• Rebuilding an Online Fantasy

        Final Fantasy XI Improves as Final Fantasy XIV is Forgotten
        By Valerie Hilgenfeldt

        Prior to the release of the unbeatable juggernaut, World of Warcraft, there was a relatively well-reviewed MMO on the market, simply known as Final Fantasy XI. Though praised upon its release, the subsequent expansions and other such content were almost completely ignored by the media, a trend which continued until a new, extraordinarily challenging in-game foe rendered numerous players ill.

        Pandemonium Warden briefly bought Final Fantasy XI another spot in the limelight, and exemplified how negative attention can become good, free advertising, but its developers’ bullheaded aversion to change squandered the opportunity it afforded. It was as if Square Enix wanted their MMORPG to fail, thereby flushing a monthly source of $4,500,000 right down the drain – and then, out of the blue, they came up with an ingenious means of reinvigorating interest:

        They released Final Fantasy XIV, a title so awful that Final Fantasy XI appeared brilliant in comparison.

        While it’s unlikely that was their original intent, one has to wonder what other motivation they had, as it wasn’t the desire to release a competent contender in the overcrowded MMO genre. Dividing the stubborn team that dragged Final Fantasy XI through the mud for so many years, Square Enix invested those developers’ “skills” and exhausted millions of dollars in creating the sluggish, tedious pseudo-sequel, Final Fantasy XIV. It was everything Final Fantasy XI used to be: too slow for gamers’ increasingly ravenous appetites, too obviously antiquated to appeal to anyone new, and – well, let’s be honest: it was worse than XI ever was, bearing none of its predecessor’s redeeming features, and deserving all the terrible press it’s received.

        Note, however, that we’ve said XIV is everything XI was, as it’s an entirely different and much healthier beast today. Remarkably, removing the tired old team and replacing them with bright-eyed modern thinkers has virtually reinvented Final Fantasy XI,renewing the eight year-old MMORPG’s vigor. Many of the old brick walls that prevented players from enjoying themselves have been abolished, such as punishing amounts of Experience Point losses upon death, entirely underwhelming and limited rewards from enemies (standard and Notorious Monsters alike), the inability to accomplish anything in small groups, and the lack of quick options for players who can’t invest hours into playing each day.

        Today, not only is it significantly easier to level up a new avatar than it ever was before, but an entirely new endgame exists in the form of Abyssea, consisting of three downloadable Final Fantasy XI add-ons which were released over the past year and a half. Those features, a new level cap of 90, a tremendous string of other unmentioned updates and an invested series of official Square Enix community representatives have remedied virtually all of the issues many players had.

        In short, Final Fantasy XI has done what Star Wars Galaxies could not: it reinvented itself with resounding success. This brought back a number of curious players who had formerly quit, and provided a much more welcoming environment for those burned by its over-hyped and underwhelming successor, Final Fantasy XIV.

        As new players slowly trickle into XI’s landscape, and old-time citizens of Vana’diel find things to do with their time, XIV continues to languish. Stories of incensed investors selling all their Square Enix stock kick-started the trend of publicly insulting the release, and people actually playing it and realizing how horribly it missed the mark intensely fanned the flames. It may not be receiving the marketing push Final Fantasy XIV did, nor does it have long-winded developers apologizing desperately for all of the mistakes they’ve made in XIV, but Final Fantasy XI has effectively risen from the ashes to become the title many of its players wanted it to be – and, ironically, its rebirth came at the cost of Square Enix’s pride.

        If you haven’t played Final Fantasy XI in ages, or never gave the MMORPG a try, you may be surprised at what you find within it today. Whatever you do, though, don’t be fooled by the eye candy Final Fantasy XIV provides, its updates be damned – it’s everything you’ve never wanted an MMORPG to be.
        Comments 6 Comments
        1. Andrew's Avatar
          Andrew -
          My memories of FFXI involve spending hours trying to get a party together--due to the prohibitive level restrictions on who can join which party, it would sometimes take hours. Then we would play a little bit before someone had to go, at which point we could spend another hour trying to recruit a replacement, or just press forward and get killed and lose a shitload of experience.

          I spent several months on and off with that game, and never found the fun parts.
        1. Raz's Avatar
          Raz -
          Today, all of that has changed. The level restrictions you've mentioned no longer matter, for two reasons: one, the Level Sync system (which was blogged about upon its introduction, but since we've lost the old TNL blogs, I couldn't reference any of my prior FFXI-related entries), and two, the significantly increased EXP rewards. If someone is level 90, and you're level 13, they can Level Sync to you (effectively becoming 13 themselves with an appropriate gear stat reduction), and you'll both receive appropriate EXP rewards for the level.

          What you're mentioning are some of the most commonly lamented problems of the past, but they're no longer an issue. It isn't a completely different game, but it's almost as close as it can be, and with every update nowadays, it seems as if they're finding yet another way to make it even better.
        1. Andrew's Avatar
          Andrew -
          I wish they had made those adjustments back when I cared, because FFXI had a lot of potential outside that critical flaw. Oh well. It was their first stab at a genuine MMORPG, so some growing pains are to be expected.
        1. Raz's Avatar
          Raz -
          On that same token, however, you'd expect XIV to have been a better affair... I really don't know what they were thinking when they released that. "Let's release an unfinished, awfully boring product within this fiscal year, which won't appease our investors, since it's terrible, and then, we'll reap no benefits! It's a fantastic idea!"
        1. BonusKun's Avatar
          BonusKun -
          XIV I beta tested and it honestly was released way too damn soon. I still play XI to this day and the changes from then to now have been astounding.
        1. Hero's Avatar
          Hero -
          Quote Originally Posted by BonusKun View Post
          XIV I beta tested and it honestly was released way too damn soon. I still play XI to this day and the changes from then to now have been astounding.
          Is it time to dust off my copy, and reinstall? I only have the first two expansions - do all the changes mentioned apply to all versions, or does one have to have all the expansions to get the full benefits?
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