Aion: hands-on preview

Swords, magic and the internet are a fairly mainstream cocktail these days when it comes to role playing games. The concept of Aion itself is hardly new – with so many swashbuckling, fire conjuring adventures set before the time of deodorant and firearms, maybe a new angle needs to be taken on it.

Aion at first appears to be a cookie cutter MMO with very familiar concepts. You start out by picking a side – Elyos or Asmodian – designing a character, and picking a class from the only four professions that seemed to exist in the past according to games (a mage, a warrior, a priest or a scout). You then find your character waking up with amnesia and the desire to start helping every stranger in sight. Sounds pretty innovative so far, eh?

You then spend your first ten levels going around the starting area seal clubbing, or rather, killing lots of non player characters to get experience and loot. You also start completing optional and campaign quests for the various people you meet, helping you learn the ropes and build up your character’s abilities in a controlled environment.

Things get slightly more unique upon reaching level ten, at which point your character ascends. At this point you go through a relatively simple campaign quest which reveals that you are a Daeva, a divine angel creature originally created to battle against the evil Balaur race. Having said that, at this stage you are still a while away from seeing any Balaur, as the next ten levels are spent in another, more dangerous starter like area. You will also not see anyone else from the rival faction meaning you are PVP safe for the time being.

After ascending you will be able to unfurl impressive wings to fly around certain areas which makes the game feel a lot more free form and unrestricted. Initially you have a minute of flight time and whilst airborne you can do most things that you would normally do on the ground but in an entirely new dimension.

Unfortunately, as awesome as it is being able to fly you can not do it in all areas, especially where it would actually be a tactical advantage (which seems a missed opportunity). Admittedly this is in the quite early areas of the game but if flight is being pegged as one of the selling points for Aion, it feels like you should be able to use it more than is currently allowed. At that stage being able to fly around and pick your fights by swooping down like an angel with a grudge feels like a special treat, rather than the normal thing that is done. In later areas however, it does become more integral, you just have to work for it.

The other thing about ascension is that it forces you to specialise your character a bit more. For example, in the case of the warrior, once past level ten, they must decide if they want the additional gank of the gladiator, or the formidable tank of the templar. Likewise, a priest can become a cleric – the ultimate healer – or they can follow the path of the chanter, and inspire strength among allies.

Although it might not be anything radically new, Aion is not going to jerk you suddenly from a comfort zone, which is a nice feeling. All the usual elements are there, but it feels refreshing somehow. The graphics are very good, especially when lined up against the wall with other fantasy MMOs. There are so many differerent character models; it’s nice to see the sheer variety of enemies spread around. Each area feels alive and buzzing, like a delicate eco system designed to help the player level up, whilst remaining challenging.

The most important aspect of a game like Aion is of course the other people you play with. Forming groups with other players is simple and can happen quite naturally if you are all hanging around a mission start area dying a lot. If you like the same people that much you can form a legion, the equivalent of a guild. Banding together is important for some of the tougher quests and areas filled with high level enemies, and it makes the whole experience more fun. Find some nice loot but worried there will be a fight over it? No problem. Aion has a dice rolling system that automatically kicks in, meaning that it’s a bit of a lottery who gets the nice spoils of battle. Can’t be more brutally fair than that can you?

Aion is a good, fun MMO that is showing a lot of potential, and should be a blast when it is released on PC later this month on the 25th.

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Written by Anthony H

Anthony has been playing games for far too much of his life, starting with the MS-DOS classic Mario is Missing. Since then his tastes have evolved to include just about anything, but his soft spot lies with shooters and the odd strategy game. Anthony will inspire you with his prose, uplift you with his wit and lie to you in his biography.

Leave a Reply