Last night, like many of you out there reading this, I spent a good three or four hours playing Final Fantasy XI’s latest expansion: Seekers of Adoulin. I can safely say that I wasted 4 hours of my life. Be it walking around with no clue where to go, traversing the same pathways of a zone myriad times, fighting tough mobs that took twenty minutes to kill, wasting half an hour in a reive I couldn’t beat, or getting killed by an uragnite NM I didn’t mean to spawn. I can safely say I accomplished absolutely nothing last night and I loved every last moment of it.
Seekers of Adoulin will serve as a reminder to many of us of why we play this game. As a nine year veteran, I can remember back to when Chains of Promathia was announced, and it’s really stunning to stop and think about how much the game has changed since then. People actually played Ranger back in the day! Ranger, I say! I’m not saying that Seekers is going to take us back to the days of tractoring people through Sacrarium or lining up 18 Red Mages to chain-stun Dynamis Lord into submission; I am saying however, that for a solid few hours last night, I felt exactly how I did as a fledgling dragoon back in 2004. For a solid few hours last night, I witnessed Square Enix finding that magic combination of giving their players everything by giving them nothing.
“But Esk! What do you mean by that?!” Good question fictitious person I made up for the purposes of this literal device. Think back to the days of ‘Ye Olde Vana’diel.’
If you’re like me, then at some point you had to try to explain to someone why you loved this game, and it might have gone a little something like this. “Well… it takes forever to do anything, the EXP is garbage, you lose it whenever you die, and die you will! You go days on end without accomplishing anything, and even when you do accomplish something, you probably don’t have enough points with your end-game LS to bid on the gear that dropped.” I’m sure I’ve just evoked some awful and yet wonderful memories from many of you, and in retrospect, it’s the truth. Square Enix handed us one of the most difficult and frustrating games ever made and we loved every second of it. It is in that aspect, that Seekers of Adoulin was able to take me back to the days of my Vana’diel infancy, even if only for a few short hours.
Now of course, the expansion can’t stand up on the nostalgia of goblin smithy’s at the Kazham zone line alone. Fortunately, from what I’ve seen so far, it’s not going to have to. Before I start singing the praises of the opening of the game though, let me get some criticisms out of the way. While I have to admit, the opening cutscenes in Adoulin were quite bland to start with, the new heroine does look quite intriguing. Secondly, did anyone else have nightmare flashbacks of the Chains of Promathia Tarutaru when they saw the scene with the forest spirits? I thought so. Third, could the characters in this game lay it on any thicker that they want you to become a pioneer? Wow Square, very subtle. Lastly, why is everyone a jerk? I’ve never had so many NPC’s insult me. Granted, I laughed through most of it, so maybe that’s actually a compliment?
On to the good stuff. From the first bits of concept art I saw, I was immediately worried about how much skin recycling we’d be seeing. Square, my hat is off to you on this one. You have done a fantastic job creating unique and original zones. Adoulin truly does not look like any other city in the game and the layout is just beautiful. This is a zone truly worth of becoming the game’s new central hub. While the zones immediately surrounding Adoulin do bear a resemblance to Bhaflau Thickets and Wajaom Woodlands, they bring in enough new elements to make it work. The random beaches don’t seem nearly as out of place as my mind tells me they should. Somehow it does all blend together rather seamlessly.
Next we have the music. Naoshi Mizuta has done a masterful job with the soundtrack for Seekers of Adoulin. The moment I stepped into Western Adoulin, before the screen had even loaded up, the music was already pulling me in. It allowed me to invest some of myself into the world around me, something I haven’t experienced in video games in quite awhile. The soundtrack of Seekers of Adoulin is worthy of being featured among the best music of the Final Fantasy series and I can think of no greater compliment to give than that.
Lastly, I’d like to discuss my thoughts on the Waypoint system. I’ve heard some mixed opinions on this, and honestly, I share most of them. Yes, I think there was a novelty in the journey being half the battle. At the same time, I feel like Square has found a very creative way to make farming crystals worth it again. I wasn’t sure I liked that there seemed to be a way point every ten feet or so until I realized I was never having the issue of warping into a large crowd of people. In fact, as I walked through Adoulin, I was beginning to notice ways in which they’ve improved upon past mistakes all over the place.
I believe it’s now time for me to close this out and to do so, I’d like to have a brief heart to heart with Square-Enix themselves. Square, you guys have been a colossal disappointment to me for the past few years. Final Fantasy XIII was well below the standards I’ve come to expect. Final Fantasy XIV was a failure of epic proportions, which may not be matched in a long time. You held out on your faithful FFXI players for six years. I can truly say, I had almost given up hope. However, despite some lingering bitterness, I cannot take away from you what you have given us now. You are putting forth an honest effort with your re-launch of Final Fantasy XIV. A Realm Reborn shows us you have seen your mistakes and are addressing them in the interest of creating a great new experience for your fans. Finally, to your loyal followers of Altana, you have given us a fun, interesting, and well put together expansion to a game that many of us have loved and supported for over a decade. Moments like these are the reason I continue to give you my support when you release things. They’re the reason I will still purchase Final Fantasy XV when it sees the light of day. They’re the reason I will continue playing Final Fantasy XI until the day the servers turn off. I know you’re going to be busy in the coming years trying to repair the damage that Final Fantasy XIV’s initial launch did. All I ask is that you don’t forget us. We’ll still be here, exploring a world bathed in the light of the crystal. A world blessed by Altana, and traversed by her children. That world is, was, and always will be called: Vana’diel.
Now, some of you might be wondering who I am and why I’m posting this here. To some of you, this will be a reintroduction, but I suspect that I will be meeting many of you for the first time. I go by the name Eskalia, and I am proud to be the newest member of Pet Food Alpha and Gamer Escape’s Final Fantasy XI team. I formerly hosted a show on the Limit Break Radio network called Voices of Vana’diel, which was followed up by Push To Talk right here on Gamer Escape. I could not be more overjoyed to take on this FFXI role on Gamer Escape! I’m looking forward to many years of exciting and fun memories with all of you.