Final Fantasy XI: Online

Even Square's been bitten by the massive online RPG bug; and they're taking the PS2 with them.

This is one game that will have a lot to deal with. All of its predecessors were excellent, Final Fantasy VIII was, and still is, one of the best games ever made. So how can you possibly improve upon perfection? Well, this is Squaresoft we are talking about; they have decided to create a massively multiplayer RPG for the PS2. Cripes. Talk about taking the bull by the horns...

This game, no matter how you look at it, will be groundbreaking. It will be astounding. This game should, in theory, take over your life. Why? Gather round kids, I will try to explain… This, ladies and gentlemen is the very first en-masse multiplayer game to ever grace a console. You will be able to join up with your friends from across the globe and go on an adventure through your PS2.We are talking Everquest with bells on, Phantasy Star Online with knobs and whistles, this should be the game of 2002. Well, for the PS2 anyhow.

Final Fantasy XI is set on the planet Vana Diel, a paradise apparently, as are most Final Fantasy settings. However, things are not as they seem, Vana Diel has a rotten core and monsters and demons are rife. Ah. Right, yeah, as I said, a common Final Fantasy setting. That’s more or less where the similarities end though. This is not your common RPG. This is special. Really special. Anyhow, more on the planet itself. Vana Diel is split into several kingdoms or areas, giving a potentially huge area to explore, at this time they are: Final Fantasy XI: Online

The Republic of Bastok
This area is where is humanoid races reside (more on classes/races later). Its an advanced nation with plenty of technology and valuable resources, including the classic Final Fantasy mineral, Mithril. United federation of Windurst
This area is inhabited by the Tarutaru. The cities in this area have an almost organic feel, a perfect setting for the Tarutaru to work on their magic.

Kingdom of San D’oria
The Elvarn race resides here. There is constant threat of civil war, only a fragile alliance between the ruling Monarchy and the other parties stands between peace and complete destruction.

Gustaberg deadlands
A barren, dead space surrounding Bastock. No Flora survives here, only the withered remains of the past. Final Fantasy XI: Online

Sarutabaruta Plains
A vast, wide open plain near Windurst. Plenty of plants grow here, these attract monsters great and small to the area.

Ronfaure Forest
A lush, beautiful forest near San D’oria, a strange presence appears to reside here.

If all of these areas are as large as one would expect, the game shall be absolutely huge. However, will Square be capable of making a huge world without making it too sparse? The early images, though of poor quality (our apologies), do suggest an impressive attention to detail in terms of architecture and scenery. Which is encouraging. We will have to wait and see. I expect hidden cities and whatnot as well; do you hear me Square?

In a general way (very general) this game works like Phantasy Star Online (or Everquest for you PC people), in the way that you create your character (I honestly will explain later) and are free to wander the vast world on your own or you can join a team, the really keen will start their own team. By choosing the ‘looking to join team’ from the sub menu your character will have a symbol by his head, informing others that you would like to join their team. You can also choose another option that informs others than you are creating a team, therefore allowing people to come over and ask if they can join. It seems easy enough to master. There does not, however, appear to be a multi-language chat facility like the one seen in Phantasy Star Online, this may be down to the fact that the early Beta version is intended for Japanese use only, when the NTSC and PAL versions are released, there should hopefully be one in place.

From the early information available it appears that you can create alliances with other teams. Up to three teams can form an alliance between them, making it easier to vanquish those really hard foes between the eighteen of you. That’s right, Eighteen players on screen at once, all attacking freely. It should be a slight improvement over the normal five or six! However, for an alliance to be possible, a leader must be chosen, he or she is then designated with a white marker (just the ticket for assassinations). This should lead to online arguments aplenty! Hopefully, in time, Square will find a way to allow even more players at one time in a battle, I for one would like to see a full scale war raging between two rival factions…. deadly.

The combat itself appears to be incredibly simple, yet effective. When you explore the world you can see monsters walking around, looking for trouble (a first as well, no more being sucked into unwanted battles!). You can either avoid them, or lock on and give them a kicking. I feel that a kicking would be in order most of the time. Anyhow, after a stylish switch from normal view to battle view, the fighting starts. All damage and vital statistics are reported via a colour coded window that is in view at all times. Classic Final Fantasy menus are still in place, with attack, defend and magic and whatnot still in place. However, it is not clear at this point if limit breaks are included, as they could be difficult to work out in the real-time environment. I hope that they are included as they are an important feature of any Final Fantasy game (FF8’s Squall’s ‘Lion Heart’ still looks awesome).

Onto the Characters. For the first time in a Final Fantasy game, you create your own character. You start by choosing your character’s race, they are as follows:

Strange little magical creatures from the Windurst region, they have a strong magical field and make good mages. They remind me of Moogles.

A humanoid race, as close as you are going to get to human. Well balanced, technologically advanced all rounders. From the Bastock region.

Strong, tall and very proud race of elves. They make excellent warriors and are incredibly headstrong by nature but their pomposity leads to trouble. Found in their Kingdom of San D’oria.

A slender, cat-like race who inhabit a small corner of Windurst. They are against all technology and rely solely on nature. Only the Females of the species are brave enough to venture into the outside world.

Huge, heavy set creatures, they are incredibly strong and troll-like. Only the males are allowed to leave the home towns.

The races themselves are pretty standard fare, with warrior races and slender mages. This should allow most people to choose a race that suits their fighting style best, we shall have to wait and see how they all balance out, I have a feeling that the Humes will be a popular choice, everyone loves a mix of sword play and magic!

There was speak of additional classes being available, on top of the race you have chosen (extra abilities and such) allowing you to customise even further. I might as well explain them, even though they may not make an appearance (I will update the comments page later with the news on them once it has been verified). Right. They are:

Fairly simple. All of your stats will lean towards fighting with hardly any magical skills

Capable of a little white magic and a little red magic, also proficient at fighting.

Will be able to steal items off of the enemy, use a little red magic and be fairly good fighting.

White Mage
Will be able to cast protective magic, such as heal, cure, protect and such. Will be weak at fighting.

Red Mage
Will be capable of casting destructive magic such as fire, aqua, Ultima and others. Will be weak at fighting.

This class system is very similar to the one seen in the early Final Fantasy games on the NES and is quite different to anything seen in the newer titles. As stated earlier, these classes and their system may not be included in the game, but here at we like to give you the fuller picture. After all, knowledge is power.

So then, will this game be any good? I think it should be. It maybe a departure from the norm for Sqauresoft, but if anyone can pull this kind of project off it’s them. They have constantly provided us with the most incredible video games (even a film), they have a pedigree and a back catalogue that is hard to ignore. This may well turn out to be the only game you will ever need. We all wait, fingers crossed, until summer. Or 2003 for us Brits. Damn.

E3 Trailer