs. It hasn't taken me long to get to level 12 (And a half!) but the game is getting tougher. I'm meeting stronger and stronger foes, and still dealing out good damage. I've got all new armor, and new weaponry...which brings me to my next part.
My weapon. It was hard to find a new sword; as the Tantaru's don't seem to carry and single-handed sword weaponry. I looked through the entire weaponry shop, which had wands, staves, poles, rods, axes, archery equipment, and daggers...but no swords for my Elvaan. I had to resort to the Auction House. I'm still unsure on how it works; as I seem to be unable to bid low amounts on anything; but if I bid high enough, I seem to automatically win the item. It seems more like a 'guess the amount' store, rather than an actual auction. I so far haven't been able to spot a way to see the minimum, or current bid on an item. But I was able to get my new sword for 1,000 GiL. Which was quite expensive (I currently have 2,000 GiL now). And it was the only weapon I could really afford. But it's given significant improvement to my swinging arm. I can't wait till I get enough GiL however for a better sword. Or till I can make something...which, to keep the pattern going, brings me to my next part.
So far, I haven't seen much in the form of crafting. I was able to build a 'Honey Egg' drink made from seemingly raw egg, and a bit of honey. But I was given all the items as part of a quest, which the point was to actually make this drink. Other than that; I haven't found any metal, or other items to craft with. It will likely improve later on; but I really want to be able to build some of my own stuff right now. It does seem however, by looking at the 'Crafting Skill List', that there will be a lot of crafting to explore.
All in all, I'm enjoying my time in this game. There's some things I could see that could use some improvement. The economy seems to be rather poorly made, A level 8 sword costing 1,000 GiL (I got it really cheap, the price history noted some being 1,500, to 3,000 GiL), when the mobs I can kill regularly, only drop 17-20 GiL. I was lucky enough to find some magic scrolls that were worth a lot, that I was able to sell for good money to some NPC's. But it definately needs some way of improvement. Maybe I'll try, once I get a higher level, crafting a bunch of swords, and selling them out on the Auction House for really cheap, to try to help the economy. But for now, I must suffer through. Otherwise, I have no real complaints about the game. It's rather solid, and enjoyable, and I'm really getting into it. There's minor bugs, such as 'Unable to see _insert NPC here_' when first attacking. But a simple light push on the joystick in any direction, moving your character, seems to fix it with ease.
It's pretty good; and I'm definately going to be playing it a while (Until I can get a confirmation on if my laptop can handle Darkfall :p), and would reccomend it to anyone wanting to get away from the normal.
If you decide to join the FFXI community, I'm on the Seraph server; under the name Ryokohakubi (Which, is actually the name of the woman that is in my avatar, my favorite anime character, from my favorite anime show).