The title says it all. In a few hours (It's about to hit 3AM EST) we will see the start of Aion's 4th closed beta test. This weekend's playtest features both Elyos and Asmodian sides as well as the Abyss and the ability to reach level 25. It should serve as a great weekend for anyone in the CBT or entering for the first time.
While we wait though I'd like to go over my thoughts on Aion thus far and how I believe it may be the next big thing to compete with the WoW market.
By far one of the most advanced character creation systems I have ever had the pleasure of using. By now it's no secret that Aion utilizes an Oblivion-styled chargen slider system for pretty much every facial feature available. They also allow you to scale your character's body and make it as tiny or as large as you can (within their limits). Though you're limited to only two races, the Elyos and Asmodians, you are able to make them as unique and different as you want and can easily distinguish yourself from others in the game.
It comes as no shock to me as I have forseen this level of character customization coming for some time now. It's something I have needed and wanted desperately for roleplaying and has only been seen in a select few games (AoC; you could use sliders but it wasn't as good as Aion's, VG and EQ2). It sure as hell beats your typical head and hair choices that most MMOs offer and is a fresh breath of air for the personalization aspect of games.
It's also possible to create your own face if you're skilled enough with the sliders, and if you prefer, a celebrity's face. The options are truly endless and time in the character creation section can be a game in itself.
As with all MMORPGs you will have to start out as a simple little person in a gigantic and wonderous world. You begin your life in a typical newbie area and work your way up to the "real" stuff over the course of an hour or two. It doesn't take long to get from 1 to 6 and by that time you're well on your way to the real deal. By level 9 you can choose your subclass and soon after at 10 you are officially through with the newbie zone.
Upon reaching level 10 (and if you're finished with everything in the starter zone) you will proceed to a ceremony that will allow you to ascend to the status of Daeva which seems to be a sign of divinity and something to respect. Not that it matters much to most people, the world around you looks up (and down) on the daeva and as such you become an integral part of things going on. There is another nice perk to hitting level 10 as well and that is your first pair of wings. These wings will serve as your primary travel method when in zones that allow it (teleporters and flight masters are available too).
When all is said and done, depending on your chosen race you will be told to hit up the next area, which for me was on the Asmodian side of the tracks the first time around.
As with most other games you are faced with your general, run of the mill 1-to-cap level system. Not much to say about this besides that it's a tested and true system and it works for me. I haven't gone far enough in the game to truly know much about progression besides that I do quests, gain xp, money and move on.
Of the zones I have seen I have loved every bit of them. So far each zone seems to have multiple themes going on. Starting out on the Asmodian side, I saw a pleasant change in the zones and found my journey to level 10 quite refreshing and definitely easy on the eyes. It's nice to see some quality landscaping for a change. Everything looked natural and very organic. It all seemed to flow together brilliantly. Colorful, lush, dense, sparse, whatever it was it just looked great.
Words cannot fully describe the beauty of Aion. It is as beautiful as it is bold and definitely delivers for anyone searching for that gem of all gems. It's no secret that NCSoft has a talented staff of developers but they have certainly pushed the envelope for Aion. It makes Lineage 2 look bland in comparison, and has a unique flare going for it.
Though Aion still seems to take a more Asian approach to design it appeals to every set of eyes that gazes upon it. Flashy outfits and weapons from the start make the higher level stuff much more appealing than any other game. Rewards look and feel like rewards. Everything in this game has been carefully crafted to sweeten you up, so much so that you may have to see a dentist after playing for long periods of time. Aion is, quite simply, the proverbial eyecandy for MMO gamers, and a beacon of light for other developers to learn from. For so long now MMO gamers have suffered through subpar graphics with few exceptions and have always been years behind other games. Aion seeks to change this and is doing a wonderful job.
All in all, there's no shortage of elegance in Aion and it's worth a look even if you're not planning on playing for long.
The community seems decent enough, though I haven't gone too deep into it yet. In my next playtest I hope to find some fellow RPers and will be actively seeking a guild that suits this purpose.
Players seem friendly enough, though I did run into one person who stole my kills. He looked like your typical WoW player and had the demeanor of a 13 year old. Needless to say, every game has it's bad apples. I hope the entirety of the playerbase doesn't include others like this person.
In the end Aion is a true work of art. Though the gameplay mirrors that of games already released it has a certain amount of charm that will hopefully only grow over time. One can only hope they use a mix of previous and new examples to make Aion the big one because if that happens it will kill the beast we've all sought to slay.