Sega CEO Hajime Satomi says he wants to improve the quality of their games moving forward. That could mean a lot of things. It's nice to hear, but what they do next with their games is the real answer.
Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn Impressions: Levels 1 To 10 In Beta Phase 3
We won’t be able to do a full Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn impressions article for quite some time but being that Square-Enix partially dropped the NDA from beta testers, it’s about as good a time as any to talk about the opening experience.
Starting an MMO is a very delicate thing. The intro and beginning to a player’s brand new avatar in a brand new world needs to be something that will hook them nearly right away. Why would anyone continue to pay for a monthly subscription MMO if they can’t even get passed the opening levels?
Right now A Realm Reborn is in the midst of Beta Phase 3. A lot has been done to fine tune the game’s mechanics over the phases and with a ton of PS3 invites going out over the past week and open beta (Phase 4) approaching, it’s a good time to tell everyone how the game fares in its first ten levels. To be honest, the game begins to open up around level 15 but I was able to get every starting job to level 10 before the end of the last weekend. There’s a lot that happens just in those ten levels and in typical Final Fantasy fashion, it can be a lot to take in.
Note: My experiences come from a beta. While I doubt much will change between now and August 27th, please understand that some things can and most likely will be modified, changed, or tweaked before release.
Starting Out In A Realm Reborn
Starting up the beta for the first time brings you to the opening cinematic. This high quality video quickly tells you about the world’s clash with Bahamut and how people moved on to rebuild. This is a story of destiny, crystals, and the planet’s secret struggle. Many dangers lie ahead and your character will be going through a huge story that originates in one of three cities: Ul’dah, Limsa Lominsa, and Gridania.
Which city you start in depends on which job you wish to take. Jobs are like classes that evolve. You may start as a Conjurer but once the requirements are met, you’ll evolve into a White Mage. Each job has at least one evolution into a class. The reason why the city choice is tied into the job choice is because each city holds certain guilds. For instance, if you pick Pugilist as your job, you’ll start in Ul’dah so you can join the Pugilist Guild.
So what does that mean for those who wish to level with friends from the get-go? It means you’ll most likely want to wait until level 15 when you finish your city quests and begin to delve into the world. At that point you’ll meet up with friends and not have to worry about missing your city questline.
Your character’s journey begins in the middle of your travels to whichever city your job is taking you to. You’ll see a glimpse of your starting city’s struggles and meet some characters to start you off. Once you enter the city you’re tasked with a number of mundane quests that can easily take up 20-40 minutes of your time depending on if this is your first character or not.
The reason why you can’t just start, pick up one quest, and begin killing things is because there’s a lot more to A Realm Reborn than just combat and picking up loot. For starters, the three cities are pretty damn big with a lot going on inside of them. The game has you do these mundane quests so you can get acquainted with this place where you’ll be spending a bulk of your time. The cool thing is that once you finish those little quests you’ll fully know and understand the layout of the city, how to use Aetheryte, and what’s going on in the area.
The intro may look like a bunch of stupid little quests that take up your starting time but it’s important. Knowing your city, what’s going on in the area, and why you’re needed is the basis for the beginning of your story. Soon enough you’ll end up with 3 to 5 quests that all ask you to go outside of the city and kill some stuff.
Questing & Combat
Questing in A Realm Reborn is fairly simple. Most quests will just have a prompt about the quest followed by a quick chat explaining what’s up. You’ll get the quest and it will appear either on the right side of your screen or in your journal. The requirements for finishing a quest are laid out simply and you won’t have issue knowing what you need to do and why you’re being asked to do so.
The only issue I had with the journal and quest information is that they never tell you where to do. They’ll mention a small settlement or landmark but you’ll most likely just say, “uhh, okay and where is that?” You’ll have to go to the quest and ask the journal to show you where to go. The map will come up and tell you which area the quest is located at.
That’s the thing about maps and quests. You’ll constantly be switching between areas such as Western, Eastern, Southern, Central, or North maps of surrounding areas of the cities. You’ll end up with, say, two quests that require you to go to Central Somewhere-or-Other and three or so that want you in North So-And-So. The thing you need to always remember is that once you hit level 7 or so, you’ll always have an abundance of quests and you don’t have to complete every one of them. If you get caught up in Central So-and-So and you still have those two quests collecting dust in your journal for Western Somewhere-or-Other, no worries just keep leveling.
As for combat, A Realm Reborn doesn’t break the mold from traditional MMO mechanics but it sure as hell masters it. The game doesn’t employ the recent, more free moving combat seen in games like TERA or Neverwinter but A Realm Reborn has an amazing flow and grace that really makes every battle something to behold.
You’ll still find yourself hitting the 1-1-2-3-1-1-2-3 button combination that has plagued traditional MMOs for years now but once you start getting up there in level you’ll unlock combos and even take some time off the global cooldown to make things even quicker. Combat evolves in A Realm Reborn and even if you find level 1 to 10 to be a tad bland or not up to par, later on it may introduce new things to get you hooked. That is one of the biggest things about A Realm Reborn: it changes as you play.
If you’ve played RIFT then you know all about public quests that just pop up. FATEs in A Realm Reborn are just another way for you to gain experience and have some social activity with the players around you. They pop up all over and there is generally at least one around you at or near your level.
