This is part of the Blaugust series!
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This game. This game. I never wanted so badly to be a part of a game that just wasn’t made for me more than FFXI. I picked it up pretty close to launch, so everything I write about here reflects the game in that earlier time.
As a long time Final Fantasy fan, I thought this was going to be the MMO for me. And, at first, it really seemed to be. Big, beautiful cities and landscapes. Awesome character creation. Final Fantasy classes and spells. Pretty neat lore. Notorious monsters. Chocobos.
Where could it go wrong?
Super group-oriented gameplay that revolved around getting a group together (they had to be very close in level, or the group would take an XP hit), going out into a zone, and repeatedly chain-pulling creatures and defeating them for XP. Now, there was probably more to it than that, and certainly must be now days, but back then, it was punishingly difficult, especially for a group-shy player.
When you died, you’d lose 10% of your XP, which could actually result in you losing a level. When you aggroed something and needed to run from it, it would chase you all the way to the zone line (Train to Zone!)- that was the only way to get it off your tail, unless you shouted for help and someone assisted you. Or died and lost that 10% of your XP. Your progress was gated around level 19 – 20 by a pretty tedious group quest in the Dunes that you needed to unlock a sub-job. I have no idea what hoops you had to jump through to earn your chocobo… I just remember running to Juno on my own, making it there, and being disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to get a chocobo for some reason.
Groups were things you shouted for if you didn’t have a Linkshell (and I didn’t). There was no party finder or duty finder in game. Depending on your class and level, you could be waiting to hook up with a group for a very long time. This game required time. Lots and lots of time.
I’m not trying to say that FFXI was a bad game. I loved so much about it, that’s why I tried so hard to play it, despite my solo-player tendency. I rolled a Red Mage (known for somewhat soloing capability) and soloed as much as I humanly could… until the XP was just so little that it took days to gain a level. I must have grouped up somewhere down the line because I know I unlocked my sub job at least.
But, even grouping wasn’t a passive thing. If I remember right, there were group combos you performed (kinda like LOTRO Fellowship Manoeuvres) where you had to use some skill in the proper order based on what other people in the party did. I have no idea what the name of this was, but it was a nerve-wracking expectation for a shy player who had little to no group experience.
I don’t even want to think about what you needed to do to unlock advanced jobs – I so wanted to be a dragoon! Not to mention earn my artifact armor – oh, I wanted that Red Mage outfit so badly.
I had so many big hopes and dreams, none which came to pass.
Oh man… I have no idea what possessed me to keep trying this game. I even returned to it several times, and rebought it once, in hopes that it would eventually become more solo-friendly.
I don’t know if it ever has. Actually, it has, apparently. But it doesn’t sound like a fun solo experience.
The interesting thing about it, though, is that it’s partially due to my utter failure and broken dreams in FFXI that I chose to pick up FFXIV when it relaunched as a Realm Reborn. You don’t know how giddy I was unlocking my chocobo (never had one in FFXI), unlocking advanced classes (never had one in FFXI), and the shock at how the game just hands you your first artifact armor (just a dream in FFXI). Maybe I love Amon’s Hat so much for my bard because it reminds me of the feathered hat AF that I could never get for my FFXI red mage. Maybe I chose to play dragoon because I was never one in FFXI.
Funny how the unrealized desires in FFXI grew into a passion for FFXIV.
The box itself was interesting in that it came with 5 discs, which was pretty large at the time (2003). Four discs were the game installation, including the first expansion. It looks like the fifth disc was PlayOnline and Tetra Master. Oh, man… PlayOnline was the pits. It makes Mog Station look light years ahead.
It also came with a very large, full color instruction book! This book covered everything from the character creation screen to playing the game.
You just don’t see them make MMO booklets like that anymore! I guess, at the time, they expected to need to explain the concepts of an MMO to a newer audience.
Back of booklet. I always liked this picture – I had a wall scroll of it back in the day.