Wint shares his experiences with the ARR beta!
Less than a week ago I got a fantastic email from the Square Enix media team informing me that the embargo for the closed beta test would be lifting today, and that not only could I write about phase 1 of the beta for Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn but that I could cover things also happening in phase 2! I'm very excited to share with you what I've experienced so far!
I've taken a poll on the ZAM forums and I'm going to attempt to answer your questions while providing my account of how the beta is going so far as fairly as possible. For those readers currently participating in the beta please be aware that this lifting of the embargo is for media only, and that you are still under NDA regarding your own experiences.
Discuss in the Zam Forums!
Character Creation, Races, and Classes
The character creator is a good place to start, since that is where most will begin with ARR unless they are planning to use their own character for the launch, even then, they may be tempted to tweak with settings since you are allowed one re-make of your character when ARR launches later this summer. The options presented for tweaking are staggering. You can change hair color, highlights, facial features, birthmarks, tattoos, all of the normal MMO fare.
Rather than having sliders, Square Enix has decided to give you a vast number of choices to customize your character. For example, hair color is one of 24+ shades, and the highlights increase the individuality as well. Eye color is the same. Facial features have several pages of options as do hair styles including facial hair. My lalafell looks pretty darn cool if I do say so myself.
One thing you might be wondering is whether Manthras (male miqot'es) are dominating the population in the beta. I can happily report that there seems to be a healthy distribution of races and genders on my server. I didn't create a female character (I had a male taru taru in FFXI and I feel a certain loyalty to my online persona), but there was never a moment when I saw another female Lalafell and felt that it was a gross or inappropriate use of the game engine's assets. The team has done a good job of making the characters look distinct without allow immersion to be broken.
Another interesting point about the race you choose: according to the beta manual, the starting stats for STR, DEX, VIT, INT, MND, and PIE are affected by your race and clan. Gender has no effect. Since I never made anything other than a Dunesfolk lalafell I can't confirm what differences those might be, but for those who were hoping for at least a token nod to FFXI's races can rest assured that there will be minor differences between the race you choose and the starting stat boost you are given.
The starting attributes are actually a bit different than those mentioned above. The changes that have been made made to how stats work are beneficial to players, there is a definite meaning attached to each stat and their effects are that may have been lacking in FFXI.
- STR - Increases melee attack power and percentage of damage mitigated from block and parry.
- DEX - Increases ranged attack power and the chance of blocking or parrying an attack.
- VIT - Increases max HP.
- INT - Increases magic attack potency for Thaumaturge (Thaumaturge was not available for beta phases 1 or 2.)
- MND - Increases m.attack and healing magic potency for Conjurer.
- PIE - Increases max MP
There are other stats that are increased using armor and weapons that I will cover more when I talk about equipment later.
Along with attributes are abilities for each class that you can earn both from leveling and from completing class quests. My highest class in the beta right now is a 32 Conjurer. Most of my abilities I've gained from leveling, the notable exceptions being an ability called Fluid Aura (featuring Knock Back and bind) and Cure II (obviously a more potent cure spell), which are from the level 15 and 25 class specific quests. While those abilities aren't required for progressing, they do make life easier. Class quests come along every 5 levels, which I assume will also be the same for launch. The quests can be difficult, but coming at it the right way can make all the difference. I died several times on the level 15 CON quest before I realized I could heal the NPC's fighting with me and a 30 minute ordeal turned into a 5 minute win.
For Disciple of Hand and Disciple of Land jobs like Botany or Leatherworker, these are best approached after having made some progress in a combat oriented roll first. I say this because you can get crystals and synth items while completing levequests and defeating mobs, although there are a healthy number of crystals gathered while harvesting from trees as a Botanist. If you run out of items to synth however there are NPCs that sell what you need. Crystals must be farmed though, so Botanist is a nice complement to Leatherworker. The other DoL and DoH jobs were unavailable during the beta so far, although I believe they will be available during phase 3 which I am particularly excited for since I love fishing in XI (and in 1.0) and I am very excited to see where they have taken it. Crafting and harvesting are much more engaging in ARR. At no point was a bored with crafting and harvesting is a fantastic job because you gain abilities to avoid aggro and explore much more effectively than you can with one of the melee or magic classes.
