Aion Weekend Wrapup

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:

The Good:

  • 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.

The Bad:

  • 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 Unsure:

  • 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. ;)

17 thoughts on “Aion Weekend Wrapup”

  1. I’m sure hundreds of people will appreciate this piece, but technically this beta weekend was covered by an NDA unless you managed to get a press key..? :S

    I will respond to some of your bullets based on what I know of the Korean version! ;)

    Re: PvPvE – Levels 1-10 are PvE-focused and help you figure out the gameplay. Levels 10-20 are PvE-focused and help you figure out your class. Levels 20+ apparently get you more focused on the war. Word on the street is that you can’t PvP until rank 25. I’m not quite sold on this concept either…

    Re: The grind – All we can hope is that NCsoft truly does Westernize Aion and gets rid of that grind people are talking about in Korea…

    Re: Worldwide release – Funny, since I had this exact same chat with my friend last night (he’s in beta too!). We highly doubt NCsoft West will have anything to do with the actual programming of Aion just feedback gathering, so specific Western features will be coming straight from Korea. This is kind of like the Mythic/GOA relationship. Here’s hoping NCsoft HQ is willing to make the necessary adjustments for our gaming style/tastes or Aion won’t do as well as it could in the West…

    Can’t really comment on the first two sections since they are related to my weekend’s experience.

  2. “I’m sure hundreds of people will appreciate this piece, but technically this beta weekend was covered by an NDA unless you managed to get a press key..? :S”

    Indeed. =)

  3. Seems kind of odd to me that they would NDA this, I mean isn’t it already released in Korea? How much can they change that an NDA would protect that you can’t find out already from the released version?

  4. Yeah, I don’t think many people are adhering to the NDA anyway. Just look at all the reviews on AionSource, the “official fansite.” :P

  5. I am adhering to the NDA I agreed to. I would never break an NDA. But yeah, I doubt places that feed on beta leaks will really get any meaty content this time around. 10,000 people are too excited. :)

  6. I’m having a hard time getting excited about anything coming out right now. I’ve gone far into the wait and see mode for these games. Prove your game is fun before I’ll give you one thin dime.

  7. Looking forward to Aion. I heard you can pre-order it and get a guaranteed beta invite? Anyone know anything about this for the UK?

    I imagine the game will be grindy although I’m guessing NCSoft will just up the leveling speed to compensate. Doubt they will be able to engineer any more interesting quests.

  8. The game just seems like too much of the same thing for me.

    I agree that the visuals are astounding, but the gameplay itself is just standard fare (with more than a few annoying bits tossed in to counter the nice things).

    I think we’ll see a quick turnaround just like we did with AoC/WAR. People love to have something new and shiny to play with (especially when its for free in beta) but then when it comes down to it and people realize they’re grinding out the same old quests for nothing but a glorified battleground experience in the end-game I think Aion will quickly become the next target of ire.

  9. I’m waiting for the NDA to be lifted or NCSoft to give me permission before commenting on my blog, but I agree with your good and bad.

  10. @Spitfires – Not sure about the UK but if you pay the $5 deposit on a pre-order from Gamestop, it will get you into the beta.

  11. Re: The grind – All we can hope is that NCsoft truly does Westernize Aion and gets rid of that grind people are talking about in Korea…

    From a post on Aionsource a long time ago, when people were kicking up a fuss about “translation” taking so long, aparently this is one of the items that will be “westernized”.

    Their defense of it taking so long to translate was that they wern’t just translating it they were adding extras and tweaking the game to make it more appealing to a western market.

    As to how this will look in the end we’ll see, the Beta we we’re playing was also the 1.0 version, 1.2 is out in Live so we’re a couple of versions behind as in most Betas.

    Im betting people who have seen the CN/KO versions won’t see differences for a while yet, at least until we start seeing it patched up. ^^

  12. I still don’t get the PVPVE part. I’m actually not into PVP at all, so would it be a waste to look at this game? Or is the PVP confined to an area, ala DAOC?

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