Aion: The Tower of Eternity: review

  • Fomat: PC
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: NCsoft
  • Developer: NCsoft
  • Players: Unlimited (MMO)
  • Site: www.aiononline.com

Does anyone else find the ethics of running around in the woods clubbing badgers, woodpeckers and cats to death, all in the name of career progression, to be a bit of a moral grey area? Sure, it’s an innocent animal that did nothing wrong other than entering your line of sight; but cracking its skull open with a hammer will bring you one step closer to the next level and a bigger sword. We think we’ll go for that sword.

Such is the world of grinding for experience points, which is one thing you will find yourself doing lots in NCsoft’s MMO, Aion. It’s like hard labour at times, rather than something you would do for fun, but just like ploughing a field, there are plenty of benefits if you push on and get it done. Unlike ploughing a field though, with each level it gets even harder. Sure you may start out with a tractor and breeze through it all, but soon enough it feels like you are running the entire farm with nothing but a toothbrush. This feeling certainly is not unique to Aion by any means, but just be prepared to face it.

This grind is something that always kicks in when the next level seems a billion miles away, and whereas other MMOs offer many realistic options to get XP, Aion seems to slap you in the face and tell you that violence is the way forward. Sure you can craft, gather plants and play the postman for people, but the fastest way to the top lies with indiscriminate murder.

Part cat, part goat, part flowing locks

There are the usual quests that you accept from NPCs who are too lazy to move from the same spot, happily talking to everyone who crowds around them; but all of the more rewarding missions send you to kill something and bring back its severed body parts.

The combat itself is reasonable. Click on things to start hitting them and then start using the skills you have earned through levelling up to bring more pain. The class you choose and then specialise in is key to how you will fight off everything, whether you get up close and stabby, or stay at a distance and magic or arrow things to death. To begin with there are four classes to choose from – your vanilla warrior, stealthy hit and run scout, the bright light spewing mage or the important medical expert, the priest.

With your chosen skill set in hand and your preferred method of delivering death firmly stamped in to your brain, you then set about recovering from your shockingly original bout of amnesia by helping everyone in the immediate area. You do this until you reach level nine before ascending to become a Daeva. What this means is that you grow wings and enjoy aerial antics in certain areas which is actually a really fun mechanic to play with.

A shoulder barge from this guy significantly shortens life expectancy

Flight is generally used to get around faster, but in most areas you can only fly around the major cities and not outside the walls, which does feel like a bit of a wasted opportunity. You can glide down slopes or off cliffs when in the no flight zones, but it doesn’t offer much use other than saving travel time and getting away from fights if you’re on a hill.

At this relatively low level stage you will still be wandering around safe areas with only the computer trying to outwit and kill you. The penalty of death, unlike in real life, isn’t too harsh in Aion. You lose a few XP and can choose whether to pay then or later to get it back, with the amount you lose and have to pay being relevant to your level. It means you value yourself enough not to run to a suicidal fate, but you won’t cry yourself to sleep should you get tenderised by the wildlife.

Aion is a PvPvE game, which means you will get a taste of both fighting off NPCs and getting battered by other players, there’s no way around that. Depending on which race you chose at the start of the game, you will fight as the Elyos or the Asmodians against each other in a desperate bid to make the other side stop breathing. The main PvP enclosure lies between the two factions’ land masses, called The Abyss. It’s a desolate wasteland full of floating platforms and hideous demon like monsters that make up the game’s third race, the common NPC enemy of all players called the Balaur. It is also the one place where you can fly around in all areas and partake in aerial combat, usually against other players. It adds another layer to the PvP aspects and gives you more combat options to think about.

This wing span is actually concealable. Must be a huge flap of back fat...

Griefing lower level players is rife in the world of Aion. It’s not unusual that you will be happily questing in a relatively low level PvPvE zone when a horrible death train of 12 enemy players will storm through and brutalise you. Sure this is frustrating, but first you have the sadistic pleasure knowing that they will be dead soon, and second, you can go and do exactly the same thing on their side of the world.

Aion is like gaming pizza. There is plenty of variety with a plethora of toppings that keep it interesting, but after a while it’ll all taste the same. Despite this, you will still want more of it than is medically safe. It has an addiction level that will make you ignore the phone and play it later than you should, but not enough to make you miss a good pub trip.

It has a few flaws, such as a similar amount of grinding as that required to make bread, and environmental textures that look slightly past their best before date. Push through these little niggles though and you will find that Aion is a fun, addictive MMO with some fresh ideas and no elves or orcs in sight.


8/10

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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.

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