Monday, June 22, 2015

[FFXIV] Flying Through Heavensward

Having opted into the Heavensward Early Access, the past weekend has been super fun binging on excellent MMO content. Well, when you can beat the lobby login boss, anyhow. My Paladin is 58, 20% away from 59 (max is 60), and I've been having a blast following the story, getting flight in each zone, and running dungeons and trials. 

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.
The Launcher would rarely bail with an opaque HTTPS error, but otherwise it worked pretty handily. However, once you got in you had to get into your data center. That is still a magnificent pain in the ass. The Data Center connections would mysteriously fail with a 2002 or 5006 error (not sure what each one is, but they're clearly server-side errors), and then the client would bail to desktop. Sometimes it would quit to dektop, sometimes it would crash to desktop. From there, you had to relaunch the launcher, sign in again, and relaunch FFXIV.

Repeat many, many times until you happened to get 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.
Once you're in, then you get to sit in the World queue. Thankfully they've generally been 30 people at max, and it goes really quick, so it's really no bother at all. I wish they'd develop a queue for getting into the data center. That'd be nice rather than your desktop client constantly bailing.

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 speaking of flying, it's interesting that they have an attunement per zone. WoW's solution isn't too far off FFXIV's, though FFXIV requires specific quests and finding all the Aether Currents in a zone before you can let your Chocobo stretch its wings.

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
The Sea of Clouds and Churning Mists zones especially show what a zone can look like if designed with flight in mind from the start. Not unlike WoW's Storm Peaks, really. Lots of vertical, nooks and crannies to find once you have flight. And these zones are gorgeous.

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
Also speaking of continuity, unlike WoW again where they sort of reset difficulty each expansion, the trials and dungeons are comparable in difficulty to some of the more recent patches. The first dungeon was relatively easy, but the dungeon bosses get a fair bit more complex as you go up in levels. The trials, too, have a lot going on in them, and if you hadn't already learned how to play the game in earlier content, you'd probably be dead many times over in the current content.


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.


  1. The best part about flying is that this game never really finishes zones. Come patch time, you'll be flying to a zone in no time - if it isn't sending you to Ul'dah, Limsa, or Gridania that is.

    I think FFXIV does a good job of not just creating new areas to explore but using old areas too in the expansion. So, I don't feel like I've moved to Ishgard and now there all of the time, but rather feel like Eorzea just got bigger. The old zones, the old world we've come to know is still there and it's still relevant.

    Having never played but heard about it, it doesn't seem to be the case there? More of new territory, new story sort of thing?

    I don't know, I just feel like FFXIV way of handling thing makes it feel like my game is bigger because the old map isn't "dead".

    1. Yes, I rather enjoy that the old content isn't necessarily obsolete. And I absolutely agree with you in the it makes the world feel bigger. In WoW, and many other MMOs, the exact opposite is the problem: you move on to a new continent, and outside of a capital city, you never go back unless you're soloing old content.

      Of course, I'll be honest, if they didn't have a robust teleport system, I think we'd dread getting sent back to older parts of the world rather than enjoy the trip.

  2. I agree it's been a great launch :)
    And story really is their thing, so I don't mind the rails at all. SE are sticking to their guns and they're doing it well for the most part. I just wish they'd also fix some of the annoying stuff sometime - not being able to queue with a chocobo or unchecking quests is getting on my nerves atm.