Aion is another fantasy based MMORPG. You may be thinking, “oh gee another fantasy themed MMO, whoop dee do.” There are numerous other MMOs out on the market, so what is so special about this one? Flying with wings, which can lead to aerial combat at later levels, PvPvE environments, gorgeous graphics, and the one thing MMOs could only wish for at launch, polish.
See, Aion has already been out for a year. Not here, obviously, but in Korea where it was developed. Aion was released last year, and I can see why it has become extremely popular. Even though as I write this I have only made it to level sixteen, I have really enjoyed the game. Before I start talking about Aion, let me tell you a bit about my MMO history. This is not my first MMO, but can you guess what was? I’ll give you a hint, World of Warcaft. I started playing WoW in December 2004 and have been off and on with that ever since. I was in the Beta for Warhammer Online, and have played the Lord of the Rings MMO, as well as Tabula Rasa, Age of Conan, Vanguard, and Guild Wars. I would always come back to Warcraft though, as it seemed other MMOs just could not keep me interested long enough to continue past the free month. The only MMO that stuck with me was Tabula Rasa, with its fast-paced combat and futuristic setting, up until it was shut down in February.
Enough of that gibberish nonsense, lets talk about Aion. First thing I want to mention is that this game is beautiful. I mean Lord of the Rings looked good, but Aion looks so much better. It uses the Cry-engine which powered FarCry and Crysis, so do not expect to be playing this game on a $500 laptop. I am also very impressed with the character animations. You almost have to make a melee character just to see them do a front flip and slam their giant polearm down on the enemy. Every animation I have seen is very fluid, and nothing looks out of place. My only minor complaint with the graphics is that some of the textures on landscapes look as if they were not finished properly.
Character customization is insane! You could spend hours making your character look exactly the way you want. Body size, hip size, eye colour, it is all there. There are two playable races called the Elyos and the Asmodians, while there is a third unplayable faction called the Balaur. Both Elyos and Asmodians look very similar. Elyos look more human and angelic than their claw-footed, dark-winged enemies, the Asmodians, though.
You will feel right at home going about Aion questing and killing creatures. There are many go kill ‘x’ number of mobs, talk to certain people, doing errands for people because they are too lazy type quests. The interesting thing about the quests is that you are given ones called Campaign quests. These Campaign quests often have short cinematic videos to show you what it is you need to do (sometimes regular quests have these cinematic events as well). What I really like is how Aion has added a few handy features, which if you have ever played World of Warcraft you will know what I’m talking about. The game gives you a quest-helper feature. You can open up your quest log and important items, and the NPCs or locations will be highlighted in blue. You can click on the text, and it will bring up the map showing you the location of your target.
So far I have not experienced much grouping, although I do believe grouping in later levels becomes very important. In my experience soloing has been enjoyable, however killing mobs seems to take longer than I am used to. Levels one through ten will probably be the most difficult. When you start the game you can choose from four classes: Warrior, Mage, Scout and Priest. Once you reach level nine you will Ascend, gaining wings, and you will advance allowing you to pick between two other classes. I now have a Spiritmaster at level sixteen and a Gladiator at level thirteen. I found the melee classes have a harder time questing and killing mobs before they have Ascended. Both my characters are a blast to play which makes it difficult for me to pick just one, and I am always left changing between the two.
Combat is fairly standard with a mix of auto attacking and using your skill based abilities. What makes if different than other standard combat sequences is the use of what Aion calls “chains.” These chain abilities, when available, will replace the current ability you used on the hot-bar so you can keep pressing the same key to continue your chain. As you level up you will learn more chains as well as expand each chain with more abilities . Eventually you learn multiple moves on the same chain level forcing you to choose between moves. Say goodbye to crowded action bars! Hurray!
For people who enjoy more than simple questing and grinding, there are crafting professions to choose from. It appears you can have as many professions as you want, although the most I have had are two professions for one character. The professions are fairly standard, such as weapon-smithing, armor-smithing , tailoring, and alchemy. I have noticed crafting takes up a lot of time and money, so you are probably better off saving money without crafting. Buying your equipment as opposed to making your own seems to cost about the same so it is basically a personal preference. I have no idea how effective crafting becomes later in the game, so perhaps it is in fact eventually necessary.
Now you might be wondering how you are able to get from place to place so quickly. Running is of course an option, but we all know how painful it can be to run from region to region. Most games have some sort of travel system implemented, and Aion is no exception with its flight paths and teleports. Flight paths are for traveling within a single region whereas teleporting will take you to either your main city (Sanctum for Elyos) or nearby regions. Traveling does not come free, so expect to pay for a quick leap across the map. The other method of travel you acquire when you ascend is wings. The system works quite well, as it allows you one minute of flight time from take off to landing. You may also glide by pressing the space-bar which results in the use of less flight time. Some areas I have come across do not allow flying which is a shame. Taking away my flight ability so soon after I get it!
To sum up my experience, this game has had a pretty good launch minus the gold spammers. Some servers get lag spikes and will crash due to very high populations, however it seems NCSoft has begun to take care of that. The game looks great, plays great and is very well polished. Most MMOs do not have that polished feel, which I am guessing can be found here due to it having been out for a year already. That extra level of polish really pushes it ahead of other MMOs , helping it stand out in a fairly crowded MMO market. I will have to see if that polish is still there in later content. Let’s hope so.