Released in 2002, Final Fantasy XI has been the most financially successful entry in the franchise to date. As the first MMORPG in the series, it has its contentious monthly subscription system, so its monetary gains overshadow popular entries like FFVII and FFX despite selling at least ten million fewer units than either best-seller. So, Square Enix invests quite a bit of time and energy with expansions and patches for their golden cash-cow.
Despite this, not everything is widely known about Vana'diel, even among diehard Final Fantasy fanatics, or even among the game's own loyal player base. This is because the game has a whole world of untapped information; lore that might really interest even the non-connoisseur. And the game would constantly grow as mechanics change and old systems become outdated.
Though the game was only meant to last five years, it has tripled its expected lifespan. After five expansions packs and six add-on scenarios, players (both new and old) have a nearly endless supply of content. And now that the final main scenario, Rhapsodies of Vana'diel, has been released, perhaps the game will steadily plateau and settle. Read on for some little-known facts about the world of Final Fantasy XI, and of course, expect spoilers ahead.
The Galka are one of the five races the player can choose from, but with them, only male characters can be created. Due to a mistranslation in the manual, many English-speaking fans believed the Galka were asexual, but the developers have stated otherwise. Yet, there are no female Galka seen in the entire world of Vana'diel. This is possibly because six hundred years prior to the beginning of the game, most of the Galka were wiped out.
Simply put, the Galka are no longer capable of reproduction (if they ever were). Currently, when an elderly Galka realizes it's his time, he goes into seclusion in the wilderness to die. His body is enveloped by light, and later on, he will emerge as a child and finds his way back to civilization. The boy won't remember his previous life unless he is the Talekeeper, who can remember all dead Galka memories from the past 200 years. So it isn't clear, but Galka may be slowly dying out.
On the other side of the fence, players can only pick to be a female Mithra. Due to the paltry number of male Mithra left, they are seen as a commodity, and kept frail and sheltered to sire and raise children. Meanwhile, the females are the leaders and warriors who venture out into the world. The only known exception to this is Lehko Habhoka, a Windurst Black Mage and tactical advisor who is fought over by many of his officers to the point where he has to hide.
Fan theories suggest that the Roegadyn and Miqo'te of FFXIV (available to play as both sexes) are ancestors to the Galka and Mithra (respectively) before genocides cut their numbers. Like the Galka, the hot-headed Mithra are a race similar to beastmen, and thus have lower Charisma. Mithra form tribes under Chieftainesses. And legal disputes are still settled through armed combat (like knife fights), leaving the winner of the duel considered factually correct.
In a minor quest called 'A Timely Visit,' the player can learn about the legendary hero, Vijartal Caphieux. Centuries ago, a prince takes over San d'Oria from his brother, the king, demanding a peace treaty be ratified with Bastok. The king sends Vijartal to accept the terms, but secretly orders him to assassinate the prince as most Elvaan hate the humans of Bastok. On his way, Vijartal is thrust into the present era (this is before time travel was overdone in FFXI storylines).
The player witnesses Vijartal learning about the future. Though initially skeptical, Vijartal is ecstatic to hear that he became a hero, and begins thinking of nicknames like 'the Obsidian Bolt.' However, he learns that he died protecting the prince he was sent to kill. In the end, Vijartal learns to give up his hatred, and goes back to his own time to fulfill his destiny. Only the player knows Vijartal's death is faked, as a man calling himself the Obsidian Bolt lives the rest of his life in hiding in Bastok.
Historically, Tarutaru are actually quite vicious, and early on monopolized the use of magic. After emigrating and founding the Federation of Windurst, negotiations failed with the nearby Yagudo natives, so the Tarutaru invade the Yagudo city of Oztroja, forcing a surrender. Years later, the Yagudo construct Castle Oztroja and again, the Tarutaru siege the Yagudo home. Yagudo Wars escalate and flare up for a total of seven wars intermittently over centuries.
During this time, the Tarutaru also slaughtered most of the peaceful Poroggo race (frog people), immediately deemed as threats for learning language and magic within Windurst borders. And, not limited to only overpowering the beastmen of their non-native continent, Tarutaru create Elvaan Subjugation Forces to cut down all the Elvaan clans. Though Tarutaru eventually cooled down, I'd think twice about defending Tarutaru from all racism against them in Vana'diel.
