Saturday, 9 March 2013

Final Fantasy XI, Part 3 - The magical world of Vana'diel



It all began with a stone, Or so the legend says. In ages past, a sentient jewel, enormous and beautiful banished the darkness. Its many-colored light filled the world with life and brought forth mighty Gods. Bathed in that light, the world entered an age of bliss. Until, after a time, the Gods fell into slumber. That world was called: Vana'diel.

When you start your adventuring career in «Final Fantasy XI», the lands pictured in the beautiful map at the head of this article will be your initial stomping grounds. The map, drawn by long time «Final Fantasy» conceptual designer Yoshitaka Amano, depicts the so called middle lands of Vana'diel, which consist of the continents of Quon and Mindartia

The western continent of Quon, host to the Elvaan Kingdom of San'Doria in the northern forest belt, and the Hume republic of Bastok in the strip-mined southern region, is the larger of the two. Its climate ranges from cold and snowy in the northern end, to warm desserts in the southwest, from whence the Galka originate.

The eastern continent of Mindartia is the smaller of the two and is mostly covered with rocky badlands, but it has lush and ancient forests where trees touch the skies in the east. It is host to the TaruTaru Federation of Windurst in the savannahs to the south, and on a volcanic island accross the southeastern sea is the Mithran jungle outpost of Khazam.

The two continents are connected in the middle by an intertwined network of long bridges, in the center of which the great multi-tiered city of Jeuno is built. The grand duchy of Jeuno is the central trading hub of the middle lands.

Throughout both continents, there are several gigantic, bonelike structures called crags, made from a material called ceremet. These crags are remnants from an ancient civilization, and contain technology which is no longer fully understood. The crags are connected with each other through spiney lines stretching out across the lands both above and below ground. Off the coast of Jeuno is the crescent shaped island of Qufim upon which the lines all converge at Delkfutt's Tower.


The significance of crystals and elements


Like in most «Final Fantasy» games, the fate of the world and its inhabitants are closely tied to magical crystals of great elemental power.

As the world sprang forth from the light of this elemental force, most aspects of it has a direct connection to one of the eight prime elements: Light, Fire, Lightning, Wind, Dark, Earth, Water and Ice. All living things have an elemental affiliation, and has a chance to leave behind crystals of the appropriate type upon death. These crystals are the primary drivers of the Vana'diel economy, as most crafts use them as catalysts or power sources in the production of goods.

Even things like the weather and the passage of time are linked to the elements. A Vana'diel week has eight days, and each day is named after one element. There is likewise a corresponding relationship for each of the eight types of weather.

Magic is especially affected by the elemental tides. Casting a lightning-based spell on Lightningsday will boost its damage. The effect is increased further if there is a thunderstorm in the area.


Elemental interactions


Each element is stronger or ascendant to another element. For six of these elements, each have one element which it beats and one which it is weak to, thus balancing them in a circular fashion.
Fire melts Ice
Ice freezes Wind
Wind erodes Earth
Earth grounds Lightning
Lightning strikes Water
Water extinguishes Fire

The elements of Light and Dark have a special relationship in which they are directly opposed to each other.
Light banishes Dark
Dark consumes Light

Martial applications of elemental power


Interactions between elements can be handily applied to combat. For instance, as in most fantasy settings, it is possible to blast your enemies directly with lightning and fire spells, if you are a wizard. But even if spell-craft is not your thing, the elements can still be part of your arsenal.

As you level up with a weapon, you gain the ability to channel latent elemental energy from the environment into special attacks called weapon skills, which are the Vana'diel version of "Limit Break" attacks used in other «Final Fantasy» games. In addition to being more powerful than regular attacks, the elemental attributes of these attacks can be combined to form "Renkei" or skillchains.


Skillchains and magic burst


A skillchain is performed by hitting a target in sequence with weapon skills containing compatible elemental attributes. When a skillchain is performed correctly, additional energy in the form of a colorful explosion is released. This explosion deals elemental damage, and will also boost the effect of any spells of the same element cast at the target, for a short time afterwards. When this happens it is called a magic burst.

There are many different types of weapons in the game, and each type can do several different weapon skills, each of which may have more than one elemental property. The logic of constructing a skillchain by way of which weapon and which weapon skill to use, is unfortunately not easily deduced. Mainly because the elements used to construct it tend to be different from the elements of the resulting effect.

Attribute combinations resulting in first level (circle)
and second level (double circle) skill-chains.
X indicates invalid combinations.
Valid combinations can be derived from the array to the right, but it is usually easier to just consult a dedicated skillchain chart.

There are three levels of skillchain effects. Each level incorporates more elements, and provides higher damage bonuses to both the effect itself and eventual magic bursts upon it.

The first level corresponds directly to one prime element, and as such consists of eight possible effects:
Transfixion = Light
Liquefaction = Fire
Impaction = Lightning
Detonation = Wind
Compression = Dark
Scission = Earth
Reverberation = Water
Induration = Ice
A second level skill-chain is built by combining two compatible elements with each other. The resulting explosion deals damage of both elemental types. There are four possible effects:
Fusion = Light and Fire
Fragmentation = Lightning and Wind
Gravitation = Dark and Earth
Distortion = Water and Ice
The third level is reached by combining two compatible second level skillchain attributes. There are two possible effects, each consisting of four prime elements:
L3 Light = Fusion + Fragmentation = LightFireLightning and Wind
L3 Darkness = Gravitation + Distortion = DarkEarthWater and Ice

Storyline


The storyline of «Final Fantasy XI» begins with the Crystal War, in which a Shadow Lord from the north and his beast-men army of orcs, gigas, behemoths and other scary things were vanquished by the allied nations of San-Doria, Windurst and Bastok, under leadership of the grand duchy of Jeuno.

The war culminated with the sacking of the city of Tavnazia (as seen in the video below), the sister city of San'Doria in the west of Quon. The Shadow Lord's armies deployed their full might in that battle, thus allowing a small band of heroes to infiltrate the enemy stronghold in the Northlands and turn the tide of the war.

Twenty years later, as the world has settled into a state of relative peace and quiet, your story begins.

Your adventures will take you from your starting nation, via the city of Jeuno, by ship across air and water to the four corners of the world, to citadels in the clouds, the voids of emptiness, the depths of the sea and eventually into dimensional paradoxes and alternate timelines.




Chapters (more to follow):

Final Fantasy XI, Part 1 - Introduction
Final Fantasy XI, Part 2 - Adventurers of Vana'diel
Final Fantasy XI, Part 3 - The magical world of Vana'diel

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