Combat in A Realm Reborn
Combat in ARR becomes progressively more fun as you level up. Disciple of War jobs get skills while Disciple of Magic jobs get spells, I'll refer to them as abilities. You get a new ability every couple of levels as well as extra abilities for completing your class quests along the way. Abilities can use either TP or MP, or both in some cases. As you progress higher, skills can be chained together to become more effective for the DoW jobs. DoM jobs can get a chance to crit a spell for extra effect, like a critical Esuna will hit all party members and not just the spell target. TP and MP regenerate automatically over time, no resting or healing required.
During normal Guildleves, resource management with regard to TP and MP, is not really required. Where it becomes more interesting is when doing instanced dungeons or longer lasting Full Active Time Events, or FATEs. I noticed that I really had to manage my MP well when tanking as a Gladiator during Tam Tara Deepcroft runs, because a lot of the abilities the GLA has to manage also use MP. There is nothing worse than having a few mobs turn on your healer and you can't bring them back to you because you don't have any MP for Flash.
Leveling, FATEs, Quests, Guildleves, the Hunt Log, and more
For the first 15 levels or so, leveling can be done primarly solo, although there are real benefits to finding groups, even if it's just a couple of people. Your first job will be the easiest, as the quest content takes you on a natural progression through the zones of the city and surrounding areas. FATEs become available as low as level 3 that I saw, and you can start doing Guildleves at level 10 on your first job. There are actually level 5 Guildleves which are helpful for leveling alternate jobs since those are only available once you've unlocked Guildleves at level 10.
At the start, quests do lead you around by the hand for a bit, but the progression seems very natural and it's a great way to pick up those first 5 levels while getting to know your surroundings. Once you get out of the main city they become a bit fewer and further between but I managed to make it to level 10 or so without having to do anything other than quest content. There are the standard "go kill these monsters" quests, but there are also other types of quests.
Some involve taking some items from the NPC and using them on various points in the surrounding area, which usually results in battles. There are also gathering quests. Others include waiting for some brigand or bandit who needs to be brought to justice. It may sound like standard MMO fare, but I never got tired of doing them.
While running around doing quests or Guildleves, you may come across the occasional FATE. These events allow you to join in some missions without any grouping at all and participate for experience points as well as currency for the Grand Company you work for, once you join up.
FATEs can vary greatly. Some of the ones I experienced were massive battles between invading beastmen, driving hoards of Opo-opos from a village called Hrystmill, bringing down a gigantic golem, hunting rogue bandits through the forest, and gathering items spilled from a merchants cart and returning them to him while fighting mobs trying to stop you. The amount of XP and other rewards granted for completing these FATEs are not trivial either, and are a great way of leveling up if any of the other activies don't sound good (or if you have used up all your Guildleve allowances).
Guildleves represent structured quests with several different types to choose from. There are those where you are required to defeat monsters, collect items, escort NPCs to safety, and more. While doing Guildleves, NM's can appear that you can defeat for more XP and gil. They are usually quite challenging, requiring extra effort to defeat.
While Guildleves can be completed solo, I found that grouping with a couple of friends made the effort to get XP faster, as well as more fun and rewarding. While in a group of 3, we started noticing that not only were we getting more XP because we could set the Guildleve's level to much higher than we could attempt it solo, but with 3 people we started to notice treasure chests appearing out in the field that gave very good loot, armor and other equipment on par with what you get in the instanced dungeons.
The Hunt Log is a fantastic new addition to ARR. For each job, you have tiers of hunts that have you going out and finding mobs that you may not otherwise encounter during your questing. Once you kill the appropriate number of mobs, you receive an XP bonus. Once you complete the entire tier, you get a huge XP bonus and unlock the next tier of mobs. They are grouped by tens, so the first tier feature mobs that are between level 1 and 10, the next tier mobs from 11 to 20, etc. These mobs can also be quest mobs, so you can kill two colibri with one stonega, so to speak.
Experience points can be boosted in several ways as well. Once you finish the first set of main storyline quests, you get access to the Inn in your city. If you log out while in the Inn you accrue a resting bonus to your experience the next time you log in. Resting bonus can also be found by hanging out in a sanctuary, which are the camps that have Aetheryte crystals. Another way to boost your XP is via food. Almost all food gives some kind of bonus, from 3% up, among other effects.