Unfortunately, logistical and technical difficulties stretching for days plagued this endeavor. Yours truly was especially cursed. However, just when it seemed like the event wouldn't happen, there we were, standing in Kaisinel Academy in spiffy new duds and queued to enter what is arguably the highlight of 2.7: the PvP arenas. At this point, I forgave all previous problems because I got to commence some slaughter on a few NCsoft employees. What?!? You all know you want to! I tested my dagger and sword against Scott Hannus, producer of the game guide; two members of the game guide team, Sean Orlikowski and Ryan Compton; Adam Christensen, Associate Producer; Dom Wai, Brand Manager; and two members of the community management team, Felicia Johnson (Nyx) and Curtis Grooms (Anhtoo).
Oh, and I learned some pretty neat things about the upcoming patch as well.
So how was the experience? And just exactly how tasty are Aion's forthcoming goodies? Whet your appetite past the cut with my impressions of the two instances and the new PvP gear as well as check out a video. Then join in on the PTS server to experience for yourself.
Reading the patch notes is all well and good (whether translated or in Korean if you are lucky enough to speak the language), but there is just something about logging in and experiencing it for yourself. If seeing is believing, I believe Daevas are in for some pretty fun times in 2.7!
Don't mess with my hotbars!
OK, so literally the first thing I learned is that if you have played for any amount of time with a specific hotkey set up, even having a completely decked out character doesn't help when you can't find the right skills! Not to mention the handicap when kind-hearted devs give you a different stigma build then you are used to (I will never, ever remove ambush or shadow walk. Ever!). I suppose it was only fair, since some of the other media reps present were not used to playing at all, but so much for my opening a can of whoop a... er... strategically fighting everyone.
Why, you might ask, did I not get my hotbars set up to mirror my live game client? Well, the answer is two-fold. One, I was the Daeva-come-lately who was last one to actually log in (not counting the poor soul who dropped outright). Two, I was, uh, kinda busy checking out the new armor. Only slightly distracted by the fact that NCsoft successfully socketed everything with attack +5 manastones (in my dreams in live, right?), I was comparing stats and checking out the purchase requirements when the queue popped. And trust me, once you're inside, you don't have a lot of time to start revising your UI; the two-minute buffer between entering and starting is just barely enough time to pop those scrolls and chow on your consumables. Then you don't even really get a break between stages.
OK, OK, I know, you're shouting, "Get to it already!" So without too much more ado, I give you an evening in the arenas:
The first arena we checked out was the 10-man FFA Chaos Arena. And yes, it was a blast! Not only were there juicy dev targets, but depending on the map, there were mobs and even gatherables to help increase your score. Each item has the points it offers clearly posted above it to help Daevas decide which targets are worth going after. The leaders for each round also get a spiffy target plastered over their heads to make them easier to notice, avoid, or gang up on. For ease of communication between fights, we all entered as Elyos; however, once inside the arena, you must use visual cues to make judgments about the class and race of your opponents! Everyone is simply a red-labeled "contestant." And while you can try to arrange it so that you and friends all get into the same match to work together against others, you cannot queue as a group, and it really is pretty random. A match also cannot start until there is a minimum of six opponents.
Once inside, you are stuck in a little cage of blue light. These entrance points are scattered about, and opponents are randomly tossed in. This means you might begin with an enemy across the way or within striking distance. The map is also varied -- there is no set pattern of stages to work through. Instead, there are six different stages, and each match consists of three stages in random order. Some stages allow flight, some have more mobs, and one even has a cannon you can use against your foes. Unfortunately, we didn't manage to see every stage, and I totally wasted some screenshot opportunities because I was too busy wailing on my opponents.
Here are some clues to help maximize your experience. Watch where you walk! No joke. Many stages have some interesting little quirk that will bring death to anyone who doesn't pay attention. The swamp? What looks like innocuous water is really a powerful pool of liquid death; that DoT can two-shot you! Fluttering over lava? Don't let the screenshot fool you -- getting too close will actually put you in the range of lava spurts that can cause plenty of damage with a DoT and knock you out of the sky. See that pretty gargoyle head on the wall? Stand in front of it while someone pulls the lever and you will be crispyfied. See a single rock bridge spanning the room? Dare to step off and you can either fall or glide gracefully down to your eventual death.
