Monday, December 6, 2021

My FFXIV: Endwalker Early Access Experience

Over the weekend, I played a lot of Final Fantasy XIV's latest expansion, Endwalker. Something about having to stay active to remain logged into the game adds a little incentive to sit at the keyboard for hours at a time. Since Endwalker is the first expansion I have played on the first day of early access, I thought I'd record some thoughts.

Login Savage: I expected to have long waits to log into the game, and I wasn't disappointed. My experience seems better than a lot of players, though. On Friday, I started to try logging into the game at 3am and succeeded at 4:10am. I logged off around 2pm and played again after dinner. In the evening session, I spent approximately 90 minutes to get back into the game.

On Saturday, I logged in around lunchtime and only had to wait 15 minutes to get into the game. Sunday was normal, with a login queue length of 47 when I logged on at 9:30am. But that doesn't mean people didn't have issues. I've chatted inside and outside of the game with players who couldn't log in for 6 hours. On Friday, FFXIV producer and director Naoki Yoshida stated the peak congested hours on Friday.

  • North American Data Center: 12:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. (PST) / 20:00 to 6:00 (GMT)
  • European Data Center: 3:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (PST) / 11:00 to 23:00 (GMT)
  • Japan Data Center: 1:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. (PST) / 9:00 to 15:00 (GMT)

In the letter, Yoshida announced 7 days of free game time as compensation for the login issues.

Considering that we are asking players to wait in queues for extremely long periods of time and the ongoing situation making it difficult to play normally, we have decided that during the official release of Endwalker on December 7, we will be granting 7 days of free game time to all players who own the full version of the game and have an active subscription. This also includes players who are currently playing on the 30-day free play period included when registering the full version of the game and those with multiple accounts.

Furthermore, we may give additional free game time depending on further developments on the congestion situation. The timing at which the free game time will be provided, as well as any additional extensions, will be announced at a later time. We truly appreciate your cooperation and patience regarding the congestion situation.

Stability: I was a little surprised at how stable the game was over the first three days once I got into the game. I did experience one blue screen of death on Friday, but the cause of the issue possibly was a Windows update on my computer. I only experienced the one error.

Progress: When I logged off for dinner on Sunday, I had made decent progress. I had progressed the white mage job up to level 83. For crafting, all 8 classes are now at level 81. As for gathering classes, botanist and miner are at 83 while fishing is at 82.

The MSQ: For the way I play, the pacing for the MSQ is about right. I logged off after completing the first level 83 quest, but have more than half the experience points to reach level 84.

The quests themselves are impressive. Remember all the reading required for cutscenes in A Realm Reborn? I have completed 39 MSQ quests, and I believe every cutscene was voiced so far. One complaint I can see made is that players spend more time watching cutscenes than playing the game. I know this isn't true for everyone as some people in my FC have already reached level 90. Personally, I haven't skipped any cutscenes.

As happened in Shadowbringers, the MSQ forks early on, with one group exploring Old Sharlayan and another travelling to Thavnair. I played the Old Sharlayan branch first and then travelled to Thavnair. The first duty, The Tower of Zot, is located in Thavnair. After returning to Old Sharlayan, we gathered the gang together and headed off to Garlemald where I am now.

The story so far is satisfying. The lead writer from Shadowbringers, Natsuko Ishikawa, is also the lead writer for Endwalker. Every so often she drops references to previous expansions that produces emotions, from giggles to wonder. I think the level 81 and 82 quests are designed to get players back into the world. I noticed the story started getting a little more serious in Garlemald.

The Tower of Zot: The first dungeon in Endwalker is The Tower of Zot. I played through the content using the Trust System. Either I am getting better, or the content is easier than in Shadowbringers. I only noticed one new mechanic involving the tank. The trick is to follow the NPCs to survive the mechanics. I only died once on the first boss and once on the last boss. I was only able to wear one piece of the gear, but I think the gear sets from the dungeon will look great.

Zenos and Fandaniel: My biggest concern about Endwalker was the two main antagonists of the story, Zenos and Fandaniel. For me, the way Zenos killed himself at the end of Stormbrings was a huge disappointment. Fandaniel's appearances in Shadowbringers basically made me facepalm in real life. That Yoshi-P thought giving those two prominent roles in the finale of the Hydaelyn-Zodiark saga filled me with dread. I had doubts that even someone as talented as Natsuko Ishikawa could rehabilitate the pair.

The story around The Tower of Zot has rehabilitated Fandaniel a bit. I now hate the sundered Ascian for his actions in the game rather than because his character is poorly written. I couldn't take Fandaniel seriously in Shadowbringers. I can take him seriously now.

Zenos is another story. He's only made one brief appearance, but he was still the same cringy, one-dimensional character. Just from the appearance, though, I still can't picture Zenos as a fully developed character.

Gathering: For botany and mining, I have just collected 125 of each resource I run across in anticipation of levelling my crafting. Just stopping for 30 minutes at a time during my journeys raised my level in each class up to 83. For fishing, I did two levequests in Old Sharlayan that earned me two levels.

Crafting: Except for three nuggets, all my crafting took place in the Firmament. Not only did I earn a level for each of the 8 crafting classes, but I earned a ton of scrips. I bought all the parasols and orchestrion rolls I didn't already own. I still have 7,000 scrips I can use to buy the special dyes from the vendor. 

Overall, I had a lot of fun playing Endwalker over the weekend. The official launch is Tuesday, so I'll have to see how the game and its infrastructure performs tomorrow. Hopefully everything settles down over the next few weeks and everyone can play when they want again.

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