The third week of Aion Closed Beta testing is well underway and I am once again playing, against my better judgment (burnout, y’know), and having fun. I was asked during the last beta weekend to write up a comparison of WAR and Aion. Occasionally I do receive requests and I always try to answer them in either their own blog entry or by incorporating them into another. The request came with a specific list of criteria for comparison and it appears to be comprehensive enough. I’ll edit it only slightly to avoid being redundant in my answers.
Before I begin, let me tell you that I can not give you a definitive answer on some of these because I have not been able to see the whole game. Know that what I write comes from a certain perspective gained from beta. I would encourage anyone who has played Aion in the Chinese or Korean versions to comment where I am unable.
Graphic & Animation / Style
Both games use a stylized form of graphics. WAR went for a gritty look and Aion for the more rounded and softer (dare I say Eastern) look. Having to compare the two very quickly, Aion’s graphics are much better – style aside. The animations in Aion are also much, much smoother and show quite early on how they are much more polished and incorporated into the game, such as combat. When choosing which style is better, that has to be left up to the individual’s preference. I don’t mind either.
Both games have great textures in some places and poor textures in others. In WAR you’ll see muddy textures on occasion and simple textures quite often. In Aion I have seen a great deal of muddy/poor to no texturing at all on some cliffs. Certain walkways and paths also lack decent textures. On the other hand, there are times in WAR and in Aion where the textures are very well done and you can’t help but stare a second longer to appreciate them.
I’ll consider this as a general approach towards creating an atmosphere and toss in general appeal of the world around you as you explore and experience content. WAR suffers from forcing the player down very specific paths, almost ushering you to the next location. This is accomplished by using impassable objects, terrain, etc to ensure the player is going in the predetermined direction. Aion does the same thing, at least early on from what I have seen. While both games have a linear path of progression, Aion does have the advantage of flight and better graphics to simulate that lush landscape, forest, lake, and scenery that will naturally immerse the player far easier than WAR.
It’s not even close for me. Aion’s performance is nothing short of stellar. I can easily maintain 70+ frames even with nearly 50+ people visible at one time on my screen. There are places in the world where I have maintained 90+ frames. The only time I ever felt my frames actually drop was this third weekend when I logged into Pandaemonium (Asmodian capital city) right as the servers came up. It stuttered for a few seconds while loading all the people rushing in then it returned to being smooth. WAR is a laggy beotch. The performance by comparison is atrocious.
Smoothness in large scale PVP
I have not done the Abyss yet, so I can’t comment on castle sieges. I can say that in the Arena when we had 30+ people fighting together it was smooth as can be. While not the ideal setting to test “large scale”, it’s still a step above WAR’s performance.
Smoothness in Keep / Fortress Siege (assuming AION got some kind of castle siege)
Aion does indeed have a Keep sieging feature. I won’t be able to test it until the next phase. This question will be answered for you then.
CC impact in group PVP
In both games CC is prominent. Aion has DAOC’s level of CC – a lot. It will make or break your group’s ability to succeed. Just like in DAOC, when a group that knows how to maximize their CC comes against a group that doesn’t, the better CC’ers can take twice their numbers. This is what led to the success of the 8 man teams after players decided that zerging wasn’t fun. I hope to see the same thing in Aion. Additionally, there is a different between ‘annoying CC’ and CC that makes sense. WAR has the three difference CC timers and the disables and so on. Aion has roots, sleeps, snares, polymorphs, etc. I’ll comment more when I do sieges, but it feels less annoying already than WAR CC.
What WAR did right compared to AION
This is tough. I don’t know enough about Aion yet, but I do know that WAR is often criticized for getting nothing “right”. Public quests are arguably a good addition to the genre, but as WAR has shown they are over used and act as replacement for real content. I will say that WAR made an effort to ensure that their focus (RvR being accessible, even at level 1), even if a wrong focus, was accomplished. It’s easy to jump right in to RvR regardless. I also like WAR’s guild system; sure it could use improvements to how guilds level and the rewards they receive, but the leveling of guilds was nice. Aion only has 3 guild levels and you buy them.
What AION did right compared to WAR
I think we’re going to see Aion’s PvP play out much better. Their Abyss vs. T4 is going to show up WAR in a big way if anything I’ve heard from friends is true – remember, Aion has been out for 8 months in Korea. Why will it show it up? Because it’s not about gathering points for domination flips to get to a capital city. It’s not about flipping keeps for gear, flipping them for renown, or really about this arcadelike production of PvP…. it’s simply about fighting your enemy. The Balaur (3rd faction, NPC) will add an interesting element to the PvP that will make it just that much more dynamic. You will still earn points, and lose them too, in Aion for fighting so players won’t feel like they’re doing it for nothing. These points are then redeemed for gear and other things. It’s like DAOC’s realm rank system in a way. I think the irony here is that Aion will be closer to DAOC than WAR.
World PVP (random pvp) fun
WAR did not have this, except on ORvR servers. Even there, the random world pvp was nonexistent. People simply did not go into each other’s PvE areas because being in the RvR area was 10000x more rewarding. Guards everywhere and the funneling of players in certain directions that I spoke of earlier only compounded the lack of random world pvp. Aion might have the edge here with rifts which open in one side’s area and lead to the other side. Players can jump through these rifts and enter the enemy’s PvE area and fight them in their own land. They are open for a certain period of time and their appearance is random (although I’ve hard players figured out a system to predict them?). This could lead to great world pvp where you’re never truly 100% safe.
PVE Questing variety and fun
I don’t LIKE questing. I feel that it is overused, simplistic, mind-numbing, and a shortcut. This applies to both games. Both of these games have simple quests where reading them won’t matter because the description just says “Kill 8 of this” or “Get me 10 of those”. Both games have their occasional gems, but overall it’s a system that I wish would just go away. Aion has “missions” which are like an epic storyline for you to do throughout the leveling process (and perhaps beyond?) that will provide decent incentives/rewards, some story, and an underlying purpose for each region you visit. It’s a step up from the mundane, but still falls short of what quests should really be all about – the QUEST, not the chore. Luckily you can avoid questing in Aion altogether and grind if you like, because it’s just as effective to level up if not better later in levels.
Hows the End Game?
No idea. I’ll get back to you on that in a few months. I do know that PvP is the main focus of the game because it is at the center of everything. There are also dungeons and big boss encounters. How it compares to WAR, only time will tell. I do hope to find out if Aion has gear progression though. I haven’t heard anything about a “ward” system or a “you must do this to do this” step. Hopefully it does not exist.
These are two very similar games in theory, yet very different in practice. Hopefully my answers were what you were looking for and give you a sense of how the two games match up. I would be happy to answer additional questions in the comments section if I am able. If not, maybe those more experienced would be willing to lend a hand.