My First 7 Weeks Playing Aion

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:

  1. Challenging, reasonably balanced PVP between classes
  2. “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
  3. 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:

  1. 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…
  2. 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
  3. the PVP seems badly imbalanced before end-game, which wouldn’t be an issue excerpt for the first point
  4. 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!


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Posted in Aion, PVP
13 comments on “My First 7 Weeks Playing Aion
  1. Arclighte says:

    Good to see you’re still alive, taugrim.

    Interesting points on Aion. Most of them mirror my own thoughts based on my experience during beta (which was just bad enough to keep me from buying the game at launch). While I’ve kept my eye on the game I doubt I’ll ever play it.

    Regarding WAR’s performance (and I believe I posted a comment about this in your last update) 1.3.2 has REALLY improved the game in that respect. I’ve noticed far less animation sticking, “Target out of range” errors, hitching, etc. since the last patch. Never at any point during the game’s life have I been able to run on max settings without noticing the sporadic framerate drops/thrashing caused by the lighting system but since 1.3.2 everything is set to “High” and stays that way, even during the largest of battles.

    • taugrim says:

      I’m really glad to hear that re: WAR 1.3.2.

      I thought WAR Patch 1.3b was a huge step in the right direction for WAR, esp the nerfs to AOE damage across the board. But Patch 1.3.1 left a bad taste in my mouth – the game was very unstable and crashed multiple times a night for me.

      I’ve heard that a number of WAR players from Phoenix Throne who played on Aion’s server Zikel (which is not the “unofficial” RP server that I play on, Lumiel) have already gone back to WAR.

      As much as people pick on WAR – and it certainly has its flaws – it was one of the more entertaining MMORPG’s I’ve played, because the players on Phoenix Throne made it fun.

      The Aion community, as a whole, leaves a lot to be desired. I initially rolled on Triniel, but aside from the folks from the PT guild Irony, I found the server population to be unwilling to group together, esp for PUGs. Lumiel was miles differently in that respect – players are quite willing to PUG. But I think people not on Lumiel overall probably have a worse impression of Aion than I do.

      • Arclighte says:

        Agreed. I’ll be the first to admit Mythic made some “bad” decisions during WAR’s short life but I’ve been pleased with the last few patches (since 1.3.0, really). They seem to finally be on track and the game has really made some significant strides in a relatively short period of time. There’s more work to be done, of course, but things are looking up.

        As for Aion, I’m wary of it and have been since the hype started ~8 months ago. The hype brigade that magically appears everytime a new game is on the horizon (I’m looking at you, Star Wars: TOR) is more often than not a big red flag to me. A lot of the pre-release praise Aion was getting seemed awfully familiar; it was the same kind of talk I heard about Age of Conan and WAR before their respective launches and the hype almost instantly stopped when everyone got to see what the games were really like.

        I dunno. Perhaps I’m being too hard on Aion and just need to give it another honest try now that things have settled down a bit. Nevertheless, it concerns me when I see people that left WAR for Aion returning for one reason or another.

  2. Skutrug says:

    Hey Taugrim,
    We were worried that AION had grinded all will to play out of you :-)
    Always interesting to read your well-formulated thoughts, specially for those like me who did not take the jump to AION, but followed your trajectory from LOTRO to WAR. I have one quick practical questions for you: Are the bots and cheaters really as rampant and annoying as the forums seems to indicate? I had hope for Punkbuster in WAR… then Gameguard in AION… It looks so far that all these anti-cheat softwares are more trouble than their worth.

    • taugrim says:

      There are a lot of bots in WAR. You can spot them pretty easily. They sit in a spot, as soon as a mob spawns, they run over and kill it, then sit down again. It’s annoying, esp when the bots are camping quest mob spawns. Although as a Sorc, I have no trouble out-DPS’ing the bots. If I were not a DPS class, it’d probably be much more frustrating to deal with, because in Aion, whoever deals the most damage to a mob gets the kill credit and drops.

      The only bad thing is sometimes I guess wrong – a suspected bot is actually a player. LOL.

      I have no idea re: cheating in Aion. I haven’t seen any kind of hacks used by players on either side to gain an unfair advantage.

      Aion PVP is very odd (same as WoW) in that you can see the cast bars of your opponent, so against healers / casters you can tell what they are doing when they aren’t using instant cast abilities. I actually prefer not seeing the cast bars – it makes it too easy to counter what another player is doing. Granted, I’m a caster saying that, but it is my objective opinion.

      Aion has grinded me down a bit. I was originally planning to release a lot of videos, just as I did with WAR, as I was leveling up. But Aion leveling is quite slow, and the PVP is weird. You can rift or go into the Abyss, but there is no consistent mechanism for ensuring you are fighting near-level opponents. So quite often Aion PVP is simply ganking. It can be entertaining, but not necessarily challenging, and it’s not stuff I feel is worth making videos of.

