As I am sitting in another queue at the FFXIV login screen, I decided I may as well put the time to some use and post. Endwalker has been out for a week now for us early access subscribers and it’s not been smooth sailing. Queues have been horrendous which puts a damper on a ton of people’s excitement. I don’t know how it is for US or JAP players but on my high-pop EU server, I either login at noon to be able to play 4-5 hours later or it’s not gonna happen. SE’s queuing tech is incredibly frustrating and you better not get an error during those four hours or chances are you can go re-queue from scratch.
And yes I know, the devs are doing what they can and the hardware shortages due to Covid have basically kicked us in the shins this year – it’s still soulcrushing to sit in fickle queues or get disconnected and have your planned playtime ruined for the rest of the day. I’m no FFXIV late adopter, I’ve been playing this game for 7 years and I really looked forward to Endwalker. Now it sounds like this situation may not be resolved for months. At least SE are communicating with the player base which goes a long way.
My VERY early Endwalker impressions
I’ve been able to get to level 84 on my BLM which is not far at all but has introduced me to the first three zones as well as the first two dungeons and first trial in Endwalker. I’m not going to spoil anything about the main storyline here but leave my overall first impressions which so far, are very mixed.
What struck me is how long this expansion takes to get going. There’s a great number of walking and talking quests before you ever get to see any action and there are pacing issues early on. There’s also an abundance of very long cutscenes that feel more self-indulgent than necessary. It’s clear the devs were having fun with the main cast but I got really tired listening to them exchange pleasantries and juvenile chatter after a while. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me getting impatient to get going after four hours of sitting in queues but I remember Shadowbringers feeling a lot more tight from the get-go.
The other glaring thing for me is the lack of remarkable music tracks so far. The last expansion greeted us almost instantly with the fantastic themes of Lakeland and the Crystarium, yet I’ve heard nothing remotely as gripping in early Endwalker. I like the new combat tracks and there are some sweet, quieter tracks but nothing that gets the heart beating faster. Alas, I hope there’s a lot more to come and soon! Soundtrack is everything to me in this game.
Another thing that the devs seem to have had fun with is the whole new questing mechanic with NPCs following you around or alternatively you having to follow them and better not lose them. There are added stealth elements sometimes and I’ve had quests fail on me because I missed a cue or then the NPCs aren’t smart enough to join you in battle during the escort. While that can be dealt with, it throws me out of immersion having to do these ‘console gamey intersections’. This is a strong departure from classic MMORPG questing and it’s been used multiple times already in every zone I’ve been to. Clearly, this is a matter of taste but I don’t care for it personally, at all. I hate to think how much more of this is to come ’til level 90.
Now this might sound like I’m being mostly negative about the expansion so far. The truth is, I expect things to get a lot better and I’m confident SE will deliver. I do however also think that after the successes of Shadowbringers, this new expansion has an almost insurmountable amount of expectations riding on it. Add to this the somewhat ungrateful job of wrapping up the entire story-line since the beginning and dealing with all the lose ends. Not an easy task, so I will cut them some slack for having to cover that much ground.
And that’s it, my very brief first report – several more to come. Above is one of my highlights for now, the moon vista in Endwalker which is truly stunning! This expansion has a darker theme overall which makes beautiful moments like that all the more magical.