Limsa Lominsa is empty, my belts are unequipped and I've been casually deafened by Shadowbringers' title music one last time—Final Fantasy 14 has officially kicked off its maintenance in preparation for Endwalker launching in early access on December 3.
A new expansion means big changes, a new story and long login queues. There's a lot to look forward to with Endwalker's release, and some things to be wary of, too. Here's what you can expect during the launch weekend and the weeks beyond.
The end of an era
MMO stories can span decades, and Final Fantasy 14's current narrative has been rolling since 1.0 launched in 2010. That's all coming to an end in this expansion, with Endwalker being the final chapter in the Hydaelyn/Zodiark arc. It's not the end of Final Fantasy 14 altogether, just this particular story. While post-release patches usually continue the story, everything will be wrapped up in 6.0, with future updates beginning an entirely new chapter.
Endwalker sees the Warrior of Light back in The Source after being whisked away to a different world for the entirety of Shadowbringers. Things aren't looking too great though—the last of the remaining Ascians are trying to destroy the current world in order to restore their old one. The whole thing looks set to culminate in a big battle between the Warrior of Light and the Garlean Empire, and I can't wait to see just how this decade-long story will tie up all its loose ends.
New areas like the Grecian-looking Old Sharlayan and colourful Radz-at-Han look proper stunning. I'm especially excited to journey to the latter—Thavnair is a region I've been interested in for a while thanks to the Dancer class, and I love the Middle-Eastern and Indian influences. We'll also be on the frickin' moon at some point, which is just about as badass as things can get.
Endwalker is introducing two new classes: melee DPS class Reaper and shield healer class Sage. Reaper's edgy outfit and giant scythe weapon have finally convinced me to try out a melee DPS class. Sage is easily the most badass healer yet, being able to use the damage you deal to aid your allies. Despite being a White Mage main I find other healing classes a little intimidating, but I know I'll be unable to resist Sage's cool factor. Reaper will be sharing Maiming gear with Dragoon, while Sage will share the Healing gear with White Mage, Astrologian and Scholar.
Healers especially will likely find themselves waiting for dungeons longer than usual as tons of players pick up Sage, some of whom will be dabbling in healing for the first time. Consider switching to a tank class for a shorter wait, or buddy up with a tank friend.
New expansions always see a jump in traffic since it's pretty common for players to take a well-deserved break before a big patch, but Final Fantasy 14 is currently experiencing record numbers of active players even with the pre-expansion lull, and that number's likely to increase significantly from December 3.
Director and producer Naoki Yoshida has said that the servers have been optimised in preparation for the influx, along with an increased cap on simultaneous logins. There's a pretty good chance you'll find yourself queueing in the thousands regardless, and the best thing you can do is be patient, especially if you're a free trial user. Those with paid subscriptions will be given priority, meaning those with a trial account will have to wait until paid players are in. So grab a drink, get your snacks ready, have a stretch before you spend the next several hours hunched over like a goblin… this is more a reminder for me than you, honestly.
If you're on a particularly busy server, there's the option to right-click on your character's name at the login screen and select "Visit Another World Server." It'll automatically send you to a lower-population server, hopefully alleviating some strain on the busier ones. Yoshida also warned if servers cap out on logins, you might get an "Error 2002." This just means the Data Center queue has hit its 17,000 capacity. Give it a few minutes and try again.
Stat squish and belt removal
Final Fantasy 14 has been dealing with some pretty big numbers lately. Damage, health, even XP requirements have been getting a little out of hand as level caps increase and gear becomes stronger. With the removal of belts happening in Endwalker, it's provided the perfect time to adjust the numbers and squash them down back to manageable amounts.
Square Enix says the stat squish shouldn't change things too much across your regular level-synced dungeons, trials and raids. However, the team is anticipating that it'll make tackling older content unsynced a bit harder, like solo-farming for mounts in extreme trials. To make up for that, a small buff is being put in place when in an undersized party, which should mostly make up the difference.
The reduction of numbers across stats and experience means that all mid-level progress has had to be reset. Any classes and retainers that were part-way through a level will see earned experience dropped down to zero.
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't very excited for the arrival of male Viera in Endwalker. Final Fantasy lore fiends will be shaking their heads in disappointment, but I welcome the bunny boys with open arms. This is the first game to show male Viera, with Final Fantasy 12 only ever having their female counterparts, as they live separately. They look fantastic, and I can't wait to see the catboy population mysteriously plummet in the first few weeks of Endwalker's release.
But what about after 6.0?
While December 3 will see loads of new stuff added, there'll be even more to come over the next several months. Patch 6.01 lands on December 21 and adds Asphodelos, the first of the new eight-player Pandaemonium raid series. The savage version comes out with Patch 6.05 on January 4, along with new gear.
A lot of juicy stuff is being saved for Patch 6.1, further down the line, like the new housing ward Empyreum. You can visit the first ward from 6.0, but won't be able to purchase anything until 6.1 arrives. It'll also introduce the new lottery system for housing, saving your precious mouse and fingers from endless clicking to nab a plot.
PvP will be receiving a much-needed overhaul, retiring The Feast in favour of a new mode that feels very Overwatch-y. Skill-based matchmaking is being implemented, too, along with new rewards and a battle pass-style progression system.
No word on when Patch 6.1 will release yet, but there'll be plenty to keep you busy throughout 6.0 anyway. There are some dense patch notes over on The Lodestone that go into more detail on what will be coming. You can't play right now anyway, so might as well do a bit of light reading eh?