Wint shares his experiences with the ARR beta!
There are three instanced dungeons availble to players of the beta test. Tam Tara Deepcroft is for level 15+, The Thousand Maws of Toto-Rak for level 25+, and Haukke Manor for 30+. All of these are a lot of fun to do. They require a party of 4 to enter, and since there are limited numbers of jobs available to the beta testers, most of these runs really do require a healer, a tank and two damage dealers (either Lancer or Archer). The lower level dungeon Tam Tara Deepcroft can probably be mostly completed with 3 DDs and a healer, but the boss fight at the end would probably be tricky.
Instanced dugeons are like mazes that you have to fight your way through to get to the boss at the end. They require you find key items to unlock the lower levels, with the exception to that rule being Tam Tara Deepcroft.
Starting with Toto-Rak, you have to be careful of your surroundings since there are exploding pods and ooze that slows your movement down. The boss battle for Toto-Rak is tough and fun, you have to move around a lot and be aware of where you are standing (so as not to be hit with the -80hp per tic poison) and paying attention to the boss so when he alters his stance you can get the kill quicker than wearing him down. I'm trying not to give too many spoilers!
Most of the NPC gear is good enough for daily use, but the armor and weapons you can get from dungeons is amazingly good. I acquired a wand in Toto-Rak that turned my cure spell from restoring 200hp to well over 300hp with crit heals going over 400hp. The armor is also helpful in other ways. For example, you can reduce the recast time on your global cool down with armor (Spell Speed and Skill Speed). You can prevent your spell casting from being interrupted as much with armor that buffs your Determination skill. Traditional buffs to Vitality, Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, Mind, and Piety are also present on this advanced equipment, but in higher strength than easier to obtain armor.
My experience with equipment choices mostly involved the Conjurer. When soloing, I found that a staff (two handed) was better because it has better stats for magical attack. When doing instanced dungeons or things that require more healing than nuking, I found that using a wand and a shield was more appropriate. Gladiator has access to both swords and daggers. As far as I know, Lancer and Archer only have access to spears and bows, respectively.
Once you unlock a second job after hitting level 10 on your first, you get access to gear sets. Gear sets allow you to store armor/weapon configurations for your character and switching between them is as simple as picking the gear set from the list and clicking equip. One issue that has been reported so far is that to set up a gear set, you drag items from your inventory over to the set, which makes that item unavailable for use by any other gear set. This functionality will be undergoing overhaul between phase 2 and 3, so I expect that issue will be resolved by then. It's a very handy feature, not only are your weapons and armor not cluttering up your inventory, but changing jobs is as simple as selecting the appropriate gear set.
Monsters are varied and interesting in ARR. While I didn't come across any colibri, there are plenty of other cool monsters to smash out there. Goblins appear starting around level 10 near Hawthorne Hut and later on by Quarrymill when you are level 20+. Beastmen include the Ixali, which kind of remind me of Yagudo without feathers. Mobs don't just include animal types either. Around Quarrymill and Buscarron's Druthers there exist Elezen and Miqo'te bandits that definitely make life interesting for the wandering adventurer! While there are no open world NM's, the diversity of the creatures dotting the landscape, along with the hunt log, make exploring every nook and cranny of ARR fun and worthwhile.
The World of ARR
Eorzea has changed quite a bit from 1.0, and overwhelmingly for the better. The beta testers for phase 1 and 2 get to play in Gridania and surrounding areas. Instead of having seamless transitions between areas, there are now zones. One nice feature about the UI is that while zoning you can still chat and see your friend's responses, so changing areas doesn't disrupt communication at all. The load times for the zones are very fast as well, it becomes less and less noticable the more you play. Zone sizes seem large to me, with plenty of unique features terrain wise to make the zones so much more interesting.
Gridania has undergone some changes as well. Some of the zones of Gridania look similar to how they did in 1.0 but with enough changes to somehow improve them. Another nice feature about Gridania is the Aetheryte network. There is a big Aetheryte crystal that you can teleport to in the main plaza, and sprinkled around Gridania are smaller crystals that once you attune to them, you can teleport from one to another for free making traveling around the city easy and painless.
Travel in ARR is vastly improved. Teleportation no longer requires anima and instead uses gil. You still need to travel by foot to the Aethrytes to attune to them once however. Chocobo porters also help you travel between smaller sanctuaries that may not have an Atheryte to attune to. Again you need to first visit the sanctuary on foot once but after that travel is as simple as speaking to the NPC and selecting the place you wish to go. It's usually quite a bit cheaper than teleportation as well.
Unlocking your personal chocobo is where the beta has really shined for me. Once you hit level 20 you can join the Grand Company and spam a few FATEs to earn enough company seals to buy your chocobo whistle. This changed the game for me.
It is so much fun to hop on your bird and run across the world, exploring new areas. As soon as a FATE pops up on the map you can get there quickly and you can usually outrun aggressive mobs as well. At one point, I was exploring and came across some level 45 knights west of Hrystmill and they managed to hit me hard enough to knock me off my bird and then beat me senseless!
Controls in ARR have been updated as well. For a keyboard and mouse user, the game's controls are more in line with what standard PC games use. There is an option to set the control scheme back to how it was in 1.0, if that is what you prefer. The gamepad controls work much the way Yoshi-P demonstrated in the video he released for the media event. For casual play, like a pick up group for an instanced dungeon where you don't necessarily need to type as much, the game pad is a joy to use. When using the game pad, the only issue I found is it's not immediately apparent what to press to get to the window you want to interact with. Once I figured out that the select button would allow me to target any of the various windows, and using LB and RB lets you navigate those windows, it became easier to use. I still found myself using the mouse for some things, simply because it was easier (like dragging abilities to the hotbar) but the gamepad support is a solid choice. I'm actually torn on which format I will use more once the game launches.
Performance-wise ARR blows 1.0 out of the water. There is a vast array of settings you can change to get the performance right where you want it. These settings are almost identical to the ones in the benchmark actually. My wife's computer is not quite as powerful as mine yet runs the game well enough that to the layman they appear to look the same. One thing that blew me away was how many characters can be displayed without slowing the game to a crawl. The Aetheryte plaza in Gridania is a pretty busy place, but not only do I see everyone there but I can run through the zone without it looking like a slide show. The new engine is very impressive.
Everything I've seen in the ARR beta phase 1 and 2 leaves me very optimistic for ARR's chances once the game launches. Not only has Square Enix vastly improved upon 1.0, but the developers are actively engaging with the beta testers on the forums when they provide feedback. You get this sense that Yoshi-P and company are listening to feedback with an open mind, and tweaking things accordingly. The testers for the most part are providing tons of input and doing a great job at kicking the tires of ARR.
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