AION – My personal review

AION – The Tower of Eternity

Below I want to share my personal opinion on various aspects of the game that lead to my decision
to stay with another game.

I was playing Aion since the very first European Closed Beta.
During the beta phases and especially in the so called Open beta the game started to bore me already.
However, I was giving it a shot because I was certain in the live version the game will have more to offer once
im beyond the levels I played in the beta’s. My highest level here was 17 with a Chanter.

Now the game is live, I played it for the first free month and I decided not to open an abonnement.
I played a Chanter up to level 32, got all my spells, some blue items, 6k Abyss points and some sieges in Abyss.

The graphics
Wonderful. Everything looks fine, spells look from beautiful to stunning to flashing.
I love how the world reflects on my character and how I can watch the movements very good on my enemies.
The game really shines with weather effects (far view lightning, rain) and shiny plate armour that simply looks cool.

The performance in general is great. The engine does a good job.

The soundtrack
You can make or break a game with the soundtrack. Does the music fit while you walk trough a desert?
Does it feel lively when you run into a crowded city?
Yes, it definitely does. The soundtrack is a wonderful piece of work and definitely worth it to keep the sound on
while playing.

Some feel it a little bit weird to have this “techno-like” music style in the PvP siege area the Abyss.
I say this music fits the fast paced group based battles there and the art style of the Abyss.
While simple to save resources on the engine to handle more players it is still beautiful.

The controls are much better since the beta.
Almost all control-related bugs are gone (as far as I can tell).
Only the issue of stopped auto-attack is still there but the situation improved.
You can use keyboard or mouse for movements and attack alike.
Its simple and easy. ‘Nuff said.

The only negative aspect in controls is targeting.
In front of me is a dead monster, shining in blue so I know there is loot for me.
However my party is still fighting the second monster while our Mage eats dirt
directly behind the first dead monster corpse.
Now the battle isn’t too hard so I want to revive the Mage.
The hit box from the dead monster will prevent me from targeting the dead member.
In party its not so annoying because you can use the F-keys (F1-F6) or the group box to click on the name.
if you want to revive a stranger who you just want to do a favour then you are forced to turn around the camera into an angle
that allows you to select the corpse. You can also play with the Tab-key.

NC Launcher
Most MMO Games have a launcher.
Still this is the most horrible launcher I ever got from a game.
Its unreliable, slow and patching is a mess.
There are better ways.

Game client in general
The game client is stable for normal game play.
In rare cases the client minimizes to your desktop for no reason.
In bad situations this means death to your group or your character.

The client becomes highly unstable in Abyss siege battles.
Even if you use the Shift+F12 feature to tone down the graphics and exclude character display of other players
the engine throttles down massively. Disconnections are frequent and reoccurring.
The engine clearly cannot handle large scale abyss battles.

The reason for this is unknown to me. I have two assumptions:
1. NCsoft made false promises to deliver large scale battles where neither the engine or the servers can handle it.
2. NCsoft was lazy to learn from the Korean live service. The game is live there for one year now. Enough time to learn about problems,
engine issues, bugs, etc to improve and fix them for the EU/US release.

Leveling up
The first 10 levels are a breeze and a nice introduction to the world of Aion.
You get to learn the basics of the controls and your character and class.
With level 10 you select a branch of your class and ascend to a Daeva.

Until Level 20 the leveling speed is very nice and a constant flow.
Then you notice a small drop of speed. No problem. In almost every RPG the levels
take longer the higher you get.
With 25 you hit the next major step by accessing the abyss. A new place to level, to PvP or to stay out from.

Now leveling becomes boring. I can remember that many people yelled in the past when Aion was introduced to the public:
“Another Asia-grind”, “Korean microtransaction madness is coming”, “Grinding for hours…”
Yes, I’m afraid they were right. The game mainly consists of grinding. Boring grinding.
Doing it in a party does not bring any benefit, actually you get less points because the party-bonus was removed.

Of course progressing with your character is part of the journey. I don’t expect instant max level in two weeks.
That’d be boring too. its the fine line in-between.

Questing & Campaigns

The game offers two ways of interaction with the world.
Quests and Campaign-
The quests are normal tasks where you do this and that.
The campaigns are where you get to see more challenging tasks, important story-related information
and a vital part of your characters role progression.

