Well, now that the NDA has been lifted, I can bring you an in depth look at my new crack pony. She’s something else, yet strangely familiar. Depending on what nerdy circles you stay in, you’ve either been tracking this game for years (like myself), or you’ve heard nothing about it. For those not in the loop, Aion is the “new” (it’s been out in Korea for a year) MMO from NC Soft. Finally given a release date of September 22, this game is banking heavily on its graphics, but will that be enough to dethrone reigning king WoW?
Like I’ve said before, Aion touts about their supreme graphics all the time. They have reason to; it’s a gorgeous game. From the incredibly detailed character models to the lush and vibrant world, this is the most visually stunning MMO out there. There’s a catch 22 to that though, the more visually stunning a game is, the better a computer you’ll need to run. The big draw to WoW is that any goon can play it with an off the shelf computer. With Aion, Kim and I had to upgrade both of our computers to even have a hope of playing it. But if you can run it, the game is definitely worth it. Animations are silky smooth, characters are meticulously detailed, and the world has an amazing level of immersion.
Graphics alone do not make a great game. A majority of it comes down to how it plays. For the most part it works, but it is not without some glaring flaws. While I know the game is in beta here in NA, like I said before, the game has been out for a year in Korea with this control scheme. You have the standard WASD control scheme and you can use the click to move, but the real problem comes with flying. The gimmick to the game is every character having wings and being able to fly everywhere. This is not the case. You must use the R and F keys to rise and fall respectively. This is extremely confusing as every other game uses the space bar to go up and X to go down. Seriously, every other MMO involving flying uses that control scheme. So, why not the game that makes a big selling point of universal flight? Related to the issue of controls, you have to change the controls for each character, instead of setting a universal control scheme. This just doesn’t make sense. Usually players move their characters about in the same manner, so why must I set it up for individual characters? While I’m on the subject of customization, there’s no budging the interface, not even a pixel. This is basic stuff. It should never be an issue. Fortunately, many others have pointed these issues out, so here’s hoping NC Soft takes notice and makes the appropriate changes.
Once you’ve made peace with the controls, the game plays fairly well. The game uses a combo system for each class, and it works. Combo attacks automatically replace one another resulting in smooth, fluid combat. To me, it resembled a lower grade Soul Calibur. The system made it extremely easy to string together attacks and the whole thing felt right. Aside from the combat, it felt like I had played this game before. For the first 15 minutes I hated the game. It reminded me of Lineage 2 or even a free MMO, Shaiya. While I enjoyed those games, I felt let down after looking forward to this game for so long. First impressions wore off quickly and by the end of the beta weekend, I had logged over 20 hours into the game.
Aion implements something else in the form of personal shops. At first I wondered why personal shop were needed with an AH in place, but then I thought of all the people in WoW slinging their enchantments and this seemed to fit. There’s some real merit to this, but douche bags have already ruined the system. The second weekend of beta, I saw ass hats recruiting for hardcore guilds. You know the types, “Go to our websites, fill out an application, and we’ll get back to you.” The game won’t be out for three months, why on earth would you need to fill out an application? All it would say is, “I’m unemployed, have a level 10 cleric and I just got a sweet resurrection spell!” So you already had the portal into the major city filled with idiots recruiting for their guilds, which won’t be active for another three months. There were personal shops as well, and all were cluttered together, lagging down the game and cluttering the screen with shop signs. It will only get worse once the game launches and the gold farmers start in. Sad as I am to see it fail, for the community of gamers, I would like to see the personal shops removed. As a whole, we’re not mature enough to use it properly.
The only other complaints I have are small. Kill stealing is an issue. I had many quests go longer than they should because a higher DPS class would steal my kill. A quick change to “first hit takes kill credit” and the issue is resolved. Another issue is that guild names are only 10 characters in length. Unless players get ridiculously clever (they won’t), there’s going to be problems. Lastly, you can’t invert the mouse. For some this isn’t a problem. Myself, I struggled all weekend to get used to it. Again, these should not be issues, especially for a game that has been out for some time.
After reading this, I ask myself why I want to play this game, with all its problems. Simply put, I enjoyed it. Enjoyed the world, characters, and near lack of elitist assholes. It’s the near perfect merger of City of Heroes and WoW. I don’t think it will take down WoW, but it will get a loyal fan base, just like any other MMO. After writing this, I feel conflicted about the game, but then I remember how much fun I had playing it. In conclusion, there are some neat aspects to the game, but gimmicks don’t equal greatness.