Mocha's Top 100 Essentials of Final Fantasy XI is a countdown from 100 to 1 of... well, everything that encompasses FFXI. To sum it up, this can be the bare bones of the game, moments, areas, nostalgia - anything that really explains what the game was to those who have played it or the ones who didn't experience it.
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Top 100 Essentials of FFXI: Introduction
K. I lied about starting the 100-96, but I feel this is imperative to this list.
So here's the thing.
There's a few different categories that some of these can fall under, but I felt it's only necessary that they get their own part of the top 100. This is mostly due to their integral part of Final Fantasy XI or because putting it under the next-to-be-mentioned categories would be too "general". With that, I will - before listing 100 through 96 - give an introduction of four different categories that some of these may fall under.
In the brackets is the category. To the right of it - if necessary, in quotes - is how I will nickname it when it shows up in an individual category.
Example: [Jobs Breakdown - "Job"] means later on when I discuss Paladin, it will appear as:
[ Paladin ] - Job
Hopefully all of that made sense. If not... well... balls on you.
[Jobs Breakdown - "Job"]
Final Fantasy XI currently has a massive roster of 20 jobs. Most games can't even come close to matching up to that sort of statistic. The fantastic thing is that each job has its own purpose, talents, and feats that make it special and unique. Keep in mind that when I say feat, I'm not referring to what other MMOs may name their talents, but rather the actual word itself. With this mind, it's only fair that each of the twenty jobs get their own ranking instead of being grouped together under "Jobs" as one, big category.
For those new to the game, here's a brief tutorial on jobs...
When the original Final Fantasy XI was released, it debuted with six main jobs: Warrior, Thief, Monk, White Mage, Red Mage, and Black Mage. Sound familiar at all?
This is part of the attraction most found themselves tied to when reading over or watching this game in action. Sure, the Final Fantasy lore is beyond words. However, when you factor in the amazing job system that has spanned over the different versions (Especially you, FFT <3), you can't help but wonder how fun it would be to wreck shop as just a [insert job here] in the game.
The climb from 1-30 was an endurance test for many of the starting off players. The leveling challenge of today, 1 year ago, and so on was much different than that of when FFXI was in its early stages. Back then, you had to be one hardcore sunny beach to survive the hazards of partying. The thing that made jobs different than other MMOs was the fact that if you wanted to progress, you had
to level with other players. This was where the huge learning curve came into fruition as well. Back then, Warrior wasn't exactly an expert tank. The starting classes themselves weren't extremely powerful either. Also, the starting off gear wasn't as plentiful or brag-worthy in statistics. Why is this relevant? Because, if you made the climb to 30, you unlocked the option to unlock an additional 5** jobs. That's right! MOAR JOBS. However, because FFXI likes for you to test your virtues, you didn't just magically get these jobs...
...oh, no. You had to EARN them. Every new job that you wanted to unlock came with a quest... a trial more than anything to unlock them. Once completed, the job unlocked and would start off level 1 and thus you repeated the process all over again. These 5** additional classes were: Dark Knight, Paladin, Bard, Beastmaster, and Ranger. This added a whole new level of versatility to your parties because these weren't necessarily 'upgrades' to the previous jobs, but actually different leveling options altogether.
(**Note: Summoner was later available around the same time the expansion pack 'Rise of the Zilart' was released via an update. However, the expansion pack wasn't required to unlock the job... just the update download.)
Just like any job, the best part of these jobs was exploring their potential. Because FFXI focused more on a group-leveling system, this made job exploration even more important. It's one thing to know your job on a solo basis, but it's another thing to know your job on a party basis. To do that, you have to fully know your role (and on some occasions, shut your mouth), be comfortable with it, know how it works in different party setups, and be able to adjust tactics on-the-fly.
