*spoiler alert*: I will be discussing a piece of the story that I saw so far in the end of the post, and mark it with a headline. Until that, it’s a safe read.
First of all, I did not manage to play much. I played 3 hours on Friday, logged out at 6 p.m. cause I had an IRL party to attend, and I logged in on Saturday morning without much hiccup (a normal 60-people queue) for another session. I logged out for dinner, and that was the end of it for the rest of the day.
That’s right, it’s been the worst experience surpassing those I ever had upon WoW launch. Logging in at 3 p.m. put me in a 2400+ queue. I waited for 15 minutes, and managed to move up for 600 digits. I presumed I might as well go to a grocery while waiting – a 15-20 minute trip, and when I got back, this:
Ok, then I tried again, and got myself in a longer queue – 2600 this time. And this time lobby server error popped up at 2300. Next try? Now a 3000+ queue, lobby server error popping me out at 2800.
I quit struggling after another couple of similar attempts, having already spent 2,5 hours for this adventure. I’m okay with waiting for my queue, but not when it ushers me out after 10 minutes and puts me in a longer one every single time. FFXIV official twitter post, announcing the launch, had a hundred of comments, all full with anger and frustration, with nothing positive to say.
The sorrymasen post from the game developers did not help much. It thoroughly explained the current problem, starting every passage with We apologize and Please understand, so sweet and all, but it never addressed the key question: how they’re planning to solve the problem? And it’s crystal clear they are not, and they don’t have any solution yet.
I mean… well, the peak in June was quite unexpected, true, but by the end of the August it should have been clear how many peak people tried and quit, and how many decided to stay. With the new expansion, it’s expected that lots of players will return, and they saw the subs, and active players, and had all the time in the world to prepare, to cobble up some solution, but well, did not happen. And the login problem does not affect only those who try, but all the players.
The worst thing about this all is that I do not see how this could become better at least in the coming month. There will be an actual release on Dec 7, which will add more players, and current players are not going anywhere, with story to playthrough, new and old jobs to level, content to explore and whatever the endgame activities there are into. I hate to compare the game to WoW in most of the aspects, but I think this situation is exactly where I can. For all its current game and company sins, after WoD launch fiasco (which even deserved a Carbot video of its own) Blizzard put their shit together and solved the queue problem once and for all, three expansions in a row and I did not see the slightest queue ever.
My own perspectives are pretty sad, as I’m kinda bound to login in the early morning and use workdays to advance in the game (luckily I’ve got most of my work and projects at my job done for the year, so I can play during daytime). But of course it bugs me that you cannot safely play in evening hours and weekends, and logging out would probably mean the end of the session for the day.
All in all, this was my most palpable gaming result by the end of Saturday:
And I prefer I had FFXIV to talk about during expansion launch days.
That rant said, the expansion itself is nothing but positive so far.
Gameplay and New Zones
Like I said, I did not advance a lot, but the impressions were generally very positive. Naturally, I arrived at Old Sharlayan as our first spot, completed Labyrinthos part at the quest fork in full, and completed the first town – the port – of Thavnair.
Sharlayan and Labyrinthos were most serene places to be. Architecture loosely based on Greece, a gorgeous city layout with some stunning views, nooks and crannies for people to explore and hangout, a very welcoming forest, a volcano-designed crater of Labyrinthos – which is rather lush nevertheless – was all so good.
Thavnair, a ripoff from India without even a fig leaf to cover the source of inspiration, is less exciting (to me, generally not a fan of hot countries), but colourful and strikes you hard with its vibe and ambience. I can’t help admiring the visuals and graphics, and if the rest of the expansion would keep up with the given standards (and why shouldn’t it, pray tell?), it’s definitely a treat. I think graphics have reached its peak, I really enjoy observing the environments and all the small details, and in general Endwalker zones could be described only as a feast for the eyes.
