Alright folks, FFXIV has finally gotten around to open beta and there is a lot to take in! I was lucky enough to get in on the first day and that means I have about a month to rack in those levels!
The first thing I'd like to talk about is the leveling system. You get 2 different levels in FFXIV. The first is your physical level which is shared between all jobs. The 2nd is your job level which is specific towards what weapon you have equipped and these are the levels that grant you abilities. I really enjoy the way this system works out. Instead of having subjobs like in FFXI you mix and match abilities from the different jobs you level up, all the meanwhile you still get to see you physical level go up. It is very satisfying and allows for a totally customized character, it gets a thumbs up from me!
The next thing I'd like to point out is the graphics. They are absolutely STUNNING. I've had times where I am running around in the world and I just stop to admire a tree or a river, the amount of detail that the developers have put into this game is astronomical. These amazing graphics come at a prize though, you are going to need a pretty beastly computer to run it properly (at least until it is released on the ps3 next year). My current system is sporting a 3.6ghz quad core, 4gb of ram, and 1ghz of Vram and I still get hiccups quite a bit (although I attribute this mainly to my cheap graphics card). I guess the point I'm trying to make here is that your not going to be able to run this game without a solid $700 dollar investment if you are building from scratch.
Combat is pretty fast paced in FFXIV and I'm really enjoying it. They have done away with the auto attack system from FFXI and you now must manually attack (which now drains a stamina bar that recharges quickly). This leads to constant interactivity to the game and adds a little more difficulty to the combat system. Weapon skills are back in FFXIV and take TP just as FFXI did, although in FFXIV you gain TP exponentially faster. Magic is similar to melee combat except that your spells cost MP which does not recharge in FFXIV. At first this seems to be a huge hindrance but spells cost next to nothing and you get a spell that does decent damage for no MP. You also get a 15 minute ability that restores MP or you can touch an Aethyrite crystal.
The last topic I'd like to touch on is about the community. So far in open beta there is relatively no interactivity between players. No parties to be found, no guilds offering recruitment, even the chat channels are usually dead. I attribute this to the game being in the beta phase. People that are currently playing FFXIV know that there characters are going to be wiped when the launch date rolls around and thus have little attachment towards their characters. Everyone is rerolling and just messing around at this point. Most people don't even know the basics of the game at the moment, let alone how to structure a party. I believe that FFXIV will be just as social as FFXI when it is released.
All in all I'm having a GREAT time playing the beta and suggest that you play it as well. Hurry up though because you only have until the 29th to report in!