Final Fantasy XI: Wings of the Goddess


Review by · January 10, 2011

The fourth, and perhaps final, full-form expansion for FFXI was released three years ago, and it took that entire three years for them to fully flesh out the content: story, combat-based events, and various adjustments. Most of it was done by 2009, but it’s been a long road from release to the present. FFXI is an entirely new experience now, and we can credit the team that continually developed (and re-developed) Wings of the Goddess during for said evolution.

Let this review serve as a recap of what has taken place: what has and hasn’t worked, what fans craved, and ultimately what direction Square Enix saw fit to take their long-standing MMORPG.

I Won’t Be A One-Winged Angel

If your avatar had finished all expansions up to this point, Vana’diel felt like a pretty peaceful place; loose ends were tied, and people were happy. What more could happen? When you get desperate for ideas, there’s always time travel.

Across the main continents of Vana’diel (Quon and Mindartia), these crazy giant-gaping-mouth statues appeared. These “Cavernous Maws” had a strange and special power: knock the player back into the thick of the Crystal War (by the game’s plot, about 20 years before the main events of the game). Your initial objectives are to align yourself with one of the three nations (Windurst, Bastok, or San d’Oria) in this new timeline and begin to help with the Crystal War.

You also meet up with the world’s cutest cat-thing, Cait Sith, who makes his debut into this particularly entry of the series with this expansion. You also discover early in the plot line that those Cavernous Maws are tiny embodiments of Atomos. He has the power to suck up everything, including time. Consider yourself concerned.

It’s not just you, and the thousands of other FFXI players, hopping through the maws, however. Key NPC characters from each nation, as well as their beastman counterparts (Yagudo, Quadav, and Orc) are doing the time warp. Also of significance is a young half-elf dancer named Lilisette. Every expansion has centered around one female lead NPC. For Zilart it was Lion, for Promathia it was Prishe, for Aht Urhgan it was Nashmeira, and now in Wings of the Goddess, it’s Lilisette.

Now, it took a solid year before this was all fleshed out, but over time, players who trudge through the story missions discover that Altana has chosen you (the player) and Lilisette to be the two Wings of the Goddess. Together you will bring about her divine will. Sounds a little creepy. What’s more, her will, at least on the surface, seems to be to stop a “competing future” from coming into existence. That competing future is being brought about by an evil queen named Lilith and her Spite Wardens.

Amidst this main plot are three diverging sub-plots for each of the three nations. The most interesting, by far, takes place in Windurst. An almost-never-seen male Mithra (or, as we call them, “Manthra”) is the key character of this story. His name is Lehko Habhoka, and he’s on the run from both love-struck ladies and the Shikaree, who believe he has done something wrong back in the Mithra’s homeland (an area yet to be available to FFXI players). Lehko’s true motives for helping the people of Windurst are slowly unveiled as you follow the nation-specific quests. The mini-ending for this series of missions was probably the best part of the entire storyline found in Wings of the Goddess.

Bastok’s quest line is also interesting, as it involves stories of revenge and betrayal regarding a female Hume captain and her trusted Galka companion. There’s also a demon involved. Players beware: even at the current level cap of 90, the hardest fights in all of this expansion await you if you take this path.

San d’Oria was stupid. It told the stories of Elvaan children. If memory serves, this one also was the most fetch-quest-ridden of the three nation subplots.

Players who want to see the main plot of Wings of the Goddess to completion (available since December 6, 2010) have to clear at least one of these “past” nation quest lines. Sadly, while the final hours of Wings of the Goddess were somewhat interesting, they were in no way worth the three year wait. Square Enix sat on this content far too long, and I personally think they realized it; otherwise, why would they have made the end boss so easy to level 90 players that it could almost be solo’ed, if not duo’ed? Answer: because approximately 1% of players bothered to keep up with the story. Abyssea and Magian Trial weapons captured the attention of players, and the story didn’t matter anymore. This really is a shame, and I’m frustrated with how it all came about.

