Final Fantasy XI is old. To a lot of players, it lives in the past. FFXI lives in the days where leveling was hard. Back when having a high level character was a feat. It was a time when MMOs were difficult just for the sake of difficulty. MMOs of today though appeal to a more casual market, and Square Enix is working to make FFXI a friendlier game.
For instance, killing monsters that checked under Even Match was a waste of time. Even then, if you weren’t killing said even matches alone, you were still wasting your time. Add that with the difficulty most jobs faced when fighting Even Matches, and you have a solo player’s nightmare. It was troublesome, but few people played FFXI to play solo. It’s well known as a game made for people looking to group, after all.
Square Enix has been paying attention to the recent changes in the MMO market, and they’ve begun implementing changes that is making FFXI a friendlier game for all types of players. For starters, last September, a patch was released. This patch sported a nice addition to FFXI – an experience bonus on lower level monsters. Easy Prey and Decent Challenges gave up to 30 and 50 experience points respectively. With this new patch, you can gain up to 50 on Easy Prey, and a whopping 90 on Decent Challenges. The speed in which you can kill these monsters allows for much faster solo leveling. This was a good enough update alone. Players were content with the bonus to experience, and that’s when Square Enix released Level Sync.
It’s a well known fact that partying could be painful in FFXI. You could spend hours and days just seeking for one party, and then there are the chances that the party wouldn’t be successful at all. At times, it would make playing your favorite job difficult. Square Enix went above and beyond the call again, and introduced Level Sync. Level Sync allows people to party with members of any level. So say you were level 50 and couldn’t find a party seeking more at your level, but there was a party at level 35 seeking for more players. Now with Level Sync, the level 50 can sync down to their level and continue progressing in level. Of course, players of lower levels can’t sync up to level 50, but allowing people to play with lower level parties was a great idea. There are a lot of levels where a job will become completely obsolete. For example, once you get into leveling at the Treasures of Aht Urghan areas, Black Mage can no longer find parties. The monsters you level off of have high magic resistance, which makes Black Mage an obsolete member of the party. In this particular instance though, Black Mages adapted and found ways to solo. Not all jobs have that luxury. Level Sync allows those jobs to stay in a lower range if they please, so that progression is a problem no longer. Level Sync also makes sure one player can’t out-level the rest of the party, so experience points will never be cut. Nowadays, parties just sync down to the lowest level. And once the lowest person gains a level, everyone gains a level with them. Also, SE made it so you don’t have to have a lower level suit of gear. While Sync is active, your gear will scale to be equal to whatever level you are at the time. Level 10? Well, your gear has the stats of a level 10 now. Level 20? Congratulations, you now have some level 20 Artifact Armor.
Square wasn’t happy with the XP Bonus and Level Sync, they had to do more for the player base. That’s when Fields of Valor was introduced. Fields of Valor is a solo player’s dream. FoV is started by finding a Field Manual in one of the designated zones. Once you interact with one, you’re presented with a list of options. You can choose between Individual Training, Elite Training, and Field Support.
When you choose Individual Training, a menu appears with a list of pages. Each page contains a different level of objective. All of the objectives consist of kill X amount of a particular set of monsters in the zone, it’s all a matter of what level monsters you wish to kill. When you complete an Individual Training objective, you’re rewarded with experience points, gil, and tabs. Tabs are a currency used to buy a load of different things from Field Manuals. Tabs are spent in both Elite Training and Field Support. Elite Training gives way to more boss oriented objectives.
When you select Elite Training, you’re presented with a list of Chapters to buy with tabs. As the chapter numbers get higher, the cost of tabs goes up, and the difficulty goes up with it. Once a chapter is bought, you must go out and find a Field Parchment. These are scattered amongst the FoV zones. You have an option with Field Parchments as well. You can turn in Beastman Seals for experience points, gil for a multiplication of the gil you turned in, or an item for a random augment. Once your respective selection is turned in, a Notorious Monster will spawn. All that needs to be done is defeat the monster, and you’re able to claim your hard earned reward. Be sure to bring all your luck for your augment though; it can be any random stat. This stat can be positive or negative, and once augmented, your item cannot be sold. Elite Training augmentation is a gamble indeed.
Field Support is a component of Fields of Valor that allows you to gain battlefield buffs in exchange for tabs. These buffs include Protect, Shell, Regen, Refresh, and Reraise. You can also get a variety of food effects, such as Dried Meat (STR and ATK bonus), Salted Fish (VIT and HP bonus), Hard Cookie (INT and MP bonus), and Instant Noodles (Less VIT than Salted Fish, but more HP). Food is expensive, so if you want to go the economical route, Field Support can help with that. The final option out of Field Support is Repatriation, which is a teleport back to your home nation. Field Support helps a great deal whenever you’re leveling, especially if you’ve decided to solo with some Fields of Valor. Square made one final great addition for the casual gaming crowd.
Monsters now have a chance to drop Treasure Caskets. Caskets come in two varieties, blue and brown. Blue caskets can drop temporary items for use. You can find items that heal HP, MP, and cure status ailments. They’re great in case you get into a bind while soloing. Brown caskets come locked. You have to unlock them by guessing a number. The casket gives you an assortment of hints, and you have to guess which number it is out of 1 through 99. If you guess it correctly, you have a chance of getting a great piece of equipment. Each zone has different pieces, so you have to look into which ones give the great gear, and which ones give the subpar gear. Just one more way Square wants to help their player base.
Final Fantasy XI is still trying to find a place in the casual gaming market. It still takes a while to level. The fastest way to level is still find parties. Given those parties have to be good, but I digress. Players are better off doing Fields of Valor now rather than waiting on a party for hours. You even have the option to solo while waiting for a party. FFXI now has options for leveling, and that’s one thing players often wanted. Final Fantasy XI is going on seven years old, and seven years strong. If Square Enix continues to listen to their players, then FFXI may have another seven years ahead of them.