This is actually a Choose My Adventure that I was somewhat reluctant to do for a long time, simply because… well, in some ways, it goes against the entire spirit of Choose My Adventure. Or at least the spirit that I’ve always used as a guiding principle for these columns, for however much it matters.
The goal of Choose My Adventure has always been to take someone who is either wholly unfamiliar with a game or at least not an expert at it and throw them into a game with as little support as possible. There’s no way that I can realistically hit the level cap and make major headway into the endgame, of course, but I can at least try a game with fresh eyes and see how it plays, while presenting those thoughts in a non-tedious fashion.
And then we have Final Fantasy XI, which I cannot possibly look at with new eyes because I know this game very well. If I had to list the MMOs I know best, FFXI would probably be third or fourth on the list. Which is why for a long time I didn’t bring it up, because… I know all of this stuff, right?
Several things aligned perfectly right here, though, starting with the fact that it turns out this one shows up a lot on Patron discussions about which games to take on. I wouldn’t have expected it, but apparently people really have wanted to see what I have to say about the game… other than the many times I’ve already talked about it, I guess? But it’s an older title, and I suspect there are lots of former players curious about how the old girl holds up.
The answer to that question, I have to say, is that it holds up remarkably well… once you know what you’re doing. Not only does the game not do a great job telling you about what you’re supposed to be doing with its tutorial, it leaves out lots of vital bits of information like book pages, Records of Eminence, and so forth. And the game being what it is, your guidance to these various points is rather awful, so you can easily spend a long time stumbling without realizing these things even exist.
Of course, I’m also coming off of the heels of a game that also has a whole heck of a lot of things going on which went out of its way to actually remove a tutorial before a free-to-play conversion, making this a fine time to talk about an archaic-as-heck game with poor guideposting that I am familiar with. That’s another mark in its favor.
Last but not least, while the game hasn’t gone free-to-play (and let’s be real, I suspect it won’t), it is being sold at a sharp discount as I write this. That means it’s a prime time for people who have never played the game to get into the title for the first time… and unfortunately, most of the “starting” guides you can find offer some mixture of the following:
- outdated information about things that have been effectively supplanted
- advice that would be very helpful to returning players but offers little insight to actual new players
- garbage that was never very good or accurate because more people were interested in offering advice than checking it
In short, your first steps into Vana’diel require you to more or less already know what you’re doing, and you’l find a variety of guides that assume precisely that while offering little besides. So offering a guide about where to start is kind of helpful to the players who are going to be trying the game for the first time.
Of course, offering that on my character with tons of inventory expansions and plenty of gil is missing something, too. So I will be starting a fresh character – no levels, no subjob unlock, no gil, no anything. I know enough about the game that I’m relatively confident that I can, in fact, start totally fresh and make some noteworthy progress…
But maybe I’m wrong. My memory and my belief is that starting fresh, you can still get to a lot of the meat and fun of the game relatively quickly, but I could be wrong about that or relying upon outdated ideals. And that’s worth finding out, too; if all of my memories are horribly off and the game is an absolute slog to play even for a veteran, that’s worth noting. If my fond memories and my feelings about being better now are a result of having extra tools, it’s best to disabuse myself of those notions.
As a result, I’m going up a tier higher from my normal stance and accepting no aid whatsoever; if a benevolent player happens across me and offers help, I will politely decline. The point here is to absolutely minimize any legs up I might have on someone starting fresh beyond knowledge. And… hopefully, share that knowledge with you folks.
We’ll start the same way we always have, though, with polls. The options for starting a new character in Final Fantasy XI are not the most diverse pool ever, especially as my lifelong commitment to not play a character who looks like an onion collided with a five-year-old means that Tarutaru are right off the table, and since no one has ever played a Galka I think I’d prefer to maintain tradition. So we’ve got three options here; the human-but-we-won’t-call-them-that Humes, the elves-crossbreeding-with-dhalmels Elvaan, and the cat-people-with-unfair-reputations Mithra.
CMA: Which race should I play?
- Hume (21%, 31 Votes)
- Elvaan (28%, 40 Votes)
- Mithra (51%, 74 Votes)
Total Voters: 145
Starting jobs mean very little in FFXI, since you can change your job in about five seconds; starting nations, however, do mean quite a bit. While you do technically miss out on a ring if your starting nation doesn’t “match” your race, it’s not a major thing regardless, and all three nations have their own storylines and focuses to go through. For my own purposes, I’ve actually never run through the Windurst story, so take that as you will when voting in this particular poll.
CMA: Which city shall I start in?
- Bastok (13%, 19 Votes)
- San d'Oria (27%, 39 Votes)
- Windurst (60%, 88 Votes)
Total Voters: 146
Last but not least, I think we’ll start up a little betting pool here. My goal here is to do things legit, meaning that I start at level 1, make it up to 18, unlock my subjob, and so forth. But maybe I won’t make it that far? Maybe I’ll make it much further? So let’s have a poll about how far you think I’ll make it before this project is over.
CMA: How far will I get during the next four weeks?
- Subjobs (level 18) (19%, 29 Votes)
- Advanced job unlocks (level 30) (24%, 36 Votes)
- Advanced job to level 30 (17%, 25 Votes)
- Limit breaks (level 50+) (17%, 25 Votes)
- Old endgame (level 75) (5%, 8 Votes)
- The top (level 99) (18%, 27 Votes)
Total Voters: 150
Also, for anyone who’s buying and installing the game before the actual adventure recaps start up, I’d highly recommend that you look into registry editing for the game. Don’t fret – this isn’t hacking the game client in any way, it’s just a way to force better display values. See, the game doesn’t have anti-aliasing but renders things in a weird way, and on newer GPUs you can get away with a slightly roundabout hack to render the background at 2x or 4x the “intended” resolution for much smoother graphics. It works out well enough.
Anyhow, we’ll be back here next week to start things off, with the polls closing at the usual hour of noon on Friday. Feel free to leave additional feedback in the comments down below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.