The Campaign (Not the Story)

In many Western RPGs (and RTS games), the “campaign” is synonymous with the plot arc. Not so for Wings of the Goddess. For about 18 months, “Campaign” was the most popular event for FFXI players. Semi-scheduled battles took place in each of the recycled “past” zones, as well as three new ones: Grauberg, Fort Karugo-Narugo, and Vunkerl Inlet. Sign up for a campaign battle, and prepare for waves of enemies. These battles could take anywhere from 5 minutes to over an hour. The longer you stayed and the more you did, the heftier your end reward, in the form of experience points, Allied Notes (the equivalent to Conquest Points from the game’s original content), and rare treasure. For a time, the way S-E handled this event was considered by the player base as near-perfect; no experience loss; no need to find parties, as everyone was working together (including large groups of friendly NPCs) to defeat the enemy; and quick teleportation to and from the battlefields. All of the inconveniences of past parties were now gone, and the players had a viable way to “solo” their way to the level cap.

In addition to Campaign Battles, the slightly less popular Campaign Operations existed as a not-so-story-based series of quests: usually fetch quests, often requiring a small group of friends ready for combat. The purpose of doing these quests was primarily to rack up Allied Notes, and also to gain favor with your aligned nation so you could “rank up.” With each content update, you could receive new badges/medals for your work. A total of 20 ranks were added in the end. This was a similar concept to the rankings for Assault missions in Treasures of Aht Urhgan. A special final fight called “Fiat Lux” was added for adventurers committed enough to reach the final rank. Unfortunately, however, those players who weren’t active enough in the game could never make it to the top (until recently) because inactivity led to loss of rank (this too was changed on the December 6th update, pending completion of the nation quest lines).

Mizuta’s Wings

Music composer Naoshi Mizuta wrote about 20 songs for WotG’s initial release, and a handful more over the next three years to accompany new WotG content. Some of Mizuta’s best compositions to date are found in this expansion, however, the battle music for Campaign gets very old, very fast.

One thing I’ve enjoyed with each successive expansion is the new music written for the final battle. Treasures of Aht Urhgan’s final battle music, “Ragnarok,” was breathtaking. Even the three add-on scenarios had decent final battle music. The final battle music for WotG had some good moments, particularly in the B section, but it was a tad underwhelming. It fit the battle itself, in that regard.

Style > Substance

The many cut scenes found throughout the WotG content varied in quality. There was a lot of good stuff to be found from both the dialogue and some of the new character animations. Some things, however, were over-played. For example, the first-person “I got knocked out, now I’m opening my eyes” thing was used way too much in the 2009 and 2010 content updates. I liked pretty much everything involving Cait Sith and Atomos, and some of the dancer animation was cool. But there were problems. Example: Dance Trouple leader Mayakov. The writers for FFXI (English version, at any rate) loved to give key characters certain speech patterns. Everyone knows that Shantotto rhymes and many Tarus will add unnecessary suffixes to words. Mayakov, the only male dancer in the WotG plot, has a “lithp” that is both “hilariouth” and “offenthive.” That’s right, every last s-sound (including those created by a soft “c”) are written with a “th” in the text. It’s to suggest that Mr. Mayakov “ith ambiguouthly gay” and “fabulouth.” You can see how this gets old after hundreds of lines of text, right? It was funny the first time, but they should’ve toned it down before the end.

A lot of the problem with the plot arc to WotG compared to, say, Chains of Promathia (the pinnacle of FFXI storytelling), is that the developers seemed to value style over substance. There were some funny jokes, and plenty of animation tracks that stretched the limits of a game that had its origins on the PS2 using a graphics engine developed nearly a decade ago. But the story itself was unnecessarily long and drawn out; there wasn’t enough content to really fill the gaps.

It Has New Job!

When WotG was first released in 2007, one of the most important features about it was the addition of two new jobs: Dancer and Scholar. We haven’t seen a new job for FFXI since these two, which rounded out the total job list to an even 20.

I personally never touched Dancer in all my hours of play, but I can speak on behalf of the community in saying that, for quite some time, there was no endgame purpose for Dancer. It seemed like a decent support role, but all of its support required that the Dancer be “engaged” against the enemy at hand. But Dancer is no “tank” job, even with sufficient evasion skill. Thus, it had no place in the endgame, at least for some time. Instead, it was the ultimate subjob for many melee classes. When soloing, most players could heal better with a Dancer subjob than with White Mage, since Dancers would heal with use of TP, which replenishes by attacking (or being attacked by) the enemy. MP came in a finite amount and wouldn’t automatically refresh for most jobs. Furthermore, the Dancer subjob (after some job adjustments) allowed for dual-wielding, so the ever popular Ninja subjob took a hit.

