Saturday, December 10, 2011

Game Over

Yep, I quit, and it's pretty definitive as far as I'm concerned. This won't be a sad goodbye, but sort of a game review that's been over 6 years in the making.

The Visuals
FFXI was my first and is at this point the only MMORPG I've played. Though I've read about and seen a lot of other ones, I was never tempted to pick them up due to the commitment/addiction to FFXI. I picked this game over other based purely on its visuals. To this day I haven't seen an MMO that could match its art-direction. The models are simplistic but look good. The pallette is limited but the colours are so well matched that the game can offer many different moods and atmospheres. The skill of the modellers and designers improved as you can tell by comparing old zones to newer ones. I especially enjoy Porgonorgo Isle and the Shadowrealm zones which showed off some very nice improvements in many aspects, and especially plant/shrub models. Animations aren't amazingly well done, but I haven't seen better special effects for spells and job abilities in other MMO's.

Not sound effects, which aren't anything special, but the music. Square games have always had great scores, and FFXI is no exception. The fact that there is a group that can tour the world exclusively playing the game's songs says a lot.

Learning Curve
A lot of the game's improvements to low level play came very late in the life of FFXI. Early on I found the Valkurm Dunes to be very unforgiving. There were hardly any high level players around that area. Rarely there'd be one powerleveling a party and you could beg them to run across the zone to raise you at Selbina zone-line, because you got killed by a Goblin Smithy for the 10th time and didn't want to walk back from San d'Oria. Though it gave a sense of adventure, there was a lot of frustration and time spent GETTING to the fun and very little time having the actual fun. Transportation got better and a lot had to do with leveling up past a certain point. So, it was just the first time going up that was really hard, the second time you had an easier time.

As expansions were released teleports were added and slowly traveling was no longer a huge chore. The game became much more enjoyable as these things were introduced, which made you wonder what the point was of not having htem before.

Early End-game
I didn't experience much of this becauss of leveling slowly while also joining the game later than most. Navigating Sky was an important skill, I was told, and I made it a point to get the maps and learn my way around soon after getting access. However, I was one of the few. So what ended up happening was people dying and needing help getting to the rest of the group. This cost a lot of time and when you finally got to the trigger mobs, it was a matter of fighting for claims. Let's just say... it sucked.

Dynamis runs I did early on weren't that good, and later on when I ran them myself I understood why. Too much coordination is needed and very few people take direction well. The system isn't bad, in fact, it's a nice challenge. However, the majority of the player-base wasn't fit for it. It was technical, certain jobs and roles were ESSENTIAL, which meant anyone going afk in the 2+ hours of the event could potentially ruin everything.

Sea had all the navigational issues of Sky (and then some) with worse drop rates and overall less appealing rewards. Limbus on the other hand was a sign of good things to come. Once you knew what to do, a small balanced group could clear any zone and you could get your hands on some very nice drops off Omega/Ultima while having fun trying to clear the zone in record time.

Aht-Urghan and HNM's
AU expansion brought assault which IMHO is one of the best events in the game. The missions were very diverse and not all combat-related. It required teamwork and knowledge without having a ridiculous time-investment. Salvage was a good event after they introduced the starting crates. After that the only reason I didn't do it because of the notoriously bad drop rates, cost of Imperial Wootz, but most importantly: lack of enough skilled friendly players to reliably beat the bosses. The EU playtimes weren't the best and after I finished college I couldn't play with NA's anymore. Also Kujata and later Valefor were pretty crappy servers.

Having camped some Fafnirs (and fought it twice, omg!) I had enough of HNM's in no-time. Camping Aspid was arguably worse, but I didn't do much of that. I didn't get to fight Hydra until I did the tier10 assaults, but my LS did get Cerberus a few times. Being on Stun duty for GoH was pretty exciting, I'll admit. I never fought Tiamat, but... killing Jormungand with Dreamcatchers was a very proud day for me. Somehow that undesirable monster was considered one of the toughest fights after Vrrtra. AV was still considered unkillable at the time.

Wings of the Goddess
Campaign gave me hope of leveling jobs other than THF, RDM and PLD. It was a good event at the time, and made a lot of solo play possible that wasn't before. However, the mistake in that system was its complexity and unpredictability. You had to stay in town to know when battles were going to take place, but then you'd be a half hour early. If you only moved out when you saw battles on your map, you'd often be too late to get a meaningful reward. Ops were unrewarding (not at first, but the nerfed them). The complexity was in how players could affect influence and nation strategy. Nobody cared enough to figure it out. All in all it was a good expansion, but a bit disappointing after ToAU.

I liked it. Let me start by saying that. Fights became about knowing HOW instead of bringing as many people as possible. Bards were no longer "needed". BLM's became super-useful again after a long period of zergs and SAM+WAR-onry exp parties. Moving in the direction of low-manned events was a good thing IMO. The rewards were great. Huge improvements over what was available before, but not only that... everything was attainable. Nothing seemed impossible to get. Even Empyrean weapons became a dime a dozen.

Missions and Story
The best moments in the game were doing and beating missions with friends. I had the best time clearing all assaults, finishing CoP, ToAU and WotG missions. Even clearing all Dynamises was a big achievement to me. Doing them with friends was the biggest reason for enjoying them. I don't regret the hours I spent doing those, as opposed to the many lost hours LFP, camping NM's or walking from place to place.

Why I stopped
So many people quiting and playing less and less tends to make the game less enjoyable. I still had things I wanted to do, but I I'm ok with leaving them undone. It's just a matter of silly principle. It's a good but flawed game. I'm glad I played it, I'm just sad I played it SO MUCH.

I'm not going to say good-bye or thanks, that's too cheesy. I'm still around, I'm just doing other things now. I DO want to say thanks to anyone that read this blog. Keeping this blog was one of the funnest things about FFXI. Going all into theory and actually being asked for advice about equipment and strategy made me feel less guilty about nerding out on the game.

Awesome Music Tip: FINAL

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