Most defeated creatures and completed quests grant your character experience points. You must gain a specific number of experience points in order to gain a level, and you can view your progress on the Experience Bar. If you want an exact count of how much experience you have, and how much is needed for your next level, check the Info tab on your Stats screen (press C on your keyboard).
Depending on whether any experience bonuses are in effect, it may take anything from one to a few defeated monsters, but your character will achieve level 2 relatively quickly. Achieving a new level may give your character the ability to wear equipment you have been carrying around. Achieving a new level also gives you additional Stat Points and Skill Points.
Stat Points are how you increase your character’s main statistics (or “stats”): Strength, Dexterity, Spirit, and Health. Some equipment and other effects increase your stats as well, but you can choose which stats to increase with Stat Points. Statistics increase with Stat Points on a one-for-one basis. You receive five Stat Points every time your character gains a level. Check your stats on the Abilities tab of the Stats Screen. When you are ready to allocate your Stat Points, select the Points button.
You can use the arrows to increase your statistics one point at a time, or manually type in the statistic total you want, and your Stat Points will be used accordingly. Be sure to click Apply once you have used your Stat Points, to confirm your selection.
If you don’t use all 5 of your Stat Points before achieving a new level, unused points will carry over. You may wish to leave some points unspent, in case you find a piece of equipment you need higher stat levels to wear, and are not sure which stat will be required.
Each statistic has different effects, and not every character class benefits equally from every statistic:
- Strength – Increases damage of melee attacks (melee auto-attacks, and skills that use melee weapons). Also increases critical strike chance and your character’s chance of blocking.
- Dexterity - Increases damage of ranged attacks (bows, crossbows, and blood whips). Also increases critical strike chance and your character’s chance of blocking and guarding.
- Spirit - Increases damage of magic skills. Also increases critical strike chance and your character’s MP total.
- Health – Increases your character’s maximum HP and PVP Shield.
There are other stats which characters can receive from equipment and buffs, but only these four main stats may be increased with Stat Points.
The other benefits your character receives from higher levels are related to skills. You might gain access to new skills upon reaching a new level – check your Skill Window by pressing K and see if any new skills are highlighted. Your character class may have two to four different skill trees, so be sure to check them all. The Trans Up, Meister, Grand Meister, and Attribute skill trees will not be used for some time, so don't be too concerned about them right now.
Some skills are passive – they grant your character a constant benefit, and do not need to be activated. If you have access to a new skill that needs to be performed, however, you can place it onto your Skill Bar. Left click on the skill’s icon on the Skills screen to pick it up, and then click on the Skill Bar location you’d like to assign it to. Early on, it’s best to keep all your skills close together, and assigned to keys that are easy to reach.
If you later change your mind about the layout of your Skill Bar, you can click the icon that looks like a padlock. When the padlock icon is open, clicking any skill icon will pick it up, so it can be moved or swapped around. Click the lock again to keep skills from being picked up when clicked.
You receive one Skill Point every time your character gains a level. Skill Points are used to make skills more powerful. Usually this makes the skill do more damage and increases its MP cost, but increasing skill levels may have other beneficial effects, such as increased duration, reduced Cool Time, or additional hits. To increase the level of a skill, you must have at least one skill point available, and you must have reached a particular level (specified on the skill’s mouse-over details). You must have reached the minimum level necessary to use the skill, as well. To increase a skill’s level, click on the plus (+) on the skill icon, on the Skill Window. You'll be able to see any changes to MP Usage and Cool Time before leveling the skill up. If you can raise the skill more than once, you'll be able to see the changes from each skill point before you spend them.
You'll eventually gain access to every skill as your character gains levels, but you won't be able to maximize the skill levels of all of them. You'll need to increase the levels of your skills to keep them doing enough damage as you face stronger opponents. Try out each skill when you receive it but save your skill points for skills which you enjoy using, or which have the greatest benefit for your preferred style of play.
A few skills must still be raised manually, but do not actually cost skill points. These include party versions of some of the Segnale's single-target buff skills, and the Helion's Blessing/Will/Conviction/Attribution skills you can raise beginning at level 160.
You'll probably also find that your Skill Bar is getting crowded as you gain access to more skills. You can access two more Skill Bars by clicking the icon that looks like an eyeball, and you can choose whether one to three Skill Bars are displayed. The default key binds for these skills will be visible on the bars, but you can change them if you find another configuration easier to use.
You can cycle through your three skill bars with Z and X. Pressing either key will rotate your skill bars through each position, in case you wish to easily access multiple skill bars for varying situations. You can also except each skill bar from this effect individually, by clicking on its number tab - a red tab means the bar will remain where it is while the others with blue tabs are rotated. You can only toggle the tab when the skill bar is unlocked.
You'll need greater and greater experience point totals to gain each successive level. If your level progression has slowed too much, it's probably time to move on to a new area, and to face tougher creatures who will offer greater experience rewards.