Get a Job?
If you've played other Final Fantasy games, chances are you've run into the "job system." It's a classic - it lets you totally change your character's class and abilities. Even better, once you hit level 18 you can equip a "Support Job" to make your character kick even more ass, with a sackful of new abilites. In total, Final Fantasy XI sports 18 jobs, each more classic than the last. One of the biggest advantages is, you can switch your job at will to play as many jobs as you want. Black mage one day, ninja the next.
Support Jobs operate at half the level of the main job, but can alter your game plan greatly. It's like this: a level 75 Black Mage can use the spells and abilities of the White Mage class up to 37. It's important not to get behind on your Support Job's level. Not only will you miss out on choice abilities, but other players who want to party for experience points won't invite you along.
All jobs are leveled separately, so when you change to a new job you'll drop to level 1. The good news is that the levels in your other job won't be lost - if you decide you liked being a Warrior more than a Puppetmaster, just switch on back. When changing jobs, combat skills from your previous job will carry over. This means you can still whoop ass - and level your new jobs that much faster.
Twelve of the 18 jobs are "Advanced" jobs. That means you can't pick them from the beginning of the game. They must be unlocked by completing a certain quest - once your character hits level 30. So why are we telling you this now? Because you'll want to start levelling one of the recommended support jobs now - and take it to level 37 before you switch to something more advanced. You'll save time and money. It always counts to plan ahead.
When you start out, you'll only be able to select from one of these six jobs. NES fans will be amused to note that these are the same jobs available in the original Final Fantasy, circa 1990.
The Warrior is a stout fighter, and a master of many weapons. Warriors will be given a sword at the start of the game. You should ditch it and purchase a One-handed Axe and Great Axe ASAP. The Warrior's "Provoke" ability, which draws the attention of monsters away from mages and other weaker jobs, and makes it a great job for watching your party's backs. While strangely unpopular when the game first hit, people have since wised up - and made Warrior the most popular damage class today.
Skilled martial artists, Monks let their fists do the talking and, later, their feet too. Monk seems to be the simplest job. All you do is boost your attack power, engage enemies and perform devastating Weapon Skills, but they are one of the most powerful damage dealers in the game. Later in the game, Monks can attack from a distance with powerful balls of Chi released from their hands, Dragon Ball Z style.
Thief is a highly technical job. Not everybody gets it. The problem is that Thieves don't come into their own until level 15, when they learn their signature Sneak Attack and Treasure Hunter abilities. Then, they can be powerful in the right hands. At level 30 they can "Trick" monsters into attacking other players while dealing huge damage, making them handy for most battles - that's "Enmity Control." Of course, Thieves can steal items from enemies, and their Treasure Hunter ability makes items appear more often. If you pick this job, you'll be rolling in the dough.
Black Mage (BLM)
The classic Final Fantasy Black Mage returns, perhaps more powerful than ever. Black Mages rain down magical damage from the back ranks, but can die quickly if a monster notices them. For some reason, this doesn't stop many players from going all out - and dying anyway. In addition to their powerful Elemental Magic (think Fire, Blizzard, Thunder as per typical FF) Black Mages also learn other important spells, such as ones that send enemies to sleep or teleport characters out of dangerous dungeons.
White Mage (WHM)
The opposite of the Black Mage, the White Mage is a classical healer. White Mages hang out in the back and cast healing magic on the rest of the party. In fact, they're the only ones with spells for removing deadly status effects, like poison. Midway through the game they learn spells for teleporting their party around the world of Vana'diel and become absolutely essential for keeping your party alive.
Red Mage (RDM)
The Red Mage is actually more gray than anything else, able to use Black Magic, White Magic and even get up close and personal with monsters, blade in hand. While the Red Mage's physical attacks aren't that great - or typically appreciated when partying with other players looking to earn experience points - they help make the Red Mage one of the game's best jobs for playing solo (especially if you use Ninja as a support job). While the Red Mage is always useful for weakening monsters with its superior Enfeebling Magic, at level 41 it becomes incredibly popular thanks to Refresh, a spell that causes its target to gradually regenerate magic points.
Paladins are noble knights, skilled with sword and shield, and tasked with protecting other party members with their bodies. The sturdiest of any of the jobs, Paladins can also use healing magic and some weakening magic to hold a monster's attention, protecting greater threats. While the Paladin currently plays second fiddle to the Ninja in this role, Square Enix has promised to put the two jobs on equal footing ... some day. Hey, at least they look cool.
