Final Fantasy XI, a game that has lasted more than a decade and still continues to be one of Square-Enix’s biggest money makers to this day. Now before I get well into this article I’d like you all to know that a few months ago I set out to write an almost similar article on how the game itself had changed over the years and how it was now embarking on a new age of adventure. Sadly, due to real life stuff, I never actually got around to finishing the article and now find myself scrapping it for this article.
Now, instead talking the “New Age of Adventure”, I’m sitting here typing and telling you guys about Final Fantasy XI’s “Final Adventure”. Last month, the producers for XI held a press conference in which they addressed the future of the game. Many, including myself, were taken back by the news and disheartened to learn of the fate of our favorite Final Fantasy MMO. However, I’ll save this bit of talk for later in the article. But first, let’s look at the early days of XI and how it’s changed over the last 2-3 years.
The Golden Age
FInal Fantasy XI first went live back in 2002 on PC’s everywhere, however, it wasn’t until it released a year later for the PS2 game console that I first made my venture into the land of Vana’diel. When I arrived, I was taken back by the look and feel of the game. While I was quite disappointed with it’s auto-attack feature, eventually it would come to grow on me and I would set out to try to become a well known adventurer.
Along the way, I found myself making many friends, many that I will never forget. From the group of fellow newbies that trekked from Bastok to Sand’Oria with me, to the white mage hume of whom I became best friends with and leading on to elvaan ninja and samurai of whom have become like a second family to me. Then there was my first Linkshell, Dragons of Chaos. Oh how I miss those guys.
There were good times and then there were bad times. And while the constant level grinding and story progression forced you communicate with others, I’m sure that there are many to this very day that don’t regret a moment of it. The bards sung of adventures and whether it was against the evil Shadow Lord, against the Sky Gods, or even venturing in to the realm of Dynamis, we triumphed as the adventurers of Vana’diel and it’s what’s come to be called as the Golden Age of Vana’diel.
Now five expansions, three add-on scenarios, three battle-add on scenarios, and thirteen years later, our adventures still continue.
March into the New Age
In 2010, the game begin to see it’s first changes as devs for the game began to increase the level cap, gradually raising it to 99. Along with that came a new way to level in the form of the battle add on content known as Abyssea. Not many were happy with this change with some even quitting the game. Those that were left either took advantage of this new way to level or simply complained that Square had broken the game. The problem with Abyssea wasn’t it’s easy access experience points, but the fact that there was no level restriction so anyone who was level 30 or above could enter and generally leech experience points, all the while losing out on the chance to actually learn how to play their respective jobs. However, it wouldn’t be the first time that Square-Enix would make changes to how players leveled their characters.
Later on, devs would implement the Fields of Valor content as well as the Grounds of Valor content. These were special books located throughout Vana’diel that would award players with exp. for completing their chosen page. The days of special party set ups and days of endless mind-numbing exp grinding were gone and in it’s place was a new “hip” way of leveling your characters.
About three years later, Square-Enix introduced a new expansion known as “Seekers of Adoulin”. With this, Square attempted to bring back the old school party system that we knew and loved. Unfortunately, it didn’t bold well with players as many had moved on and accepted this new way of leveling set for by Abyssea and the FoV and GoV content, not to mention the only usefulness for the content released was to gain exp towards merit points.
Now this is where things began to get interesting. Following the fall of the original Final Fantasy XIV, Square-Enix swallowed it’s pride and began seeking help from it’s playerbase. For the first time in a long while, the devs where listening to the players on how to make the game better and more enjoyable. The next two years to follow, SE (Square-Enix) would set out to make quality of life changes to the game, making the game more accessible for both old and new players. Many of these changes included allowing players to equip an additinal linkshell, Radiant/Daily quests in the form of content known as “Records of Emminence”, all new home points with a system now allowing players to traverse the land more easily, and trust…content that once unlocked, allowed players to summon a avatar like form of some of the game’s more well known npcs.
The new age of Vana’diel was upon us and things would only get better…or so we thought.
The final chapter
When you look all that’s been implimented into the game now, you can’t help but ask…where did it all go wrong? Well for starters, in the process of attempting to gear the game more towards casual players Square-Enix killed off party play. While the Trust system sounded like a awesome idea, when first introduced players could not play with each other. It also made leveling easier as players needed only their three trust npcs, their adventuring fellow (assuming the player had it unlocked), and a pet if they were playing a pet class and they had full party of six to level their way through the content, therefore eliminating the need of shouting or waiting for a party to form.
Like mentioned earlier, the release of abyssea content was also contributing factor and with Square-Enix no where in sight to throw on any restrictions, players were able to power level their way to level 99 with little to no trouble at all. Now add this along with removing level caps from some of the game’s content and lowering said content’s difficulty as well as the ability to summon trust npcs to fight alongside you in content that originally required a party of six players and you have the makings of a dying game.
If you log on to Final Fantasy XI today, there’s no denying that the game is a shell of it’s former self. The playerbase has dwindled down to a handful and as SE now plans to stop providing major content as of November and console support finally coming to a close March of 2016, one can only wonder what’s left for the game.
Eleven’s Swan Song and the Community’s fight to save it
March 2015, Square-Enix announced the final chapter in Final Fantasy XI’s storyline. Titled “Rhapsodies of Vana’diel” it would be the send off of all send offs as a players set out on their final adventure in the land of Vana’diel. While SE says that they have no plans on closing down the servers anytime soon following the last major update, there is no denying that once console support ends half of the remaining player base will be gone with those remaining on PC slowly, but gradually following suit once content stops rolling in.
The dev team states that it would be too difficult to continue making content for the game this mainly falls due to a lack of funds. Instead, a fraction of the dev team will remain once the final scenario concludes to continue tending to and improving the PC version of the game. Meanwhile SE has announced something known as the Vana’diel project which turns it’s attention towards Massive Moblie Online RPG’s. Yep, you read it right XI is going the way of mobile gaming, but not in the way that many were hoping for. First off you have Final Fantasy Grandmasters a mobile app based in Vana’diel, however this particular app will only be released in Japan. Then there’s the so-called native app. From what we’ve been told, the content for the native app will feature content up only to Chains of Promathia, the second expansion that was released for Final Fantasy XI. If this didn’t disappoint and upset players then the next comment would. According to SE, unfornately they had no plans of allowing players to port their character save data from FFXI to the native app and thus would have to create a new character since it was considered an entirely new game.
Players everywhere were angered by this and some have even now begun unsubscribing to the game parting way with their beloved characters before the inevitable final goodbye. For those like myself who continue to stick around, we try our best to make our voices heard. While Square continues to shut down any possibility for reviving the game, the community continues to fight for a game that we all know and love. In the end, we’ve fought ghosts of vengence, ancient civilizations, and even the gods themselves but perhaps the biggest battle stands before us. The battle to save ourselves.