Phase 3 of Beta kicked off this weekend and it was everything I hoped it would be. After a barrage of new information at E3, and after a month and a half since the last beta test ended, players were allowed to go back into their beloved world and see the results of all the hard work that had been done since Final Fantasy: A Realm Reborn was announced. Beta Phase 3 includes many features that will be released for the final version of the game, UI changes, all classes playable (save for arcanist, summoner, and fisher) and all areas around the three main city-states have been open for exploration. Testing on the PS3 also began and the NA/EU servers were up and running. This was a very special and exciting time for everyone in this phase of beta, and the energy was all positive.
I started my Beta adventure at 6AM CST, two hours after the servers were up and running. During the first few hours there was some server issues requiring a few reboots, but once things were up and running the beta test went off without a hitch. I was able to freely come and go from all areas, accept quests, use the UI features, and talk in all the chat channels without issue. Load times were super fast between areas, and many characters could be seen playing nearby and off in the distance – all while the NPC’s went about their daily activities, the audio stayed in synch, and the weather cycled beautifully. The world of Erozea felt like a living, breathing world and at no point did I feel anything was herky-jerky or lagging or falling behind in frame rate or detail.
There was so much detail in the game, everywhere I looked. From the sound of footsteps clanking while walking on metal, the echo of character voices in tunnels and stone rooms, the background chatter in busy areas, the stars in the night sky, the sound of rain falling, the transparency of the water, the way the sunlight filtered down through the trees, how the shadows were set around objects, the details in the texture of clothing and the landscape – everything looked and felt very real and surreal at the same time. The music in the game was very beautiful and very fitting to the respective areas. Most of the time I couldn’t help but form an emotional connection with an area based on the music alone.
Despite all the distractions of a beautiful game, I knew I had to focus on the core game play elements and make sure the story and questing and leveling and ability systems were all working correctly because it was still beta. I rolled a Lalafel THM and started out in Ul’Dah. I was expecting a different experience than what I saw in Gridania from the past beta test – but I was surprised to find out that the new starting city had a lot of parallel features. The opening scene still started with a wagon ride with a similar conversation and ambush, and I still had to go to the Adventurer’s Guild and go through the same basic type quests starting out as in Gridania. The quest names were different and the environments were different, but the core objectives and experiences were very similar. In 1.0, each starting city had a different story and feel from each other – but I was a bit relieved this time around knowing that no matter what starting city I would pick in ARR, I wouldn’t be missing out too much by not starting in another city.
I was able to get to level 15 on THM, and I see they made some real big changes with the classes in ARR. All the abilities were different and required a different mindset to be strategic and do the best damage. I wasn’t really happy with THM – partly because it was so different and took some getting used to, and partly because it was beta and I wasn’t sure how much it would change before release. I wanted to make sure I gave proper feedback as some spells didn’t make sense to me and I felt game play could be better. There are only a few spells starting out, and until I understood how they all worked together it was frustrating to try and learn something so new in a world that felt so familiar otherwise.
I was happy to see a lot of NPC’s in the game that I remember from 1.0, and how the layout of Ul’Dah hasn’t changed much since 1.0. There were a few changes made to the city (such as eliminating the market wards and placing the grand company in the city instead of an instanced area), but these changes were for the better and do not take away from the original feel of the city. Quests were easy to track, map locations were easy to find, abilities were easy to set, and there was plenty to keep me busy in-game. I had a vareity of quests, hunting log targets, storylines, levequests, guildheist quests, FATE battles, and dungeons to keep me busy. There was not one moment that I was lost or confused or out of things to to while playing solo.
Unfortunately due to a glitch in one of the main-story quests and only having the two days for this phase of beta, I wasn’t able to get as much done as other players. Aside from focusing on THM and chatting with my friends and tweaking the UI and exploring the world and reading through the quests – I didn’t have time for much else – but that’s another thing I love about this game is the variety of players and styles of playing. I hear some players got to level 20-25 in these two days by really knuckling down on it, or leveled two classes or explored some dungeons and party combat during the two days they played – but not everyone felt the need to rush through it. I have many more things I want to explore, so I’m hoping the next phase of beta comes soon.