I'm waiting for the servers to come up and I'm really bored so lets see if I can recount my recent experiences. I have so much to say and finding it difficult to organize so bare with me.
I, like probably many of you, ordered the CE version and played for about 2 weeks before quitting. To be honest at this point I don't even remember why. I was kind of turned off by the guildleve system for leveling. I enjoyed the exp parties of FFXI and so I was hoping for a little more of that but my judgment may have been a little premature. When I returned, the 3 shells I was in were empty so I went to the forums here and found a guild that was actively seeking members and asked for a pearl. Since you can have multiple LSs you could join them all if you want! The more people you know the more fun you'll have!
I never did the guildleve thing that I see people so upset about after 1.18 but from what I've gathered it was an easy ("cheap") way of leveling (btw if you did use that system I'm curious as to what the exp/hr was and how long it was sustainable). I can tell you if you are coming from old school FFXI (I quit around WOTG so never did any of the new solo content...my soloing was via beastmaster pets) that there is partying going on but people are just slowly waking up to it. When I decided to give the game a try again and hit 20 I was about an this | | (can you tell how close that is?) to quitting again. No way was I going to sit there and solo mobs waiting for my leve timer to reset 36 hours later. I made a friend during a behest and we wandered all of the world trying different camps, behest, and leves for exp.
Then the fun started!
I did research on places to party around rank 20 and asked in my LS, the cities, and put our group up for recruitment. I think we headed out with about 4 people total but over the course of day we had as many 8 people in the group with people begging for a spot when someone left. We ran the puk bridges in Nanawa Mines from 20-25 almost non-stop and with 8 people in the party it was like a merit party on crack! We all had so much fun and my friend list went from like 3 to 25 people over the next few days. The exp was somewhere around 25-35k/hr depending on your rank at the time. Some general advice for leveling players is you don't need a tank for partying and thm or con can heal just fine even with the recent mp nerf. Also while adding an additional person does decrease exp a little, generally as long you don't run out of things to kill their extra dps is worth it. Our mages were saying they were getting off maybe one spell per mob before it died. Even now at 30+ we are constantly getting random people that join our group from the recruit feature. I just hit 35 tonight all via partying and have never had a shortage of people, once presented with the idea, to fill up spots except late at night and early morning. My brother, who is currently rank 45, who leveled off the leve-link system, can't believe I'm already 35. It's been so much fun and reminds me so much of partying in FFXI.
I have only ran the r25 dungeon but they were so much fun that my LS and I used them to go from r25 to r30 in about a days time. The bosses are challenging but if you can't kill the bosses you can use the photocells to open the other portals and loot the other chest for a chance at the level 30 rare/ex gear and extra exp. They remind me very much of Limbus.
I've only done about 3 leves since 1.18 but for times gil, off peak times, and quick play I can easily see how they would supplement your current leveling. My current plan for leveling is to do them late at night or early morning and then form up exp parties through out the day and evenings when others on.
Well servers will be up soon so I'm going to do my leves. I just wanted to say to the returning players that its not as bad as some of the people crying about and to give it a try, take the lead, research camps, and form a party. No its not he best MMORPG that we hoped it would be but its FREE atm and I believe they will get it there with a little more time.