Speaking of Tarutaru, the infamous Shantotto wasn't intended to be such so iconic, but after becoming the game's most popular NPC she's been quite busy within the expansions. Early on, Shantotto develops a new Warp spell by studying Fei'Yin. In her add-on, Shantotto Ascension, she's trying to manage a spell for interdimensional travel, which she mishandles and ends up in an alternate reality. But after she returns, her travels don't end.
In the Dissidia games, Shantotto is summoned by Cosmos, and is feared as the strongest warrior on either side. She continues her research into her spell and eventually leaves the game of her own volition by creating a portal. Shantotto continues traveling worlds and once found herself in Astoltia, of Dragon Quest X. She also comes across Eorzea, of Final Fantasy XIV, and threatens to conquer it if the denizens don't shape up, promising to visit again.
Speaking of Eorzea, there's another character we saw crossover; the main heroine of the final campaign scenario. The creators had trouble finding a female name that they hadn't already used, but eventually settled on Iroha. Upon meeting for the first time, she immediately calls the player 'Master.' Iroha is actually the player's pupil and Tenzen's daughter, from a future where the Cloud of Darkness has consumed Vana'diel.
There's a convoluted plot where Iroha is hunted by death for being in a time before her birth, but she is regularly saved by Pheonix as she bungles around time. Meanwhile, the player fulfills both a divine and dark destiny. And after all this, Iroha leaves to return to the future one last time. But she gets stuck in Eorzea instead. She believes she is in a dream, but finds that (unlike Shantotto) she has with no way of leaving, and thus resolves to continue her training.
Casual gamers might not know this, but Prishe has been stuck as a teenager for decades before she gains her time back at the end of her story. Due to her immortality, she has been viewed as anything from a cursed, 'detestable child' to a protector and leader. However, many are still unsure as to her her actual age. Despite this, she is still a fan-favorite and beloved source of hilarious moments.
Calculating Prishe's age is difficult, but we can estimate. Prishe was sixteen when her time was frozen, and she had to have been stuck this way for at least a handful of years before meeting her friend, Ulmia, who was ten. This means Prishe is over a decade older than Ulmia. As the Crystal War was about thirty years ago, Ulmia must be in her early forties. This places Prishe (at least) in her mid-fifties. But age is just a number, and Prishe is still my favorite of the designated mission waifus.
Since the very first Final Fantasy, Square has used time travel and alternate worlds freely as major plot points. But Final Fantasy XI boasts more realities than any other, many times over. The main storyline takes place in a timeline where the Goddess Atlana changed the outcome of the Crystal War. The player also has access to visit Shadowreign (an alterable past) and Abyssea (an apocalyptic alternate timeline). There's also Desuetia, a timeline where Promathia came to power.
In addition to this, let's recall the many other realms. There's the Vagary pocket dimension, Provenance (the origin of life), and the Walk of Echoes for overseeing time. There's the Astral Realm of the gods, Dynamis (a dream reality), Tartarus (a world of darkness), Promyvion (realms of emptiness), and Escha (a world without time). And, there are the Al'Taieu and Reisenjima mothercrystals, as well as the six elemental protocrystal realms. Most of these places can be visited by the player, but it gets cumbersome to keep track of.
The intro cinematic to Final Fantasy XI is rife with violence, as over a hundred thousand beastmen ravage the Tavnazian Marquisate. But not every player knows the backstory to this. A San d'Orian king feared that another siege on his kingdom would obliterate the remaining Elvaan, so he purposely leaked information about the Tavnazian superweapon, the Lightbringer to divert the Orcish Empire's attention.
Most of Tavnazian's allies sent soldiers to defend the Marquisate, but the participants in the battle are slaughtered while the peninsula is fractured by the Lightbringer, splitting up into an archipelago. The boy from the opening who narrowly escapes is actually Aldo, who moves on to become a leader in the Tenshodo spies. The rumor is that sometimes at night, in-game, the undead mobs will go out the way to stop to stare at Tavnazia, where many of them had lost their lives.
