Starting off in Final Fantasy XI can be quite overwhelming. Up until recently there was no tutorial whatsoever to introduce yourself to the game mechanics and because of this, you were forced to learn the game almost entirely on your own. Quite a lot of curious would-be Vana'dielians are sometimes intimidated by the size of the world and the intricacies of the game play and drop out of the game before things get interesting. Indeed, like certain things in life, Final Fantasy XI can almost feel as if you must engage on a long and frustrating, sometimes tedious, journey before you can bring yourself to begin to fully enjoy, even simply understand, the game. I hope to provide a general resource on character creation and the beginnings of the game, including the starting areas, classes, quests, among other things.
Beginning the process of character creation, you'll realize there are five races: Tarutaru, Mithra, Galka, Elvaan, and Humes.
The Tarutaru are masters of magic, possessing the highest base MP of any class, as well as the best charisma and are tied for the greatest agility with the Mithra. They make for perfect mages. This, however brings with it some incredible downsides, including being far weaker in melee combat than other races. The Taru have the lowest HP, strength, and vitality. This makes being a melee job difficult as a Tarutaru, for even well geared Taru will be outclassed by well geared competitors of a different race.
The Mithra reside right along with the Tarutaru, and are a mostly balanced race, much like the Humes. They have the highest dexterity (by far) and are tied for the highest agility with the Tarutaru. Aside from the lowest charisma in the game, their stats are generally average, with only slightly fewer combat abilities than their all-around average Hume counterparts. Mithra best make Thieves, Rangers, and Ninjas, because of their high agility and dexterity, and make decent mages as well, because of their average HP and MP pools. They do however; have some difficulty playing Beastmasters or Bards, due to the lack of charisma.
Humes are the most balanced race, possessing unspectacular, but by no means poor, stats in virtually everything. From intelligence to vitality, a Hume is balanced all around, including the amount of HP and MP, and do well with any job. They're neither deficient nor excellent in any one thing.
Elvaan characters are geared more toward physical encounters than magical ones, but are not entirely magically underdeveloped. This race has the highest strength, is nearly tied with the Galka for highest vitality, and possesses the highest mind out of all the races, by a significant amount. They make excellent melee damage dealers, but this hurts their magical abilities, as they possess the second lowest MP pool in the game. They can, however, pass as reasonably well White Mages, due to having the highest mind in the game, which is the skill linked to the amount of damage cured.
Galka are the melee powerhouses of the game, possessing very few magical capabilities on their own. The highest vitality, second highest strength, and by far the largest HP pool in the game allow the Galka to deal and take massive amounts of damage playing almost any melee class, and their reasonable dexterity and agility allow them to play more agile and less strength focused melee jobs as well. Unfortunately, they possess the second lowest intelligence, average mind, and significantly lower MP than all the other races, leaving much to be desired for the more mage oriented player.
There are three starting nations in Final Fantasy XI. The Kingdom of San d'Oria, The Federation of Windurst, and The Republic of Bastok. San d'Oria was a once powerful nation that has since faded considerably, and its people can be intensely religious as well as racist. In terms of convenience for starting players, San d'Oria is one of the more popular choices for its population, proximity to the early partying area of the game, and its special ring, given only to Elvaan players; give melee characters boosts to important stats.
Windurst is arguably the most popular, depending on what server you end up choosing. Mithra and Tarutaru reside here, and if you pick one of those two races, you'll get a special ring, catering mainly to those jobs of the mage variety. Convenience for starting players is rather bleak though. Even though it's possibly the most popular starting nation, its distance from the Valkurm Dunes, usually the first area players party in, can cause problems.
The Republic of Bastok is usually the least populated nation, for reasons I have yet to discover. Bastok is roughly the same distance from the dunes as San d'Oria, its starting ring is actually better for most melees (assuming you pick a Galka or a Hume) and certain monsters outside of Bastok can be farmed for items to sell, for instance, Beehive Chips or Grain Seeds. Bastok's lack of a large population can lead to some problems doing certain rank missions, should you desire to do them, and causes even more difficulty in obtaining special conquest items, because of Windurst and San d'Oria's usual dominance.
There are six starting jobs, with fourteen unlockable jobs once you reach level 30. White Mage, Black Mage, Red Mage, Thief, Warrior, and Monk. Black Mage, White Mage, and Red Mage usually get swift invites, with the exception of Black Mage once you reach the Aht Urghan areas, and are popular choices for starting players. Red Mage is the most versatile of the starting six, being able to competently melee, heal, and do magical damage until most of the jobs start coming into their own. New players beware, however, as these mage jobs, particularly Black Mage, eventually get expensive and can cause a lot of frustration for players eager to level as fast as possible. Black Mage has the highest base MP of the starting six and the second highest over all, bowing out in that competition to Summoner.
Thief is an interesting class, relying mostly on its agility and dexterity rather than brute force. It relies primarily on daggers for weapons, but new players may find it easier to use swords for the first ten levels on your own, for the additional damage output. Thieves can have a difficult time getting a party pre-level 15 (for Sneak Attack) because of the serious lack of damage. Playing this job will eventually also require you to pull monsters for your parties, and will ask you to learn more things about enmity control and proper party positioning once you acquire Trick Attack.
Monk and Warrior are the strong melee combatants, having the ability to deal and take damage reasonable well for quite some time. Monk is one of only two jobs that primarily use hand to hand weaponry and has the highest base HP of all the jobs in the game, but generally don't wear heavy armor. Warrior isn't as restricted in its choice of weaponry, and is arguably the most versatile of the melee damage dealers in the game, because of their wide variety of weapon choices. The best of these is great axe, followed by regular axes, great swords, and swords, allowing for new players to try out what they like best.
As previously mentioned, until recently there was no tutorial to speak of, leaving most new players feeling stranded. However, the times, they are a changin' and in the September Version Update SquareEnix ushered in tutorial NPCs in each of the three starting cities. Selele, located in Windurst Woods at (K-10), Gulldago, located in Bastok Markets at (D-11), and Alaune in Southern San d'Oria at (G-10). These tutorial agents will give you missions such as killing monsters or working your way up to a certain level. It will also explain things such as food effects, the Auction House, Signet, and the basics of crafting.
Stay tuned for the second part of this guide coming soon, detailing unlockable jobs, quests for beginners, the surrounding areas of the starting cities, as well as the beginning of partying! Safe travels, Vana'diel!