This weekend (and thanks to a most awesome person) I was able to get into the first beta event for Aion. The game has been live in Korea and China for some time, and it seems that very determined people in NA and EU can play on the Chinese servers with some language hacking mod. Anyway, I was going to wait for the NA product, which NCSoft West has spent all this time re-customizing for this culture. I had a lot of fun, and I am excited about the further forthcoming events. It is definitely high on my list for remaining 2009 games. Now a quick diptest review:
- It is hands down the best visual and aural feast in any MMO I have played in. Only Guild Wars and Lord of the Rings Online come close to beauty (I have not yet played Age of Conan). Each small pocket and sub-zone is intricately designed, and the NPC enemy concepts feel new. The modeling for everything is fantastic.
- The game engine runs smooth as silk on my 1.5 year old gaming laptop on nearly high everything (in contrast, Lord of the Rings Online can seriously chug a long in some places). Fast travel involves being flown by some sort of angelic bird at warp speed through the trees and gullies, and the framerate remained rock steady. I get load hitching in World of Warcraft on a gryphon sometimes. And, areas filled with active people were not even an issue on my processors. Serious kudos to tech wizards that wrangled the engine just-so.
- Refreshing gameplay. It’s like all the MMO’s we know and love, but just different enough to have its own drummer. Two quick things I really like: (1) enemies have a field of vision. I could actually run up behind one and whack it without it omnisciently agro-ing as soon as I get within range. This really changes things, I think, and (2) skill books. I level far out in the field, and I can just open my pre-bought skill books instead of running back in town to a trainer. Okay, I lied, three things… XP for crafting.
- Flying. It’s fun. I can rain arrows down on the unjust. The engine loves it. Enough said.
- No mob tagging. Whoever does the most damage gets the kill. It’s not horrible, and the griefing was near minimal. However, a few times another player and I were hitting the same creature without knowing whose it really was. In a genre based on efficiency, it is a tad annoying (apart from the griefing possibilities).
- Unimaginative quest design. It is mostly kill ten rats and fedex this thing. They do get a few bonus points because collecting dead-mob items was easy due to the high percentage of dropping the quest item and the quest text was generally enjoyable to read. The cut scenes were kind of nice (and reminiscent of Guild Wars), and I had a laugh-out-loud moment when I found out the quest giver’s lost pet pig of many years was spitroasted by kobolds. There was a cut scene for that moment.
- The feeling of bait-and-switch (biggest concern). Honestly, I likely would not buy Aion just for PvE (though it seems fairly solid). I am far more interested in PvPvE. However, I get the feeling I might be playing through one whole MMO in order to get to another different MMO. Granted, I did only play through the levels 1-10 tutorial zone and a few post-Ascension steps beyond. If anyone knows when the PvPvE really starts, I would love to hear because that’s what I really want to play in Aion.
- Feeling that grind is imminent. I am a quest player. I would much rather kill 30 rats in order to get a 10% dropped rat tail for a quest than kill 30 rats to hit another leveling bar. The “knowledgeable” people say that leveling is mostly quest based until levels 35-40, or so. Then to get to level 50 it becomes very grindy. The thought of this turns me off, but I will reserve judgment.
- Foreign markets are primary. It is clear that this is not just a “Korean grind-based game” brought stateside. It feels like Aion was truly made to be a worldwide MMO. However, the MMO culture in Korea, China, NA, EU, etc. are all different. Some seem to have small differences (NA and EU), and some have big differences (Korea and NA). I get the feeling that Aion players might have to get used to some mechanics not right for their MMO culture because the developers are primarily concerned with the foreign markets. I am unsure about this because it does not necessarily mean the content developers will ignore the secondary markets, but it is something to be wary of.
All in all, I had a great time. I get the feeling that I am just beginning to scratch the surface of a very solid game. I am looking forward to more beta events.
he came forth conquering, and to conquer
p.s. I swear WordPress is randomly deleting spaces on me. I apologize for any crammedtogether words. ;)