Say what you will about FFXI's battle system but it really did take some honest to goodness skill to be good at.
Certain classes took skill... such as mastering a thf or rdm, but most of them were not that difficult to master. Having never played a blm at all, I was able to step into my friends 75 blm and be in the stun rotation at cerberus, fight tiamat (while being the only blm NOT constantly getting hit by his AoE while all the other mages did), solo flans, etc. It wasn't tough in the slightest.
The tough part about FFXI was some of the battles themselves, with mechanics where one slight little mess up could easily spell a wipe... such as missing a fulmination on khimaira, a gates of hades on cerberus (or more accurately, not erasing the DoT after it), or even just managing your hate as a DD. The combat itself really wasn't that difficult.
I'll agree that FFXI required your attention. I should know being a dedicated Red mage from NA release to shortly after Abyssea finished up.
I'd say that FFXI was more unforgiving than requiring skill. The windows for most of the stun rotations were sizeable, the mechanics of the fights themselves were very simple to understand, aside from Absolute Virtue and Pandamonium Warden, which players never really understood and just powerhoused their way through it once the power creep had surpassed them.
But you could say that 1.xx's system was just as unforgiving. Diddn't Kill all the Moggles, King Mob Wiped you.
Two Nails still up? Ifirit wiped you.
Failed to protect the pillars in Garuda fight? You were a dead adventurer.
You guys want to complain that 'omg ARR is such a snooze'. I'd question how far you got into Betas 1 and 2. The first Dungeon? The Second?
First dungeon if you diddn't pay attention to hate ordering, you diddn't even get to the boss fight before wiping once, due to the large fight on the last rosary pickup. The boss fight itself? Periodicly immune to damage until you realize there was an inconspicuous imp responsible for the shielding.
Toto Rak? If you did not attack the tail and kill it, you wiped to poison damage. That was pre level 30 fight. At level 30 in FFXI you faced the same exact boss regardless of your affiliation in FFXI. An Airman, and a Dark Dragon. (which you could take on as a part of level 23s and win). It was a straight out tank and spank so long as you weren't a multiple of level 5.
I will reiterate what the problem was for Phase 1 and 2. The monsters were alpha holdovers. Simple as that. They're easy, and that's cheapening the depth o the combat. Yoshida says he's adjusting it, but I doubt it'll ever be FFXI hard in the field. Boss fights, however, I fully expect to be more fun than FFXI. 1.xx's were pretty incredible, especially the later ones. ARR's early fights are already showing some of that luster, albeit, toned down for lower level groups.