Aion: Updated Impression and the Abyss
Since my last article covering some of the basics of Aion at low level, I have had a chance to invest a bit more time in the Chinese version of the game. Having progressed far enough to see the Abyss finally, I wanted to take some time and give some updated impressions on my play experiences since I am a bit farther into the game.
The first thing I want to touch on are my experiences with the grind in the game so far. From levels 1-20, I can say that I was pretty much able to quest through most of my levels. The campaign quests give a substantial amount of EXP over the standard quests, and there are some repeatable quests to help you through some of those areas where you do find yourself grinding to reach the next level after your quests are all completed.
Between the levels of 20-24, the grind starts to pick up more and more each level. The percentage of your levels EXP you are able to get through quests starts to gradually go down in this range for a few reasons. The first is that the amount of exp to reach the next levels ramps up pretty quickly, and secondly, some of the quest EXP rewards don't seem to be enough. The repeatable quests really don't reward to well either, as one requiring you to kill X amount of mobs, rewards you at turn in with amount of exp equal to killing 2 of those mobs. In the time it takes you to go turn them in, you could have kept killing and came out better off. As a result, I spent a lot of my time grinding in the jungle and desert in Eltnen. Once reaching 25 however, things seem to pick up a lot (I'll touch on this later).
During my time playing, I had a chance to delve into the Legion functionality with some of my guys on the NA and Chinese versions. My first beef is that Aion only allows 3 different ranks for your legion members, and these rank titles can't seem to be changed. While you can set permissions for each of the 3 ranks, you can't have 2 people be the highest rank. In MMO guilds like mine where there are 2 leaders, this is somewhat disappointing and inconvenient. The current version I played during the NA weekend and Chinese also only allow 10 characters for your legion name, which I find unnecessarily restrictive. Since my guild's name is 11 letters long, I can only fit "Inquisitio". This forces us to abbreviate ourselves to INQ, and I am sure other MMO guilds will have to do the same unless the newer version updates we haven't played yet increase the character limit.
Aion legions also have levels like some other MMOs like EQ2 and WAR. Unlike its predecessors, Aion only has three levels for legions. Upgrading your legion to level 2 requires having 10 people on your roster, and a payment of around 120,000 gold. Once you upgrade, you will have roster limit increased from 30 to 60 maximum members, although in my opinion the fact that there is one at all strikes me as silly. Once you upgrade, you can also customize a guild emblem for your cloak. There are only a dozen emblems, but you can pick any background color you can imagine. You can also change your guild emblem at any time if you so chose for a small fee.
The one really good aspect of Aion's legion system is if you are able to upgrade to level 3. Level 3 requires a higher roster count and around 1.2 million gold, which is not as bad as it sounds on paper given how much money I was making. Any decent size guild should have no trouble getting this cash together if everyone kicks in a bit of cash. At level 3, the limitations of the emblem system redeem itself by letting you put your own design. This means you can literally use any graphic or logo you want to represent your guild. During my playing I managed to see some pretty interesting logos as seen in the above screenshot. Overall I think there is room for improvement in the legion functionality, but specialized level 3 emblems make for an awesome feature.
Once you reach level 20 and start to move into the third tier of zones, you will start to get your first taste of PvP. It seems like every so often, there are rifts or portals that appear somewhat randomly that connect to the other faction's area. These rifts seem to have a chance to appear in one of many predetermined locations across the zones, which are quite large, and have a set number of uses before they become unusable. From my own experiences, it seems that at almost any given time there is a rift up that either leads to the enemy area or has the enemy coming into yours.
There are no PvP restrictions in terms of where you can go and who you can attack. Enemies can even go inside the perimeter of your main fortress if they are careful to avoid guards, which is not difficult. While you are able to attack anyone of any level, you will not know what level the people on the other faction are. This makes for some interesting encounters where people misjudge the strength of their opponent. In one personal experience, a bunch of us ganged up on a single enemy only to have him obliterate all of us by dropping a meteor on us! In addition to the PvP points awarded, there are special "infiltration" quests that require you to go to the enemy zone and complete tasks there. In this regard the rift aspect of the game makes the PvP not consentual, which is fine by me but may turn off others.
Once your reach level 25 the game starts to open up and you are allowed to start delving into the Abyss, which is the games central area for RvR.
As soon as you hit level 25, you will receive a new campaign quest series to complete in order to be able to access the Abyss. The campaign consists of 3 mini trials you have to go through in order to prove your worth, but also double as a minor tutorial. The first test consists of proving your worth by completing 1 task from 3 available choices. I chose a challenge to kill some monster under the arena in a certain time limit that was laughably easy. The second trial tests your knowledge, and has you answering a series of multiple choice questions that serve to educate you a little about the Abyss and some of the game's lore. It's impossible to fail it seems as picking the wrong answer prompts you to try again among the remaining choices.
