Needless to say, I'm excited. I think that if handled correctly, this is a great opportunity for Square-Enix to revitalize Final Fantasy XI in the wake of Final Fantasy XIV's relaunch later this year. It's a chance to give the game a new audience and let players come back to enjoy it on their own terms. Most of all, it's a chance to show how much life the older game really has, possibly to players who would never have seen it otherwise.
Those of you who have followed this column regularly since its inception will know that I've repeatedly emphasized the need for FFXI to get a new expansion. I couldn't tell you what prompted this to finally happen, but the way I see it, there are two possibilities. The first is that this is the last hurrah for the game, a chance to go out in style rather than languish in obscurity. The second is that the developers want to make FFXI into a vital entity again, something living and breathing alongside Final Fantasy XIV rather than simply its antecedent.
But I'm guessing it's the latter. The former just seems out of character for Square, especially after it's sunk so much effort into other games to give them more life. I think this is going to be the start of a new direction for FFXI, or at least a try at one, something that addresses longstanding issues within the game and gives players new things to enjoy besides. (I could go off on a rant about the things that the game needs to do in order to attract new players and make it more fun to come back, but I've already talked about that many times by now.)
I'd even go so far as to say that the drop of PlayStation 2 support is part of that direction. No, it's not being turned off, but when you can't buy the new expansion for a given platform, that pretty much spells death for the population. Not that it's unwarranted; getting a computer to run FFXI these days is about as difficult as buying toilet paper. The PS2 has long been holding the game back, and dropping it is going to sting a bit in the short term and help a lot in the long term.
Speculation is one thing we're currently long on for this expansion, sadly. We don't know a lot about what it will contain beyond new guilds, two new jobs, and new areas. The new guilds sound very interesting, however; they're a way for players to clear objectives and succeed in goals without the usual group-based gameplay that underscores so much of the game. Considering the fact that the game is no longer as populated as it once was and groups can be a bit more dicey, I'd say this is probably a good thing.
The jobs... well, we know a little about Geomancer and virtually nothing about Rune Fencer aside from the fact that it has a horrible name. (It's not quite as bad as the endless parade of Noun/Verb Knights from the original Final Fantasy Tactics translation, but it's close.) What we do know about Geomancer is that it's providing healing and debuffing in equal measure as well as adding on some strange new mechanics for both that we haven't seen before. At face value, this seems just a touch odd.
I mean, really, a mage-type class with healing and debuffing that can fulfill both roles? We already have a Red Mage. But I have little doubt the class will be unique to play, considering that the game's weakness with its many jobs has never been making them distinct.
While I've got no proof of it, I'd also like to think that Rune Fencer will be aimed at a hybrid role as well, something like tanking/support. Or perhaps both jobs will join the Dancer for excellent solo punch and group utility. There are many unknowns.
As for what little we can glean about the new guilds and what they'll offer, it's... a whole lot of speculation, still. Ditto for the new systems that were hinted at in the broadest possible terms. They could be completely awesome, or they could be awful. Certainly it sounds as if it's giving players new ways to complete content, but I could be wrong.
But if that were the case... it would make sense, really. After all, the game has already veered away from its original state pretty sharply, and there's plenty of stuff to be done at the level cap. What if Seekers is really swinging toward giving players ways into new content not meant for full parties? A chance to do more in small groups or to explore the game through means other than straight-up battles?
It's possible. But it's also a bit unlikely, and right now, all we can do is guess. But I'm really excited about the future of FFXI for the first time in far too long, and that's a great feeling.
You can leave feedback in the comments below or mail it along to firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can just gush about the fact that we're finally getting another expansion. That's cool too. Next week, I'm going to talk about the crafts of FFXIV -- where they work and where they desperately need to be addressed for 2.0.
From Eorzea to Vana'diel, there is a constant: the moogles. And for analysis and opinions about the online portions of the Final Fantasy series, there is also a constant: The Mog Log. Longtime series fan Eliot Lefebvre serves up a new installment of the log every Saturday, covering almost anything related to Square-Enix's vibrant online worlds.