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Every six months or so, hardcore World of Warcraft players anxiously await their new lord and savior: an up-and-coming MMO to deliver them from their addiction. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of these games, despite their unbelievable hype as the “great hope” fail miserably. As a former WoW raider, I remember Age of Conan and Warhammer’s promises of a better virtual world that were never fulfilled.

Aion, the newest MMO on the block, promises exciting gameplay and a beautiful visual style. Oh yea, and you can fly. Is it everything its cracked up to be? Read my impressions of the beta, and find out.

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Click for a larger look at the backstory between the two races

Aion takes place in the magical world of Atreia. If you’re a Greek mythology enthusiast, think of Arcadian, idyllic landscapes. The story of Aion draws many parallels from Christian creation stories: some time ago, the god Aion created a servant race called the Balaur, who later rebelled against their maker.

A great war broke out, and severed the world in two.  The Elyos (angels) are creatures of beauty, and residents of the lower half of the world. The Asmodians, the inhabitants of the upper world, weren’t so lucky. Their world was cursed, and due to many years of traversing the land, their features evolved into a beast-like state.

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There are four classes to choose from when you start your journey

When you create your character, you can choose between the Elyos and the Asmodians, and select one of four classes: mage, priest, scout, and warrior. All of these play out exactly how they sound, so don’t get confused! The beauty of this simple selection system is that you’re able to choose your favorite role hassle free, and branch out into a more advanced class later.

Once you hit level 10, you’re allowed to choose one of two advanced, specializations: for instance, my character started as a Mage, but became a Spiritmaster (Warlock). It was a bit too early to judge, but I could already see the incredibly Eastern, anime character design apparent in Aion. For starters, my character looks a bit like Sepiroth from Final Fantasty 7 with robes (which is totally awesome).

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Magnalon triumphantly makes his debut

As with every MMO, you start off in the “noob” zone killing defenseless animals. Except this time, it looked beautiful. In World of Warcraft, the only starting area I particularly enjoyed was the woods of the Night Elf island of Teldrassil, but Aion’s Poeta brought back a lot of those fond memories.

Everything is just so detailed, and fun to look at. You won’t have any trouble navigating about anywhere, because the quest givers are clearly marked on your map as well. Overall, the first 10 minutes were some of the most enjoyable moments I’ve spent playing an MMO. You also get a trusty teleport relic that allows you to return to a location you have visited, and chosen to be “your spot”.

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The mage really enjoys his literature. Your book is your weapon: it shoots fireballs!

The first town you encounter on your journey is bustling with player activity. In Aion, you can set up your own shop, Ultima Online style. I’ve noticed that players of Aion are particularly driven. No one is really stands around like in other MMOs, despite the fact that there are a ton of people on the server. I checked out other people’s goods, and found most of the prices to be fair.

Gamers will help run the economy of Aion by picking herbs and mining for ore, and selling it in the game’s towns, creating their own bazaar-like experience. It’s always a treat to find a real life traveling merchant as well if you’re low on supplies out there in the field. You’d think that with all these people running around, it would be hard to share quest space: luckily, that’s not really the case.

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Get the Aion Times here! 1 gold! Click for a bigger view.

Quests are pretty easy going in Aion. To ease the pain, there’s a quest helper/locator built in to the game, which, as MMO veterans know, is a time-saver. If you ever need help with most of the quests in the game, you can click a proper name in your quest log and a purple X will mark your objective on your map. You can also choose to open a translucent map overlay on your game screen.

The quests themselves are pretty straightforward, with some non-typical fare mixed in. You have your standard “kill 10 boars”, “collect 10 plants”, and “deliver this message” quests, but you also get some pretty fun ones like “trick the lord of the forest into giving you the gift of past sight”, which allows you to revisit your past, and participate in a flashback of the great war. Aion has a lot of short cut-scenes thrown in, similar to the ones Blizzard added to Sunwell and Wrath of the Lich King.

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Here’s a world-view of the lower half of Atreia. Click for a bigger view.

Aion’s title system is a pretty cool expansion on World of Warcraft’s. In these two games, you can recieve special titles, such as “Lord of Demon Slaying” for completing certain questlines and objectives.  In WoW, these titles would just make you look cooler, but in Aion, they grant you certain statistical bonuses.