  3. Asherony says:

    This pretty much sums up my impressions about Aion. It’s interesting that for the first time a Korean developer created an MMO aimed at western audience that tries to do many things differently from the usual freemium / grindfest stuff. It’s just not different enough.

    IMO there are some ways to create some progression without grind:

    1. Make leveling up pretty fast (WoW’s latest expansion)
    2. Make leveling possible by doing fun stuff (WAR)
    3. Replace leveling with things like gearing up (WoW PvE).

    Aion’s leveling system is far too vanilla to be attractive to your average MMO player, let alone Joe Casual.

    As for the class balance, I quit Aion after playing for a month or so, but from what I’ve heard from my (more patient) friends it’s far from ideal. Previous game by NCsoft was Lineage II, and I know that it usually followed the “pendulum” balance theory – “something is either OP or sucks”. As you may know from DAoC / Warhammer – games change, devs don’t ^~

    I’m holding high hopes for Aion, but it’s still a bit of a dissapointment. Since there are many people in the “WoW / WaR players desperate for something new” category.

    • Asherony says:

      One point I forgot to add – even though most of the game’s flaws were predictable, I’m unpleasantly surprised about the community. I’ve played two other Korean MMOs (Ragnarok and RF Online) and people there were actually helpful and sociable, and my main point for trying Aion was the hope that I will meet this community again.

      But hell no. I guess that the “elitist arsehole” category of WoW’s players have made Aion their new home LOL

      • taugrim says:

        Which server did you roll on?

        I’ve found the player base on the “unofficial” RP server Lumiel to be very friendly overall. People answer questions on the class chat channel. And there is a lot of openness to PUG’ing.

        Lumiel was significantly better in terms of community compared to Triniel, which was the original server I rolled on. And I heard Zikel, where a lot of the former WAR Phoenix Throne players went, is populated with a lot of jackass e-peen players.

    • taugrim says:

      We are in violent agreement in terms of our overall view of Aion – except that I’m still playing, which is largely because there isn’t really anything else I want to play, and I play so little daily that I get to ride the rest XP curve.

      “As you may know from DAoC / Warhammer – games change, devs don’t”

      That is a hilarious and insightful take.

      I’m disappointed with NCSoft – not from a US operations or marketing perspective (the Aion US folks have done a great job keeping the players informed with Twitter), but the game was designed by Korean developers, and therefore feels like a Korean game.

      I’m also really surprised by how inaccurate a lot of player comments have been about the game, both from Beta and in Live. There are a lot of players who keep claiming things such as “the game is well balanced at endgame” and “it’s not grindy at all.”

      I’d personally like to deliver a swift kick to the groin at the many players from AionSource who posted that the game wasn’t a grindfest LOL.

      So far in my guild (Dorlach Sgath, which is a top 2 overall Asmo guild on Lumiel) – there has been only 1 player who leveled to 50 – and that player was one of the first 3 or 4 players on the server to do so, and he averaged ~14.5 hours per day for 5 weeks playing one of the fastest leveling class in the game (Sorceror). That’s over 500 hours! And most of the players I know will probably take longer to get there, because they can’t do some of the things Sorcs can at higher levels to speed up the leveling process.

  4. Nathan says:

    Hey Taugrim, I’ve followed you for ages, watched all your commentaries etc and even had a little chat with you via the WAR forums about SMasters. You won’t remember though.

    My question is, did you ever play WoW? I cannot find anything anywhere thats suggest so, and if so, how come you left? Community issues?



    • taugrim says:

      I played WoW from May 2006 to November 2007, mostly as a (Feral) Druid and raid tank, especially once TBC launched in early 2007.

      I quit WoW cold turkey because I was sick of the gear treadmill / grind. Raiding 3-4 nights a week simply wasn’t healthy for me.

  5. Nathan says:

    I get that, do you think you can hack the Aion grind though? I’m 36 with my Chanter at the moment (I lol’d when I saw you had the same class as me again) and its getting really tough, I’ve wrote an article for about Aions issues and I think you should check it out. It will be up tommorow probably.

    I mentioned the fact that I can’t solo-grind anywhere in the Abyss without my higher level Sin friend, its not nice.

    At the moment, if I don’t see any communication from NCSoft (gm’s might have come through for you but on EU Kalil gm’s don’t exist) then I’ll cancel sub and wait a while.

    If I do go back to WoW in the meantime its because I’m a sucker for hype on the new expansion I suppose.

    • taugrim says:

      My Chanter is now at 39.8, so I’m just over 2 levels from 42, which was my goal after my Chanter was restored by Aion’s GM’s.

      I will not level another character in Aion with the current game mechanics. It’s way too tedious and time-consuming. I have to admit, WAR spoiled me. The flexibility of leveling via PVP and/or PVE was simply awesome.

      Post a link to your article when it’s published, I’d love to read it.

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