There is a minor but hilarious quest available in Aht Urhgan Whitegate called 'Three Men and a Closet' where three arguing soldiers in the Serpentking Square begin to act strangely. A Mithra accidentally spills a love potion on Bashraf, one of three volunteer soldiers. Immediately, Bashraf falls in love with the first person he sees, fellow soldier Wahboud.
Bashraf asks Wahboud to train together, alone. This leaves the third soldier, Foudeel, to get irritated and train with the player instead. Wahboud begins to worry about their third, and seeks him out only to get jealous at the sight of him together with the player. This culminates in the three about to confess their love for one another; Bashraf to Wahboud, Wahboud to Foudeel, and Foudeel to Bashraf. However, mid-sentence, the potion wears off, and Bashraf forgets what he was saying, while the other two just drop the subject.
Not many remember the Magus Sisters as bosses in Final Fantasy IV, but they've gained a little notoriety since their appearance as aeons in Final Fantasy X. In English localizations of those entries, Ragu, Dogu, and Magu are called Mindy, Cindy, and Sandy. However, rather than give them either sets of names, the English text in Final Fantasy XI deviates from the Japanese client and refers to them to Shikaree X, Y, and Z.
Because of this, most players only remember the Shikaree Sisters for their role in the story. Also called the Sin Hunters or Mithran Trackers, they hunt the likes of Prishe and Tiamat. The three wield the same weapons as they did in FFIV; a trident, a scythe, and knives. And, Shikaree Z reveals her name when she retires. However, not many saw the connection, and this had to be confirmed by the creators.
It seems that by legitimately reading the forums and responding to Q&A, the creators actually take player suggestions into their patches. Through this, they've developed and announced new abilities that were requested or found ways to improve the jobs they've admitted were useless upon release (i.e. Summoners and Ninjas). It's interesting to see an audience's input actually affect the growing world of an MMORPG.
Players wanted ways to better enjoy the game while soloing so they implemented the Records of Eminence and the Fields of Valor, rewarding players for completing challenges. By far my favorite improvement is Trust Magic, which allows for players to summon various NPCs from the world into their party. Square Enix even takes suggestions for who will become the next Trust they create or how to better balance existing ones.
The game has had many scrapped ideas over the years since its inception and development, and translations for these can be found. For instance, the beloved first heroine, Lion, was originally intended to be the last boss. This was to be done through the use of alternate dimensions making the starting towns full of monsters. The developers would eventually reincorporate these ideas into later storylines.
Among the other scrapped ideas, here are the highlights: giving Galka the ability to eat two different foods to gain buff bonuses from both, though they later felt this was overpowered. Relic Weapons were supposed to break, but developers felt this was too harsh. The game was originally going to have even more eras you could travel to, Shantotto was to sprout wings, and the Excalibur was originally a rare item that could be found by fishing on Japanese servers (though no one ever found one).
Many players never bothered to unlock the Scholar job. And perhaps many who have didn't continue the quest line or simply skimmed the flavor text. As such, few know about Professor Schultz. He was a legendary Bastokan military tactician before founding the Gunther Schultz School of Martial Theory which was banned from Jeuno for being too powerful. Though he appears normal, he actually died of illness two centuries before the game.
By his dying breath, he cursed that his strategies would die with him. But, the demon Count Bifrons appeared before him and offered immortality in exchange for playing an eternal game of tactics, using the world as their chessboard and people as their pieces. So, while the two have been manipulating events behind the scenes, they've actually been involved with (or the cause of) most of the major conflicts in the game.
At first glance, it may seem innocuous to become a Blue Mage; fetching an item to help a fortuneteller's bedridden mother, simple right? But upon completion of the task, the player is knocked unconscious and undergoes an ominous initiation ritual which few survive. The player awakens to find themselves modified; their soul ripped out and infused with monster essence. The player is now an empty vessel; one of the Immortal Lions under the Empire of Aht Urhgan, and ready to assimilate more fiends.
During the initial experiments, monster parts were grafted onto the test subjects, causing horrific deaths. But to say the process has been perfected now is an exaggeration. Casting blue magic causes the user physical pain, and Magus Armor must be acquired to contain the beast within, lest blue mages sooner become corrupted and lose their humanity to become monstrous Soulflayers. Even now, no known Immortal has ever died of natural causes.