Also, the customization for characters is greater than ever. It's too bad the skin color is set and you can't create your own skin color out of RGB though.
My party at the time of the end of the 3rd area + thoughts..
Your usual green, peaceful looking Stratum 1 environment.
The lobster FOE's ice skill is extremely deadly and it took me a bit to realize he makes a signal before he uses it.
As for the boss, there is no way anyone could defeat it on their first try without prior knowledge. I also tried once to defeat his body parts first before focusing on his body, but it didn't work, so I just focused on his body and defeated him.
I didn't realize you were able to raise up the two pillars on the side to limit the number of chibi Golems entering the fray.
Cleared Stratum 1 at Level 18.
Now the puzzles begin. You can avoid all of the FOE, but you have to really think and move in order to do so. This is especially true in the later floors, where different FOE exist in the same room, requiring you to focus on different movements at once. This is especially so for the monkey FOE. The other FOE will move in a set pattern most of the time, but the monkey is set to move in a certain way that may require specific timing in order to get past him. Because the monkey FOE is important to getting through the maps, he spawns extremely quickly after defeating him, instead of the usual 7 days.
As for the boss, he was the reason I switched my Masurao for a Sestus. The reason I did this is because my party lacked a Head binder and Masurao's lack of defense was just a bit too much for me to handle with this party.
I was able to defeat the boss with 4 characters at level 28 and the new Sestus at 20. I was able to prevent 1 or 2 healings from the boss' shield and was able to bind his legs at one point which kept him from using the painful pierce attack on my party. I actually was on my last turn when I defeated him with Double Attack, with my remaining two characters. A very close victory.
While there are different advantages and disadvantages in exploring the dungeon at day or night, I personally felt that night had more advantages. In daytime, there are way too many poisonous areas. At this point, the only way to reduce the damage from these was the Warlock skill, which I did not want to waste SP on. The light destroying FOE gimmick wasn't too important to me either. At night, the FOE move differently, but it isn't impossible to predict in most cases. However, I think there was one location that couldn't be passed without it being day time (or you can just defeat the FOE).
Also, at this Stratum, I unlocked Cradle (strongest Scythe) and grind-ed and gave my Reaper it, giving me a HUGE firepower advantage in this Stratum.
As for the Boss, he wasn't really that hard. Not only do you have an additional party member (Lily), Cradle's Explosion skill killed his lacky skeletons in one hit. The boss can do almost nothing without them, so killing them the first turn they appeared made him practically harmless.
Hey, blame the game for making it possible to get the strongest weapon so early, not me.
I defeated him at Level 42, though I think I was a bit over-leveled. I never EXP grind-ed though.
My party at this point:
Reaper -> Slash element user; reduces enemy resistance to binds/ailments and if her Cloak activates, I proceed to inducing ailments on the enemy. Being able to get Cradle early on makes her OP
Dragoon -> Defensive shield; the usual defensive shield of the party
Warlock -> The usual elemental user; For her Second Name branch, I chose to have her focus on the 3 magic elements
Hound -> Healer; also can Bind the arm and leg; Target Arrow can lower the defense/cancel out defensive boosts; the only Stab element user in the party
Sestus -> Bash element user; Binder; Cast Binds and Ailment on the enemy and then use Lead/Read Blow. Or One-Two when Lead/Read Blow is not effective. Can do good damage while Binding.