In many ways, Final Fantasy XI was a designed copy of EverQuest. It did, however, remove a lot of the elements of that game in particular. You no longer purchased training for all of your abilities, for example, just spells. You could no longer fall to your death from a treetop city. You could no longer accidentally attack NPCs you weren’t supposed to, and so on. But it did copy one particular design philosophy of note: the idea that the world was filled with stuff ready to murder you as soon as it was given any reason, logical or illogical, to do so.
The difference, however, was that EQ tended to have its roaming dispensers of death resemble more stuff that you would expect to kill you on the regular. FFXI found new and innocuous ways to murder you whenever you had the unmitigated temerity to step outside of the safety of a town. So today, I want to look back at some of the things that killed me in this game. It is not an exhaustive list, just an exhausting one.
All right, this one makes a certain amount of sense. Ghouls are terrifying. They’re mocking abominations of life wielding scythes and swords, and they have a horrifying laugh when they’re provoked into attacking you, which can happen when you’re too close to them or even just because you’re hurt and they smell blood. Yes, it makes sense that these would kill me. This is what you expect to get killed by.
Gigas-style monsters in this game are huge, so they have that going for them. What they don’t have is a lot of the extra intimidation factor you’d kind of expect. They look emaciated and potentially weak, on squat little legs with visible ribs as they waddle around. They don’t come out the other side and look cute, but it’s a little hard to picture them hitting with bone-shattering force…
Still, though, they’re monsters of horror, so it makes sense that one of them could punch you into bloody gibs. That’s all right. We’re doing well, these are all legitimate monsters. What’s next?
Ah… hmm. So here’s the thing about goblins in this game: They’re masked little bow-legged weirdos who carry around hiking backpacks everywhere. They’re kind of adorable and absurd. Oh, and they’re also beyond lethal in early areas. Leveling in Valkurm Dunes would make you terrified of goblins because you’d pull one by accident, and the next thing you know it’s carving a path through your party like it was made of knives.
Plus, they have bombs. So yeah, they look a little silly, but that’s all right. You can believe these things are deadly, at least.
Leeches look like nothing so much as uncooked pieces of meat. They’re floppy little half-inflated things that move my hopping and have little feeler-ears like axolotls. They’re adorable. And they can also suck you dry of attributes and health and murderize you quite efficiently. Fine, games need monsters that are cute traps, that’s all right. Surely that’s as absurd as it gets.
So there’s nothing all that surprising about the idea that a tiger can kill you. After all, tigers are well-known in the real world for being dangerous. They’re giant cats. You might have to resist the urge to bury your face in the kitty tummy because it’s incredibly dangerous, but that’s just the reaction to seeing something that is a murder machine related to a housecat.
No, what makes tigers frustrating was more the fact that the dang things seemed to have an aggro radius roughly equivalent to a space telescope and a patrol radius to match, so you’d just be walking along doing whatever and suddenly bam it’s tiger time. It was kind of annoying.
6. Giant Beetles
I don’t really like arthropods in general. They freak me out a bit. I have no problem with the idea of having one of these things be dangerous. What starts to be bothersome is the fact that these giant beetles aren’t part of your introductory or low-level experience. You hit your 30s and what are you still fighting? The same old giant beetles you were fighting at level 1, with the same abilities, except now their stats are turbo-charged and they hit like a truck.
A lot has changed in the game since those days, but in my mind, on some level, FFXI is always going to be the game where you get your start fighting simple forest denizens and then continue fighting simple forest denizens well into the midgame. In a normal game in the franchise, you would at least be pretending the monsters were a different color or something.
7. A single bat
Yes, a bat. A big bat, but a bat. It’s just fluffy and the size of my head. It’s adorable. Bats are pretty adorable anyway, but this bat in particular was just a regular-looking bat that made an adorable chirping noise as it flew up to me and then shredded me to death with razor-sharp claws like it was mowing the lawn.
Its bat lawn. Look, I don’t know how bats live all that clearly. I know that they eat bugs, fruit, and apparently heavily armed adventurers. I was around level 50, and this was back when the level cap was 75. I got killed by a single bat.
8. A bunny rabbit
Yes, get the Monty Python references out of your system. Rabbits in this game can murder you with just as much efficiency as anything else, and they will do so with a drive and intensity you wouldn’t expect out of a vicious wolf. You accidentally tapped a rabbit with a ranged attack? That rabbit is going to fight you as if it has subsisted on a diet of meth and coffee beans for the past decade and your actions have personally offended it. It will blind you and claw through your entire party and then you will all be dead and it will hop away.
It’s not even aggressive. You can’t even be mad at the stupid rabbit.
9. Three smaller bats
Somehow this feels worse than when just one bat ruined my life. Sure, there are more bats, and that technically makes things seem a bit more fair, but the bats in question were even smaller and thus less threatening individually. It’s also the sheer absurdity of the fact that just walking past them made these three bats decide to put aside their bat-related differences and decide to simultaneously mess you up with extreme prejudice. The time had come for bat justice. Since you walked near them.
10. A sheep
This is a bit bigger than the three bats, but it’s a sheep. A sheep. And the worst part is that it doesn’t kill you by firing off some kind of laser beams or anything; it just keeps putting you to sleep and then hitting you with strong physical attacks until you die. You die from a sheep. Congratulations. Your epic adventure ended when a sheep killed you.
That’s what I think of whenever anyone talks about “the good old days” for MMOs. Being murdered by a sheep. That’s what you’re nostalgic for. A sheep, putting you to sleep and killing you. I do not miss the past.