In addition to quests, each character is also fighting for the honor and glory of their kingdom. Each outdoor map area has a dominance rating for all 3 of the kingdoms. Characters can choose to start fighting for their kingdom by gaining a “signet” ability from one of the guard NPCs. Once this signet is acquired, every time an enemy monster is defeated in battle, the kingdom gains a bit more dominance in that particular part of the world. Other things, such as donation of items and completion of quests, also swing dominance toward a character’s kingdom. Every so often, the server tallies up which country is in the lead in each area, and dominance over the area changes. Dominance allows home cities to have increased trade, helps establish outposts in a particular area, etc.
Fighting itself is, unfortunately, rather bland. For melee characters, it’s usually just a matter of targeting a monster, hitting the auto-attack button, and waiting until something dies. Occasionally, characters can use some of their special powers, but for the most part battle is almost run on autopilot. Spellcasters have a bit more to do, but it’s still not all that exciting. FFXI is not for those looking for intense fights or complex battlefield strategies.
If fighting and adventuring get dull, there is a rather extensive crafting system. Crafting simply involves combining “crystals”, magic shards of elemental energy, with various items found throughout the world. If done correctly (and if the appropriate craft skill is high enough), a new item is formed. Although crystals and many of the necessary crafting ingredients are found in battle, a lot of characters will simply trade for the various items. Some of the other ingredients can be searched out through fishing, harvesting, or even lumberjacking, if a character so desires. This fairly rich system of crafting allows for a rather active economy, and some characters can make their virtual livings never leaving town, if they so desire. This is a social game, after all.
Speaking of the social aspect, I got an overall positive feeling during my time with FFXI. I didn’t meet any rude or obnoxious players, and for the most part everyone was pleasant and even quite helpful. In a MMORPG, the community of players makes a huge difference on the overall feeling of the game, and, at least from the time I spent, this community is a good one.
After a while, in most any game, playing a particular character just gets old. Thankfully, FFXI gives players a chance to change jobs at almost any time. With a quick trip to the “mog-house”, a Thief can take up that white-mage position they’d been thinking about for a while, without starting from scratch. After a certain level, characters also have the opportunity to take on a “sub-job”, allowing them to essentially be a cross-class character, gaining benefits and abilities from the new (albeit much lower-levelled) job. In addition, there are advanced jobs such as Ninja and Dark Knight, which can be made available through certain quests. This keeps things fresh for those who tend to like a bit of variety in their gaming.
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