Winter!: Prepare for holiday gaming!
I used to love this game. Strong community, fun mechanics, and a Final Fantasy theme we all love. Things started going south when Square Enix thought it would be a good idea to break the traditional party system and implement a messy, unorganized alliance system. With the latest expansion, Abyssea, players could literally breeze through the beginning content with no troubles whatsoever, as opposed to the traditional method.
Parties used to take some time organizing, generally looking for your typical Holy Trinity setup. If one player wasn't doing their job correctly, monsters could wipe everyone quite easily. Healers had to take care of their MP, Tanks had to... well, stand there and be smacked, DPS had to watch their damage output without pulling too much aggro. Unlike other MMOs, other people could actually take threat away from the Tank quite easily, so it always placed a reasonable challenge to the party. All that is lost, however, when the (in)famous books of experience started dominating the experience gathering. Basically, instead of making a group of 6 players to defeat one, strong monster, people can now form a huge alliance and defeat several, weak monsters. Quite frankly, I didn't found that to be fun at all. I mean, when you start looking at your White Mage tanking some skeletons while everyone else fought other monsters... well, let's just say it broke what made the game in the first place.
Sure, waiting for your ideal party setup could be a drag, and take several minutes (or hours, if unlucky) before jumping into the action, but I do believe SE went to the other extreme by making things way too easy. Leveling used to be challenging, fun, and always worrying about losing a level due to a misadventure. Now? Not so much. Even if you lose a level, you can easily get it back in a matter of minutes. It made things too trivial, I'd say. Too much emphasis on endgame and skipping the other valuable content in a heartbeat. It's starting to look an awful lot like World of Warcraft.
Perhaps it's good for those who are just getting into the game, but I believe it's a tad disappointing that a player can reach Max. Level in a matter of weeks, whereas it'd usually take several months to reach normally. This is, of course, playing casually.
Maybe I'm just wearing my nostalgia glasses, which prevent me from looking at things clearly. Some players may enjoy this new mechanic, but I certainly don't.
Game Traits applied to Final Fantasy XI Online (PC) by Raskbuck