All right. So technically it’s a little early to talk about Endwalker’s early access period in its totality because by my math early access ends today and there’s still a faint possibility of things getting intensely borked at some point in the interim. But I also run this column on Mondays, so if you want to be a bit pedantic, this means that I am technically writing this column not about the overall Final Fantasy XIV early access period but the earlier early access period. I’m sure we’ll all be able to deal with this fact, yes? Yes.
So what is there to be said? It went all right. Theoretically, anyhow.
It is not, of course, a surprise that a lot of queues were happening. It’s not even a surprise that they’re big queues. We were told to expect this to happen ahead of Endwalker because of course it was going to happen. The fact that Square-Enix is offering subscription time to compensate is a classy move, even if as many people have pointed out that doesn’t necessarily mean much if you can’t log in to play in the first place.
At the same time, well… what else can really be done about it? A lot of people want to play, there are certain capacity limits that the game can hit, and not much can really be done about either thing. People have been playing and enjoying themselves all the way through, but it does suck when you sit down and wait through a queue just to get in to play.
What I feel is worse is that there have been actual errors in the queue system, which is… actually unusual and not something I recall happening in the past. That’s not to say they haven’t, just that I remember them being less common back in the day. But that tends to compound the problem.
You can understand a queue happening. You’re a little more inclined to be bitter if you were waiting patiently and then the queue kicked you out for no real reason. That, I think, is the main motivation behind the subscription compensation; not everyone who wanted to wait through the queues actually had that as a realistic option.
Now, full disclosure: At the time of this writing, I have not had to suffer through queues, but that’s mostly because I spent early access up to this point logging on and staying logged on. (By which I mean “playing,” not “trying to use means to cheat the AFK logout timer.” Remember that doing that just means mass forced logouts and is also a shitty move. This is not up for debate.) On the day you’re reading this, I’m probably going to suffer through them too. Take from that what you will.
Even having said that, though, this is a result of the game’s popularity at the moment and the attention it’s received, especially when coupled with the sheer scope of this particular expansion. Promising to end a decade’s worth of storytelling is a big deal! It’s going to attract attention, and that’s even without this year being especially potent for the game on a whole. So there was going to be a swell of players, and that’s just… something we all have to deal with.
It will, of course, subside with time. The active population is less than the currently buffed numbers. For now, we all kind of just have to deal with it, and all that the team can do is roll with the issues. Hopefully you’ve been able to play a fair bit, and if not… well, you have my sympathies.
Fortunately, we haven’t had any other problems like huge queues for instanced fights, major issues with the servers once you do log in, and so forth. As usual, the experience of actually playing the expansion is straightforward and functional, as it’s supposed to be, and is also usually the case there aren’t any glaring moments when the whole thing feels like a beta. It’s a good overall experience and my impressions of it are going to be up in a currently uncertain amount of time.
What I did find a bit odd were some of the story beats and content distribution choices along the way. Like… I found myself along the way wondering when the heck I was going to unlock role quests, especially since role quests were actually very early in the Shadowbringers story and were a core part of the experience across that level band. This is decidedly not the case in Endwalker, and part of me worried that I had missed something since it seemed as if it took way too long to get the last sets of hunts unlocked.
For the record, and with no spoilers: Role quests in this expansion are 85 and up and don’t unlock until you’re past the first three dungeons, while hunts don’t unlock their third set until you reach the last area.
But as with every new expansion, you can tell how much attention to detail and effort went into every part of the experience. Again, I don’t want to write my full impressions of the expansion as a whole here while I’m still planning to do that separately, but the early access period still feels like the “real” expansion launch even though the official launch is a few days later. Which it should, of course; this is just slightly earlier chances to play through, not really an early access period in the way it generally gets assumed these days.
I don’t know that there’s much to really be done about server issues, unfortunately, but it does result in the rollout being less stellar than it might have been otherwise. It casts a pall over the proceedings by necessity. Nobody likes looking forward to a shiny new expansion only to be told that you can’t log in and play just yet, especially when some of the people who are no doubt on the receiving end of the queue have been playing for years and just want to see the conclusion.
But it’s the sort of technical problem that was anticipated and players were warned about well in advance, and it’s on the list of problems you kind of want to have overall. Having more people trying to play your game than can actually play it beats the alternative. There’s really not choice but to suffer through the queues and look forward to them subsiding, in other words.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments below or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week, I want to talk a little bit about the first impressions I have of the overall gameplay changes now that I’ve had a little more time to try out the job changes outside of the media tour.