Not too long after the release, Squenix released that aforementioned expansion (RotZ) with an additional 4 jobs to the roster: Ninja, Samurai, Summoner, and Dragoon. Instinctively, in any MMO setting, whenever a new job is released, everyone flocks to it immediately to exploit its strengths and maybe even try to shit on the rest of the jobs. This update certainly didn't disappoint in this category. Everyone and their mom (Literally! Not kidding!) masturbated to the point of mortal wounding through chaffing from this addition. I mean, read the roster again. Ninja. Who doesn't love ninjas? Samurai - need I say more? Dragoon? If you've played your fair share of Final Fantasy, you love you some Dragoon.
After this, FFXI took a 3-year-nap when it came to releasing new jobs -- even releasing another expansion (Chains of Promathia) in between this drought. With that, two more expansions would follow within a year-and-a-half of each other. First came 'Treasures of Aht Urhgan - which would give birth to Corsair, Blue Mage, and Puppetmaster. Later, they would release 'Wings of the Goddess' - spawning forth Scholar and Dancer. These would prove (at least for now) to be the last big (and I stress big for you purists out there) expansion to be released by Squenix and the last one to feature new jobs.
With all of this together, FFXI had its roster of 20 different jobs to choose from. It was this constant influx of new jobs that kept the gameplay interesting. New strategies began forming for partying, huge battles, and even PvP. The funny thing is: the more people went after new jobs, the more time it gave people to perfect the earlier jobs. This back-and-forth (has) continued from FFXI's conception to this day. Forum arguments continue to flare up with complex formulas, screenshots, parsers, and debates as to who is the best of the best in any given situation.
This is the heart of the job system in Final Fantasy XI. There's another aspect of this as well, but I'll be covering that much, much later. It's with this reasoning that I give each individual job its own category. Hopefully that's enough information to pacify the rest of you.
Jobs aren't as basic as "here's this, here's that". They were/are complex and need to be discussed on an individual basis.
Get used to that.
[While you Were Leveling/Bound to Happen]
Ok. So this is a fun category. If you're playing Final Fantasy XI for a good chunk of time, you're going to endure certain things. You may have to take part in a certain quest. You may have to experience a certain cut-scene. You may watch the inner-workings of a functional and a non-functional party. You will get to see the computer A.I. at work. Essentially, there are just some things in the game that you are going to see, going to experience, or are going to hear about.
These are mostly going to be FML moments. Let's face it - things happen. Unfortunately, in this game, things are going to happen all up-and-down your ass. Sorry. This isn't just stuff I can pile under "humorous moments" or "f-ups". Hence, each moment or item gets its own category as well.
Go fuck yourself. That was barely long. Read it.
[Do You Remember...? - "Nostalgia"]
To be fair, a lot of people played FFXI on a continuous basis; even more of them at least played it for a while. It was hard for any MMO to live under the shadow that World of Warcraft cast, but FFXI did so under the umbrella of wonderful moments. These moments could cancel out any fanboyism, anger, taunting, or frustration any person would dare endure. A lot of my experience in playing WoW and even moreso from friends who played it much more faithfully than me was that it lacked the memory creation that Final Fantasy is known
And so it was. What better way to hono(u)r these moments than to acknowledge them in this list on an individual basis. I believe this category and what qualifies under it really expresses what FFXI was more than of the others. I've always said that when I played the game, I was paying 12.95 a month for a chat service that came with a free game.
Memories in the game didn't just come from preloaded cut-scenes. They didn't come from predetermined algorithms or computerized dice-rolls. The moments came from what you took out of the stories and what story you created from them. The moments came from the conversations you had with friends, party members, enemies, and random people. The moments came from the battles that you shouldn't have lost and the battles you shouldn't have won.
Hell, the game experienced a sleuth of up/downgrades (sometimes cleverly hidden as a patch or a hit from the almighty nerf
bat...) that added instant memories each time due to their potency in changes made.
Some could even argue it's my overall experience with Final Fantasy XI that created all these memories. Everyone's story is different in FFXI, though. That's what really made it special. There was no real "beating the game" unless you count the expansion story-lines. This is what made the game compelling for me. I felt like I was playing a different game every day and that's why I didn't mind paying monthly charges. Thirteen bucks a month for a new game? Not a problem. There are other games I recently purchased
that don't nearly do for me what FFXI did for me.
