Final Fantasy XI: Chains of Promathia is a huge, expansion pack that contains new locations, new enemies, new quests and an entirely new and captivating storyline. Said to be three times larger than the original game and the first expansion pack combined, this is more impressive than most sequels.

The land of Vana'diel is on the brink of Armageddon. The mysterious dark lord, Promathia appears to be responsible for the threat called The Emptiness, although there are many powerful beings with strange alliances that you will encounter. Several factions fight for possession of the sacred crystals which hold the powers of creation. The tale unfolds from the past, present and future as you explore the 40 new areas and all that they contain.

Players with high levels (30 and over) can get moving right along. Others will have to struggle and level-up their characters before they can gain access to the new features and areas. The worlds which feature The Emptiness automatically lowers and caps levels which put all players on a relatively even keel. You will have to use the primitive weapons available to you like you did back in the old days. It's an interesting feature that makes you really earn your victories against new monsters that are almost sentient.

Although I was unable to explore most of the game, which could take months, I found that the enemies were incredibly intelligent. Antlions would not only attack you in a mad rush straight on but they would also construct sand traps and wait for you to walk over them whereupon they would attack you from below. Other monsters also display intelligence in battles especially in the way they adapt to changing situations. You can try to outsmart them but they'll eventually counter and reorganize their plan of attack.

Environments are beautifully rendered whether they are lush mountainous regions with vast, clear blue skies or dark and menacing worlds where you can almost smell the decay. To facilitate faster travelling flying boats are provided for your transportation. It's not only faster but it's an adventure in itself.

Where things aren't very fast is in the loading of the game. You can expect to wait up to an hour before you get things going online so don't be impatient. It's frustrating but worth the wait. The PC version isn't a hell of a lot faster.

The music and voiceovers are well suited for the moody ambience of the game. The controls are tight and allow you to do your job to the best of your ability. There are a few glitches here and there as well as some slowdown but nothing devastating. I did find that the gameplay lacked a bit as there were more mini games than anything else. The focus of this game seems to be the storyline and it certainly won't disappoint to that end. I can't wait to get back to it and find out how it all ends - or if it ever will.

System: PS2
Dev: Square Enix
Pub: Square Enix
Released: Sept 2004
Players: Multi Online
Review by Al