What would an expansion pack be without new classes to play with? As players progress through the world of Vana’diel, they will obtain the opportunity to embark on quests to gain advanced jobs. These tasks can only be undertaken when a player reaches level 30 in any of the game’s 6 basic jobs: Warrior, White Mage, Black Mage, Red Mage, Thief and Monk. While Final Fantasy XI originally had 6 advanced jobs: Paladin, Dark Knight, Beast Master, Bard, Ranger and Summoner, Rise of the Zilart brings 3 new advanced classes to the table: Samurai, Dragoon and Ninja, as well as several enhancements for existing classes. This means that players will have a grand total of 15 jobs to experiment with when the game launches on the 28th of October.
As job types play a key role in party combat, the new professions offer new play styles for battle. The Samurai, while lacking the Warrior’s ability to taunt enemies to control the flow of battle, are Weapon Skill specialists. Samurai have an innate ability to build Technique Points (TP) faster than any other job in the game, allowing them to use their special moves with alarming frequency. This advanced class offers a significant offensive boost to any party, and are an asset when planning renkei or Weapon Skill Chains.
The Dragoon is probably the most beloved job of all Final Fantasy professions. Like Kain from Final Fantasy IV, Dragoons are masters of polearms and leaping attacks. In Rise of the Zilart, Dragoons may even summon their very own pet dragon to aid them in battle. Though this power is limited, the Dragoon’s flying companion will grow in strength and abilities as the player’s level in the advanced job increases. As a highly specialized job, Dragoons are certainly one of the most stylish.
Ninja are another fan favorite, and in Final Fantasy XI, they truly are masters of the blade. Ninjas are capable of wielding two 1-handed swords at the same time, in addition to being able to cast ninja magic on their opponents. A stealthy profession, the Ninja cannot compete with the durability of a Paladin or a Samurai, but bypass both tank classes in speed, agility and capabilities.
So what does Rise of the Zilart offer for the original 12 jobs? For starters, Summoners will gain access to new and more powerful Summons from the Final Fantasy mythos. Also, each job (basic and advanced) will be able to quest for their profession’s ultimate gear, their Artifact Armor. Only the best and the brightest will manage to complete their entire set of AF armor and weaponry, with a little help - make that a lot of help - from their friends.
One of the defining features of any Final Fantasy game has been their storylines. Square Enix has always managed to maintain the sometimes precarious balance of style and substance. So what then of a Final Fantasy game in a genre historically known for placeholder plots and sparse NPCs? How did Square Enix hope to cope with a trend that took the RPG out of MMORPG? Simple! If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. The sprawling quests and charming town chores that have always been a hallmark of the series would never leave.
While players are free to explore the wilds of Vana’diel unobstructed by the linearity of a typical console RPG, they are also free to take part in the central storyline of their country’s fight against the impending wave of darkness of the beastmen horde. Best of all, these are integrated into the software and aren’t just planned GM events like other MMORPGs. These plot points are experienced through “Missions" that are given out by the governing bodies of the major nations of Vana’diel. Console RPG fans will be happy to know that these missions usually involve lengthy in-game cinemas that hearken back to the Final Fantasy games of old. Recurrent heroes and villains, an ongoing quest to save the land from darkness, and the multitude of plot twists and revelations we’ve all come to know and love haven’t left us in the transition to an online world.
I’m happy to report that the storytelling that is present in Final Fantasy XI is taken to a new level in Rise of the Zilart. As the central theme of Final Fantasy XI was to discover the forces behind the beastmen horde, Rise of the Zilart takes the player even further into a tangled web of deception to discover the truth about Vana’diel’s legendary past. For, not unlike the games of old, the origin of the evil that seems to ceaselessly infest the land is much more than meets the eye. Using the same “Mission" tree system found in Final Fantasy XI, Rise of the Zilart will take players to the ends of the earth and beyond before all is revealed. If there’s ever been an incentive to play an online RPG, the presence of a strong storyline that is integrated into gameplay couldn’t be a more rewarding factor.
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