Like everyone else and their pets, I’ve been playing a bit of Aion this weekend. If I had to summarize the first 11 levels: Very nicely done MMO, everything done by the book. You find a lot of elements you know from other MMOs, but they have provided a very streamlined experience. If you’ve ever played some other MMO, the game fits like a glove (just with cheesy cutscenes). If you’ve played multiple MMOs, here’s how they compare in my opinion:
- The combat system is like Runes of Magic with a little dash of EverQuest II. Fights are over faster than in EQII, roughly as fast as in Runes of Magic. The combo opportunities are interesting and tactically valuable even early on in the game. For example, you open with Ferocious Strike II which simply does extra damage but opens up some damage mitigation shield skill. So you use that in order not to lose too much HP in the beginning of the fight. Next you do some defense removal skill on the enemy, and follow up with a shield bash that stuns. This way you’ve already mitigated or prevented a lot of damage. Now that your Ferocious Strike II has recharged, pick it again. The shield isn’t back up yet, so just follow up with a plain extra damage hit. Fun! And more intuitive than Runes of Magic because your chaining possibilities are actually listed right on the screen, like in EverQuest II.
- The chat system seems fundamentally like WoW’s. For some weird reason, unknown /-commands are not filtered out, however, so you’ll be standing there like a complete fool saying things like “/away” to everybody.
- Travel system: It’s a mix of Runes of Magic’s teleporters and WoW’s flight paths. You can fly from town to town, but to get from some continents to some others, you need to use direct teleportation. It just costs in-game money, no teleportation reagents like in RoM.
- The story and cutscenes are cheesy like something out of Creative Writing for Beginners. Even the names of places and people are stolen from a wide variety of mythologies and sagas. There’s “Brunthild” who is surely Brünhilde from the Nibelungenlied, there’s “Vifrost” which is Bifrost from Norse mythology, you’ll find Daevas, you’ll find Balder (Balder or Baldur from Norse Mythology), you’ll encounter Boromer (Boromir? Geez). This sort of mixing and matching is something you see often in Japanese games, it seems that Koreans like a similar style.
- Item socketing and upgrades is almost exactly copied from Runes of Magic. Of course Diablo II did it first, but Aion’s implementation is similar to the one in Runes.
- Travel speed is pretty slow if you’re not using a flight path, I’d say about the same speed as WoW. Your wings are nearly useless as travel aid, you can only fly for 60 seconds at a time.
- The art style is somewhere between EQII and WoW. Glittery armor and devilish-looking characters, water effects, less comic-ish look than WoW.
- You will do a million fetch and kill quests. Every single quest I’ve encountered had unimaginative text and was of the fetch this item/kill 10 rats variety.
That sounds like it’s a bad game, but it’s really not. You just won’t encounter anything new in the first 10 levels. I’m very much looking forward to aerial combat and the oft-advertised PvPvE battles that apparently start midgame and continue on into endgame.
It’s a very beautiful looking game, it feels solid and it seems to have an interesting melee combat system. Could be worse. With Runes of Magic being so similar and continuously improving, I wonder if the big battle of MMOs will be between Aion and RoM. American players are still sceptical of RMT systems in general, but RoM’s is very well executed and RoM is successful in Asia and Europe, so I think the Americans have nothing to fear. Aion, on the other hand, demands a monthly subscription. At this point, I can’t say if it’s worth the subscription, I’d probably have to reach endgame. For the price of an Aion subscription you can get one hell of a lot of gadgets and useful stuff in RoM, though.
The fact is that if you’ve played some other MMOs, you’ll have a very easy time getting into Aion. There is nothing radical in the first ten levels that would force you to rethink any of the concepts you know. You have your basic classes (Tank/Melee DPS/Magic DPS/Healer), but now they’ve got wings. You have your basic play mechanics and fast and entertaining battles. You have your basic series-of-quest-hubs (SOQH?) progression system that leads you around the world, from place to place. That’s all I could see in the first 11 levels.
Let’s finish this off with a screenshot. After 50 seconds of flight time, I was warned that I would soon fall out of the sky, and so I had to find somewhere safe to sit in Altgard Fortress: