The latest Final Fantasy XIV expansion, Stormblood has been in early access for the past 72 hours and despite constant disconnects, server crashes and long queues I’ve played through the first story arc until level 62. Here is a point by point recount of my experience with the game.
Thoughts of Level 60 – 70 Bard Changes
- Bards are now a lot more mobile thanks to the removal of “casting times” during the usage of Wander’s Minuet. The mobility is certainly welcome but I was used to the split second timing of waiting for the cast time and then moving to avoid AOEs. Not having cast time takes away from a damage bonus we had previously while Wander’s was up and active.
- Changes to Bard’s active songs are a welcomed addition. I thought it would be difficult to manage the critical strike bonus and additional effects of Wander’s Minuet, Mage’s Ballad and Army’s Paean. Surprisingly I find myself cycling from song to song rather naturally and the new rotation was starting to form muscle memory within the first hour or two.
- Pitch Perfect – the flashy new ability linked to Wander’s is probably my absolute favorite of the three changed songs. It is so satisfying to see the bright flash of light that comes with having three Pitch Perfect Charges.
- Having a “Job Gauge” makes managing procs and other timed abilities a lot easier to handle – I had feared it would have added additional “visual clutter” to the layout.
Thoughts of New Zones & Story
- After seeing three different areas of Gyr Abania, it is very clear that we aren’t in for hours and hours of simple dry desert. Instead, Gyr Abania is full of lush vegetation alongside running oasis and rivers. When your character enters the settlement of Rhelgar’s Reach giant tents, several NPCs and a large statue measuring in the 100s of feet tall greet you.
- The resistance settlements feel alive, as do the members of the resistance I’ve met thus far. For sure the stand out for me – without giving spoilers would have to be M’Naago.
- I can’t wait for my Bard, Reka Ai’a to help out the resistance and experience the tale that Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood has to offer. I’m intentionally avoiding ANY spoilers since the game is in Early Access and the general release date is tomorrow. My full thoughts will be shared throughout the next week or so.
- Stormblood has had a number of high-profile hiccups during Early Access. Throughout the first 24 hours or so the game’s “instance servers” which handle Party Finder, Duty Finder and some customized quests for Main Story crashed under the intense load. This meant that even if you got access to the game, you were stuck behind a bottleneck of players spam clicking to get into one of the two instanced early story sections that were required to continue.
- Square Enix has issued multiple statements and conducted emergency maintenance more than once on the North American and European data centers to address these issues. For the most part, the quest related bottlenecks and instance server crashes appear to be a thing of the past.
- Login times on the most crowded servers, including my home – Balmung, can take up to two and a half hours to complete. For most people this would probably be a deal killer – but I’ve struggled through the wait times thanks to Netflix and other games. So far Stormblood has delivered a positive story experience that is well worth the wait. At the peak, I’ve seen queues up to 4500 people – with 100 or so entering every 5 minutes. It doesn’t help that some players are abusing a logout glitch that keeps their player active on the server for an infinite amount of time without performing any action. This has lead to characters idling in town, taking up valuable slots, while their owners sleep or do other things.
Reka Ai’a is on her way to the Far East and the lands of Doma, where she will meet up with the Ninja Yugiri. I’m looking forward to where the story will take her, I also look forward to sharing my specific thoughts on Main Story Quest Events and Dungeons after Stormblood releases on PS4 and PC tomorrow.
Here’s hoping tomorrow’s full release doesn’t make the queue times on Balmung even worse. I wouldn’t want to have to watch the entire LOTR trilogy before continuing my journey.