Should you return to Vana’Diel? – Final Fantasy XI

Now is a great time to experience this game again! 

FFXI warning screen
The game warns you not to forget real life before you log in XD

Final Fantasy XI was the first effort by Square Enix to make an MMORPG back in 2002. The game was a huge success in Japan and was pretty popular when it shipped in the US in 2004 on PS2. Final Fantasy XI on the PS2 came complete with the HDD drive, which it was pre-loaded on to. The game would later make it’s way to Europe but only on PC for the first few years until the Xbox 360 launch in 2006. At it’s peak the game was populated by over a million active accounts and was a close rival to World of Warcraft but was quickly over shadowed.

Final Fantasy XI in 2018!

As a game that held a lot of sway in my life for a good few years, I felt that I should see how the game is doing after an absence of about 8 years. 

So, what has changed in all that time? The answer is quite a lot to be honest. Most of the changes are to add quality of life to the game. With the dwindling player base (Not quite dead yet) Square Enix have added a lot more to the game, including a new expansion pack and various add on packs. 

The leveling experience. 

Since this is the biggest part of the game, I thought I’d cover this first. Leveling has now been more streamlined for a soloable experience, since the dwindling number of players has made the old method obsolete. The old method was to find a party and grind your way to max level. Creatures now give a lot more experience than they used to, you can get a decent chunk from fighting decent challenge monsters and they are easier to solo now. Once you break 50 the leveling experience does slow down somewhat and does take a little longer to level up. 

Fields of Valor/ Grounds of Valor

Combat in this game is more fun with other players or Trust NPC’s

Another thing that got added to the game is Fields of Valor/Grounds of Valor. By accessing a field manual or Grounds tome, you can choose an objective to complete. These tasks are just to kill a certain amount of enemies. Once completed you’re rewarded with experience points, gil and tabs. Tabs are used to gain certain buffs from the tomes/manuals, like a regen effect.

Records of eminence.

The Record of Eminence is a new addition to FFXI that gives you experience points and sparks of emience. Sparks of emience can be exchanged for new gear/items and other things. You can select any challenge from the menu and gain a reward once you’ve met the requirements of the challenge. This gives you a great reason to finish quests/missions you’ve never gotten around to doing. I really enjoyed doing a lot of these and for me it’s a great addition to the experience. 

Trust npcs. 

By far, this for me, is the best quality of life addition to FF XI. As I mentioned earlier the dwindling number of active players has made the old method of partying up with other players obsolete. So to help players out they’ve added npc’s that will help you in battle. These npc’s are all popular characters from the game that you’ll meet during story missions or quests. The various characters help you in battle and will even set up their own skill chains, or join yours, which to me is very cleverly implemented. My only beef is that when you play as a thief you can’t set up a SATA weapon skill so easily. On a serious note, it does kind of make the huge world of Vana’diel seem very isolated.

Getting around.

Survival guides help in FF XI
Survival guides are great for getting around in FFXI

Another major improvement to FF XI is the new teleporting system. In every area now are teleport crystals. These will allow you to teleport between them for a small fee (It’s quite a lot of money though if you’re just starting out.) There are also Survival guides, which act as teleporting devices and are even available in dungeons. All of these need to be activated in every area, so there’s still an element of exploration. 

Mounts are also a thing now. Instead of just having Chocobo’s to ride, you can now collect different mounts that you can summon and ride, allowing you to get around faster. You still need to do the original Chocobo license quest to get access to the mount quest. I’m sure veteran players will remember how long winded that quest was. 

These are just a few of the new features that I got to play around with in my play through and to add anymore would just make this a very long and boring post, but I just wanted touch on a few things.

The verdict…

So is Final Fantasy XI still worth returning to/ trying out? I’d say that it definitely is worth it. The game isn’t dead yet. All the new additions really add nicely to the experience and the creation of Trust NPC’s adds new life to the party system. You do however notice how under populated the servers are now and it can get kind of lonely if you’re just starting out. I managed to get into a fairly active Linkshell, which made my playtime more bearable as it gave me someone to interact with. I don’t think that this ruins the game and it’s still fun to play. 

One last point, is that the game is still very confusing for new players and doesn’t give you any direction to go. Finding out what to do next without looking it up is very challenging, but rewarding when you do discover it. 

If you’re thinking about returning and don’t have the game anymore, you can download the full client on the FF XI website here.


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