I've played a ton of MMOs, it seems, lately, and it has dawned on me that I had still not sampled one of the MMOs that seems to have survived through the ages, Final Fantasy XI. After a hell of a sales pitch from one of my friends I decided I'd blow the $19.99 for the game and all of its expansions.
The music and sounds are those of almost any Final Fantasy you've ever played, which is a fantastic thing. Sure the battle music gets a bit old after you thousandth battle, but at least you weren't trying to play the game without the volume from the very beginning.
the graphics are somewhat of a mystery. Maybe I'm just cursed by when I installed, and didn't check to folder with all the different little things, I found that running the game made me want to pull my hair out. The defaults thrusted on a 19" Wide monitor made the game look like it came out of the mid-nineties. I scoured the in game menus looking to see if I could change the resolution but was stumped. Thankfully I discovered the folder with all the utilities and was able to set the resolution to something a bit more bearable. the graphics aren't going to blow you away, you have to understand that they are meant for the PS2, XBOX360, and the PC. The character models and creature models are what you've seen in past Final Fantasy titles.
The controls are where it really starts to get weird, and I think there are droves of PC MMOers that go nuts over it. Your movement is dictated by you pressing the numpad keys, that's right no WASD. Sure you're going to be able to use the Tab button to toggle through all the available targets but the majority of the game is played from the numpad. Want to bring up the menus press the minus on the numpad. You know I never thought about it but I wonder what would happen if you didn't have a numpad for the PC, that would be interesting to find out (if anyone plays FFXI without a numpad how do you do it, please leave a comment).
The gameplay, now where do I start, you are going to find that this is where all the MMOs come together. You're going to have to do a bunch of retrieval missions, along with other common quests. I do like the fact that you can personalize your map of the region you are currently in with markers, but accidentally going into a place that you don't have a map for, and not being able to discover that area as you explore does grind on my nerves. You'll also find that there is a lot of grinding to be done, for those not really familiar with this popular term in RPGs it's when you have to beat up on monsters constantly to level up to a level in which you can actually complete the quest you were given. Speaking of quests this is where my true qualm with the game comes in, unless you are the kind of player that likes to randomly talk to NPCs dotted all over the place you'll never get a quest. It was by luck that I found my first three, and I'm a level 12 Red Mage. If there was one thing that I think could make this game rock my ever-living socks off it would be the ability to see what NPCs are worth talking to, and maybe being able to locate them on the map when you are trying to get back to them. This game has turned into the classic example of a game that requires the player to play with a FAQ of some sort, or end up becoming the most accomplished, leveled up character, who has never done a quest.
If you want a MMO which is solid and has been around for a while, and has expansions still reportedly in the works, this might be for you. I just warn you with any MMO its a time sucker, and with the amount of grinding you're going to have to do in parts, its really going to drain the time. I personally really don't like playing a game with a FAQ on the other screen, but with this game if you're going to succeed you're going to need it. Final Fantasy XI with all its ups and downs gets a 7.4 out of 10.