Last week, I had my very first opportunity to log into Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XI. For some reason this has been, for quite some time, on my list of games to try, but I’ve just never found the time before. Well, an invitation from the SE folks to participate in a small tour of the new Wings of the Goddess expansion was enough to finally get me to try it out.
First of all, to those of you who may have been in the same boat as I have, I would suggest that at some point you try this game out. Folks who are clamouring for an MMO that doesn’t resemble WoW in terms of the UI and the way that the game is played should certainly take a look.
The controls of Final Fantasy XI hold more of a resemblance to the franchise on which they are based than those of its MMORPG brothers. There is no attack bar at the bottom of the screen, players select their attack from a series of menus (like you’re used to if you’re a Final Fantasy fan).
While the graphics seemed dated to me, I could tell that there was depth in the game’s design that made up for it as the team has continued to build this game through four expansions and about five years.
Ok, that’s all I’m going to talk for now about the game as a whole. The purpose of the tour was to take a quick look at the Wings of the Goddess expansion, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do:
Players enter the new expansion through what appears to be a giant portal monster known as a “cavernous maw“, both interesting and terrifying all at the same time. From there, you are treated to a cut scene that introduces you to your new setting. The scene itself has that surreal and yet cool feeling that FF franchise fans are going to be familiar with.
Normally, the Final Fantasy XI is set 20 years after a conflict known as the Crystal War. Wings of the Goddess however, allows players to travel back in time so that they can experience that timeframe for themselves. This extends even so far as to see younger versions of NPCs that players have come to know in the future (or is it the present? Time travel makes my brain hurt.).
I think one of the coolest aspects of the expansion was going to the city of Windurst. Visiting it in the game’s “present day” and then visiting it again in the “past”, players will notice a pretty stark contrast. The peaceful place that players are familiar with is replaced with a not-so-safe haven for players, going so far as to include enemies within he town’s limits. All in all, a pretty interesting experience.
The focus of my little tour seemed to be the two new classes (called professions in Final Fantasy) that are introduced, but I’ll come to them closer to the end of the article. First, I want to talk a little bit about a couple of the new monsters that players will find in the expansion.
Overall, there are somewhere between twenty and thirty new monsters running around in Wings of the Goddess including the Pieste, a kind of giant lizard and the Pixie, which I think is one of the most interesting monsters that I have ever encountered in an MMO.
Pixies, it seems, aren’t your typical MOB. In fact, while they are flagged as attackable, it can be considered taboo amongst players to kill them. When that little fact was told to me, my head almost exploded… A monster in-game that’s flagged attackable (and therefore must be attacked and killed dead) that I’m NOT supposed to kill on sight? It turns out that Pixies can be of benefit to players and are a minor nuisance at worst beyond that.
If you happen to come upon a pixie when your health is less than stellar, they may get it into their tiny pixie brains that they’re going to help you with their innate healing powers. Now this doesn’t happen all the time, nor does it happen on command. These little jerks can be quite fickle. When I was hurt, I had to parade in front of one for a while before it decided to heal me (I think it was sick of looking at my ugly mug).
So, now that I’ve talked about the Pixies, who I think were my favorite part of the whirlwind tour, I want to take a minute or two to dedicate to the new professions that were launched with the expansion.
Both of these classes have a very strong feeling of Final Fantasy about them. They are very specific and fill interesting mechanical roles while at the same time exuding a huge amount of character and personality.
Scholars provide a bit of a unique play experience, allowing players access to both black and white arts. Now, if you’re like me and aren’t sure what that means in terms of the game, it actually means that Scholars can switch between light and dark magics. Light arts allow players access to more healing abilities, both personal and group while black arts deal more in the combat and damage realms. They also have access to “helixes”, a new spell type that is effected by the weather.
When I talked about the classes exuding a huge amount of character and personality, it is most clearly displayed in the Dancer. Mechanically, the dancer is a front line melee healer class, meaning that while they do have some healing ability, they don’t fall apart in a melee fight.
The character and personality really comes in the fact that the Dancer’s “spells” are actually Steps, as in dance steps (the Waltz, for example) that allow him / her to cast their spells.
The Dancer differs from Mages in that he or she doesn’t use magic points as the source of their magic. Instead, they draw upon Tactical Points. TPs build as a character inflicts or takes damage. This means that Dancers only really work when they’re right in the thick of things.
Before this whirlwind tour comes to a close, I wanted to take a second to talk about the Campaign Battles that are available with Wings of the Goddess. Campaign Battles allow players to enter into wide scale battles for no other reason than to fight as wave after wave of enemy comes crashing against you, increasing in difficulty as they come. Players will be responsible for either holding and defending or attacking and capturing control points.
If you’re interested, talk to NPCs in your kingdom to try it out.
Thus brings my whirlwind tour to a close. I hope it was both entertaining and informative as I know that my time in Final Fantasy XI’s Wings of the Goddess was.