October 26, 2009

Aion: The Haul To Level 20

Chris Nitz says: I have been playing MMO’s since Ultima Online. I moved to EverQuest after some co-workers could not stop talking about it. I jumped to Dark Age of Camelot and got my first end game character. I have enjoyed Eve Online, World of Warcraft, EverQuest 2, Age of Conan, Warhammer, and oh so many free to play MMO’s. I enjoy trying out MMO’s and seeing how they change the MMO formula.

Aion is an MMO from NCSoft. NCSoft is most known for MMO’s like Lineage 2, Guild Wars, and City of Heroes/Villians.

Let me get one thing out of the way to start. Aion is a Korean-style MMO. This game is a grind. You will not be level 10 in 20 minutes. Dying does have some consequences to it. The characters have a very Asian feel to them. With that said, come with me on a stroll down the first 20 levels.

The first step to any MMO is making your character. In Aion, you start by choosing your side. You can be Elyos (good) or Asmodian (bad). No matter what side you choose, you will start with for classes. You can be a Mage, Priest, Warrior, and Scout. Your character customization can be as quick or drawn out as you like. You have full control over items like lip size, brow size, facial proportion, and facial features. It took me five minutes to make my character, and it took my wife almost 30 minutes.

Once your character is made, you are tossed into the world. Good characters start in a bright green area. Bad characters start in a darker more desolate area. Those people who like to make many alts, be advised that you will be playing the same areas for every alt you make. You are now a baby Daeva looking to earn their wings.

You are given your first set of quests and told to go forth and grow. Now starts the run to level 10. The quests do a good job of directing you where to go. You can open your quest log and choose the option to locate. This will mark the general area where your quest objective can be found. It is not as obvious as Warhammer’s big blue circles, but it is better than nothing. Finding graves or specific quest mobs quickly really helps in finishing quests quickly and efficiently.

Eventually, you will hit level 10 and you are given an ascension quest. You are now on the road to getting your wings and choosing your primary class. Hitting level 10 also opens the ability to teleport to your sides’ capital city. You will get a quest telling you what your next questing city will be as well. I won’t deny it, there is a thrill the first time you open your wings and take flight. I began to wonder why this has been out of so many games before.

Levels 1 to 10 can be had in a few hours of play. Ten to 20 on the other hand is a long trek. You never really run out of quests though. This helps a lot with keeping you busy. Now that you are out of the starting area, you can take advantage of the broker. This is the game’s auction house. You also get access to the warehouse (your character bank). One nice feature on the warehouse is that you have shared account slots. You can get items from one character to another using these slots (granted those characters are on the same server).

Level 20 brings on rest xp as well. The rest xp amounts to a 20% bonus in your normal xp rate. Level 20 also opens up two new areas to quest in. This is very welcomed as it gives you changes of scenery as you move up the leveling scale.

Combat can turn into a little more than just setting up a hotbar with your spell/skills. I found that grouping led me to use my spells in a different manner than when I was soloing. You also have chain skills/spells. These are only available after you perform a particular spell/skill before it. For tank types, this leads to an impressive hacking, slashing, and whirling of your weapon.

Dying does have adverse effects. When you die, you lose some xp until you pay a soul healer to get it back. You also suffer resurrection sickness. If you die twice before you see a soul healer, you’ll lose more xp, and your resurrection sickness lasts a bit longer. While it is not much, the first time you spend 15k Kinah (in game gold), it will make you scream.

The game is not all nice new shiny fun. When you get to a new zone, you are often welcomed to the gold farmers spam. There are lots of people working through the same quests as you are at times. You will find yourself fighting for this items at times. This is often resolved by switching your channel to get away from people.

The game itself runs well for a few hours. The game is also very gorgeous. I found myself just looking at my surroundings from time to time. After a few hours in one zone with no issues, I would go to the capital city and start getting graphical glitches. This is easily resolved by re-launching the game.

The sound effects and music are very hit or miss. Opening your wings does not sound like wings opening. Yet a waterfall sounds very much like its real life counterpart. The music tends to switch between different music tracks. I found that I enjoyed some and that it fit in no matter where I was. Other tracks just make no sense.

This game is very linear for the first 20 levels. You will be doing the same quest, hunting the same monsters, and running around the same areas with every character you make. You will also find that both sides tend to feel the same in quest lines and zone layout.

This is an MMO. You will be killing x of this, or collecting y of that. You will have to go kill this boss or that boss. You will have areas designed for groups. This is part of the MMO formula. If you don’t like this about your current MMO, Aion is not going to change that for you. For those that do enjoy this formula, Aion takes that formula, tweaks it a bit, and gives it to you in a nice new package.

I have enjoyed my time with Aion. I shouldn’t as I don’t enjoy grinding, but I find Aion very enjoyable. The questing keeps me busy with tasks to do. I have met some great people in groups, and every level feels well deserved. I have not tried crafting or PvP yet, so no comments on those for now. All in all, I look forward to playing some more and plan on re-subscribing my account.