All right. When last I left off my Final Fantasy XI time, it was… wait, June 7th?! What the heck happened? If not for the fact that my posts still show up here regularly, I wouldn’t blame people for assuming I was dead, and I certainly wouldn’t blame people for thinking that I had dropped the column altogether. But neither of those things occurred, and I’ll happily explain… past the cut.
The important thing is that after the last column, my goal was back over to leveling and to seeing how far I could get within my one month of playtime. The answer is… well, about as far as I initially thought, but it didn’t look like it at first. After all, at level 25 and having hoped to hit the game’s first level cap before my playtime was up, it sure seemed like it would be a tall mountain to climb, even if I had at this point gained some fifty-odd levels across multiple jobs.
This, I would like to stress, was not what kept this next installment so long in coming. No, that was entirely down to terrible timing. Fun tip: the end of the school year combined with buying a house results in not having a lot of time. Thus, it took me a painfully long time to get back to this particular project, much to my chagrin. I was enjoying myself! Even though I was reminded that yes, this particular sort of gameplay has a very grinding tediousness to it, and relies heavily upon you remembering where to go and when.
It’s easy to forget when you’ve played the game for long enough, but it ties into some of the issues the game already has with guideposting. If you don’t already know where you need to go, there’s nothing pointing you there. There aren’t quests saying “you should go here” or even missions pointing you in the right direction. It’s all about having a memory of the zones.
And it’s not even just a matter of recalling level-appropriate zones; you need to know, for example, which enemies are just not worth the effort to fight. You can certainly take on Wights on Qufim Island at a lower level and win, for example, but it takes far more effort than taking on a pair of Clippers and Worms… for less overall gain. That’s what slows you down.
Even the guides aren’t always helpful, because most of them assume that you both know the game well and that you have access to everything, which may not be the case. For example, one of the best places to level as you approach 50 is Bostaunieux Oubliette. Do you know how you get there if you start in Windurst? You get up to Rank 3 in your home nation, which is a lengthy process that I was about half-finished with and didn’t really quite want to finish up. I got as far as reaching San d’Oria before I remembered that, making that leg of the trip a complete waste.
Luckily, there are other places to go. My general trajectory for this last leveling push was to move from Qufim to Garliage Citadel, and then Crawler’s Next could serve for my last spate of leveling. Crawler’s Nest itself can be a bit slower due to a lot of enemies who link and will ruin you if things aren’t arranged just right, but you can walk right in and it’s not too difficult to navigate.
I did continue enjoying playing Dancer, especially as I started to pick up more Sambas to apply a debuff to enemies which, in turn, buffed my party. Haste Samba in particular works well with a party full of physical attackers. It was also a bit slower than I would have liked because it was less than a full party, but… again, limitations of progress. You do the best you can with the tools you have.
Still, it was mostly a matter of picking battles, choosing where to fight, and then waiting for abilities to come off of cooldown or my TP to fill up. Especially with Trusts, it falls into a pretty mechanical process; your companions will do their best to skillchain with you, but they don’t make it easy (or even realistic) to skillchain off of them. So you do your own thing and let them tag along, and then you die because one of them keeps using AoEs that tap another monster and then the party wipes.
Even with a couple of deaths, though, I was able to hit 50. From that point, I would need to start in on a series of quests and challenges in order to progress upward in five-level increments. They’re not undoable by any means, and I’ve done all but one part of one solo before; I know that the limit breaks can be handled alone. It just felt like surplus to requirements, so I decided I’d stop there.
For the record, that’s level 50 on an advanced job, starting from level 1 with nothing, no help from anyone or anything sent over from my main. The 17% of people who thought I would get this far starting fresh were entirely correct, although I must shed a tear for the people who thought I could get even further. You have faith in me beyond what I hold, thank you.
“But how do we know that you did this in the timeframe you said?” To that, I respond with the following screenshot.
Given the usual CMA timespan of four weeks, that’s about 4 and a half hours every week to reach this point. Of course, that’s also assuming you know what you do and proceed with something of a laser focus, but there was also some bits of dawdling here and there on my part. You can be dubious if you want, and if you played FFXI ages ago and not since I don’t blame you. But it’s true; this is something you could probably accomplish in one marathon session over the course of a single day.
Although I suppose it would seem less likely that I spent extra time on the project if there hadn’t been that unsightly gap in the middle. Nothing to be done about that, though. (Seriously, buying a house is awful.)
My closing thoughts on this particular leg of things would be that while all of the leveling process still works and has definitely become a lot faster, it’s still not exactly compelling. I appreciate that the game is no longer based around logging on and praying for one level a night every night for months, and that means you can spend more time actually doing things… but that doesn’t fix the fact that pre-50 gameplay is pretty same-ish and not terribly interesting. It’d be easy to think that the game was slow-paced as physical DPS at these levels, since your response to most everything is “keep swinging and wait.”
That changes at higher levels, but this CMA isn’t about that. So check back in next week for my thoughts overall and for our next poll. And yes, next week actually means “next week” this time. Until then, you can leave me feedback via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or by leaving it in the comments below.