Another beta weekend for A Realm Reborn has come and gone, and while I’m still as enthusiastic about the game as I was last time, I’ve noticed another flaw in ARR’s otherwise polished veneer.
It’s been about a month since I started playing the beta for Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, and I’m still completely in love with the game: while it doesn’t do anything that other MMO’s haven’t done before, it does everything really, really well. The quests are still conform to the “kill X amount of this monster, collect X amount of this item,” MMO standard, but the game’s fast-paced battle system keeps even the most menial of tasks from feeling like work.
The thing that I like most about ARR is how little downtime there is in the game: HP and TP regenerate extremely quickly, so you never have to take a break from fighting monsters in order to lie down and heal, fast travel is cheap and quick, so you don’t have to waste time manually running in between locations (unless you’re going somewhere new,) and the game’s new Duty Finder matchmaking lets you party up with other players so that you can take on the game’s instanced dungeons without having to spend hours looking for a healer or a tank.
Unfortunately, those instanced boss battles and dungeons are also the source of ARR’s biggest annoyance: long lines. While the rest of ARR seems designed to make sure that you’re always doing something and always progressing constantly, the game’s quick pace comes to a screeching halt the moment you’re tasked with doing an instanced event. The game’s instances are housed on separate servers than the main game itself, and these servers apparently aren’t equipped to handle too many players at once, so players have been forced to literally line their characters up and wait in a queue before they’re allowed to tackle these events.
These lines aren’t supposed to be part of the game: they were an informal rule cooked up by the player base as a way of dealing with the instance servers’ player caps in an orderly and efficient way. Technically, players could simply crowd around the instance’s entry point and keep spamming it with requests in the hopes of getting in the next time space on the server opens up, but the surprisingly civil and friendly ARR player base have decided that lines are the best way to make sure that everybody gets their turn with the instances. Of course, there are always a few assholes or newbies who simply don’t understand what’s happening and simply jump into the instance as soon as they can, but generally, most players are polite and willing to wait for their turn.
While ARR’s community organized lines give me hope that humanity isn’t degenerating into a bunch of self-serving Objectivist savages, the fact that players have to wait in the first place is a major oversight on Square’s part. I understand that waiting is simply an accepted trait of most MMO’s, but since the rest of ARR is so incredibly fast paced, being forced to wait upwards of half-an-hour to get into a boss battle or the next story quest seems antithetical to how the rest of the game is designed. Hopefully Square will be able to iron out these issues before the end of the beta, or will at least beef up their instance servers to mitigate the wait, because I can easily see the closed beta’s organized lines descending into chaos once the game is opened up to the public.
Thankfully, I didn’t spend the whole weekend waiting in lines. I also had enough time this week to try out ARR’s Armory Chest system, which lets you switch between any of the game’s 19 classes at anytime. In order to change classes, all you have to do is join the guild associated with each particular class (there’s no limit to how many guilds you can join,) and then you simply change your equipped weapon/tool to the type that’s associated with that class (i.e. swords for gladiators, lances for lancers, staves for black mages, etc.) You can still use certain “cross class” skills that you’ve learned regardless of how many times you change your class, so the game encourages you to customize your character by taking up as many classes as you can.
I started out as a Lancer (a DPS class,) so for my second class, I thought I’d take up the role of the Gladiator (a tanking class) and learn some defensive skills. The walk from Gridania (where I started) to the desert country of Ul’Dah (where the Gladiator’s Guild is located) is a dangerous one filled with lots of high level enemies, but anybody above level 10 should be able to make it if you’re extra careful and make judicious use of your sprinting abilities.
Classes need to be leveled up individually. This isn’t as much work as it sounds like; since the game lets you change classes at any time, I would accept quests as a low level gladiator, do the fighting parts as my level 15 lancer, then switch back before the end of the quest and claim the exp. rewards as a gladiator. By using this strategy, I was able to level my gladiator class up to 10 in less than half the time it originally took me with my first class. Eventually you can upgrade one of your classes into a permanent “Job” that trades the versatility of cross-class skills for powerful, specialized Job-specific abilities, but at least at the beginning, the game encourages to constantly change your class depending on the situation at hand. Unless you’re interested in playing as the game’s different races or you commit yourself to specific Job, there’s really no reason to create alt-characters in ARR, since you can try out every class with a single character.
It sounds like Phase 3 of the beta will be ending soon, which means that Square Enix will once again wipe the servers as they prepare for the final phase of beta testing, which will be open to the public. Since my character is going to be erased anyway, I figured I’d throw caution to the wind and explore some of the game’s more advanced areas (even though I’m way under-leveled,) and get a glimpse of what the high level and endgame zones look like.
There’s a good chance I’ll simply get eviscerated the moment I step foot into those areas, but on the unlikely chance I manage to survive, check back next week for more impressions from Eorzea.