Writing about Aion ten days after the headstart, there are two things you want to talk about : the early gameplay, and the queues. Even if most people agree, for now, that the game looks much more polished and attractive that what AoC and WAR were at their release, the very long login queues have made alot of people really mad.
First of all, it seems those long queues happen mostly on EU servers, and no more on the NA ones according to what I read, and for a reason I can not really figure. If I try to login on my server (Vidar) at a peak time I'll get around 2:30 hours of queue, and even sometime it's hard to get in the queue as you keep being rejected by a message saying the server is completely full. For some people it's the sign that Ncsoft totally failed to get a smooth launch, others tend to think that it's a good sign for the game on a longer term. Let's put all this into perspective so that we can understand both points of view.
From the perspective of a guy who works all the day long, come back at home and tries to log in at 7 or 8 pm having just two or three hours of playtime, it's intolerable : he just won't be able to play the game. And it's even worse during the week-end actually. On the other hand from the perspective of someone who has more flexible spare time and can play early in the day or late at night, it's bearable : you just avoid the peak time, or in case you can't you launch the queue, go to do something else and come back 2 hours later. It's too easy to blame other players for not being patient when you're in the second category, and harder not to blame Ncsoft when you're in the first one.
Fortunately I have the chance to be in the second at the moment, and even if my server is one of the most crowded ones, I have managed to stay cool until now about this issue. I tend to think that on the long term it's indeed better for the game : after the hype will be gone, we will certainly have more active servers. It prooves also that the game seems to have a decent success, at least more than what Ncosft expected. Nethertheless I perfectly understand the frustration of many players who feel they have been ripped off from something they paid for. And still, my only interrogation would be : why does it happen mostly on EU servers ? If they had it right on the NA side, I do not see a reason why EU players could not have the same service.
(Doesnt seem I have to get in a queue there...^^)
I started the first day of the headstart, at 9 pm, and the servers went up right on schedule : I could log in then with a few more hundred people in the first two minutes. The first view I got in the game, and I regret I did not screen it, was like 200 players around the first newbie npc. I was surprised my game did not really lag at this point. And I just realized a few hours later what it really meant and that was big : this game will be stable for large PvP battles. And for anyone who played WAR, AoC, or even WoW's Lake Wintergrasp, that's huge. However that many people around for everything and any quest did not make the game immersive at the headstart. You either wanted to rush in front to avoid the big mass, what I did first on my sorceress, or later to stay behind, but that was not satisfying as more and more people were joining the game anyway. Fortunately Ncsoft had the good idea to offer up to 10 different channels (or instances) for the first newbie zones 1-20. When a mob or a quest item was too much camped you could switch to another channel to keep on going. Actually I cannot imagine how I could have played and enjoyed the game if they did not offer that.
(Clicking on the cute ribbit when 10 other people try to do the same thing each time it spawns does not make it easy...)
I leveled a sorceress up to 19 in the first two or three days, and kinda liked it. I will not insist too much on the gameplay, the quests, it's very classic. If you read this article right now, you probably now already alot about the game. If not, try to imagine WoW with a little touch of Lineage or Korean MMOs and you will get the correct idea. The class I chose felt really good, despise the fact I had to sit a bit too much to my taste to recover my mana while being in a team. As I was a bit ahead of my friends, I decided to try an assassin for a few levels to get an idea of another class and totally enjoyed this class, much more than my first choice actually. The fighting was funnier, more punchy, more dynamic, required a bit more skills in my opinion and no mana downtime in teams, so I decided to stick with my second choice and I have not regreted it yet.
My asmodean assassin is now level 21 and doing fine. I like the game even if it's certainly not a revolution in the MMO genre. It's really solid, well done, the art in the game is fantastic as is the music and the atmosphere. It made me remind that I never really completely enjoyed WoW back when I was playing it for those precise reasons : I never liked its art and music and did not feel that immersed, I mostly played it for its PvP. On the other hand Aion is everything I could dream of as far as graphics, atmosphere and immersion can go, and it reminds me Lineage 2 on those points, but with certainly better mechanics.
However I've been playing a bit less those last two or three days. Since I have reached level 20, there is only one channel for everybody now. Damn it. The first area after level 20 on my server is so crowded that you can barely find a single quest mob, and I found myself logging out twice early in the evening recently just because I did not feel like playing the run around and Ksing game with other players, or chain grinding on non quest mobs in another area. Not a big issue, it will be over soon I guess. Or anyway I plan to catch some friends to team up and grind on the elite mobs as soon as possible.
I had also my two first PvP experiences on my assassin while I was PvEing, each of them involving being rooted, slowed and getting 3 or 4 shot relatively fast by level 30+ people to whom I stood no chance. Not a problem at all, that's the PvP game and it seems it has alot of potential on the long run. I'm more worried about the community at the moment, because unless you play in a big guild on Teamspeak ignoring everyone else in your faction around (that many good players do, and I do not like it as it's not my conception of a MMO), you have to team and cooperate with random players to get things done. And what I have seen so far is a bit less than what I expected in terms of a mature and convivial community. Hopefully it will improve in a month or two. My small guild for now is just 3 friends and me, we are still not sure to recruit more until we decide we will stay on the game at least for a decent amount of time. We will see how it goes.
(Aion's graphics are immersive and gorgeous...)
It has globally been a really solid headstart until now, at least for people who could avoid or stand with the queues. No crash, no bug, no disconnect for me so far, everything is going smooth, but maybe the big and anti-immersive masses of players. You can not complain about that anyway when you participate in a release, that was to be expected especially if the game is successful and that is what everyone hopes it will be. My character is really fun to play at the moment in PvE, and I find it more reactive and punchy than my old WoW rogues. It got a bit slow around level 12-14, but once you pass level 16 you have enough skills and cooldowns to be active most of a fight. The global cooldown being really shorter than WoW's one, it makes for exciting and furious fights. Also contrarily to WoW, you can move around the mob in PvE and gain benefit from that, so it's definitely more fun than standing still in front of it and repeating always the same skill sequence. However I cannot say that it will be as good in PvP later, I have not really gone into that yet.
You can certainly not rate a MMO on its first ten days. It's a bit too early. We need to see much more of it, especially the Abyss and its PvP. But if I had to bet prior to the headstart, I would have actually expected to be disappointed by Aion. And it's not the case. I cannot say I have a blast playing the game, but I certainly do enjoy it. It's a truly beautiful game. Even if it looked so classic and unoriginal on the paper mechanics wise, what they did in this game, they did it really well. The long waiting queues, even if unpleasant, must also mean that alot of people really want to play this game right now. And that's certainly for a reason.
PS : trying to log in the game at 6 pm right now makes for 2 hours of queue. It's definitely going worse as before I could enter in 15-20 mins at this time and the very long queues did not start before 7-8 pm.