I’ve never had a tougher decision in a game than choosing whether or not to use the “Tree Hugger” title just to gain a few HP! Simply put, Aion shines because of its little “extras” that it offers. The user inferface is very intitutive, and allows for full customization, including the ability to move menus around wherever you’d like.

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Time to burninate this bug.

Combat is more fun than most MMOs I have ever played. Aside from Age of Conan’s active counter battle system, most MMOs are a fairly boring affair when it comes to actually fighting enemies. In Aion, there is a special chain system that alleviates some of the monotony faced when powering through those long grinding sessions. When you cast a basic fireball spell, you can chain it into a higher, similar spell for more damage. Even at an insanely low level, I was chaining together a knockback ice bolt to freeze my target, using a leech spell to damage him over time (called a “dot”), immobilizing him with a hold spell, and burning him with a chain fireball.

When starting my Warlock in World of Warcraft, I just spammed shadowbolt for the entirety of my early levels, and did just fine. Aion’s combat complexity excels even further when you start dabbling in the advanced classes: especially sorcery. Veteran Aion plays contend that sorcery is one of the most advanced classes you can choose in any MMO, combat wise. After learning the ropes, I was able to fight my way through Poeta’s questline and seal the demonic portal that was spilling creatures into the realm. I earned a new title, and was told I was ready to become accepted into the inner circles of the Elyos, and earn my wings.

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The scenery is breathtaking.

Finally, I had saved Poeta, and ascended into the angelic city of Sanctum. It was time to earn my wings. At level ten, you can only just glide, and engage in flight for a short amount of time. As you level up, your flight capabilities increase, and you’re able to engage in aerial combat. After hearing everyone buzz about how fun flying was in this game, I had high expectations. I was very satisfied with my first few minutes experimenting with gliding, and I expect it to be an incredibly fun experience at later levels.

Sanctum itself was a sight: it’s one of the most jaw dropping locales I’ve ever seen (I’m also a sucker for floating landmasses).

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Finally, time to earn my wings!

This was a pretty basic rundown of how Aion’s style and early level gameplay through the eyes of an Elyos. I will bring you more in-depth coverage when the next beta event is scheduled. For those who are interested, this beta isn’t open to press only:  you can reserve Aion now at Gamestop, and get into the beta yourself. The closed beta event dates are July 17th to July 19th, July 31st to August 3rd, and August 14th to August 16th. The full retail version is set to ship September 22nd, 2009. I hope to see you in the next event!

  1. this looks very good, I assume you pay monthly?

  2. Just pre-ordered the Collector’s Edition thanks to this article. You should email NCSoft and ask for a commission.

  3. avatar Not another NC fan

    Geez NC soft is still making mmo’s by the dozen … i played lineage 2 and if i learned something from that game is that NC soft doesent know what gameplay really is, to be more precise, painstaking hours of grinding a few % of experience, super small drops, that thing that encourages horde of botplayed chinese accounts to farm curency for selling … I am not impressed by this in any way and anyone who thinks this is a WoW contender i would tell them “yea thats what AoC and Warhammer said also” this is the third WoW wannabe that will fail miserably im preeety sure.

  4. avatar Spinal

    Errm.. Just to inform you guys, at level 10 you can fly and not just Glide as the above reviewer stated. You have to leave the main city Sanctum via a teleporter to your first level 10+ area called Vetereon. which you can fly freely (of coruse with a flight timer of only 1min which will improve with items/levels)

  5. avatar Wilan

    This game does look to have some nice graphics! Will be trying it out… I really want to see how this flying combat turns out! BOMBS AWAY!

  6. avatar boom

    I played this game and I have to agree with “Not another NC Fan”. The game is seriously lacking anything worthwhile. It has experience loss when you die making leveling a tedious chore that rewards safe play rather than fun risk taking. Along with boring character classes that don’t offer anything new or exciting beyond the classic fantasy fare that has been ripped off of D&D for ages. The next great MMO every one is after is going to be a very well polished game that rewards players with a fun filled game experience.

  7. @Spinal

    Here is what I stated in my write-up:
    “At level ten, you can only just glide, and engage in flight for a short amount of time.”

    I did say that you can fly for a short amount of time. You just can’t fly in Sanctum.

  8. avatar Chris Bolt

    This reviewer sucks!!! I say can him!!!! How dare he compare this Animebortion to WoW!