The final trial is a test of flight in which you have to fly through a series of rings in a short time. This serves to educate the player about the use of these rings which are present in the Abyss. Flying through the rings replenishes a portion of your flight timer and gives a small speed boost during the trial. Like the previous trials, it was not difficult at all and I was able to complete it on my first run through. Once all trials are complete, you are shown to the Abyss portal (as seen above) and are free to go through whenever you want.
Once you arrive in the Abyss, you will find yourself in a fully functional fortress area with pretty much everything you will ever need. The fortress was complete with various vendors, banks, auction house, bind point, and even teleporters to take you to many of the games PvE zones. You will also notice that there are new standard quests for the Abyss that helps alleviate the strain from leveling, as well as campaign. The first campaign mission presents the player with a simply amazing tutorial about RvR in the Abyss through the use of various cutscenes.
Here is a quick summary:
The first thing they explain is that the Abyss has a total of 9 keeps that you can fight over, and they are spread across 3 different layers: bottom, core, and top. The Balaur are a monster faction that participates in the Abyss wars, and they often take over these keeps.
Each keep has some sort of damage shield that protects it from air assaults. Trying to attack a keep from the air while the shield is up is supposed to be difficult and damaging. Inside each of the keeps is some sort shield generator that powers the shield. If this generator is destroyed, then the shield goes away and people are free to assault from the air without any kind of penalty or negatives.
Each of the keeps has doors to protect it from ground assaults that will need to be broken down in order to gain access. The doors are also especially vulnerable to siege weapons that can be deployed by the attackers. In addition, there are also portable bind points that can be dropped in the field so that people can respawn close to the fight. These bindpoints are supposed to easily destroyed and only be able to be used a certain amount of times before being rendered useless.
Finally they explain about artifacts that can be used to sway the battles. They are supposed to be activated to provide various effects from mass healing, mass damage, and other assorted abilities. They also tell you to kill the boss to take the keep, and elaborate on the benefits of taking on for your legion. Benefits range from Abyss points, items (including Abyss medals), cash, and other bonuses in the newer versions of the game we haven't received yet. They also give you a final warning about some sort of Balaur flying battleship that can drop monsters into areas to mess with people.
The Abyss environment itself look very nice and seems to vary as you go from island to island. The entire area is flight enabled, and the rings can be used to guide you over some of the longer stretches between islands. There are teleports that take you from the bottom level to the top level, but if you look up at the sky on the bottom level you can see the upper level far above.
The core of the Abyss can be seen in the center and resembles a large sun-like ball of fire. In case you were curious, flying into this ball of fire will result in being insta-gibbed. PvE in the Abyss was getting me around 13 AP (Abyss Points) per kill at level 25. The fact that you can gain points through PvE can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you look at things. On one hand some people might not like the fact people can PvE grind their way up the ranks to abyss abilities and gear. On the other hand, people opting to take this route do so in an area where they can be ganked at any moment, so it will help drive traffic to this area making people somewhat easier to find.
Abyss rewards come in the form of abyss abilities for reaching certain ranks, and item rewards for cashing in your points.
Over on Aion Source, I spotted this thread that shows an example of some of the high ranking Abyss abilities. One of the more notable abilities this high ranking person has is the ability to effectively turn themselves into a raid boss once every 2 hours for 10 minutes. This is definitely an interesting dynamic that should be interesting to see in action.
Items are the other major reward you get from PvP. There are stores in which you spend your Abyss points in order to purchase high end gear. There are various degrees of gear for each level range that have varying prices. Most of the green items can be bought purely with points, but some of the high level gold (epic) items also require medals which are earned during fortress sieges.
The Abyss gear actually looks to be itemized well, a problem that WAR had at launch with a lot of its PvP reward gear. The above picture shows 2 Abyss bows that are both level 30. The green one costs much less AP then the gold one, but the gold one features more damage, stats, and socketing slots for manastones. It is up to the player to decide if they want to hold out for the higher end item, or hold out for higher level gear. Since players lose AP for PvP loss, some may want to cash out sooner depending on their luck. One final point, spending points you have earned subtracts them from your total, thus reduces your rank. This means as people purchase items, there will be a constant moving up and down the RvR ranks, and high rank players will have to decide if they want to give up their rank abilities to cash out their points for weapons.
I really am looking forward to seeing how this all pans out when the game releases in North America. The game has solid PvP rewards, risk, and keeps / artifacts for people to fight over. For all the comparisons you hear about this game with WoW because of the playstyle, I'm starting to think it might be in many ways like an asian DAOC. If everything works out, I think this game could offer a lot to people who were fans of DAOC and disgruntled Warhammer fans. I look forward to continuing my journey on the Chinese version a while longer, and I am curious to see how the patches NA will have at release alleviate some of the issues with the game. If they can reduce the grind as they claimed in a recent interview, then I think this will be a game a lot of people will probably be jumping into if the end game ends up being solid.
Co-Leader of Inquisition