Thursday, October 29, 2009 11:34 AM
With a dash of World of Warcraft, a sprinkle of Warhammer Online and a dollop of animal slaughter, let me introduce, Aion.
I virtually sighed as I shot an arrow and murdered yet another countless rabbit. They say I am committing genocide to these creatures for experience and the enrichment of a farmer's life; he's paying handsomely you know.
How much experience and life knowledge can one really gain from gouging a bear's eye out with a dagger I wonder? Obviously this is the reason why I didn't go to Cambridge, I haven't destroyed enough wildlife.
When Eastern and Western culture finally comes together I would expect that we would achieve world peace; some sort of global synchronization, maybe even spiritual revolution. My thoughts, however; are simply erroneous. The truth is when both cultures collide we could get a sub-par MMORPG by the name of Aion.
Developed by NCSoft, Aion has recently become available to Europe and America after having being released around a year ago in South Korea and enjoying considerable praise and reception. I think we can prove that once and for all that we, the west are cleverer than the east.
Of course, I am jesting, I do not wish to commit to some sort of act of culture war on this gaming website. Aion is simply a game that we've been offered time and time again. Imagine if you will, World of Warcraft, in an act that can only be described as "Ed Gein-esque," skinning and wearing the flesh and appearance of Lineage 2 and Final Fantasy. That seems to be the inspiration for this game.
Aion on first impressions feels like Frankenstein's Monster. You can only imagine too well that madcap developers took the best and finest samples of all the MMORPG's on the market and stitched them together haphazardly hoping to achieve greatness. For the most part it's an admirable effort, but to be brutally honest Aion is stale, old and really very redundant to the genre.
So to start on a more positive note, lets talk about the visuals. NCSoft did get one thing right; Aion is beautiful, so beautiful in fact it makes you proud to be a PC gamer, sure the Xbox's and PS3's of this world may be more favoured, but the PC will always be the daddy.
Developed with the CryEngine, it's a surprise that on an engine this old it looks this great. The game's best feature is its ability to scale and adapt to virtually every machine I've played it on. Aion plays on little dinky work laptops and literally moonwalks on gaming rigs. NCSoft has done something truly remarkable with an engine that two years ago, brought the most hardened gaming rigs to their knees.
Aion, like all recent MMORPGs, offers somewhat of a story, quite fittingly of gods, war and fury. The story goes a little something like this: the world was in peace, protectors got a little bit shirty, the world was torn a sunder. Obviously it's more complicated and deserving of the more eastern style; think androgynous forest people and massive boobies.
The story, however; like all games of the genre feels detached and irrelevant to the game as a whole. Personally I prefer to create my own adventure than play a diluted single-player experience. Reading quests seems to be more of an annoyance than their purpose to enrich the adventure.
As with World of Warcraft, we're given the choice to play as Elyos and the Asmodians. Again like World of Warcraft we have the stereotypically good race and the rather misrepresented race. Finally, like World of Warcraft, both start on different landmasses. Can you see a pattern?
I choose to play as the Elyos as they have the more bright and colorful world. Since the Asmodians live on a landmass neglected by the sun I decided this wasn't the race for me. I like virtual sunlight, what can I say? As it turns out, when I rolled an Asmodian, they seemed to live in a world not of darkness but rather of the time period between five o'clock to six o'clock; not quite dark and not quite light in the period just before dinner. That's probably why the Asmodians are so pissed off.
There isn't much difference between the races to be brutally honest; one has a tail and the other slightly blue-tinted skin. That's it. As there are no races within the two group, we're allowed to customize our character as we feel. You can create tall, gallant looking men or midget types. It's up to you, the choice is yours.
If you're a fan of the genre you'll be acquainted with the element known as "grind". For the newbies amongst us, it's a description of simply killing creatures for the ultimate end of experience and loot. It's a long and lengthy process that Aion seems to excel in.
Questing in the game can be hard and pointless; it feels like simply butchering the animal kingdom is quicker than running from point A to B doing whatever random task you're assigned to. The overall questing experience just didn't feel satisfying and to be quite honest, grind seemed like the easiest option.
The problem of replayability also strikes Aion, since the world as it stands isn't the biggest. Sure we have two land masses for the two races, but this complicates matters for more than two alternative characters. In most games you're given a choice of which zones you wish to enter when leveling. In Aion we simply have one for every level range. This is very short sighted and will only cause problems in the future.
Another much discussed feature of the game is the ability to fly when you reach level ten. To be quite honest, it is not the aviation I would have wished for. Most areas restrict your flight and some landmasses disallow it.
Finally, let's discuss Aion's biggest draw, Player Versus Player. The bulk of this gameplay element takes place in a location named "The Abyss," which is kind of a never world between Elyos and Asmodae. It's dark, very brown and a bit spooky looking. In here you can take part in the senseless bashing of your rival race or the senseless bashing of the Balaur, a computer controlled faction that serves to antagonize both the races.
To be honest, PvP is neither great nor terrible. Its scope and ambition is impressive, but to be quite honest, again, it's nothing we haven't seen before. Personally Warhammer Online does a much better job. You ca't help but worry for the future of Aion's PvP. At launch the servers are packed, but give it a few months and a less eager player base, this aspect will likely become very desolate and under played.
In conclusion, Aion is mediocre, it begs, steals and borrows from countless games and I cannot really recommend it to anyone that has played World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings, EverQuest 2 or Warhammer Online. If you're new to the genre, by all means try it out but take into to account that there are better games out there.