On the plus side, some stages have blessed relics, a slightly hourglass-shaped item floating somewhere in the stage, which will heal whoever gets to it and clicks first. There are also treasure boxes that have some uber potions. Sadly, these potions will not last beyond the match. I am not even sure they last beyond the stage. Also, no surprise here, but pets do not last between stages either. And when you first enter the arena, you will find all your buffs have been stripped, so use that two-minute window to get yourself ready for the fight.
Duel to the deaths
Would you rather test your mettle against a single target than participate in a brawl? Then the Arena of Solitude is for you. Again, you won't know whether your opponent in the arena is a comrade or an enemy, but that really doesn't matter in here where everyone is the opposition. In here, red = dead. Only at the end of the matches will you see the names of those who participated (assuming they don't click exit so fast you can't catch them!).
While you would expect the group arena to have spacious battlegrounds, you won't necessarily anticipate the 1v1 environments. One map in particular was obviously built with the intention that duelists utilize high ground, low ground, and line of sight.
Besides the fun factor of mindless slaughter and semi-painless PvP (you don't lose any AP upon death), there is another pretty significant plus to the two new arenas: PvP gear. And not just any PvP gear, but eternal-grade. And not just eternal grade, but gear that does not cost medals to acquire! Whoa, say again? Yes, you read that right: This new gear is bought with a combination of regular crucible insignia and the courage crucible insignias. And the cost isn't even that high -- I peeked! A Daeva can earn between 20 and 75 courage insignia per match (depending on his/her score). Daevas can only enter the arena once per ticket, and tickets can only be obtained once per day via quest. However, the good news is that each ticket lasts for seven days, so instead of having to run an instance daily then wait for CD or miss out, you can save up the tickets and run either/both instances on days that are convenient for you. Daevas need only wait 15 minutes between matches before they can queue again as long as they have tickets.
So in the words of one of those red-named contestants I was going all stabbity on: Less time investment is needed in order to obtain PvP gear. This gear is not as powerful as Abyss gear (as someone put it, they "make good combines"), but it does give others a chance to actually get something and get involved in the racial warfare. Aion really seems to want to involve as many as possible in the PvP aspect of the game. So for everyone who wants to cry foul that you slaved away or your gear, flying uphill in the snow both ways, keep this in mind: Your gear is still superior, and decking others out and drawing them into the fray only increases your opportunities for PvP.
What is another way Aion is encouraging participation? Right outside of the arena entrances, there is a consumable vendor from whom you can buy special consumables to use inside the arenas really, really cheaply. The devs want players to get the full affect of fighting without going broke from consumables when using the arenas and training grounds.
Oh, and did I mention my favorite part? One set of chain has casting speed. The mace? Casting speed. The leather set I was wearing? Increased resistance to paralyze. So yah -- yum.
Speaking of medals (though unrelated to the arenas), I want to share this little 2.7 tidbit: On top of daily platinum medal quest items being lootable by the entire group, the maximum number of times you can complete each quest is increased from 20 to 40. So go get those plats! Just another case of NCsoft encouraging people to get out there in groups!
I know, everyone expects a good "but." So here are a couple of things that could use some work. Currently, when you die in the arenas, you lose experience. You don't feel any soul sickness, but you lose blue in your bar. I was informed that it shouldn't really be happening, so hopefully that gets worked out before the patch hits live servers; dropping levels is certainly a way to discourage players from participating! The other main point is that some of the stages were extremely dark. While I enjoy good ambiance, sometimes it goes too far when it is just a pale wash of shadows. I lightened a couple of the screenshots just so they would be visible (posting them here automatically darkens them a bit). Honestly, I would have liked to actually see what I was seeing. I found some of the maps to be very washed out color-wise.
In all, I don't have too many complaints. And to be honest, even without the gear to work toward, I would be participating in these arena battles because I thought they were a blast! I look forward to diving right back in. And keep an eye out here next week -- you might just get a chance to square off against me during a livestream.
Soaring through the Aionosphere, MJ Guthrie touches down weekly to bring you Wings Over Atreia. Featuring tips, guides, and general snippets of life in Aion, the column is better than Tutty-on-a-stick, ackackackackackack! Have a suggestion to share? No need to bribe a Shugo -- just send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.