Amidst all the FFXIV hype, I got an interesting email the other day: an invitation to a tour in Final Fantasy XI. I've always enjoyed the FFXI tours so I instantly accepted, and I certainly wasn't disappointed with all of the new additions to see, but throughout my mind was that nagging question: FFXIV?
Not to worry: both games will run concurrently and there will be plenty of content to keep FFXI running strong. What kind of content? Well that's what this tour is all about!
I suppose I could sum up everything in the same sort of bullet-points that PR reports would use, but FFXI Clopedia documents those well enough already. Some of the new additions are a bit 'meh' to me; the new summons have neat eye candy but as I never really played SMN I wasn't terribly excited by them. Instead, let me talk about the additions that I, personally, found interesting.
Though, I totally admit, the graphics and effects for the new summons are very cool.
New Add-on Scenario Series: Abyssea. After the success of the first three add-ons, it seems Square-Enix is shifting in this direction rather than full-blown expansions. The next series of add-ons will be more combat-oriented and will focus on the parallel universe of Abyssea. As a prelude to these new scenarios, players can now hunt down Abyssean invaders by collecting a key item in Jeuno and going around the world playing a sort of hot-and-cold game to try and locate the otherwise invisible NMs. When you get close: pop! They appear out of thin air and a potentially epic battle ensues! There's a system by which you can "charge" your crystal by defeating weaker monsters and, with a more charged crystal, you can track down tougher monsters, all of which drop plenty of interesting loot. I'll be curious to see how the scenarios themselves play out!
Wings of the Goddess Mission Update. I love FFXI for its storylines. It's the only mmo I know that makes extensive use of cutscenes, just like the single-player Final Fantasy games, and does them spectacularly well. The new WotG missions and story sequences the tour guides showed me were amazing. The story itself is reaching its climax and should wrap up in two or three more updates. One particular cutscene featured many notable characters from former missions, especially the missions surrounding the shadow realm of Dynamis. Now that you've traveled back in time, you can see them in the flesh, along with some new foes and fiends and, of course, the original Shadow Lord!
Sadly, no screenshot of the Shadow Lord, so here's a screenshot of Odin instead.
Sadly, missions in FFXI have always been buried behind the "I need a group!" barrier, and given their complexity, length, and challenge, many players never get to see a great many of the missions.
Magian Moogles! I recall seeing a system of upgrading weapons in a prior update (after I had stopped playing, sadly) that involved getting a Fey weapon and defeating monsters to power it up with random enchantments. It seems that this principle has been greatly expanded upon with the Magian Moogle trials. Now, players pick up the base weapon from a chest next to the Moogle, then select a trial to upgrade their weapon. By completing subsequent trials, hundreds of different weapon configurations can be achieved with many potentially powerful combinations. This certainly looks like something worth undertaking, because the challenges themselves are fairly direct: things like, go kill 3 Notorious Monsters. Since you're not after the NM loot, players can freely group up with others at that NM, kill it for trial credit, then go back to upgrade the weapon. According to the tour guides, many players just meet up at the NM spawn, group up, and get on with it, rather than getting stuck behind the "I need a group" barrier.
Level Cap 99?! Yes, that's right, the rumors I heard are true: the level cap will be raised to 99! This has all sorts of repercussions, not the least of which will be unleashing all sorts of powers from sub-jobs that were previously locked away by the level 37 SJ cap. This will also open the flood gates for a swarm of leveling, though it raises the question of where the higher level monsters will be? Will there be a whole new expansion and areas for level 99? Or will that content be gated through the new Abyssean add-on scenarios?
Incidentally - and I mean this only for the triviality of it, since I could never in my entire life actually hold a relic weapon - the Magian Moogle system is expected to allow relic weapon holders to upgrade their trophies to level 99 weapons, so all that "hard work" won't go to waste. Yipee for you relic weapon holders, I suppose. I, myself, will just remain mournfully jealous of your
enslavement and bribery charismatic leadership.
So, where does that leave us? If you haven't played FFXI yet, it's never been easier: just pick up the Ultimate edition for $19.95, which includes all four expansions and all three add-on scenarios. Plug it in and you're good to go. If you've quit and were wondering whether or not to come back, you'll be in the same boat as I (and probably mourning the fact that it's April 13th and the absurd Squeenix billing system will jip you out of 2 weeks of play time you'll pay for). I think there's plenty to do, and the recent server mergers mean high population realms again for ease of finding groups (and the potential of meeting new friends!) but, you know, billing system... maybe I'll try again early May.
Oh, and if you never stopped playing, why are you reading this? Log back in and power up your Magian Moogle weapon already :)