    /end sarcasm

    Looks really good looking but I just have a feeling that beneath the beauty, it is kind of dull. I’ll pre-order though and be on during the next even to try it out for myself.

  9. avatar Taylor

    Yes, it is true that when you die you lose a small amount of experience, but you can pay a soul healer to give you back this exp for a nominal fee. Now I know some people are thinking this is a money sink, but it is no different than a repair bill in WoW, it is essentially that death = money, except now you have another option if you’re short on cash.

    The leveling in this game is not as grindy as traditional korean MMOs, ragnarok being a prime example. I played about 2 hours each day over 3 days during the 3rd beta and while I spent time taking in the atmosphere and trying tradeskills I was still able to hit level 15 just by doing the quests.

  10. avatar Exotik

    I would play Lineage 2 over WoW any day. Experience loss? There is no experience loss if you can pay a few coins to buy it back, and you whine about that? Seriously. Go back to WoW and stop whining ..jeez.

  11. avatar lastdragonzx

    Someone told me that your armor, wings and toon are all able to be customized. Is this true

  12. avatar Nikyht, Aion fan

    lastdragonzx: Yes it’s true, though you can’t get new wings until lvl 30 i believe. But you can change the color of your armor etc :) .

    I’ve played all the previous betas and I can honestly only complain on one thing and that is that you cannot swim. Other than that there is really nothing to complain about. ->IMO<- this beats WoW not only in graphics, but it also beats WoW in lore, gameplay and the gathering/tradeskill system. The pvp in Aion is THE most FUN thing to do. No more booooooring BGs, where all you see are the same plain boring scenery. Aion’s pvp is soo much more alive and not as stale as it may seem on a youtube movie :) . And finally, Aion takes less CPU than WoW and WoW has like THE lamest graphics EVER… From what I’ve done the previous beta I was in a pvp battle where more than a 100 players from each side where fighting and I had minimal lagg (my pc is not the best there is nor is it bad) and this was just on a beta server!

    This is just what I believe and I hope more people will see this and understand that this is what an mmorpg is supposed to be like.
    And to those that think that I’ve not played WoW, I started to play WoW from day one to like 9 months ago. I’ve tried all the new instances and WoW has become like a pile of dog poo :) It has nothing to offer execpt the same thing over and over again. WoW has an awesome lore but blizzard has destroyed it in their execution in the game. WoW can’t even hold a candle to Aion in awesomeness since pvp in WoW is outright boring, grinding is just useless and the instances is easy as hell.. The only really fun instance I’ve ever done since TBC is Sunwell plateu. The new ones isn’t even a real challange from what I’ve heard.

  13. avatar ExPlOiTeD (AION Fan)

    I have played all but the first beta weekend on AION and agree that it is a far superior game than WoW. Don’t try to compare wow of today to Aion. What was WoW like when it was in Beta testing??? I promise you it was not nearly as spectacular as AION. So once AION has been around for 10 yrs like WoW what will it look like???

  14. avatar j dizz

    I have played the aion beta and i agree with most people that it is a great game. I played Wow since it started and it was fun for awhile until lich king with the over powered DK’s and Pallies it just not fun to bg. Aion is much like lineage 2 if anyone has ever played it, just with better graphics and the flying is awesome. And i gotta say the login screen is dope

  15. avatar TrickyTrev

    i played the beta and its your typical cookie cutter mmo. give me full loot pvp ffa or give me death!

    Good review though ceej

  16. avatar Tor

    Exploited, just so you know aion has been out for a few years already its just now being released in the US. The chinese have been having all the fun for the past 3 years i believe on it.

  17. avatar Spacedonkey

    so sick of those people saying that AION or other MMO are “WoW wannabes” get your cock out of Blizzard’s ass and dont be a stereotype whenever you see a game and resembles WoW. WoW is not the first MMO ever, WoW also copied stuff from other games, their NOT the original, i played WoW for 2 years, WoW is boring and unbalanced, yet i played it for nearly 2 years, till i couldnt stand the unbalanceness of the classes fuck that game >.>. Reason why people think that other MMOs are like WoW is because they play that game too long and too much, fuck off nerds.

  18. avatar Jackolatern

    agree with Nikyht and spacedonkey, WoW is boring and its basicly doing things over and over and over again. everyday its the same instances and raids. also…i got to say…alot of bad players in that game..seriously. im never gonna play WoW again.

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