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Aion is this year's big Massivley Multiplayer Online Role Play Game . Originally released a year ago in Asia, it's now getting a Western release and has been anticipated by a lot of MMO players. It seems to me like a very solid, fun but fairly un-original game.
Wings are the biggest selling point in Aion. In every screenshot or wallpaper you see advertising the game, the character have wings. It's pretty much the only thing that they do differently from other mainstream MMOs like World of Warcarft. character with wings mean flying combat. This adds more tactical gameplay, as you now have to look at the battlefield in 3D.
You'll get your wings at level 10, with a short cut-scene showing you're your 'ascension', and then wings bursting out of your character's back dramatically. Then, the cut scene ends and you're told you can't fly in the capital city. Oh, and you can only fly for a minute, then you have to wait for your wings to 'recharge'.
So, you move on to the next area, where you get treated to a short flying tutorial in a fortress. Move out of the fortress, and once again, flying is disabled in this zone. Ok, I can understand why flying isn't allowed everywhere, it would totally trivialize combat if you could fly away when you look like losing, or fly away from a monster without wings to cast a spell. But the one minute restriction is just lame, even though it gets longer as you level up. I'm sure that it'll get much more use in the Abyss area, where flying is allowed everywhere, but until level 25 you're kind of locked out of there.
It's fun to run around the level blowing things up, then turning into a car and zooming away.
Any MMO has problems when it first launches, usually in the form of server queues and bugs. However, as I mentioned, Aion has already been out for about a year in South Korea so bugs seem a little less exscusable. Luckily, as far as I can tell, there aren't any. In fact, the game is very polished and balanced.
Beyond being confused by the key bindings at first (P for Profile instead of C for Character) once I started playing, everything worked very well. That is if I could actually get into a server to play. A while ago, NC Soft bragged that Aion had 400,000 pre-orders. And yet, when it came to the head start offered to the people who pre-ordered, there were huge queues on most servers. How is this possible? They knew that they would have exactly 400,00 people playing in the head start, people who had probably been in the beta and who were probably going to be subscribers. And yet, every server was filled with people still waiting to get in. Now that the game has been released, the problem has obviously got worse and it doesn't seem like there are a lot more servers.
I can understand NC Soft's reluctance to add more servers. When Warhammer Online was released, they had a similar problem and solved it by essentially throwing servers at the players. However, when the free month of game time ran out, and the latest World of Warcraft expansion was released, many people quickly swapped games, leaving all those servers empty.
In a Player vs Player game like Warhammer or Aion, an empty server is one of the worst things can happen, because meaningful realm wide Player vs Player fights are basically impossible. The way NC Soft are going, they'll end up with all of the servers filled nicely. However, I feel like they've set their sights too low. As I said earlier, those 400,000 pre-orders are almost guaranteed subscribers. If your system can't even deal with them, let alone any new players, you need to do something. Of course, this should be a fairly short term problem, and in a month or two the problem should have been fixed. Hopefully Aion hasn't lost a large portion of it's player base before then.
At the end of the day, you're going to be killing ten rats.
If you've ever played a MMO before, you've played the first 25 levels of Aion. At the end of the day, you're going to be killing ten rats. It doesn't matter if you're playing World of Warcraft, Warhammer or Aion, you're going to be grinding, and the amount of time spent grind here is amazing. I'm about halfway into the second zone, and every quest fits into the MMO trinity – 'Kill 10 rats', 'Take this package somewhere else', 'Talk to this guy'.
Like I said, every MMO has this kind of semi-hidden grind. But Aion takes it to a whole new level. Heck, even back three years ago, World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade had more interesting quests than this, and The Wrath of the Lich King is miles ahead. Not only are the quests grindy, but sometimes there isn't even the pretence of a setup. Sometimes you'll find yourself with no more quests to do, and you'll just have to clear an area of every monster in your path until you level up and unlock some more quests.
However, as I understand it, I'm in the boring bit of the game. I'm level 14. You unlock the ability to head into the Abyss (the game's Player vs Player hub) at level 25. The first dungeon opens at level 25. Now those could be really awesome, or they could be pretty awful, I don't know. But although at the level I am at, the game seems solid but fairly uninspiring, be aware that this probably isn't representative of the entire game.
To sum up this game – been there, done that. Almost nothing is new. Flying combat is the only thing I haven't seen before, but as I've said it has some very lame restrictions considering it's one of the key advertised features. Everything else about the game is solid, it all works. It's grindy but it does it well, and I had fun whilst playing. At least, that is my impression so far, although I hope that it changes at level 25 when the Player vs Player focus really comes into play and I can get stuck into fortress combat and massive realm Player vs Player.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
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