Aura Kingdom – MMOs for Lazy People
Genres like cutesy anime MMOs are bound to resurface over and over again. Once we get past the idea of kicking the dead and decomposing horse, all we can do is hope for the best from a development standpoint as players. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, and just because they’ve been made before doesn’t mean they can’t be made- or played –again.
Such is Aura Kingdom, Aeria’s newest entry onto their free to play roster. Going in, you already have a good idea of what to expect: Teenish anime avatars fighting equally cute fuzzies before weaning you off onto marginally less cute monsters. Sure, we’ve all been there, done that, but how does Aura Kingdom do it? Will you want to pay the money Aeria is hoping you’ll will?
Well, about that…
I’m of the opinion that we, as gamers, occasionally like stuff handed to us on a silver platter when playing MMOs. Challenge and depth can be the meat and potatoes of a title, but sometimes we just want to be entertained. Aura Kingdom’s takes this theory and makes it the centerpiece of its game in a way that almost completely devalues the game. This concept is threaded throughout the entire game, as if you the player shouldn’t be weighed down by trivial matters such as content, mana bars and role playing. If you just want leveling on rails that merely requires you to press the appropriate buttons at the right time, this is the game for you.
It’s not completely without redeeming value, however. In fact, Aura Kingdom seems to have an almost split personality when it comes to character management, allowing players to assign stat points to offensive and defensive categories, as well as a branching talent tree reminiscent of several console RPGs. Passive skills can be assigned to a number of mastery categories and you can even choose a second class at level 40 ala every other Asian MMO along these lines.
Forty levels before you can branch out may seem excessive, but here it’s really not. In fact, I would go so far to say that your first 40 levels is merely a tutorial. To point-- you literally have to stand AFK in the middle of a hostile field of mobs to die in normal play. Everything is provided to you up to this point, and you will never want for gear. Even elite mobs offer little challenge in open world questing, and Aura Kingdom has made it even easier by adopting the super obvious telegraphing attack system to help you avoid the big, flashy attacks used in other bigger budget titles, like Wildstar.
Now I’m going to go off on a minor rant here and ask a serious question—When did that ever become a good idea? Who was this genius that said to hell with challenge and skill? Instead, we’re going to lay down a giant red carpet that tells you exactly where the attack will occur so you can all but mindlessly avoid it. That’s fun, right? Honestly, this is one gaming mechanic that seriously needs to fuck off because it adds nothing to the game besides dumbing it down. And here’s the crazy thing—I’m fine with hints that a super attack is coming… Maybe a gust of wind that will kick up dust along the line of attack or something likewise subtle, but painting the environment with a giant red highlighter to indicate the no-no zones is complete fail sauce and should be on the short list of MMO fails, whether your name is Carbine or Aeria.
Back to Aura Kingdom, however, the above is yet another symptom of the AK’s biggest problem—The game goes out of its way to promote laziness. Questing progresses along a singular track regardless of how you shape your character and the gameplay encourages extensive use of auto-pathing. In many cases, player interactivity is abdicated as the game will not only autopilot you to your quest destination, but perform the action required of you when you get there as well. It’s actually too bad, because there’s wit in the NPC interaction if you bother to look for it. Unfortunately, all you need to do is show up and press the appropriate keys in order to slay the required number of furries. The linear quest progression will ensure that by the time you’re ready to try a new class combination, you’ll be skipping every last dialogue box just to get the prerequisite grind out of the way faster.
Speaking of which, nine classes (once katar unlocks) and the ability to take on a sub class at forty attempts to add some much needed depth to the game, as does the ability to take on combat pets. Both help, but not in any significant way; almost as if the game acknowledges that the RP portion of Aura Kingdom is little more than fluff for the faction based PvP.
On the bright side, your character generation options are fairly generous and not gender locked. Laziness rears its ugly head once more when it comes to equipping them, however. While the gear itself can be socketed with gems and crafted, your appearance will not change. Aura Kingdom uses a costume system exclusively, and there’s only about a dozen or so templates to choose from at the moment. I can see the benefits of such a system, but they are not beneficial to us as gamers. The decision reeks of a small development team with limited time and resources looking to maximize their profit potential, which brings us to everybody’s favorite part of the show: The Cash Shop.
Aura Kingdom is a game of little substance that hands you everything. There is no significant challenge in the first forty levels, which might as well be an over grown, bloated tutorial for as little as it offers. With linear, one dimensional questing options and very little in the way of in-game avatar customization, you would hope that Aeria would price accordingly. This is a cotton candy game; something you would maybe consider wasting time on while your primary MMO was patching.
Sorry for your luck.
As of the last check, the founder’s packages were laughably expensive and the normal pricing options would put most subscriptions to shame. I would go so far as to say that there is very little worthwhile content to actually spend hard money on besides a costume rental here and there. Now I like my hats too, but there is so little of actual substance to this particular title that pushing money in their direction would be a crime. Being in an import title (see: Fantasy Frontier Online) and already working through Open Beta, I don’t see a whole lot changing for the Western market.
So I guess the verdict here is pretty obvious and I’m not going to lead my readers around by the nose: Aura Kingdoms is in no way worth your time or effort if you intend to actually feed money into it. As a free game, it’s fine, I guess—It’s a cheap, budget title that will provide you with some modicum of entertainment without weighing players down with such things like mana management or deep proficiencies, and therein lies AK’s double edged sword. It’s far too simplistic for it’s own good, and while I’m a fan of hand walking gamers to their destination, Aura is ridiculous. Nor is it worth the Aeria brand name premium they’re attaching to its commerce model.