Unfortunately this only sounds fine.
Quests are to 90% generic. Kill 10 X, Gather 20 X, Go to A then to D then back to B and maybe meet C.
All of them. Only a small fraction of the quests are telling actually nice stories. Quests are supposed to tell small stories
that bring live to the world.
In Aion its just a procedure of clicking very fast trough the quest dialogue and then to check in the quest guide in the user interface what to do.
Almost no one cares for the text.

One of the few good quests that actually do exist is “Elyos: Bearer of bad news” (Eracus Desert).

The campaigns are not much better. They deliver more on the story side and have more often in-game cutscenes.
But to be honest i feel the story-telling on Aion lacklustre. Its not pulling you into it. You dont feel drawn in to the world and the character.
Its just a cold calculated part where you happen to be in the focus.

The Abyss

PvPvE man that sounded so great. I was hoping for a good combination of those factors.
The Abyss seemed to be just the right thing for it.
When I entered it for the first time I knew I’m just a small fish now and every shadow in the corner could kill me.
Still it was thrilling.
But then the path splits into Ambush-attacks, fortress sieges and group pvp.

Ambush-attacks are part of the game. On the same level they are part of it and sometimes required as a strategic factor theyre
also very annoying. Especially to PvP-weak classes. So called “ganking” is the daily business in the Abyss.
This takes out the fun for many players. Some others enjoy it.
For me it wasn’t much fun.

Fortress sieges are an important part in taking control over the Abyss. Looking at one of those huge fortress guardians makes you literally small and
weak. This is a good part. While you fight the guardian the opossing faction (or both) could invade the fortress too and ambush you
to take over the situation and claim the fortress themselves. Very interesting albeit not happening.
The massive performance and lag issues during those sieges make it a “lag fest” instead of a nice pvp-massacre.
Whoever comes in the bigger number wins, skill isn’t necessary to win.

Skill is actually not of much use. While your group is fighting the guardian you can stand in the back and heal and resurrect others.
If that would only work. In most cases I get messages like an obstacle is in the way or the (dead) character is too far away with me being
standing right next to him.
So even if you want to do your job its not working out yet.
The performance is a big issue. If this improves sieges could become a big fun part in Aoin.

Group PvP
The biggest fun so far for me.
Being in a small group of 6-12 cruising trough the Abyss and searching for other groups.
We had a nice battle on one of the Asmodian Guard Towers.
After we destroyed the tower we got also all players who remained there.
Only the NPCs were still too strong and forced us to retreat.
Or the fight at the Abyss upstream to the higher level.
First we killed some of them and the Kisks that were placed there.
Took us too long because the other group prepared and ambushed us.
This was real fun.

Class balance
Simply put: PvP balance among the classes is non-existent.
1:1 on the same level range (+/-3 level) is defined by your class.
Many write it in forums and its true: If you go alone into the Abyss your a cheap victim.
Once more I wonder why the class balance is still so fishy after being live for one year now?
Yeah the Korean players are much more different then us… got it.

My god when will it stop.
Many games feel like as if pathfinding was invented just yesterday.
There are so many techniques out there and dozens of specific literature about it.
Is it really that hard?
If you use “click and walk” you’ll get often stuck on a flower, corner and whatnot.
Its annoying. Add the “rubberband” effect and your set.

Community Support
The community support was one of the best I have ever seen.
It was. As soon as the game was live it dropped.
Became almost silent.
So many issues during the launch and the first days – whew.
Must have scared off all the official community people from NCsoft.
NCsoft got even trouble running their own official forum straight.
That is how you break consumer relations and damage an entire companies image.

Gold-services (RMT)
For a P2P game this title got way too much issues with those.
You get spammed to death in the general chat.
Annoyed with whispers for Gold-services.
Never before was I so bothered in a game so much with these issues.
These days every game got those. Admitted.
But exactly because it is a known issue I cannot understand why it took NCsoft
over one year to come up with a solution.
Why did they wait until the EU/US players were complaining until they implemented
a chat-filter (which will only hide the problem, not fight it).

I expect from a P2P game of these days that it got Anti-RMT measures running from day one
and not wait until consumers are up in arms.
RMT is not a new issue so there is no excuse like “We didn’t know/expect….”!

As mentioned above for graphics it looks fine.
Still the general presentation is missing something. The chat is not really useful.
Even without the goldspammers if you focus the general chat (Channel /1) its just
a load of messages, hard to find something or someone in there.

Communicating among each other works fine for the Legion, group and Alliance chats.
But because the chat is not very convenient most people use TeamSpeak or Ventrillo almost
for everything in there.
A bad thing: A game that is based on massive multiplayer should give the massive amount of players
a proper tool for communication.