I think the slower game style of FFXI also made it easier to enjoy certain moments to take place as a memory -- if that makes any sense. It seems unfair, but this category (when noted) will seem like it's mostly for those who played the game and can resonate with what I'm scribing. For everyone else, you may enjoy it just through reading about it... how potent would that make that memory?
This game burned memories into your head whether you wanted it to or not. I will be covering those for vets/newbies alike.
[Locations Within the Game - "Location"]
Beautiful. Shut up. Say what you want about the graphics... at the time, it was stupid-impressive. Not only that, but all of the other flashy titles that would soon show up with all their cool graphics would just be in a flash-in-the-pan. You know why? It wasn't because they didn't look pretty - they did! It was because there was nothing noteworthy about the locations. Scenery should stick out to players. They should feel involved in a living, breathing environment. It should feel like its own organism - a world you could see existing... or you wish did. Final Fantasy XI had this in spades.
There's no fonder memories than when you travel through certain landscapes for the first time and get that wow-factor. For the most part, you never felt like you were in the same area or one you had previously visited. Even so, each area had its own characteristics. It's own personality. If it wasn't the scenery, the music, the weather, or the color... it was something more... involving. Something that made it seem believable. Monsters, for example, always seemed to fit the criteria for the area they were in. Sure, the game was guilty of color-palette swapping or maybe just renaming monsters with higher levels, but they fit the surroundings. Even the larger monsters never just showed up like, "Hi. I really don't belong here. Please put me somewhere I will make sense." It wasn't like you saw fire-based dragon in the middle of a below-freezing environment.
Just like other players, I've had my times where I would enter a certain zone and just stand there looking at it. I would often times search every crevice not for clipping, but the detail. I wanted to see what this world was like and what went where. It was this same exploration that made it so I very rarely found myself lost or looking at my map.
On a respect level, you have to realize that developers put time and effort into making these designs not to just have people scoff or ignore them. These are the same people who probably drew in their notebook during class. They might be the same ones who wanted to be dungeon masters when they were younger. Maybe they're people who played Ultima or watched vivid landscapes in Disney movies or Labyrinth or The Secret of Nimh. Either way, I was going to appreciate them just like they did.
In counter to that, besides the areas that were loved, people also had areas they absolutely hated. These areas could be wrought with bad memories of missions gone wrong, parties they wish they could forget about, or just an absolutely annoying and/or terrifying design to navigate through. I know every game has areas you just don't like, but FFXI made sure your head hung low and your nails stayed between your teeth in their designs. It wasn't so much the level, but maybe even more the consequences of poor navigation. Consequences like all out brawls of you and 5 others vs. an entire area, deleveling, taking up too much time, or having to re-navigate deep into an area in a game that is not travel friendly. Ugh. Just writing about this brings certain areas to life that are just not player-friendly... and that's okay. We'll discuss those later. We'll go into detail about areas that just make you bring your A-game and others that don't care if you fall asleep on your keyboard staring at them.
Whether your graphics card was low-end or high-end, you got the appreciation of the areas. Everyone has a favorite one; everyone has a hated one. Which is yours? I'll list mine as the list narrows down from 100.
From its debut to living under the veil of obscurity (sometimes) of other MMOs boasting beautiful graphics, FFXI showcased some great/frustrating areas. I will share some that are close to me.
OKAY! So no more teasing! Now that I've got the introduction and important stuff out of the way, I can officially bring the official 100 list out of hiding for all of you to see. I can now promise that the next update in this series will start off with 100-96 as expected.
For those reading so far, thank you for tolerating my delays and blabbering. Feel free to post your opinions, questions, comments, or "I'm looking forward to..." notions and I will comment accordingly.
...keep Balrog from SFIV in mind as he loses a match and says to all of you:
MY DELAYED (BUT OFFICIALLY READY AFTER THIS) FFXI BLOG MONNNNEEEEYYYY!
(Note: For those not getting the reference, Balrog says "My fight monaaaayyyyyy!" while falling if defeated in Street Fighter IV.)