There’s a new version update out on the Vana’dielian streets, and that means we’ve journeyed to Jeuno to meet up with our super-seekret contacts at Square-Enix and talk shop on what’s new in Final Fantasy XI.
This latest expansion pack, A Shantotto Ascension, comes bundled with the November version update, as is customary for the past few updates to the title. So, in addition to being able to pay 10 bucks to attempt to foil Professor Shantotto’s aspirations of having her own empire, the game has been updated with a brand new crafting system called synergy, the new ability to add “slots” onto your items and upgrade them with evolith modifications, more job updates, and an improvement to the existing wedding system!
As you can see, it’s a busy time in Vana’diel, and we got to jaunt around the world and find out more. So come along, follow in our adventurous footsteps, and find out what all the fuss is about!
The Legend Torn, Her Empire Born
The tour opened up with a long journey (and by long, I mean a magical teleport that took two whole seconds) to the bustling town of Windurst, where I was introduced to a cutscene featuring the magical experiments of the great Professor Shantotto.
For those of you not in the know, Shantotto is one of the game’s foremost black mages and makes appearances in many of the Windust questlines and even the world event questlines. She’s a curious little woman as she speaks entirely in rhyme, usually showing up as some sort of powerful figure or weasling her way into adventures. In short (but not shorter than her), she’s a little full of herself. Then again, if you could bend space and time, you’d be full of yourself too.
In any case, the opening trailer showcases a rare accident in the Professor’s experiments, creating a large warp rift that pulls her in and triggers a gigantic explosion (shown above.) The Professor disappears from Windurst from some time, only to later reappear with an army of odd, Tarutaru-like solders. However, the Shantotto that reappears is nothing like the old Shantotto — this one is fixated on creating her own empire and conquering all of Vana’diel to showcase her might.
The adventure pack is sure to take twists and turns while it showcases Shantotto’s inner-mind and explores one of Final Fantasy XI’s title characters in the depth she’s deserved for years. While it comes with the update, the Shantotto Ascension adventure pack is an additional 10 dollars to actually unlock the content. Complete all of the quests, and be rewarded with some awesome new leg armor to complete the set you’ve been building with the first two adventure packs.
The Hunt is On
After previewing the expansion pack and the cutscene, off we went to try our hand at the combat portion of the game’s new crafting system — the hunt.
Hunts are very much like the game’s Fields of Valor system, where players accept quests to kill specific notorious monsters throughout the world. Now, these are the same notorious monsters that have been in the game since launch, so expect to see some people camping Leaping Lizzy all over again. These hunts can literally be hunts as you try to track down the game’s tricky rare spawns, plus some brand new ones added just for the system.
Once you successfully take down the monster you’ve been after and return to a Hunt Registry book to confirm your kill, you’ll be rewarded with an evolith unique to the monster and the hunt currency of scylds. Scylds are marks given by hunts once you complete them. While the lower level hunts require no scylds to start, the higher level ones do. So, if you’re looking for those powerful evoliths and difficult hunts, you have go jump through some hoops and do lower level ones first before taking on big game.
Speaking of evoliths… that leads me right into the next segment…
Evoliths, Synergy, and explosions, oh my!
The evoliths rewarded from hunts are the game’s newest form of item augmentation. Similar to the gems of World of Warcraft, gems augment everything from your attacks and defense to how your abilities function. These new crystals are slotted directly into your equipment, allowing you to augment anything to your heart’s desire.
If you want to throw an evolith onto a weapon, you’re going to have to etch a slot into it first, and that requires the crafting portion of the game’s brand new augmentation system — Synergy Furnaces.
Synergy crafting is not your boring sit down, pull out a recipe book and pick something to make type of crafting. This is hands on, wheel spinning, pressure monitoring, furnace thwacking crafting. You’re going to get down and dirty with this new system, and when I say down and dirty I mean “hurling yourself face first into a violent explosion.” Doesn’t that sound wonderful?
Synergy is a complicated system, but it breaks down into the simple act of adding a piece of armor or weapon that you want etched into the furnace and then pressure cooking it with elemental fuel called fewell. If you can raise the right set of elements to the levels the item needs them to be, then the crafting is a success.
As the item is etched, the elements will introduce a few problems — pressure, elemental impurity, and shield degradation. High levels of impurity in the furnace can lead to the furnace exploding in your face, while pressure makes the explosion that much more deadly when it goes off. Should the shield around the furnace hit zero, as denoted by the constantly falling health of the furnace, the elements escape and you’re left with a fizzled recipe.
Luckily, you can get five of your friends to help you keep the process stable. It’s a five person minigame of frantic furnace thwacking (yes, you can really thwack the furnace) as you try to keep everything in check. Sometimes you’ll even need other players, as some recipes need people with high levels of different tradeskills to work on the furnace.
Needless to say, evolith/synergy crafting is rewarding, fun, and complicated. More games should take a cue from FFXI and introduce some wonderful cooperative crafting games such as this one, to make crafting less of a bore. I wish I had more time to describe the other side of the system that is creating brand new items through synergy, but I just don’t have the space.
Here comes the bride!
Finally, after all of this killing and explosions, my character rushed off to a fantastic wedding on the beach, set up by the development team. It was a nice end to a frantic day, although I didn’t exactly look like a well-groomed bride as I stood next to my paladin husband, all dressed in white plate mail as I stood there covered in synergy ash and monster blood.
The game’s long-standing wedding system has been removed from the hands of the GMs and placed into the care of the automated event service, as you can now purchase your wedding through NPCs, buy the appropriate materials with gil, and set up wedding pieces anywhere in Vana’diel with the automated event service. While you lose the touch of a real human “priest” officiating the service, you gain the ability to have the wedding anywhere in the world and not wait for the GMs to have a free date.
As the sun set over the cove and I waved goodbye to my guides, I had to admit, this update was pretty nice. While I was a bit iffy on the wedding changes, the brand new innovative crafting and the playful fun of A Shantotto Ascension more than made up for it, not to mention the job changes and brand new Wings of the Goddess missions that I couldn’t even fit into this article.
If you’re a Final Fantasy XI buff, you already know all about these brand new things added to the game and are probably working to raise your synergy skill levels. But if you’re new to the game, do yourself a favor and pick up the game, it’s four expansions, and all three of the adventure packs for 11 dollars on Steam during the holiday sale. That’s one dollar over the cost of a standard adventure pack, and you get the entire game and 30 days of play. So don’t sit on the fence, pick it up and enjoy the 6 years of content, wonderfully complicated difficulty, and rewarding storylines/cutscenes that the game has to offer. It’s not Warcraft, and it’s better for it.