There are many reasons why some people dont want or cant use voice chat.

The good think in the chat is you can link everything there: Items, Coordinates (Spots), Quests, Crafting recipes.
This is very helpful and auto-translates among the clients which is very useful. A big helper!

Dear Lord I so knew it.
The European Community Manager called Amboss often praised the work and effort NCsoft puts into
the content-rewriting and translations.
Well, I have to call fail.
If I compare names of items and certain monsters between English and German I get a cold shiver.

Lightningfoot (en) = Filzfuß (de)
Sounds like as if the guy had athlete’s foot [med.]

Also why the weird names for normal food items like a carrot or other herbs?
“Hey, I need Targa. – You need WHAT?”

The Collectors Edition

Yes, I ordered it. The contents of it were not worth it.
Hindsight is easier than foresight.

The soundtrack CD is the biggest disappointment. It only contains some of the basic music of Aion.
Its far from being complete. The entire Abyss score is missing for example. I expect more from a Soundtrack.
NCsoft will prolly release later a full scale soundtrack for more money. No thanks.
The Asmodian figurine is fine and looks good.
A printed map? Um.. useless. Really. Maybe a young boy will place it on his wall…. maybe.
The in-game items you get are nice but you can easily live without them.

When I see a game calling itself “MMORPG” then I expect two things.

1) A massive multiplayer experience where players can easily and convenient communicate with each other, play together and fight alongside.
This requires that the user interface and the engine (incl. server) can handle the “massive” part.

2) A deep story that draws me into the world of this game and makes me a part of it. Something that makes we want to come back to see how the story progresses because I want to know what happens next. Quests that enrich certain characters (NPC) in the game that I happen to meet over and over again in the course of the game. Stories of joy, sadness and funny moments.
Storytelling and the way it is presented to the user is the most important factor here.

In my opinion Aion failed in both above criteria.

The Community
Aion’s community is still very young. The MMO-community in itself isn’t.
It’s like a two-edged sword for online games.
While especially players on online boards have often already experience with other MMO (F2P, P2P)
some others simply dive into a game and see where it takes them.
The kind of PvP that Aion offers brings often the worst out of players in the beginning.
It takes some time until the PvP matures in such games. This can be a game-breaking factor for some gamers.

The general behaviour of players in the game is in my opinion horrible.
People that are really helpful is something you don’t see often. Maybe in your legion but out in the field?
So called “kill stealing” is just the beginning.

Kind players give you a helping hand or raise you after fallen to an enemy. A rare moment for me thou.

The game forces players to compete against each other in fields of gameplay where players should not have to compete with each other.
Players should compete in fields of PvP, first kills, fortress sieges, etc.
Not in the PvE fighting about Monsters (for Quests), NPC (fastest clicker wins, others have to wait for NPC respawn), kill stealing for exp and so forth.

This makes it sometimes hard to be kind if you don’t want to get run over in the game.
That is why I say the community will take long to mature. Too long maybe.

Is Aion a bad game? No, far from it.
Out there is much more worse stuff.

Aion just doesn’t fit me. It may do for you. Maybe you will have a long lasting fun with this game.
I could not find fun in this game. Too many issues. too many problems and an overall lacklustre presentation.

Still the game does not deserve the title of MMORPG.
Yes, it is like NCsoft always shouted a “PvPvE” game but that really is it.
There is not much more to it.

If you enjoyed World of Warcraft and don’t mind a much more difficult leveling road then you’ll enjoy this one.

If you are like me who favour a challenging depth of story and team play you may want to wait for “Final Fantasy XIV” or “Star Wars: The old Republic”.
I’ll stay with FFXI for now to see what joy may be in for 2010.

About my MMO History (For those who might want to try to understand my point of view)

Ultima Online, private free shard “Hells Gate” – ~12 months, A very strong RP-server. I had some fun there.
Guild Wars – Since launch with interruptions, Awesome stories, nice quests, great game play for solo and team
Maple Story – 12 months, The funniest MMO out there but extremely heavy grind
Lord of the Rings Online – 3 months, Great story and a rich world but game play was not thrilling.
World of Warcraft – ~10 months with interruptions, Once I hit Level 61 the game became suddenly boring
Aion – 1 month (excl. Beta’s), Beautiful game but graphics cannot make up the lack of presentation.
Final Fantasy XI – Active since 2004 on Siren, Unmatched in storytelling and presentation

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