It’s been 6 weeks since I’ve posted anything. I’ve been waiting til I had good PVP footage to post on YouTube before I wrote more articles here, and on top of that I’ve been very busy in real life, but I wanted to stop and post my experience with Aion so far.
TLDR version: Aion is a mixed bag.
OK, that out of the way, the longer version.
First, let me establish what I look for in an MMORPG:
- Challenging, reasonably balanced PVP between classes
- “Polish” of the game in terms of a low number of game-impacting bugs, high server stability, and solid responsiveness by the game-maker on game issues
- An interesting, non-grindy leveling experience
WAR, for example, met criteria #1 and #3 but failed miserably overall with #2. Aion definitely nails criteria #2, badly misses on #3, and is mixed in terms of #1.
There are several game design issues with Aion:
- it takes a crapton of time to level to end-game, so the journey to the level cap is a huge part of the game. I leveled to max in LOTRO and WAR in under 200 hours, but Aion is looking to be multiples of that. That in itself wouldn’t be bad, but…
- …the PVE is boring and tedious. At points in the leveling process (e.g. levels 22-25 Asmodian side), I ran out of quests except for the non-repeatable quests, so I had no recourse but to grind repeatable quests, which is about as interesting as pounding sand
- the PVP seems badly imbalanced before end-game, which wouldn’t be an issue excerpt for the first point
- the PVP system doesn’t create any mechanism for close-level fighting. Once you step foot in the Abyss, you can and will be ganked by players of much higher level. This isn’t an issue if you play 8 hours a day and can level faster than the curve. But if you are a more casual player, it’s something you have to factor in
Let me stop there and say there are positive aspects to Aion, which include:
- the game is incredibly stable and bug-free. There are bots which are annoying (and I detest gold farmers), but the game itself is rock solid
- the animations are pretty sweet
- the skill chains are cool
- the ability to “invade” the other faction’s PVE lands via gates called “rifts” creates some entertaining fighting
- most classes have a ton of different situational abilities with non-trivial cooldowns, so it is a challenge to figure out how to map all those abilities to your skill bars
- the basic 8 flavors of classes have clear roles and are fun to play (I tried a couple in Beta and leveled 3 to 20+ in Live)
Let me stop with the opinions and talk a bit about what classes I’ve actually played since the game went live in late September. Here’s what I did:
- leveled Chanter to 22. Right before the end of Open Beta, I had decided to roll an Assasin, but at the last minute, when the game servers were up, I went with my heart and rolled a Chanter. I’ve always enjoyed playing either tanks and / or classes with offhealing capability
- switched to Cleric due to long-term concerns about Chanter, and leveled Cleric to 20. Cleric is an incredibly strong class in Aion, as it has great healing tools, ranged magic damage, and good CC abilities. But playing whack-a-mole in groups is just not my thing, so I decided to dust off my Chanter
- leveled Chanter to 25. The main goal was to check out the Abyss. Chanter is a class that in my opinion has multiple design flaws, based on the class mechanics, and to a minor extent, gear mechanics. I’ve played “hybrid” classes in other games at times when those classes were considered “under-powered.” E.g. I played LOTRO Captain in Book 11-13 and was an active contributor to that class’s forums at a time when many veteran Captains were saying “don’t roll a Captain.” So I’m not new to hybrid classes and issues that they face. And I’ve played classes as my main when they were regarded as garbage; e.g. I rolled a WAR Swordmaster in November 2008, back when they were regarded as a crappy class. However, I think Chanter very much got the short end of the stick in Aion, moreso than hybrids and other under-powered classes I’ve played in other games. I didn’t want to risk investing hundreds of hours leveling a class to later regret the decision. So on a whim I decided to try a Sorcerer
- leveled Sorcerer to 31. Sorc has been a blast, it’s a well-designed RDPS class with a lot of abilities and CC. It’s also incredibly fast (compared to other classes) for soloing in terms of time-to-kill. While the class can’t heal, it’s has great DPS and CC so downtime due to HP is usually not an issue. And I can kill fast enough to more than justify chugging MP pots and HP pots as needed
There is definitely a part of me that wishes I had the interest and willingness to gut out the boring leveling ride from 25 to 42 for Chanter, at which point the class gets the first of several tools that should help in PVP.
I’ve been waiting to get to a high enough level to start making narrated PVP videos again. I’ve been more focused on leveling my Sorc than PVP’ing with him, because in the 30s Sorcs get some key abilities (e.g. I recently got the Wind Cut Down I stigma, plus Inferno at 31). So I’m almost there.
One other thing I should mention: the Aion forums community has been a disappointment, coming from WAR. Here’s how I’d rank the communities of the games I’ve played:
LOTRO (phenomenal) > WAR (good) > Aion (crappy) > WoW (cesspoolish)
The main issue with the Aion forums is that people tend to criticize instead of help other players, and if you’re not level xx your thoughts and concerns aren’t considered valid, which to me is pretty inane, as a lot of class mechanics you can easily find out about by playing the class and reading the tooltips.
So there you have it. My first detailed take on Aion since it went Live.
I’m going to try leveling my Sorc and will hopefully get some narrated PVP videos posted on YouTube before end-of-year, but it may be challenging as I am working hard during the week (I recently joined a consulting firm full-time) and will be traveling overseas for work.
P.S. check out my +10 level 25 blue weapon. Yea, it cost a lot to get to +10, but I’ll use this weapon at least to 35, possibly all the way to 40. It’s sweet to have over 1k magic boost by level 30. Rawr!