Square Enix's Final Fantasy XI has grown into maturity since it was first released several years ago in Japan. By the time the game made it to the States for the PC last year and for the PlayStation 2 earlier this year, it was already stable, home to a large population of players, and filled with tons of content to explore, spread across its vast (though sometimes empty-seeming) world of Vana'diel. Though Final Fantasy XI has its own distinct look and some unique game mechanics, the game clearly follows in the footsteps of predecessors like EverQuest--and not just in terms of the game itself. Like other online RPGs, Final Fantasy XI has now spawned a couple of retail expansion packs. The first, Rise of the Zilart, actually comes bundled with the US versions of the game, and most notably adds some intriguing new character classes (or "jobs") to the mix. The second, Chains of Promathia, is Final Fantasy XI's first retail expansion sold separately outside of Japan, but it's designed exclusively for Final Fantasy XI's most dedicated players, and probably should have been a downloadable update for those players.
Chains of Promathia adds lots of new areas to explore in Final Fantasy XI's world of Vana'diel, but unless you've already seen all that the game has to offer, this new content isn't for you.
Chains of Promathia does nothing to fundamentally change or improve Final Fantasy XI, but is instead focused on appealing to those already devoted to the game--and not just to the core combat elements, either. Like most online RPGs, Final Fantasy XI encourages its players to spend much of their time banding together and taking on the game's various monsters. Fighting hundreds of monsters back-to-back is definitely a grind, but gaining experience levels in the game--though a slow process--can be pretty satisfying, thanks to the open-ended job system. Since characters may freely change jobs (say, from a warrior to a thief), and may eventually pick a support job to bolster their main set of abilities, it's possible to build a strong and uniquely specialized character in Final Fantasy XI. The Rise of the Zilart expansion augmented this key aspect by adding some compelling new job options, including Final Fantasy favorites like the dragoon and the ninja.
By contrast, Chains of Promathia is purely a content upgrade--there are new areas to explore, new items to find, new monsters to fight, and new missions and quests to undertake. This content is suitable only for highly experienced players and will be far out of everyone else's reach. Unless you're at least level 30, you'll be prohibited from accessing the expansion's new content. Most Chains of Promathia players agree, though, that you need to be at least level 50 to begin to cope with the challenges here. So, in short, if you don't already have this expansion pack, it's probably not for you. That's because, if you don't already have this expansion pack, either you're not a hardcore-enough Final Fantasy XI player to cut it, or you're not a Final Fantasy XI player in the first place.