Research is the most reliable and lasting way to build strength in Final Fantasy XV: ANE. Every form of research either grants you a new ability, or is a permanent buff that improves some aspect of your empire.
Research becomes very expensive in both time and resources though, so making good decisions on what to research and in what order is key. This article aims to help you decide the best place to focus your research efforts based on your goals in the game.
Update 10/2/17: This guide has been updated with to reflect the addition of the new Crafting Research Tree.
There are currently five research trees in the game; these trees are the Economics, Combat, Defense, Crafting and Hero Trees. They have the following characteristics:
- Combat Research centers on offensive capability plus some utility and defensive skills. It is focused primarily on making your troops stronger and more effective in combat, and unlocking more powerful troop tiers. It also has Scouting, which is a key skill for every player. If you want to play offensively and win, combat research will be your most important focus in the game.
- Defense Research centers on the defense of your empire itself, giving your troops a greater chance of survival when attacked on their home turf. It also unlocks new tiers of traps, and makes traps stronger. If you like playing defensively and letting the enemy come to you, defense research will be a big focus for you. Likewise, it can help you survive against stronger players.
- Hero Research centers on improving your Hero’s ability to fight monsters, with some utility and empire defense skills scattered through the tree. If you like hunting monsters, or want the crafting ingredients or loyalty that they drop, Hero research will improve your gameplay.
- Economics is full of utility skills that increases your empire’s resource production and gathering capability. Research in the economics tree supports all of your other game efforts by adding to your resources over time, and also allows your troops to haul more loot back from resource tiles or defeated empires or speed up building construction.
- Crafting Research strengthens your gear. It becomes available at level 20 University.
In this article, we are going to take a look primarily at the first four trees, as Crafting Research does not become relevant until you have decent gear and a level 20+ University. Now let’s take a deeper look into each tree.
Combat Research Tree
If you want to be effective in offensive combat, you should focus the majority of your resources and time unlocking new research in this tree and gaining new levels of lower-tier skills.
Combat research is extremely powerful. The two main benefits are unlocking new troop tiers and making those troops stronger in combat. Most players focus on the troop tiers themselves when talking about combat ability. And it is true that higher tier troops are more powerful than lower tier troops.
But the real meat of the combat tree is ultimately in the boosts to troop Armor, HP and Attack. Let’s take a look at relative troop strength to explain why.
A tier 2 troop is twice as powerful as a tier 1 troop in strength. A t3 troop is three times as powerful as a t1 troop. That means 10k t3 troops should be equal in power to 30k t1 troops, right? Theoretically true, but not in practice. If you send 10k t3 troops at 30k t1 troops sitting on a tile, the t1 troops are going to receive more casualties than the t3.
This is because of the amount of research required to get to tier 3 troops in the first place. The Combat research required to unlock a new tier of troops is a significant part of what makes those troops more powerful. All of those boosts to HP, Attack and Armor stack up to make t3s and t4s much more powerful than their base stats would suggest.
There are other considerations like gear and troop type that influence battle outcomes as well, but all else being equal the player with the most research wins the long race.
Troop tiers are still significant; a player with tier 3 unlocked but no further combat research is still going to have access to troops 50% more powerful than the player with tier 2 who has all the same research but has not yet unlocked tier 3. But the research makes that gap a lot more bridgeable with smart play.
An important note on costs: it is easy to get to tier 2 troops. But it is EXTREMELY expensive to get to tier 3 troops: you need one of each building leveled to 19 to unlock Citadel 20, and you need your combat research completely maxed at level 20 University to unlock tier 3 troops.
For this reason, if you are buying packs specifically to try and get to tier 3 as fast as possible, focus EVERYTHING on the research and building requirements you need to get there. Do not dip into the other research trees. Do not stop to mass produce tier 2 soldiers. Save your speed-ups because you will need them for the t3 research timers, which are very long. Do not use granite or coin or energy in the packs on anything else.
If you buy packs more sporadically or do not mind taking longer to save on pack money, then you will want to dip into the Econ tree to put points into Troop Load and Gathering Speed, which will help you over the t1 rss cliffs on the way to t3.
