6. Final Fantasy XI Online
When I first read that the upcoming FFXI was going to be an online multiplayer game, my heart sank. I was only a few years into my rapidly growing obsession with Final Fantasy but here was a game I thought was a betrayal. "Why did they call it XI, why not just FF Online???" Yes, it strangely bothered me for a while but eventually, years later, I decided to give it a try and discovered one of my all-time favourite games.
Generally I prefer solo or local co-op games, but FFXI is the major exception to that rule. Although it is viable to solo the majority of the game, the multi-player aspect is still there. One of the best times I ever had in a game was resurrecting another player when I saw two newer players struggling to fend off some higher level monsters in a lower level area. Another time me and another player were making our way independently through a citadel on the same quest. We didn’t communicate with each other but clearly we were there for the same thing. When we solved the puzzle to enter the final room, I accidentally triggered some mobs and we both stood our ground together, it was a battle that unfortunately we lost and were warped back to our respective home points. I felt pretty bad and was ready to deal with some abuse for getting the other player killed, but to my surprise they were cool with it, told me how to avoid detection next time and offered me a Linkpearl (basically invited me to their guild) which I embarrassingly had to ask how to accept. Moments like this were very cool and makes the world seem alive. It makes me very happy to see Square are still supporting the game and have plans to continue well past the 20th anniversary.
I also appreciate the ability to change character class easily since being stuck as one class is something that put me off trying some other MMORPGs. But the thing I like most is the sheer amount of stuff to do. There just isn’t another FF game (except maybe XIV) that can rival the depth of the world in FFXI. The story is enormous, spanning multiple expansions and the amount of optional content is staggering to the point of being overwhelming. Just thinking about all those weird little activities like clamming or switching on the lights in Jeuno makes me very happy and I’d kind of hate to see “useless” things like these get dropped in a hypothetical remake. Of course there are comprehensive guides online, but I’ve always taken the approach of exploring the world and only using guides when completely lost. It may have taken me longer than necessary but I’ve enjoyed all my many hours in Vana’diel and there is still plenty for me to do (I think I’m one of the only people who actually likes Monstrosity). It’s a distant world, but I hope I can keep visiting for many years to come.