This will probably be my last write up regarding Aion. If you have been following my previous articles, I have detailed my play experience with the game by focusing on the 1-10 experience, 10-25 early Abyss, and the 25 and beyond. This will be my last word on Aion for the time being because some of the game's issues have forced most of my guild to step back from the game.
Now I am not one to make "I quit" posts typically, but all thing considered, I believe my assessment of the game in previous articles has be pretty fair and objective. So what I would like to do here today is talk about some of the aspects of Aion that ultimately ended up turning us sour in a constructive and informative way.
It seems you can't read anywhere about Aion without reading about the grind, and this blog has been no exception to that. That being said, it has to be mentioned because this is probably the first of several pitfalls that is going to be cause people to throw in the towel.
This is a graph that fairly accurately plots the experience points curve in Aion at each level that was made by a member of the community here. As you can see by the graph, right around level 35 the amount of exp needed literally makes the graph look literally like a wall. Often times when you read on various forums about people saying the grind is fine, make sure you put it into the context of what level they have made it to. Now to be fair, the amount of exp needed by itself is not necessarily the problem as you start to enter your 40's, but the way in which questing starts to play far less of a role.
When I hit level 42, I quickly completed all of the new quests and looked down at my 60 million exp bar to see only about 10-15% of it had been filled, leaving the remaining 50 million to be obtained by pure mob grind. Now I am well aware of an upcoming patch slated to increase the quest exp and mob exp, but I think the problem goes a bit deeper than that. There is a real lack of quest content that becomes painfully obvious at the higher levels. Quest content is very good at masking grind in other games, so the lack of it in Aion at this level range really only adds to the pain and tedium.
The best comparison I can make is for those who played Age of Conan at release and hit the wall around level 50 where the quest content dried up almost instantly forcing people into grinding cannibal caves for levels to get through the gap. This problem only gets compounded more however as the exp needed to level continues to grow exponentially, but the amount of content does not. This only helps feed the bot epidemic and will undoubted crush the will of non-hardcore players as they reach the higher levels.
One final note on the grind that really bothers me is that Aion seems to punish grouping. As a ranger, I found in most cases I was able to solo grind far more efficiently than in a group killing elites a few levels higher than me. I would highly recommend adjusting the experience modifier for grouping to make it more appealing to group. So with all the above factored in, players struggling with the progression in the game are going to start to ask if it's worth enduring for the sake of PvP. Let's take a look...
I like to break the PvP elements in Aion into pretty much 3 different categories. First you have your rift PvP into enemy territory, then the fortress fights, and finally your small scale encounters that occur in the Abyss.
1) Rift PvP
A week or so ago, my guild got a group together to through a rift into the Asmodian level 30+ area to go cause some trouble. I think it was a real telling moment to me personally when it became glaringly clear that at least half of the people we were killing in this zone were bots. When attacked, bots would simply stand there or continue to attack their mob, and when killed they would run the same exact route back to the same spot literally upwards of 10 times. Each time they would take the same exact route, to the same exact spot, and not even stopping or deviating when getting attacked. Granted killing the bots was a good source of Abyss points, but the fun of the PvP leaves something to be desired when a PvE mob offers more resistance. Again in all fairness, there were probably 50% real people mixed in who had guilds, who would react to being attacked, and change tactics after being killed or spotting us.
In this regard, I really have to say that NCSoft's bot detection team or tools, or whatever they are spinning as is either completely worthless, or they think their customers are stupid. Who the hell is in charge of the bot spotting team, Stevie Wonder? Anyone with a working pair of eyes can see dozens of bots infesting the level 30+ area on both sides. They are so blatantly operating out in the open that there is no way possible anyone could NOT see them. Frankly when I read NCSoft press releases about how they have tools in place, it's insulting to my intelligence.
2) Fortress Battles
I think most people can agree that the fortress fights make up one of the key elements of the PvP aspect of Aion. In my last article, I touched on the fact that crashing seemed to be somewhat of an issue during some of the sieges. Since then, I have had the chance to participate in many more sieges to see how much of an issue the crashing really is. I can say with all honesty in almost every siege I have been in since then, the game crashed at some point during the sieges, except for one where the Asmos never showed up to defend and I had all of the character models turned off (Shift + F12).
This is a major problem for me on so many levels. First of all my PC is pretty serious, and judging by all the posts on forums and conversations with most of my guild, people having this issue are a pretty sizable portion of the playerbase. This is pretty much game-breaking because the fortress battles are the only way to get medals, and medals are needed to get the top PvP reward gear, so crashing during sieges pretty much makes is close to impossible for you to get the medals needed to pursue the endgame gear. With the game being out so long overseas, and 4-5 rounds of betas in NA, I am somewhat confused how the game went live without anyone knowing about this being picked up, let alone not being hotfixed. It's even sillier when someone in the community posts a fix on the forums before your professional coders can do it.
Another issue is a flaw in the overall fortress system in general that also Warhammer Online suffered from, a lack of incentive to defend a fortress. Medals are not given for a successful defense, and enemy fortress guards are actually a better source of Abyss points than most other mobs and players. Killing a handful of guards seems to net more AP than running the instance you get access to for holding the fort. So when you think about it, you are somewhat better off not defending because you will be granted a better source of AP, and a chance to earn medals when you go after it again later (assuming you don't crash).
3) Small Scale PvP
Small scale PvP overall remains one of the game stronger suits to me personally. The only zerging that really goes from what I have seen so far is during the fortress fights, which is completely understandable. The rest of the time people tend to roam around solo or in small groups making for some pretty fun encounters. A smaller group of players who play smart is capable of beating a larger group if the right tactics are used along with the right crowd control.
I think if there is anything I would change, I would make other players worth more experience points. Although it wasn't in the game originally, the amount of exp given for killing a player is so small that they pretty much may as well not give you any at all. One other aspect is the fact that low level players give virtually no AP, but at the same time your enemy's level is hidden. This can be annoying when you opt to chase someone for quite a long distance only to be rewarded with 1 AP. Had you known the person's level you may have been inclined to not even bother chasing them extensively. I also understand the benefit though of hiding levels, so it's a double-edged sword I suppose.
The way I see it is that players will need to start asking themselves this question: Is it worth enduring a steep and tedious grind that becomes exceedingly light in content for PvP that has 2 of out 3 aspects not meeting expectations?
The prospect of increasing exp sounds good in theory, but there is no mention of any much needed quest content. NCsoft's word is losing a tremendous amount of value to players due to their inability to find the bots that every player with a pair of working eyes can see on a daily basis. I can understand that many players may be willing to hang in there a bit longer given the game's polish and small scale PvP, but at this point I have to say the answer to that question is "no" from me personally, but to each their own.
Co-Leader of Inquisition