This is our last week with NCsoft's Aion, so we want to make sure to give it a proper send-off. If you haven't been following along, I spent the last six weeks with Aion, exploring the game as a brand-new player would, with a little help from your suggestions along the way.
So did I enjoy myself? What's my overall impression of the first 23 levels of the game? Most importantly: did I have fun? Keep reading after the jump to find out what I thought.
I've discovered a lot about this game in the last six weeks. Initially, way back in beta when I first played this game (into launch), I enjoyed it, but it just didn't grab me. I actually think Sera pinned it down in one of her Anti-Aliased articles when she said the game had no soul. At the time, it was an accurate statement. But now I don't think it's a matter of the soul missing from the game, rather we don't see it because we don't know how to find it. We miss the game's soul because other games have taught us that we must level quickly, and quest text is only an obstacle on the path to max level. You can play that way in Aion, but you'll step all over its soul.
I never got past level 12 or so in those early days, constantly recreating new characters (on multiple servers, both Elyos and Asmodian) to see what I liked the best. Frankly, I'd get them to their winged stage, remind myself that flying is very limited in this game and quit.
I had to force myself to stick it out this time around. I had planned to do that with any game I play in this Choose my Adventure series, because I'm always open to what a game can become later and I realize that there is just so much more to any MMO after the first few levels. Although I don't consider level 23 to be that far into the game, I would say that the changes in Aion from 1-23 are not that vast.
But throughout my time forcing myself to play the game, I actually began to enjoy it. As I mentioned previously, joining a real legion and playing with other people helped this tremendously. I still consider myself primarily a solo player, but Aion is just not a solo game. This isn't really a bad thing.
So now I stand in the snowy start of Morheim, killing darus, wolves and ettins until my fingers bleed. I actually enjoy the coin quests because it's this strange sense of security in knowing what to expect. I know that if I kill 10 of each, I'll be able to run back to town for my reward and do it again. But this, my friends, is grinding. When players tell me that you don't actually start grinding until later in the game, what they mean is: "It gets a lot worse." And that scares me a bit, because I can't do this for 27 more levels.
- The game is gorgeous. From landscapes to armor to weapons to animations and effects, the eye candy helps with the game's enjoyment.
- The lore is unique. While still technically a fantasy game, it's not full of your run-of-the-mill elves, dwarves and humans.
- The game is not easy. I consider this much to be a "good" part, but there's a flip side to this which I've included in the "bad" below.
- The game is very rewarding. As MMO gamers, we joke about the carrot on a stick. Aion does that well, as the rewards are plentiful for quests, PvP and crafting. It really does keep you going.
- The existing community is very strong. I found myself seeing the same names and faces every time I play. When the call goes out to defend against Elyos attack, general chat explodes with volunteers and directions on how to win back the fortress.
- The game's difficulty level is a deterrent to many MMO players. While I think challenge in a game is certainly a good thing, Aion does it all wrong. The game gives you two options after about level 10: play the normal storyline and quests with a good group... or grind. Grinding is by far the easiest and quickest way for a solo player to level in the early stages of the game. Since everyone is used to easy leveling (thanks Blizzard), Aion is a bit jarring for those scared of the G word.
- Speaking of which, the grind could certainly be considered a bad part of this game. The reward for that grind is certainly there (which is why people do it), but that type of gameplay cannot be sustained for too long.
- Flying isn't everywhere. Guess what? When I saw those initial ads and promotional videos for the game, I was excited to fly. I can understand how it's important to work your way up to wings (at level 10), but then once you get them, they're severely limited to certain areas. In a game with no mounts, flying needs to be more utilized.
- The game is very linear. As a Guild Wars player, I know all about storylines on rails. That doesn't mean I have to like it. I would love to be able to explore more of the game's landscape. While flying!
- Many of the maps appear to be copies of each other. I'd like to see more of a variety in monsters and landscapes, without rolling an opposing faction on another server.
Overall, I don't think Aion is half as bad as many people make it out to be. It just needs its niche market, and that's hard to target these days unless you're a "casual" game. Advertising the game as one where you can fly around on wings was a mistake, since you can't fly all the time. Aion is NOT World of Warcraft with wings. It's a PvE game that morphs into a PvP game. I don't know many people who are willing to be as dedicated to both as is needed for this game.
Will I continue my subscription? Well, I bought a three-month package when this project began, and I have about five weeks left on that. I plan to keep playing through those five weeks and see what the rest of the game offers. I'd like to go back and play the game a bit differently, not concentrating on leveling as quickly as I can. I may even make an alt or two, experimenting with the other classes. If it doesn't grab me by the end of those five weeks though, I do believe this is its last chance.
If you're a regular player, or are just curious about trying the game out, look me up on the Lumiel server. I'm the burly-bearded Asmodian Spiritmaster by the name of Sargyen.
Next week you will pick the game that we'll be spending six more weeks with, but I'm going to mix it up a bit. Krystalle Voecks will be taking her turn at the wheel, doing your bidding through every step of whichever game you choose for her. Be gentle!