At various points in the tree, you will be faced with a choice between attack, HP or Armor skills. I’d recommend shooting for a balance on these rather than focusing; HP and Armor help you win battles and save on rss by reducing troop casualties, but Attack is critical to piercing heavy enemy defensive skills when assaulting empires with heavy defensive boosts.
Note: Combat is the most expensive of the Research trees in terms of rss. If you are going pure combat, know that it will take a LOT more resources and speed-ups compared to the Defense, Economics, or Hero trees.
The defense tree is focused on protecting your troops and your empire, and improving your hospital capability and your trap strength. This skill tree is important given how often you are likely to be attacked in this game.
The City Defense buffs in the third and fourth level of the tree are huge boosts for when your City is attacked. If you are looking for raw defense, target these skills. Focus on HP first, followed by Armor and Attack. HP scales to prevent casualties better than Armor against strong incoming attacks, and your opponents will generally be sending stronger forces to try and pierce your defenses.
Many skills in the defense tree involve traps. You start off with reinforced walls by default, which are referred to by the players as “bricks”. The purpose of bricks to take the first hit for any troops that you have in your empire. Any research that buffs trap HP will also buff bricks, which makes them potentially effective at later defense research levels for sustaining multiple enemy marches without all being destroyed.
The higher tiers of traps are equivalent to troops of the same tier in terms of attack and defense power. The only difference is that they can’t be used in Marches and the number you can have at one time is determined by your wall level.
In fact, traps can be more powerful than incoming troops because they gain any generalized Troop Attack and Troop HP from the combat tree in addition to any trap-focused boosts from the Defense and Hero tree. They are still very weak to siege though, and it is common for players to include siege machines in their first march into your empire if they see traps on the scout report.
Traps and defense research are powerful even with the limitations that some players prefer to play very heavy defense, combined with an appearance of overall weakness to lure in more powerful opponents. This is called “trapping” and is a playstyle that will be covered in a later article.
The higher tier traps can become extremely expensive in rss and build time. Whether or not to pay for higher level traps versus bricks is a judgement call, but a layer of t2 or t3 traps can serve as a very effective “keep off my lawn” sign. And they can eat whole marches when buffed with Trap Attack and Trap HP research from Defense and the Hero tree.
Hospital Capacity is decent given the limits of the Hospital, but if you are stacking Hospital Wards to increase capacity or boost troop HP it is less useful. The Hospital Healing Speed is useful if you have a tier 2 or higher meatwall. T1s don’t take any time to heal, so if you are relying on a cushion of those to protect you, this skill isn’t very useful except to progress in the tree.
As far as advancement goes, I would recommend that every player invest in defense, at least in the City Defense skills, unless they are focusing exclusively on unlocking higher-tier troops in the Combat tree. And even those players should invest levels in Defense when they reach t3. You will be attacked in this game, and one of the best ways you can prepare for and minimize losses is to make yourself too much of a pain to bother with.
Hero research is centered on fighting monsters more effectively. This means that Hero Research gets you more loyalty, crafting ingredients and resources. You can read more about How To Get More Loyalty in a later article in this series.
One thing to note about the econ tree is that it is VERY CHEAP in rss terms compared to the other research trees. It also does not boost your power very much, which is helpful for accounts that want to trap attackers by looking as weak as possible.
Everyone should pick up a few levels of the second level of the tree, including MP Recovery, March Speed and Hero Critical Hit to increase their ability to attack and kill more monsters. This is especially true given the scarcity of reliable loyalty sources in the game and the rarity of crafting mats.
And while March Speed may not seem like such a great boost, and you may be grumbling as you purchase levels of it to unlock higher tiers of MP Recovery, know that it is actually exceptionally helpful for getting your monster-killing done in a timely manner.
The higher-level monster skills are useful for generating Monster Lairs. A level 2 Flan doesn’t drop much better stuff than a level 1, but a level 2 Lair will provide more crafting materials for gear.
Some of the utility skills are additionally very helpful for collecting loyalty. MP recovery 1 and 2 combined with MP Cost Reduction and Max MP all leveled to 5 each will allow you to farm thousands of loyalty several times a day. The only downside is the research cost and the real-life time spent marching to and from monsters, which is a drag.
Other skills in the tree include trap buffs, which is a little weird to see in this tree. These are considering if you are heavy in the Defense tree already and are planning on progressing further in Hero, just to stack the boosts. Farther down, past Monster 4, there are skills that buff your troops as well plus some hospital boosts which are likely intended for defensive players and trap accounts.
