Now that the NDA is down I’ll talk a bit more about my specific experiences from the first beta weekend. My entire approach this time around has been to play the game as little as possible while still being able to see as much as I can. I do not want to burn out on Aion before it launches – something I’ve done in more MMOs than I care to remember. That’s a tough balancing act, especially when I’m going into this beta solely because I want to see if it will be worth my time.
In this first weekend I had very simple and obtainable goals: Level one character to the mid teens, craft a little, and quickly explore a few zones to get a feel for the world. The class I leveled was a Spiritmaster, which is a class of the Mage archetype. You start the game off as either a warrior, priest, scout, or mage and will remain one of these until level 10 when you complete the ascension quest. To reach the point of ascension requires that you level up and learn a bit about your past and ultimately your destiny. It’s really not as cheesy as it sounds, I promise.
The Elyos start in Poeta, a rather large, polished, and fleshed out tutorial. It won’t really feel like a tutorial though. In fact, you’ll be dropped into the game (or at least we were) with a NPC offering you quests to kill pigs. I was a little put off at first, but the first few quests aren’t memorable at all because of the combat which sucked me right in and continued to be interesting throughout the rest of the weekend. To reiterate, the combat in Aion has no delay like WAR (intentional or not) and definitely not a queued up feel like LotRO.
Poeta remained very elementary with the “go here and kill X of this”, however it earned a few points with me for introducing a key feature of the game: the story missions. These story missions will essentially carry the player throughout the rest of the game and act as one major epic quest broken up into dozens of sub quests. Even when simplistic to a fault, the story arc missions felt important which is all that I really ask for in a quest.
After Poeta, and through the storytelling of the missions, I found myself in Sanctum (Elyos Capital City). It’s being compared to Dalaran because of the description of a magical city floating in the clouds, but WoW fans don’t want a true comparison to be drawn here because Sanctum would bury Dalaran in a heartbeat. The city is massive, beautiful, and very functional as far as capital cities go. You can see a very quick glimpse of it in my video below – pay attention to the background to get a sense of the scope this game is built upon.
The remainder of my beta weekend was spent questing from the Verteron Citadel (an area with a seashel and crab motiff ranging from levels 10 to 13 or so) and Tolbas Village area (a farm, field, forest, swamp and desert – yes, all in one) area that lasted until level 20. While I was only able to get up to level 14, I saw and did a lot in these areas. They are as immersive as Tipa mentions in her bloggings. Although Tipa only mentions Polish from a look and feel perspective, I do want to include the mechanics in this as well. The parts which make up the whole – the entirety – of the game feels polished and it stands to deliver a ‘total package’ feel.
A quick bit on crafting because I know some of you are interested… Collecting things is nothing new. You see a node and you can harvest it if you have the appropriate skill level. You then use these collected items to make things. Crafting itself involves being at a station. Instead of having to go out and harvest everything and grind on what you gather to raise skills, Aion’s crafting system has work orders. These work orders give you almost all you need (aside from purchasing glass bottles for some things, in the case of apothecary) to make and raise skill. After completing these you gain skill points and a random crafting item. I liked this because it allowed me to save what I gathered so that I could use it to make stuff that I would actually, well, use. I was able to get my Apothecary somewhere into the 30’s in a very, very short time. If it stays the way I experienced it then I’ll definitely be maxing out a profession.
Here is a quick little collection of video clips to sum up my first weekend in Aion. You’ll see screenshots and a quick flightpath through a corner of Poeta, Sanctum, me trying flight for the first time, and exploration of three zones well into the level 20-30 range. All of the zones visited had the same polished look about them and they felt as they should (scary, pretty, dangerous, etc).
This weekend will allow players to create Asmodians up to level 10. I plan on taking documenting that leveling process in video and screenshots to show combat and how it looks and feels at lower levels. If we’re allowed into Pandemonium (Asmodian capital) then you can expect a tour. Additionally, if I can get into Pandemonium I will spend a lot of time PvPing in the arena.
As a final note, and one that sums up how I feel about Aion thus far, anyone looking for something more than what we’ve had in other MMORPGs need not apply. Seriously. But Aion does what we know very well. It’s fun, immersive, and polished.
Don’t forget to read my Early Impressions where I outline interesting tidbits, the good, and the bad.