Scholar was also a popular subjob, especially for mage classes, because of the bonuses it offered. Essentially, the Scholar reduced the MP cost and MP cast time for mages. However, one would have to choose “Light Arts” or “Dark Arts.” For White Mage and Black Mage, the decision was obvious. Red Mages may not have wanted to be use this subjob as often, however. Scholar also had an ability called “Sublimation” which allowed for a sort of burst-style self-refresh. Again, it was a great subjob when soloing. However, Scholar was also a competent main job. An outsider would look at the current classes and guess that Scholar was an awkward choice for a new job, since it seemed to essentially do what Red Mage did. Isn’t Red Mage supposed to be a not-quite-mastered hybrid of White Mage and Black Mage?

Actually, not anymore. While that may have been the case in older FF titles, in FFXI, the Red Mage specialized in enhancing and enfeebling magic and had endgame uses that White Mage and Black Mage could never dream of. Scholar, in turn, did seem to strike the balance between WHM and BLM well, yet it also came with its own special trait. The Scholar was able to influence the weather at a very small scale (within the range of the party, to be specific). Many jobs and the equipment specific to those jobs had weather-related bonuses. However, weather is a finicky thing to rely on. With a Scholar by your side, however, you could make your own customized weather to get the bonuses you needed. More recently, Scholar learned a spell called “Libra” which would inform the entire party of the Enmity (hate) level between one enemy and all party members. This was a very handy spell to have around.

In 2010, Dancer would also find its way as a solid endgame job thanks to a variety of adjustments as well as a change in focus of combat, but this was due more to the Abyssea creators than those of Wings of the Goddess. And while there’s plenty of overlap, some of the key people behind Abyssea are the people who didn’t go on to do FFXIV, whereas the WotG creators were: you do the math.

So Long, Farewell

I wrote in an editorial a few months ago that I was resolute in sticking with FFXI for the long haul. I stand by my decision, but I really wish Wings of the Goddess had not overstayed its welcome. This MMORPG continues to evolve at a steady rate, but WotG should have been over and done with so long ago that it’s really embarrassing for me to have to talk about it, or even think about it, a full three years after release.

If you’re an active FFXI player who skipped over the main plot arc of Wings of the Goddess or didn’t do much in Campaign, my sage advice to you is this: don’t go back. It isn’t worth your time. The final piece of equipment, the augmentable “Moonshade Earring,” is a decent bonus, but you can find better equipment in less time simply by playing the Abyssea add-ons. And, if you don’t have an active account but are thinking about starting on an MMORPG that is a full eight years old, well… yeah, same advice. Some of the expansions are worth going through, even if you have to solo them (see: Chains of Promathia). Wings of the Goddess doesn’t have enough to be self-sustaining, at least in my opinion. It’s a barren wasteland now, with Beastmen perpetually ruling the countryside. Even after S-E makes some adjustments to stop this, the number of actual players doing this stuff will be much lower, perhaps lower than Aht Urhgan’s “Besieged” event (which still manages to bring in about 100 players per server, per event).

And finally, if you’re paying attention Square Enix, I have some words for you: the battle-based Abyssea add-on scenarios are fantastic. Please do something like this, combine it with a truly worthwhile plot, and make it your next big expansion. And, if you’re ambitious enough, offer us new zones instead of re-recycling Quon and Mindartia areas. Otherwise, let FFXI die with grace. Don’t throw us anything half-assed: the denizens of Vana’diel have given you too much money to be treated to unfinished ideas.

Overall Score 75
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Patrick Gann

Patrick Gann

Therapist by day and gamer by night, Patrick has been offering semi-coherent ramblings about game music to RPGFan since its beginnings. From symphonic arrangements to rock bands to old-school synth OSTs, Patrick keeps the VGM pumping in his home, to the amusement and/or annoyance of his large family of humans and guinea pigs.