Traveling and exploring in FFXI can be dangerous. A death can end an adventure prematurely or leave you with a mouthful of dirt, desperately asking any passers-by for a Raise. One tip I told my friends who recently took the plunge into Vana'diel is that mobs in FFXI wander much further than in WoW. You could be solo'ing peacefully, and then out of nowhere a Goblin catches sight of you and sticks his gobbie dagger right in your backside.
Notice that I said "sight". One interesting system in FFXI is how mobs actually aggro players. There isn't a single "aggro radius", an invisible border to
recklessly run through dodge. Aggro triggers include Sight, Sound, Low Health, casting magic, and Weapon Skill usage. Each type of mob might have none or some of these triggers, and the game doesn't tell players with GUI features how mobs detect. In WoW, aggressive mobs have red name plates; in FFXI, all mobs have yellow name plates and players have to learn the rules. E.g. most Beastmen (humanoids) detect on sight, and it is possible to run right up to their backs safely (just hope that they don't turn around). Undead detect on sound, but will come after low HP players from a much greater distance.
Avoiding low health and magic seems simple enough--don't cast anything. Players also get an arsenal of spells, abilities, and items which silence their sounds and hide from enemies. Any Sneak effect will cancel sound detection, and any Invisible effect will cancel sight detection. Keep those 2 effects active (they last random durations ranging from 15 seconds to 5 minutes), stay out of earshot and sight when re-applying, and players can travel and explore to their hearts' content.
But just like something out of Donkey Kong Country 2, FFXI takes advantage of players' expectations of the rules. Some mobs have True Sight or True Hearing, meaning that Sneak and Invisible are useless. Last night I decided to do the quest to unlock the Puppetmaster job. I must pass though some dangerous areas with True Sight imps and pick up a Key Item from a quest location.
FFXI uses a ??? target (yes, 3 question marks) to trigger events, cut scenes, boss fights, and pretty much anything else that is remotely related to a quest. Players need to be on the appropriate quest and not invisible in order to activate the ???.
Well I died 3 times on my way there. Luckily I was able to grab a Raise from a nearby Red Mage the first time, and then was able to self-raise the other 2 times (using a proactive buff called Reraise).
Normally I have no problem avoiding sight lines, but in this particular zone, there is heavy vegetation which obstructed my view. I run down an alley which I perceive as clear, and then get hit for a fourth of my health. "Crap."
Mobs will pursue targets until the player is quite some distance away--well outside any aggro radius. Originally, they would never stop, and players would have to change zones in order to shake enemies. Yes, FFXI had "trains to zone".
Getting around isn't just a simple time sink. FFXI has vast lands, but they are filled with interesting obstacles that reward players who take the time to discover their traits. There are passages and shortcuts not shown on maps; mobs have different aggro triggers which can be exploited to turn a seemingly impossible journey into a cake walk.
A simple delivery quest can morph into an epic adventure. It's not a flight on a gryphon, and it's not a mounted autorun across the zone. It is a quest to return the ring to Mount Doom, avoiding enemies along the way. It is an opportunity to explore desolate and dangerous places. It is a chance to test your knowledge of the world and master the environment.