Over this past weekend I spent a fair amount of time with the Aion Beta. As the title says these are my first impressions of what I’ve seen and experienced so far. There is much of the game left that I can’t really comment on because I haven’t reached it yet. As of the time of this post I have a level 16 Asmodian Templar.
I’ll start by talking about the game client and launching the game itself…For me this was one of the worst things about the game. The game is bundled with some hacking prevention software known as nProtect Gameguard. Now as far as I know there is no way to disable this software, and doing so is (I assume) against the ToS/EULA. The software is in place to prevent people from using third party programs to bot, or otherwise run hacks/exploits within the game. In theory that’s great, but in practice the software is clunky and just downright sucks. For me personally as a user of Windows Vista in order to be able to lauch Aion without interferrence of gameguard I need disable the User Account Control as well as any firewall’s that are running on my pc. This is obviously a frustrating thing to have to do everytime you want to launch the game. On top of the annoyances that gameguard brings the game seems to launch rather slowly.
Once you do get into the game you are met with the character creation process. The character customization in Aion is top notch. It beats any other MMO that I’ve played by a pretty wide margin. There are only 2 races to choose from in Aion- Asmodian and Elyos, but despite this there still seems to be more variety and personality in individual characters within the game than exists in other MMOs that I’ve played. I personally spent about an hour just on the character creation screen alone. A feature that I would like to see them take from EQ II and apply to Aion is the ability to play around in the character creator and once you get something you like save it as a preset that can then be reloaded any time you like. I hope that more games in the future will follow the example set here by Aion and hopefully take it to even higher levels in allowing players to really customize the appearance of the characters that we all spend so much time with in our games.
Once you’re finished playing with the character creator and enter the game world, one of the first things that really stands out is the lack of any kind of introduction. You’re uncerimoniously plopped into the world with no idea of why you’re there or what’s going on. It would be nice if they added a cut scene as you enter the world, giving a bit of info on the race you’ve chosen and the events that your character is placed in at the start of the game. As for the gameplay – the quests here are nothing particularly new or exciting for the most part. Now I’m not one to read the quest log typically speaking. In my experience there’s usually very little of interest to be found in the quest logs. I decided though, that since this was a beta and I really didn’t care how far I got that I would take the time to actually read all the quest logs for the quests that I did. There are 2 kinds of quests in Aion – standard quests and Campaign quests. The standard quests gave me pretty much what I expected nothing of any real interest to warrant reading them(with a few exceptions that were somewhat interesting/entertaining). The Campaign quests however actually had enough interesting story there that I wanted to read them and looked forward to doing those quests in particular. I hope that as the game continues to progress the story that is offered in these quests will continue to be as entertaining as they have been so far.
Now let’s talk about the combat. Combat in this game feels pretty natural. It feels somewhat like a mix of combat from WoW and EQ II for me. I feel like the way a lot of the skills are designed/used feels pretty similar to what is offered in WoW, but I feel like I have more buttons I can and actually want to be using in Aion which feels rather similar to EQ II for me. I like the skill chain system in the games combat mechanics, but I can’t help but feel a bit dissapointed by it too. When I first heard about this system I was hoping it would be something a bit more complex, something that would give combat a bit more of a strategic feeling. I was hoping for a situation where you would open a chain and then have to make decisions on where to go from there, and not just blindly push everything as soon as it’s off cooldown. Perhaps as I gain more levels and more skills it will get a bit more complex, but I have a feeling I’ve already experienced all the depth this system has to offer. Still though at least it’s an attempt at something new, and it does help to mix it up just a bit.
The game world in Aion is a very beautiful and intriguing place. The landscapes that you will come across in the world of Atreia are vast and varied. While moving from area to area, you can easily go from a large frozen lake to a mushroom filled jungle and everything in between. I have two major complaints here however. One being that the zones are really very linear. You get very little sense of exploration in this game. The second one being that you travel from one zone to another via teleporters, and for me this gives the game one of the same problems that I had with EQII…It makes the world feel very disconnected. It’s hard to have a sense of a whole world to explore when I can’t even go from zone A to zone B without using a teleporter(or bell if you’re playing EQ II).
All in all I think that Aion is a very well made, very fun game. The game is very polished, and everything about it feels very well done and very smooth. During my time over the weekend, I never once encountered a bug of any kind in the game – which is rare even in games that have been out a year or more. I feel like Aion has enough content that feels new and fresh that I will most likely be subscribing to it when it releases, and it will be a welcome break for WoW even if it doesn’t last. Hopefully at the very least it will be able to last until Star Wars: The Old Republic releases!