Not much to say about the music yet. Of course, it’s very good, but I was not urged to hum anything yet :) Sharlayan, Labyrinthos and Thavnair have a fitting soundtrack, and that much is good. What I AM happy about is the login screen! It’s good on its own – and the deafening full-scale male choir of Shadowbringers which always made my cats start (and myself too, frankly) – well, it was… not my favorite, to put it mildly, so anything but that.
Travel: it’s your normal aetheryte stones, click 10 currents and finish the story to unlock flights for the zone. But: they reduced the number of currents for all previous expansions, now it’s just four per zone. Not that it matters for my main, but my Lalafell alt chasing her couldn’t be any happier.
Job and Character Power Changes: so far, I’ve tried only Dragoon, my main job. It had the most vital clipping – a removal of Blood of the Dragon buff. You had to click it all the time, a button which does nothing except slowing your rotation by exactly 1 gcd. Removing it was a total bliss, the rotation immediately became more straightforward and less confusing, less things to worry about, and in general, more exciting.
Whatever they did with the stats, I can’t really tell, but it seems my ilvl remained the same. What I noticed is that killing mobs in the open world is a bit easier than before. Previously, all my encounters with mobs throughout the leveling were not too deadly, but kinda challenge, if you had two attacking you it may have proven dangerous, and three was flee-or-die. Today, I’m not struggling at all, mobs die faster, and don’t hit so hard. I need to test that on all jobs, but at least Endwalker zones seem a bit more friendly for my main.
*spoiler alert* *spoiler alert* *spoiler alert* *spoiler alert* *spoiler alert*
Ok, the Hydaelyn business does not impress me a lot so far, she’s cryptic and I’m not really too invested in the conflict or whatever she says. Of course, we’ll learn more later, but this far it’s a side dish, not too grave or urgent to wrap my head around it.
I missed my Scions crew! God, I love traveling with them, so it felt like returning home, to my family, and I’m just happy to do things with them – anything.
I liked the quest fork – it’s an elegant solution to spread players from the beginning, not to crowd the same quests too much. They’re not the first to do it, and it’s not the first time when even FFXIV pulls it off, but I’m glad it’s here. Because even now the questgivers are soooo crowded you can barely click them. Granted, there are also 10-minute cutscenes when your character just stands on top of a questgiver’s head for everyone else. And of all people, they put Tataru in charge for the first quest and the first 10-minute cutscene. Tataru, when a Goobue would fit a lot better :) This is me trying for 5 minutes to find and click at an inch of her to proceed:
Anyways, I’m enjoying the story so far. Sharlayan and Labyrinthos were so great, although Sharlayan ending was kinda a bit weird. It’s logical, I mean – of course the Scions would have been busted sooner than later, and of course the council would not have a change of mind or reveal their secret – in fact, they did not tell anything new to each other. World’s in danger, help us – But we don’t want to help, we have a business and a mission of our own that we don’t want to talk about. That much was already clear even before our arrival. Weird – because we did not actually advance at all, for all our effort. But it was precious as a proper zone introduction, and all the local people were so well shaped in character, starting with the ominous customs clerk!
In short, I loved everything about Sharlayan and Labyrinthos so far.
Not so with Thavnair. As I told before, not a fan of India and Arabia countries IRL, but it would suffice as a place of adventure, and I definitely feel the vibe which is a total success. I’ve hardly seen anything apart form the city port, I need to see the capital and the jungle yet, then I will have an informed opinion.
What bugs me now is that they picked the “boring” Scion trio for Thavnair which – as characters – don’t work too well on their own, without other characters to counterweight their perks. For example, Alphinaud and Alisaie are so different personalities that they always balance each other so well, and create the tension which is all sparks and exciting to observe. All of these three in Thavnair need another counter-character to counter their perks and to pick on their pair character in return – and there’s no such pair for any of them. But we’ll see, the whole travel/purchase/sickness scene was so hilarious, so it may work in the end of all.
Well… off to try and log in then? As of now, I’m so glad I have both games to play :)