After selling over 200,000 units in Japan, Square Enix displayed Final Fantasy XI, its first online title, at E3 last week in hopes of garnering similar support in North America. In addition, the company released a fact sheet that summarizes the attributes of the game.
Final Fantasy XI is set in the world of Vana'diel, which promises to encompass over 100 worlds for exploration. Three mostly-peaceful kingdoms occupy their own corners of Vana'diel: Bastok, San d'Oria, and Windurst. Bastok is the republic of "industry and might," centered in a mining community surrounded by rocky wastelands and inhabited by both Humes and Galka alike. The kingdom of San d'Oria is home to the Elvaan race, and the heart of it lies in a regal castle, situated in forest-covered mountains. Windurst is a federation dominated by magic in a verdant, green land cohabited by the Mithra and Tarutaru.
The physical parameters of character creation consist of selecting gender, race, facial features, hair color, and size. Players must also name the character, or let the name generator do it for them, and choose a national affiliation. The aforementioned races are playable, although a couple of them are limited to certain genders. The world of Vana'diel allows for equal opportunities, as all job classes are open to all races. However, some races are better at certain jobs than others. The male-only Galka are physically adept, making them ideal Monks, while the small Tarutaru are quite gifted when it comes to magic spells. The tall, confident Elvaan perform well as warriors, while the nimble female-only Mithra are better suited as thieves.
Final Fantasy XI will allow players to search for potential party members via the "Seek Party" function. They may search by race, nation, job class, or experience level, and once they make the connection with someone they want to join with, they can give them a Linkpearl. This can be equipped to form a Linkshell group, and up to eighteen players may join up and fight together. Players may communicate via the "Say" command, which allows everyone in a small area to see their words. Private conversations may be carried out through the "Tell" command, and party members can communicate as a group with the "Party" command. Those who are seeking party members, selling an item, or issuing a warning to the general area may use the "Shout" command to get the word out.
Gameplay is mission-based, and completing missions increases the player's rank within his or her nation, thus allowing him or her access to new missions. Quests have more significance than missions, as they reveal bits of the game's storyline to those who embark on them. Players may also participate in conquests, which allow them to fight against a neighboring nation and reap great benefits through victory. Battles are in real time, and commands are executed as quickly as they are selected. Party members may also discuss strategy and offer suggestions to each other in the heat of battles. In addition, players are able to access free email, chat, a friends list, and an online version of Tetra Master, the card game of Final Fantasy IX, via the PlayOnline interface.
Final Fantasy XI has not received an official North American release date, but the expansion disc, Rise of the Zilart, will be included with the game when it makes the transition across the Pacific. Until then, be sure to read RPGamer's E3 impressions of the title.