Lots of screens ahead, so putting in a jump!
The Lobby Login Boss
The first thing I ran into, of course, is the same thing that plagues pretty well every major MMO launch in the history of the genre: difficulty logging in. Of course, Square Enix being Square Enix, nothing is ever simple. To log in you need to sign into the Launcher, then launch the game, then sign in to your data center, then pick your character and sign in to your world.
|This is where you log in.|
However, a "workaround" I've found is to connect to a different data center than Aether. Usually Chaos (Europe) or Mana (Japan) depending on the time of day, then backing up and connecting to Aether. Not sure why this works, but it's worked for me 90% of the time. Once I still got a 5006 error, but otherwise this has been a mostly flawless way to get around the error issues. Makes me wonder if there's a token that gets generated at a data center or something that gets re-used when I log into another data center during the same session.
I have no solid evidence aside from it's the only way I've been able to get beyond the data center connection issues, and I can get in one the first try usually whereas I hear many, many people complaining it took them an hour to get in.
|Not so bad at all.|
The best part, though? Once you're in the game, it is solid as heck. No lag spikes, no disconnects (at least none for me), have only crashed once after 7 hours of consecutive play. Like super, super solid. Aside from the data center issue, this is one of the smoothest launches I've seen. Mind you, early access may have split the population (good idea Squeenix!) so we'll see how things hold up during the release tomorrow.
Flying through the Content
At this point I think I'm perhaps the 3rd highest level in the Free Company? There's a couple folks ahead of me, and not super far either, but far enough that I have no hope of being first to 60 in the FC, but that's okay. I've been having a lot of fun being in the forefront of folks seeing the content. There's something to be said about being some of the first to discover things.
Like the Hunting Log replacement, Level 1 and 2 Clan Hunts. Excellent sources of XP, gil, and Centurio Seals (used for equipment at max level I believe). Doing those every day nets me about 10% of a level, which isn't too shabby at all, especially given the content seems to provide just barely enough experience to keep you abreast of itself. You pretty much need to do a few extra tidbits here and there (an extra dungeon run, a FATE or two, hunts, etc.) to be the right level when the story quests land.
|Each zone you can fly in requires 5 (specific) quests and 10 Aether Currents. Some you won't get until you're finished the zone. Others halfway through.|
But I have to admit, it's super fun once you have flight. As folks said about WoW, you feel like you're cheating when you can fly, and it's great. Some of the zones require flight to finish them, of course, and if you disliked Warlords of Draenor's propensity for difficult terrain, FFXIV is even worse on that aspect. Personally, I don't mind all the running around, and it's also great that if I level up other classes, I'll already have flight because of FFXIV's single-character system.
|Sea of Clouds from Flying Chocoboback|
I also have to admit, the story is still really, really good. Massively on rails, of course. But they've taken what they built up over 2.0 through 2.55, and they've really run with it. It's really refreshing to see that level of continuity, whereas in WoW each expansion is practically standalone and you don't need to know anything of the previous expansion to really follow the story in the new one. We'll see if this model is sustainable over many expansions, but for now, I think FFXIV sets the bar really high for story in MMOs. Internally consistent, clever, intriguing, not afraid to really shake things up, good character growth, and so on. As much character-driven as plot-driven, which is really nice.
|Churning Mists from Flying Chocoboback|
Overall I've been having an absolute blast. One of the smoothest launches I've ever seen, aside from the data center issues which still plague folks to this day. We'll see how the end-game looks once I get there, which should be soon. As Rohan over at Blessing of Kings mentioned, it is still more of the same. If you didn't like FFXIV before, you won't be convinced now. But if you enjoyed your time previously, Heavensward improves and iterates quite nicely on the formula. #FFXIV, #FirstImpression, #Heavensward
|The Churning Mists, at Night.|