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Final Fantasy XI 360 Beta Released
game: Final Fantasy XI
posted by: Matt James
publisher: Square Enix
developer: Square Enix
date posted: 09:40 AM Wed Jan 25th, 2006
last revision: 04:59 PM Sun Jan 29th, 2006

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Click to read.The February issue of Xbox Magazine shipped with an extra disc, besides the usual demo. You can now get your hands on a beta version of Square Enix\'s MMORPG Final Fantasy XI for your Xbox 360. Previously available only for the PS2 and PC, Microsoft customers can finally (excuse the pun) get their hands on some Final Fantasy. (Even if it is the least Final Fantasy game of the series.) Furthermore, despite a fairly diverse launch line up, this is RPG fans\' first taste of their favorite genre on the new 360.

If you are planning on signing up for the beta you better plan on investing a little bit of time, and that\'s before you start playing. Most people will take a couple hours to get all things registered, loaded, downloaded, and set up. With my odd internet set up it took me about 5 hours. I\'ve spent less time actually playing some games. I don\'t have a router right now so when the game informed me that I needed to get online with my PC to sign up for the registration codes I had to switch my internet over in the middle of the install. Most people won\'t have this problem but it still is pretty inconvenient to make us bounce back and forth from the PC to the Xbox. With my less than stellar internet connection the downloads took an awful long time as well. Still, most people will have it easier than me. From the people I have talked with about two hours should be expected. You can also expect to lose about 5 gigs of your hard drive.

A large part of the reason I stayed away from FFXI on the PS2 was because of the Playstation\'s online service, or lack thereof. Xbox Live is so much more player friendly I decided that it was worth a try on the 360. Unfortunately, FFXI doesn\'t really utilize Xbox Live. You just use the internet connection to connect to the Playonline servers. The neat thing though, is since you are still logged into Live you can at least use Live\'s built in chat features to chat with one of your friends. When you are in a big party you will still need to type out messages to party members your not chatting with but it is better than nothing. And yes, the 360 will support wireless keyboard via one of it\'s two USB ports.

The beta runs on it\'s very own servers so you will only be interacting with other 360 users until the full-version is released. This is kind of nice because everybody is on a level playing field to begin with, but it causes the problem of a lot of people all trying to do the same things and fight the same creatures. 360 users will later be on the same servers as the PC and PS2 users so this won\'t be a problem then. This does mean that people playing the beta will most likely lose the character they are using right now though. I have seen people with a lot of hours logged into the game already. I have well over twenty.

I mentioned my sub-par internet connection earlier, but in spite of that I never once experienced any lag. FFXI runs very smooth. The graphics look exactly like they did on the PS2 to me. So that is probably a huge part of the reason that it runs so well. It\'s not really what I would expect for the 360, but understandable given the circumstances in which the game was developed. This release is less about bringing FFXI to the next gen and more about Microsoft reaching another fan base, previously denied them.

The only hiccup I ran into was that occasionally people would get logged off an not even notice it. Then they would see that nobody was moving around them. You must then log off like you were still in the game and log back in. This separates you from your party. It can be frustrating but didn\'t happen too often.

Gameplay is pretty standard for Final Fantasy and MMORPGs. Having people to play with is key and people who can\'t stand turn based fighting will want to stay away. Even for a test the game takes a certain amount of commitment. People who like the game won\'t mind though. FFXI has a way of sucking you in and eating away your life.

The world is pretty expansive and there are a lot of people online playing at any given time. It feels less like a beta test and a lot like the real thing. It\'s a pretty sweet deal for ten bucks (approximately the price of the magazine). Subscription fees don\'t apply either during the test. If you get your hands on a copy this is an excellent chance to give the game a try. If you\'re an RPG fan like me, and you\'re watching those RPG titles for the 360 just keep getting pushed back, this is the perfect thing to tide you over for a while. What are you waiting for? Go find a copy of Xbox Magazine before they are all gone!

Final Fantasy XI will release for Xbox 360 on April 18 in North America, and on April 20 in Europe and Japan.

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