Final Fantasy XI is not the only MMORPG in my past, and while I have come to dislike the genre, I have had positive experiences with it. But not with Final Fantasy XI. My time with FFXI was a waste of energy and life and money. Nearly every moment spent with the game was calculated tedium and frustration with no reason to go on except peer pressure.
Forget the disappointment that arose because the eleventh title in the lauded series was going to be a multiplayer experience with all its downfalls. Forget, too, the crappy auctions, forgettable setting and story, boring combat, and annoying character design. FFXI was an exercise in masochistic patience. Since soloing was nearly impossible, waiting for people to get together was just that: waiting. There was nothing else to do except marvel at the graphics, which were decent at the time, or marvel at the futility the next few hours would no doubt hold.
I never got to ride a Chocobo. I never got an advanced job. I never got to a high level, and I never had fun. All because of the game's unbearable, sluggish pacing. I was defeated on a regular basis, moment to moment, literally and figuratively. Items wouldn't drop, enemies wouldn't appear, friends left me behind in level, experience was rare, and death itself was always near, punishable by a loss of experience. I was getting nowhere. Quitting was an amazing decision.
Maybe the game is better now with patches and expansions, but regardless, Square Enix should have titled this game Final Fantasy Online so we wouldn't have to consider it an embarrassing part of the main series.
With the success of Final Fantasy XI under their belt, you would think Square Enix would make use of their MMO experience. None of that experience was applied when Final Fantasy XIV first came out. Because Square Enix wanted XIV to come out before WoW: Cataclysm, the game ended up as a rushed mess within which even basic mechanics were broken. The user interface was cluttered with menus, and every input had a delay. You rarely got experience in parties, and some gameplay functions were broken, missing, or useless. There was also very little to do other than grind, craft, and partake in the same miniquests that can be done a limited number of times a day or two. There were no real sidequests, bosses, special equipment, or anything for higher level players to do.
As a result of this rushed, disastrous start, Square Enix underwent some major setbacks. They needed to extend the free trial period to an indefinite time to keep some players around. The PS3 version is delayed until the game heavily improves. Square Enix's CEO even did a major team reshuffle by replacing most of the key team members. FFXI is also another installment that many players dislike for its tedium, slow grind, and anti-casual approach. However, at least it had more substance from the start, no broken mechanics, and rewards for players who stick to the end. FFXIV is gradually getting better by constant updates of new content and fixed technical issues. It has the potential to succeed in the long run, but Square Enix needs to start winning back players now. In the MMO genre, first impressions are everything, and you rarely get a second chance.
Final Fantasy II is a game that's more than a little derided by hardcore fans, and not without reason. Initially released in 1988 in Japan, Final Fantasy II wouldn't reach North American gamers for another 15 years. FFII suffers not only from an odd battle system with a lack of experience points, but also a lack of nostalgia from most North American gamers. This, combined with the flat story, required grinding, and the fact that you gain the most statistics by beating on your own characters for hours on end, provided gamers with a package that showed off what not to do in modern game design. Almost every release of FFII in North America has been packaged with Final Fantasy I, and for good reason: this game doesn't stand alone without the aforementioned nostalgia factor. Final Fantasy II is a piece of gaming history, that is undeniable, but it's not a part of the tapestry that's particularly pretty.
#4: (tie) Final Fantasy VIII & Final Fantasy XII
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#5: Final Fantasy
#6: (tie) Final Fantasy III & Final Fantasy V
#7: (tie) Final Fantasy IV & Final Fantasy XIII
#8: Final Fantasy IX