Final Fantasy XI: Wings of the Goddess - Staff Review  

A Divine Name for a Divine Game
by Lusipurr

Final Fantasy XI: Wings of the Goddess
10-20 Hours (Launch Material)
Click here for scoring definitions 

   Final Fantasy XI. The very name resonates with those of courage and valour, for in Vana'diel alone are these most heroic souls found. Never before in history has such an expansive, engaging, marvelous world been available to human beings--and perhaps such an opportunity will never come again. Therefore, take up the controller or the keyboard and join the legions of the blessed in Square Enix's marvelous online adventure. Only then will it be possible to experience the joy, the pleasure, the adulterated wonder which is the Wings of the Goddess expansion.

   Such was the demand for Wings of the Goddess that Square Enix was compelled, by popular demand, to release a precursor event. This event helped to introduce players to the vast lore of Vana'diel. The Great War was covered in new detail, and players had a chance to experience what participation in that conflict's campaign might have been like. At the end of this, a tally was taken of all worlds to discover which nation had contributed the most to the war effort. When the results came in, San d'Oria was shown, unsurprisingly, to have triumphed by a notable margin. The citizens of San d'Oria were duly rewarded with the ability to teleport instantly from San d'Oria to either Bastok or Windurst. Additionally, for a short time the local shoppes in San d'Oria offered wares from every corner of Vana'diel, regardless of the current conquest state.

   When Wings of the Goddess commenced shipping, excitement reached new heights. Many people travelled to multiple stores, searching for copies of the quickly-selling expansion. Once the new content was activated, Vana'diel spiralled into temporary chaos. People rushed from place to place, trying to explore all which the latest expansion had to offer. Dancers and Scholars multiplied by the minute as adventurers from every nation travelled into the past to experience the events which shaped the world they were familiar with. This travel was accomplished with the assistance of a particular regal feline and a cavernous maw.

Open wide and say 'Ahhhh'. Open wide and say 'Ahhhh'.

   Once in the past, the story progresses at a swift pace. Bumped out of the void by a certain crown'd cat, the player is discovered by an expeditionary force and directed to seek out the forces of their home nation. In this way, from mission to mission, the plot advances until the gates of the player's own home city are in view. The past is different in many ways--a militaristic feel pervades both the architecture and citizenry of all three home towns and walls are thrown up everywhere with portcullises providing the only passage. The beastmen have been no less diligent, and their walls prevent access to familiar areas whilst granting access to new ones. The results of recent combat can be seen in damage to the environment.

   Lending aid to fight the beastmen of the past is no easy matter. Campaign mode is similar to Besieged, except that it takes place at certain strongholds. As in Besieged, there is experience point gain without the danger of loss, but this is because deaths are not uncommon. Success of the Campaign is tracked on the Campaign Map where an overview of faction control is readily visible.

   One of the key draws of Wings of the Goddess is its appeal to players who are not necessarily focused on endgame quests. Most quests and the three missions available at launch can be easily performed by characters below level 75. The Dancer and Scholar jobs are easy to unlock, and neither quest is particularly time-consuming. Dancer is an excellent party support role with a high flexibility for solo play, especially at lower levels. Scholar is a mage-type job similar to Red Mage, though with a greater focus on spells and a significantly diminshed physical attack. Both jobs are worked into the storyline, and their presence on the front lines during the war is mentioned numerous times.

It's time to go Fut to the Backture! It's time to go Fut to the Backture!

   Scattered throughout the past are references to storylines from the present. Ancestors and younger versions of famous NPCs abound, certain to delight those who have experienced missions or quests involving some of the key figures in present-day Vana'diel. Visually, the past is vibrant and stunning. The sun seems brighter, the night seems darker, and the world is replete with flora and fauna. Gaily-coloured creatures extinct in the present prowl through the past, looking for their prey. Long grasses, flowers, and ferns seem to cover the land. The Vana'diel of the past is a much more untouched place. It feels like a frontier.

   Let it not be said that the soundtrack fails where the graphics succeed. Wings of the Goddess also features a top-notch soundtrack with new music for the past versions of familiar areas. The new battle music is some of the best in the game, and music for the past version of Ronfaure lives up to the high standard set by its predecessor. The Campaign battle theme is forceful and urgent, and the new Vana'diel March provides an uplifting opening to the entire expansion. Without a doubt, the soundtrack shines. Happily, it will be available for purchase in early 2008.

   The developers of Final Fantasy XI have established a tradition of excellent expansions. With beautiful graphics, a first-rate soundtrack, entertaining new jobs, and an intriguing and engaging storyline, their latest effort is sure not to disappoint. Those interested in learning about the history of Vana'diel should not miss this expansion. After all, those who fail to learn history may well be doomed to repeat it.

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