You won't often hear this MMORPG mentioned in the same breath as the big players, but Final Fantasy XI undeniably has the scope, detail, imagination and population to rub shoulders with the best.
You quest, you fight monsters, you develop your character - all in a peculiarly console-flavoured fantasy world.
FFXI has been going for a few months over here, a little over a year in America, and around two in Japan. There have been two full-blown expansions, both of which are bundled into this box, plus innumerable updates.
Most games would make you choose one job from a list of, say, ten. Here you choose from an initial six. There are then nine further jobs unlockable once you reach a certain level. And if you get bored, you just switch to another.
While character customisation is basic to begin with, and the race choice has little real impact in the long term, the vast array of armour types available provides all the customisation you could wish for.
And as if that wasn't enough, you can choose a secondary job which caps at half your main job's level. Put simply, one single character can be anything, and cater to any conceivable role, if you put the work in.
And yes, it is work. Truth be told, at times FFXI feels like a second job. It's deliberately challenging and time-consuming, and from level 10 onwards it's difficult to do anything on your own.
Every last experience point, every last gil (the in-game currency) has to be earned with sheer bloody determination, and while there are no handouts, it makes every success taste that much sweeter.
Know this: you don't buy any MMORPG lightly, least of all this one. It imperiously demands massive chunks of your time, patience, and dedication, but the rewards are suitably high.
The fierce sense of satisfaction as your fame grows and coffers swell is hard to match. We've never played a game that treated us quite so harshly, yet made us love it.
FFXI has turned us into gaming masochists. Please sir, may we have another?