Back in February, the closed beta for Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn began. Since then we’ve gotten a few updates from the team regarding the final version of the game, but beta status remains mostly a mystery. While the NDA (Non-disclosure Agreement) is still in place for regular players, select press (like myself) have had the gag loosened a bit and can now talk about their personal impressions of the game. No images, videos, or sound clips may be uploaded, and I’m not allowed to link to anything on the beta boards, but I can discuss my experiences with you.
As a disclaimer, please note that this article is only meant to give you a general idea of what to expect, and let you know what I personally did during my time in the beta. It is not intended to be an in-depth or wide-reaching review.
Without further ado, here are my beta impressions of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.
Many of the options for character creation have been locked for the first two beta phases, but the number of options left open are decent enough. I tested out creation for all of the race/clan/gender combinations, although I only kept a male Miqo’te Seeker of the Sun, a male Hyur Midlander, and a female Roegadyn Hellsguard. The bust size option, while initially amusing, seems to be all but useless on the Lalafell and only serves as a fan service option. There is no option to edit either gender’s hip or haunch size, and overall body customization is pretty boring. Males (and Roegadyn females) have the option for different musculature, but rather than changing the body shape they’re just lines of varying darkness that are meant to (poorly) denote muscle tone. Unlike in Final Fantasy XI, where male character models had a modest rounding in their underclothes, males in XIV are disconcertingly doll-like. This came up frequently during my playthrough because of the startling amount of short-shorts and thong-styled armor my Lancer character got.
Ignoring these weird body issues, the skin tone range is decent and the height variation is pretty good. Many of the hairstyles and colors were unavailable (Apparently there will be something like 60+ color options eventually), rendering me unable to create a character with properly blond hair. Eye color choices are still incredibly limited and mostly dependent on race, but if what I saw was any indication there has been a flood of feedback demanding many of these restrictions be lifted. With the Miqo’te specifically, the number of heterochromic (mismatching colored) eye styles is limited to preset choices that don’t even cover the full range of eye colors the species has and doesn’t allow you to switch which eye is which color.
While the beta is very limited in scope, I can say confidently that it was still pretty hard to make an ugly character.
Classes, Jobs, and Quests
The class options in A Realm Reborn are supposed to be completely free, but in the beta you’re restricted to the choosing starting location of Gridania and picking your first class from the small selection of classes whose guilds are found there. These classes available on character creation in the beta, as many of you know, are the Lancer, Archer, and Conjurer. The Lancer is your physical damage dealer who tends to draw the most attention from monsters, Archer fills the ranged damage category, and the Conjurer is proficient both with healing and in dealing elemental damage. These classes don’t seem too terribly different from their 1.0 incarnations with the exception of some new abilities, and other abilities being shuffled around. Conjurers don’t have a ‘Spirit Dart’ type of magical attack anymore, and instead of getting Fire, Blizzard, and Thunder their first few levels I found myself equipped with Aero and Cure.
Classes are definitely more useful this time around, though. In 1.0, I rarely felt like I could leave town on my own. If I did, it was always to go to a camp that I could easily run back to if I got into trouble, and never did I feel comfortable straying far from it. Non-combat classes like the Goldsmith or the Botanist fell completely to the wayside, because decent materials always seemed to require me to have two or three people keeping monsters off my back. While I gather it got much better by the end of the pay-for period, I was worried that the standard MMO stance of “You play with others or not at all” would be carried over to A Realm Reborn. This has not been the case in the Beta so far. With a little common sense (don’t run into the area with the Level 32 monsters if you’re Level 6), I was able to burn through the game at my own pace without having to team up with other players even once, barring the F.A.T.E occurrences.
The main game is structured so you can solo to your heart’s content. Quests are plentiful, and while some of them are a little boring there are a few that had cute twists to keep them fresh. One of the Gridania quests that was actually in the city involved picking up what appeared to be roses, which appeared on the ground in sort of a Candy-Trail once you accepted the quest. While clearly just a simple gathering/fetch quest, the little bits of interactivity made it kind of fun. Another good addition to the system is that many quests are now locked by level, which prevents people from ‘cheating’ their way into more powerful secondary classes. If you accept a Level 20 quest and take your Conjurer out to blitz through a set of enemies that are weak compared to your character, you can’t just pick up your bow and turn in the quest as a Level 3 Archer and reap the massive experience rewards to skyrocket your level. Along with class-specific quests, this generally just makes you feel like you’re never biting off more than you can chew. Sure some of the quests are kind of tough, but it’s not like walking into Ruby Weapon with the Level 25 characters you never used and are trying to level up.