Much later in the game, it becomes necessary to advance to Monster Tactics 4 to unlock T4 troops, but you won’t have to worry about that to start with.
The initial levels of the Economics tree are focused on resource production, plus some speed-ups and gathering bonuses.
The first level or two of Construction Time are helpful in the early stages of the game, when building times are measured in minutes rather than hours or days. The usefulness past this point is limited since the bonus is a fixed time rather than a percentage, and build times rapidly increase to the point that a couple of minutes shaved off is not a good boost at all.
The production boosts seem good at first, given the costs of buildings and research in the game. The problem again is the scaling: building and research rss costs increase to the point where it is not optimal or in many cases possible to advance in the game using just the resources that you have in your base.
Taking a couple of levels of the econ production boosts can be very helpful in the early game if you have an even spread of resource buildings, but as your Citadel level rises and rss costs begin to soar, hyperfarming and sharing rss with guild members becomes much more effective than trying to do everything yourself. This makes having lots of levels spread across the production boosts less effective.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t level these skills, because they are the only way to unlock the much more powerful research further down.
The real powerhouses in the early econ tree are Gathering Speed and Troop Load, followed by Loot Tile Gathering and Construction Speed.
Gathering is an effective way to help get around the production caps when combined with raiding and hyperfarming. Gathering Speed and Troop Load help you be more efficient at this, which is necessary since tile gathering is inherently dangerous.
Gold/ Loot Tile Gathering combined with Troop Load likewise lets you craft gear more quickly, which is a key part of success in the game as covered in the Gear Guide. Gathering from monster lairs is the key way to get mats for gear, so anything that makes that process faster in turn gets you more and better gear.
The Construction Speed percentile boost is huge. The percentile modifier just gets better as the timers for buildings stretch from hours to days. For this reason you should target this skill as early as is feasible once you get to the 15-18 Cit range when the timers start getting longer. Later in the 25+ Citadel range it becomes absolutely key in saving on speed-ups in packs as well.
Past that skill, the Econ tree has some amazing gems. The building-specific resource production skills (“Farm Production”, “Granite Production”, etc.) are very good in that they boost all tiers of rss for that building.
And farther down the tree at University level 30 you unlock Advanced Gathering, which lets you gather tier 2 resources from rss tiles. Lots of players in the Citadel 20-29 range are interested in this skill due to the huge granite and lead costs, but the actual skill is limited somewhat by the incredibly long gathering times for t2 resources.
However, Research Cost reduction at level 30 Citadel is the Holy Grail of the Econ tree and will eventually save you a TON of rss when you reach that point. It is worth slowly working your way up the Econ tree towards it as you make the climb past level 20.
Crafting Research does not unlock until University 20, which makes it a later-game consideration. The primary benefit of Crafting Research are the research skills that add to the power of your gear. This effect starts out very small, but becomes potentially very powerful at University levels 25+. The effect is dependent on what quality of gear you have, which means that you should ideally prioritize Crafting Research after the other trees, which provide their benefits more directly.
We go more in-depth on the Crafting Tree in our Crafting Research Guide.
- Combat tree gives offensive and defensive power, plus higher troop tiers, focus here if you want to attack successfully.
- City Defense research gives huge defensive boosts.
- Trap research in the Defense and Hero tree will make Traps very strong
- Troop Load and Gathering Speed are the best early Econ research, followed by Loot Tile Gathering and Construction Speed.
- Hero Tree monster-fighting boosts means more loyalty, crafting mats, and rss items.
- Save the Crafting Tree until the mid-20 levels and have decent gear for the best benefit.
Which research to target is really down to where you want to go, and what you are having difficulty with. The Combat and Defense trees are central to the winning in fights and protecting yourself, the Hero tree helps with loyalty and gear ingredients, and the Economics tree helps your basic resource needs and building speed-ups.
There is no “best path” unless you are buying packs specifically to get to t3 or higher troops as fast as humanly possible, in which case focus exclusively on Combat research to get there. In all other cases including buying packs more sporadically, supplementing with research from Defense, Hero and Economics tree will help you with the climb.
In the next article in the series, our Building Guide, we’re going to take a close look at buildings.