Dark Knight (DRK)
Often accused of being "emo," Dark Knights are fighters that channel their hatred and sorrow to deal tremendous damage, rather than listen to My Chemical Romance and cry. While capable of dealing massive damage - sometimes at the cost of their own lives - their bulky weapons move slowly. This means you're going to drop time and money into equipment to boost accuracy and food. Dark Knights also have spells that steal stats from enemies, but nobody seems to pay much attention to them.
While slow to develop, Beastmaster is the game's best solo class. Beastmasters can "Charm" monsters in the environment, to turn them against the other monsters. They can even stop charging monsters in their tracks. Their own skills in kicking ass are not to be ignored either. If you end up somewhere with monsters you can't charm, don't worry. You'll be able to whip out a can of soup that attracts another monster - which will take care of your foes in gratitude. No, we're not making this up.
These assassins from the Far East can be powerful fighters, but are mostly used to protect other players from harm. You can do this by using Warrior as a Support Job. Ninjas can Dual Wield - equip two weapons, that is. This makes it a popular Support Job for many damage-dealing jobs. Ninjas can also use powerful Ninjutsu abilities to weaken or damage enemies, and even to avoid damage themselves. This comes at a cost. Ninjutsu consumes Ninja Tools with every use, making it the most expensive job to use.
Samurai are powerful fighters, and the masters of Technique Points and Skillchains, which allow party members to connect abilities in a combo. Using their Meditate ability, they can instantly ready themselves to unleash devastating weapon skills on their enemies, and help the other party member create Skillchains for even more damage. Samurai also make skilled archers when using Ranger as a Support Job.
Once the belle of the damage ball, Rangers have been toned down recently. They still remain effective attackers in any party, and will most likely only get better. Rangers sit in the back ranks and fire using different kinds of ranged weapons, mix-and-matching with a variety of projectiles, many of which apply deadly status effects to enemies. Rangers are frequently used to lure monsters to the party to kill. This is thanks to the Ranger's tracking abilities, which allow them to see nearby monsters on the map.
The job immortalized by Kain in Final Fantasy IV can be very powerful in the right hands, but is currently not favored by most players. Dragoons use spears to quickly perforate their foes, but their weapon skills are generally weak, making them undeservedly unpopular later in the game. The Dragoon's signature Jump moves are here, allowing it to leap into the air, attack and also change a monster's target. In addition, Dragoons are always accompanied by a young pet Wyvern, which attacks with physical and breath attacks, and can heal the player when using mage Support Jobs.
This is undeniably one of the coolest jobs in concept. This is a Final Fantasy game, after all - Summoners were born by this series. Unfortunately, Summoner is cumbersome to play at first. The good news is that it becomes useful in the late game, when they learn their most powerful attacks. As a result, Summoners are often asked to leverage their massive pools of magical power to heal the party, making a White Mage Support Job essential. Avatars, as summoned monsters are called, are gained when you defeat them in battle. Summoners channel their magical power, or mana, through these ethereal beings to unleash abilities to support the party, weaken enemies, or use physical or magical attacks. Fans of FF will find plenty of classic summoned monsters hidden throughout Vana'diel.
Currently the ultimate support class and always in demand, Bards tend to level faster than any other job. Using a variety of instruments, their songs can confer tons of bonuses to friends while making your foes weak and pathetic. As a Bard, you'll almost never get to attack, but will instead run around herding the other players into groups to maximize bonuses. If you ever wanted to be a kindergarten teacher on a field trip, this might be the job for you.
Blue Mage (BLU)
As in previous Final Fantasy games, Blue Mages learn spells from the monsters they defeat. While they can't equip every spell they learn at once - holding a robust 20 at maximum level - they are exceedingly flexible, able to cast spells and use swords effectively. While scouring the world for new spells is likely to be a time-consuming process, Blue Mage promises to be one of the most involved and satisfying of the new jobs for hardcore players.
Corsairs are ... well, they're pirates. These gamblers use guns and games of chance to support the party. Their support abilities are almost entirely random and play out a little like blackjack, with even the chance to "Bust" and take a penalty, so be careful when doubling down. Their "Card Shot" ability allows them to deal elemental damage, as well as reinforce existing status effects on monsters. With a curved blade in one hand and a Hexagun in the other, they can attack from the front or the back row.
The Puppermaster is something of a confusing class - at least, right now its abilities are still wrapped in mystery. The Puppetmaster is always followed by an "Automaton," a customizable, mechanical puppet. The Automaton has its own equipment screen, in which the player can switch different heads, bodies and accessories in and out. These spare parts confer different abilities on your pet puppet, who will loyally follow you into all battles and cast spells on your foes.