The adventure may be over for PlayStation 2 and Xbox 360 players, but Final Fantasy XI lives on on PC nearly 14 years after it’s initial launch
Due to the closure of Final Fantasy XI on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 2, Square Enix offered free access to the Windows version for 360 and PS2 players for the final weekend. It had been a while since I’d ventured into Vana’diel, so I thought why not? As it turned out, it had been a fortnight under 3 years since I’d last logged in, longer than I’d assumed.
The memories came flooding back with the music. I hadn’t even got to the game yet – the PlayOnline Viewer is your log in portal, and comes with its own infectious music, both for the viewer itself, and during updates. The update music is one that I’ve heard for many, many hours, having playing it across PC and 360, on multiple consoles and PC’s down the years. At one stage a friend joked that the game consisted entirely of an update screen, as that’s all he’d ever seen of it. But even with all this non playing time, the music brought back good memories.
Once I logged in with a character, some less good memories came back. I had forgotten I’d had to rename that character when my original server, Seraph was merged into Bismark in 2010. Unwilling to really change the name, I added an extra s to the end, so Giles became Giless. It still irks me now. Sadly, the only way to change name is to move to a server that already has that character name, and no one is going to be called Giless.
Still, I was still there, extra s and all, for some reason in the middle of La Theine Plateau as a Ranger. I couldn’t even remember what I’d been doing there. At a guess, I was soloing to level 20, since every monster I checked there came up as easy prey. I’m glad that I did log back in though, because it wouldn’t have been right to leave Giless out there. Come the time that Square closes Final Fantasy XI for good, Giless will watch the world burn in San d’Oria, either surrounded by other players, or in his Mog house with his faithful Moogle. Dying on the windswept plains of La Thiene would be an ignoble end. Forget about being a Ranger, Giles will face the end times as the Warrior/Monk that has always been his true calling.
Jobs always seem to confuse people in Final Fantasy. I’ve only ever dabbled briefly in other MMO’s (Hello The Matrix Online, I remember you!), so I don’t have extensive knowledge of how other games do their class systems, but one character being able to do every job, and having to pay for extra characters seemed to throw quite a few people off. This being my first, it just made sense to me. Pretty much everything Final Fantasy XI does seems like The Way Things Should Be to me.
I’d never gotten that deep into the game, I’d more scratched at the surface, but I’d gone deep enough for it to have its hooks firmly in me. I always wished that I’d had more time to spend with it, but one thing that has stopped me is my fear of strangers. Not in a stranger danger way of course, I’m just awkward in social situations with people I don’t know, including in virtual worlds. Everyone always seems to know more than me, and I have a constant fear of letting everyone down. Final Fantasy though forces you to group to level. This is a good thing from a gameplay point of view, but a bad thing for someone with social anxiety.
The best times then were playing with people that I knew, mostly my flatmate. My original Linkshell, TeamVanadielHXC was the nearest I came to feeling perfectly fine grouping with people I didn’t really know. It helped to be able to chat outside of party sessions, and there were some fun times. For the life of me I can’t remember anyone’s name now, but I remember one chap who played on a PS2, and therefore didn’t have a keyboard. He was a level 75 Red Mage, and I think he spent longer helping other people out then ever actually doing anything for himself. Due to the lack of a keyboard, he almost never typed, using emotes when needing to communicate, which was surprisingly easy to understand. On the rare occasions he did type with the on screen keyboard, it was almost entirely in the auto-translate, which gave his rare words a colourful flavour.
TeamVanadielHXC are long gone now, left behind when Seraph was merged, and I’ve never really had a proper linkshell since. My current Linkshell, Team MadCapsules appears to still exist, though I’ve not seen anyone in it since my return. I expect that they are long gone, either to FF XIV, or just like myself, out of the MMO game.
So what will I do now with my return? Will I stay? Well, I’d subbed up for at least a month. Maybe I should go in search of an active Linkshell, to finally give it a good go at the big meaty content in there. At some point I will leave Vana’diel for the last time, but I don’t think Vana’diel will ever really leave me.