Dungeons, on the other hand, are meant to be party-based experiences, and the ‘jobs’ (Such as Dragoon or White Mage) are equippable/unequippable specializations of the Armory system that give you extra stats and abilities that gear your character toward fighting alongside others. Going it alone? As a Conjurer you’ll be able to heal yourself and deal some decent elemental damage. Traveling with friends? Become a White Mage and watch your healing skills skyrocket. While I confess that I personally didn’t test out the Job system, I’ve talked with a few people who are in touch with the developers and it seems relatively easy to use. You can apparently unlock extra abilities on top of what you’d get by level, too, that make them even more useful for party play. The system is made to be very versatile, and allow you play however you like. This really shone brightly to me as one of the unique and defining features of A Realm Reborn.
A male Miqo’te, Pouncival (My character) quickly reached around Level 20 ~Lancer~ in the first Phase of the beta as I had quite a lot of time to spend on exploring the areas and doing a metric ton of quests. I reached level 4 or 5 before I ever even stepped outside Gridania! I ran Pouncival through the emotes list, I checked out all of the attack and movement animations, and I gave battle a quick try-out. What I noticed about character movement right away is that if you right-click with your mouse to spin the camera, your character will weirdly hover-turn with it and completely skip any turning or movement animations. This gave the odd impression of your character model simply sliding in a circle. I don’t know if this is just a beta function that will eventually be edited out, but it was a little immersion-breaking for me personally. Everything else seems pretty good though, and jumping feels fairly natural.
In combat, I didn’t have to do much in the way of movement at all. It could be that I simply didn’t hit enemies whose attacks had a specific range, or that because I’m a Lancer I’m always up close, but I found that the most efficient thing to do was just focus on chaining together as many attacks as I could. I don’t remember their names, but there were these two weapon skills that work together where you used the first skill and it boosted the attack power of the second. These were the focus of my attacks, but the second skill had a much longer recharge time (by several seconds, it seemed) and I had to buy time between charges. Another of my skills helped in this respect – a thrust of the spear that inflicted Slow for several seconds on the enemy it hit. There actually was a skill that did more damage from behind, but enemies were able to turn so fast that it was nearly impossible to get the bonus unless it was my first hit on an otherwise-passive creature.
I quickly remembered that grinding against creatures wasn’t the way to go in A Realm Reborn and decided to switch tacks. Overworld mob experience is negligible in this version of the game, with the real experience coming from quests, FATEs, and dungeons. Different classes have different Hunting Journals where you can get experience rewards for defeating specific numbers and sets of enemies, but questing was really the way to go. I went after nearly every quest I could find, and in true power-leveler form I farmed enough material and money to buy several pieces of equipment (which were quite pricey) only to receive that same equipment for free a few story quests later. Sometime around Level 20 I decided I wanted to try a different play style, so I ran back to Gridania and took part in a quest that would allow me to become a Conjurer. (As a sidenote, you have to be at least Level 10 in the class you chose in character creation to access class-change quests.)
Here I discovered the biggest disadvantage to the beta limitations: Since quests are locked by level, you can only access Gridania, and there were no repeatable quests (that I’d found), I had next to no way of making Pouncival a storm of fur, claws, and magicks. My fix for this was to wait in the low-level areas for FATEs to start, and make myself as useful as possible. This time around it took me much, much longer to reach Level 10. Once I reached that landmark I went back and started the Archer class, which I sadly only got to Level 3 before Phase 2 ended. I might have made more progress if the Phase 2 weekends weren’t some of the busiest times I’ve had this year, but it is what it is. I piled hours and hours onto the game whenever I could, and I never even tried to party up, or take on dungeons, or even pick up a crafting class (apparently Leatherworker, Botanist, and Carpenter were available for switching into, and I never realized it) during that time.
In my opinion, there’s already plenty to do in this new version of the game. I have my complaints about it, but for the most part I feel like these are nothing solid until the third phase starts and the major changes are socketed into place. As long as leveling up a brand new class is made a little easier, I think this game could hold my attention for a very long time. The world is beautiful even on the medium graphics settings, and it was pretty fun to explore on my own. If you have any questions regarding the beta, feel free to ask in the comments and I will answer whatever I can.