FATEs can hold many different objectives but mostly you’ll be tasked with killing something. There will either be a giant enemy that needs to die or a bunch of smaller ones that need to taken care of. There are also other types of FATEs but mainly you’ll be killing with others by your side.
When you enter a FATE’s area you’ll automatically join a group and it doesn’t matter if you deal damage, tank, or heal you’ll still gain favor in the FATE. The game takes note of your damage, healing, and mob control to give everyone and every role a chance to be rewarded from the FATE.
You don’t have to do these but if you’re close to one and its your level, I very much recommend that you do. You’ll gain a nice chunk of XP, get some money, and maybe meet some new friends along the way. Proving yourself to be an effective tank, healer, or damage dealer during a FATE is a good way of showing your worthiness to a potential group that you may enter into harder content with.
These mini-events are fun and quick. They are rewarding and generally, I don’t see why you’d skip them. FATEs are a lovely way to break up the quest grind at times.
Playing With A Controller
If you’re on a PC you have the option of plugging in a controller and switching to a d-pad, analog sticks, and some face buttons. If you’re on a PS3 then you have no choice but to use a controller. Either way, using this form of control works very well in A Realm Reborn.
First off, if you’re on PC and you plug in a controller then you need to know something right off the bat: your UI will not automatically change. You have to go into game settings and flip the switch (literally, the option looks like a switch) before your UI will switch from keyboard mode to controller.
You use the L2 and R2 buttons to switch between available button prompts that either activate combat abilities, open menus, or interact with others via emotes and such. Switching between these prompts becomes second nature after an hour or so and to be honest the menus work lovely via controller mode.
The only issue I’ve had with using the controller in A Realm Reborn is targeting in an area with multiple monsters and multiple allies/NPCs/etc. You have to create shortcuts so you can help make targeting a better experience.
Once you get targeting down, the controller feels amazing to use. It’s still helpful to have a keyboard with you for typing (on PC it is required, on PS3 you can plug one in) but overall I actually enjoyed playing A Realm Reborn with the controller.
Story & Experience
There are a few different stories you’ll face in A Realm Reborn. Starting off you’ll encounter a brief glimpse of your destiny and future power. You’ll understand that big things are in store for you. Then you’ll reach your starting city and begin helping out around the area. After the city you’ll delve into the rest of the world and face those issues. During all of this you have your own story building up as you resonate with the crystal and a mysterious force.
While intrigue, suspense, and confusion litter the beginning of your tale in A Realm Reborn, it gives you just enough information to understand things to a point and still want to know move. It helps you continue to go through the leveling process, which really isn’t bad at all, to see how it all ends.
The experience you get in A Realm Reborn quickly shows you how polished and huge the game will be. Everything feels so refined and thought out. You never see an MMO release and look like and play like this. Granted, they have a bit of a head start thanks to Final Fantasy XIV 1.0, but the amount of attention and love that went into A Realm Reborn is staggering.
What To Look Forward To After Level 10
- The Dye System
- Primal Battles (Ifrit)
- Chocobo mounts
- Materia system
- and much, much more!
Quick Guide On How To Start Out
- Create your character.
- Watch opening cinematic and traveling scene.
- Take initial quest at city gates and head to the Adventurer’s Guild to talk to your handler.
- Follow the quests around the city until you only have 3 to 5 quests asking you to exit the city and kill things. Ensure you attuned at every city Aetheryte node.
- Exit the city and do those killing quests.
- Before heading back to the city and hand in those quests, ensure you’re at least half way (or close to it) level 4.
- Hand in quests and hit level 5. Don’t panic if you don’t hit level 5 after handing those quests in, just follow the next step.
- Don’t panic because you have no quests! Head back to the Adventurer’s Guild to receive new quests. (If you hit level 5 in the previous step it just makes it easier since you can grab your first Guild Duty quest. If you didn’t come back here as soon as you hit level 5 to grab that important quest.)
- Follow the quests from here on out and make sure to check your guild for any new Duty quests to progress the story.
- Quick note: You will not receive new pants through your initial quests. You may run across a quest where an NPC will want to see you in full item level 5 gear. You’re most likely missing pants. Go buy some from a vendor and you’re good to go.
- Before you know it, you’ll be level 10 and ready to reach some of those awesome things I just listed above this section! Do some FATEs!
Is It Worth Playing?
A Realm Reborn will be out on August 27th but you’ll be able to play even sooner than that. Beta Phase 4, currently without a date, will be an open beta. So even if you didn’t sign up for the beta, or did and just didn’t get invited, you’ll have a chance to see the game in action. It also helps that all of your progress in Beta Phase 4 will transfer over to the full release granted that you buy a copy.
Is it worth the download and time? Yes it is. This is a breathtaking game for MMO players and a remarkable experience for Final Fantasy fans. The amount of fan service put into the game really makes you look back at past games and experiences thanks to the items, armor, abilities, Limit Breaks, Materia system, and even the Magitek mount you can get later on.
If you’ve never played an MMO before but you are a Final Fantasy fan, then download the beta.
If you’re an MMO vet and looking for another great traditional style game, then download the beta.
If you played Final Fantasy XIV back during 1.0 and absolutely hated it, then download the beta.
A Realm Reborn is a work of effort and love after a quick and painful downfall during XIV’s initial release. This is not the same game as before, at all, and deserves a chance. With nearly 1 million beta applicants, it seems Square-Enix may get that chance.