|Platform:||PC, PlayStation 2, Xbox 360|
|Official Website:||English Site|
The second of three mini-expansion episodes for FFXI is sizing up to be the silliest of the three. "A Moogle Kupo d'Etat: Evil in Small Doses" tells us a short story involving the world of moogles. The moogle in your own Mog House notices your living quarters are falling apart, so you're sent on a fetch quest. A few fetch quests later, and you're quickly on a quest to save all rent-a-room-running moogles from a gang of unruly thugs... who also happen to be moogles.
If you've read about (or worse yet, played) the first mini-expansion, A Crystalline Prophecy, you should know that the layout for this expansion isn't much different than that one. There are a series of tedious fetch quests, punctuated only occasionally by fighting (only two instances of which are even remotely challenging). The fetch quests get a little more diversified and challenging this time around, but that doesn't mean they're any more enjoyable.
There really is an added challenge to this expansion, however. The second-to-last fight, which features a well-known Mithra from Vana'diel as your enemy, is sufficiently challenging. But the final fight is borderline "unfair," and I use the word with much caution. If the final boss can instantaneously stun your party for ten seconds, take out half of your HP bar, and at the same time summon five black mages that are eager to cast high-level area of effect (AoE) spells... how can anyone avoid death in such a sticky situation?
And, to add insult to injury, that final boss fight (which is really the only part of the expansion worth talking about) is presented as a big joke. Seriously. Spoiler alert: you fight an oversized moogle with lots of henchmen. The music played during this fight (another new track from Naoshi Mizuta) sounds almost like circus music. The whole experience smacks of intentionally outrageous, tongue-in-cheek humor. The location of the final fight also goes to show just how far we've come from the game's first scenario (you vs. Shadow Lord).
Back to the fetch quests, real quick-like. Each fetch quest comes with a twist (which is a big step up from A Crystalline Prophecy). Some of them require some significant puzzle-solving. But with the puzzle-solving comes exploration, and boring exploration, at that. Anyone who's been playing the game for a year or longer probably knows most of these areas inside and out. There's nothing new to see, and it takes forever to get from one place to another. Even Square Enix recognizes this, and for a consolation prize, they built in one moment where solving one of the final puzzles grants you a five minute "flee" effect where you move at an insanely fast speed. That game-breaking experience made me ask the question everyone else is asking: "why can't we move that fast all the time?" That would make for some serious time-saving.
My favorite quest was a "gauntlet run," where your character is level-capped back to 1 and has to sneak through an entire castle, without dying, in under eight minutes. You are given an initial dose of invisible, sneak, and deodorize, but these wear off at a random time interval (usually before you can finish getting through the castle). Of course, you could have a high-level friend train all of the enemies ahead of you so you have a free path. Nevertheless, I'd like to see more "espionage" missions built into the game. This wasn't a great mission, but it could lead to better ideas in the future.
The episode's plot is nothing to get excited about either. Each of the mini-expansions has a scenario script written by Masato Kato, the same man who worked on the original FFXI plot (as well as Chrono Trigger and a host of other games). This particular story relies on the inherent cuteness of moogles, and a couple of familiar NPC cameos, to keep players interested. But even at its best moments, the story only compelled me to let out a mild chuckle.
The cinematic aspect of the cut scenes does not rival that of any previous expansion, including ACP. The scripted "camera" work, as well as the animation, is never enough to significantly impress on a visual level. Yet even as we speak, impressive cut scenes continue to be developed for the fourth main expansion, Wings of the Goddess (whose ending is still not available to gamers).
So why are many players paying ten dollars for this mini-expansion? I suspect there are two reasons. One is the habitual nature of a "campaign" player to want to complete everything available, whether it's fun or not. The second thing, of course, is the sweet gear. Some people will openly admit they shell out the ten dollars solely for the endgame headgear with customizable stats, especially since it matches the body armor from ACP quite nicely. People are already wondering whether the final mini-expansion, "A Shantotto Ascension," will give us gloves, pants, or footwear. Only time will tell.
In the meantime, I have to recommend that casual players of FFXI avoid paying for this expansion. If you don't have an endgame character, you can't complete the expansion, and there's little reward to be gained in the process of its completion. For a decent endgame player, by the way, it will take about 18 hours to complete this expansion (12 of which will be spent walking). And, now that we have two out of three expansions pulling the same moves, it's almost inevitable that A Shantotto Ascension will also suffer from mindless fetch quests and a steep difficulty curve (from "this is a joke" easy to "you have to be kidding me!" difficult). Again, only the most hardcore and completionist-minded players should spend the time (and money) to experience these mediocre mini-expansions.