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Aion - The Tower of Eternity Review

A little review I wrote on Aionsource. They don't allow much for words in their blog system, so I thought I'd share it with this community.

Author: spiritoso

My Aion Review.

Posted by spiritoso Thursday November 12 2009 at 4:38PM
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Introduction

I'm not new to video games or gaming for that matter, so I'll give a bit of history on myself.

First off, I'm no English major and I'm not going to claim that this will come out to be the most gramatically correct post, but I'll do my best to be as informative as possible. This is my opinion and may not be shared by all, but it's mine :)

I come from a long history of MMO's to RPG's to MMORPG's. Console Games ranging all the way to competitive FPS ladder gaming and table top pen and paper as well as large scale model RP gaming (never LARP'd). When I was younger, I grew up on the NES playing the likes of Mario to Zelda and got my hands on Final Fantasy and Ultima as my first Console RPG's. I got my SNES and started straight into anything released by Squaresoft and completed just about any game they released as well as their sister Famicom versions. I also had a Playstation where I would play the Gran Turismo titles and continued the Final Fantasy (reason I got the Playstation) titles.

Basically, on a console, I really enjoyed the Eastern ways of developing action RPG style games. I also like the way characters were designed and found eastern game design to be the most creative in terms of unique stories, with inventive worlds that took you as far away from Earthen reality as possible.

During this time I would also participate in a local gaming group where I found my favorite games to be Shadowrun, Forgotten Realms, D&D and Battle Tech.

This takes me into PC gaming. On PC I was playing Warcraft, Doom and Mechwarrior as my most memorable, and continued playing more of the FPS games on PC. My favorite FPS games were Doom (1/2/3), Quake (3/4), Unreal Tournament (2k3/2k4), Counter Strike Source and Half Life. My favorite RPG's were Diablo (I/II), Neverwinter Nights, Warcraft series all the way to current day where I started up on the modern MMO's. When playing the FPS games, I did so very competitively and always wanted to be the best. I wanted to climb ladders and poon noobs.

My MMO history is such:
I started playing EverQuest when it was first released with a few friends while living in Germany. I didn't find the enjoyment in the game at the time as my friends did and actually enjoyed Diablo II more. This pushed my MMO love back a couple years where when returning to the states I asked a few friends a game to play and described to them what I was looking for. I was one of those who BASHED anyone who payed a monthly fee for a video game. However, they all told me to get World of Warcraft and check it out. So, I did... and I was absolutely amazed. This game had it. Everything I had been looking for in a video game in a box. For it's time, graphically stunning, open reign on the world with very little you couldn't explore. Massive wide open world that had me hooked into MMO's.

While playing WoW, I found other MMO's that friends suggested which I spent a month or two here and there playing on, but didn't enjoy as much as I did WoW. A friend of mine was massively into EvE and shared his account with me. I got sunk into this game for about 3 months straight while only logging into WoW to raid. Another friend got me into the WAR Beta and I checked this game out for a while and I also played AoC (never capped level, at the time my computer couldn't handle these games).

Throughout the years of playing many games, I've always found myself wanting something new, I wanted some new scenery and possibly a different story line to follow. I'm an addict to stories and lore. In steps Aion... I played the Aion CB to level 22 on both Asmodian and Elyos. I checked out both sides as heavily as I could in the short period which was allotted to us and patiently awaited release.

TL;DR Introduction:

I have played a lot of video games. I'm a big loser and sucker for pixels on a screen. I'm going to share an opinion, it's mine and now it's out in the open. I'm gonna rate this game on a scale, my scale... it ranges from -10 to +10.


THE GOOD!

1. Graphics/Animations. (+9)

I remember opening this game on beta and taking so many screenshots. I played Asmo on beta and freaked out going around the corner to the big tree. I ran to the water and FLIPPED OUT when I saw reflections of my character in the water. I sat there for a bit taking a few shots when all of a sudden, my character started swishing the water around. The subtle details put into character animations and the details in the graphics absolutely floored me. They are to say the least, impressive. I think this is the best thing this game has going for it and it builds an amazing base for an MMO to be built off of.

2. Combat System (+8)

This game has a pretty unique combat system. Not only is the way you use your abilities pretty cool, but the fact that it's the first fantasy MMO I've played to have three dimensional combat. By this I mean, not only do you fight on a ground, but you can also take flight and fight baddies in the air. It reminded me of my old 2D fighter days in Arcades, playing on the old Neo Geo systems where particular combos of keys or movement, would do special abilities. The game's combat system for an MMO has some awesome ideas and are implemented well. The fact that using a full range of abilities is needed as well as cool-down management made for some interesting game play. Not many of the more popular games out are doing things which this game is attempting to do. It's as if they're trying to remember their eastern roots while bring in some new school MMO play-style.

3. Server Stability (+4)

[INDENT]Of course it had a few slight hiccups during it's first few hours of launch, as any new MMO which just hit the market has had. However, this game did a very good job of recovering. This game can take a beating server side. Very few mass disconnects due to server shutdown. I didn't rate this higher only because the launch did have a couple hiccups and with all the information out and pre-order numbers, some more planning could have been put into place to make it perfect. NCSoft is not a new company at this MMO thing and I think that they could have done better. It's still a positive mark, just not as high as the other high points in this review.

4. Class Separation (+7)

For the first time in a while, I feel like when I roll a class I have a purpose. Each class has a specialized role. This is important to me for I can't stand when MMO's try to balance the combat system around every class having a counter to all other classes. In this game, if you are a melee class, you can bet that you'll have a tough time beating the kiting classes such as a mage. If you can get in close to them, they are squishy and die fast. If you're in a group, people seek all ranges of classes and try to bring all of them. Not many groups while I played this game tried to stack a single class where in other MMO's I've played, this was something that helped win. In this game, your group is balanced when you bring everyone. I think this helps the overall of the game because no matter what you roll as your main character, you're likely to find someone who needs you.

5. Character Creation (+8)

Aion has the most comprehensive character creation and customization engine on the market out of any MMO I've played. By far it is the most customizable even if all the characters are of human form. I rated this really high because I feel that being able to create an avatar to your liking is something that has lacked in so many other MMO's in the past. I think that this aspect of an MMO has been severely overlooked as something that is important to gamers. I find that I don't want to be unique in a world of others and not just look like everyone else.


THE BAD!

There's quite a bit wrong, I will post what I feel are the most important things that break the game for me.

1. Disappearing Mouse Cursor and Poor Camera Controls (-7)

Cursor
This game has a buggy mouse cursor. It is acknowledged by NCSoft and something which is claimed to be looking into. I'm sure anyone developing this game knows about and is also annoyed so I would imagine on the list of items to be fixed and will be shortly. Therefore this isn't a Some will claim that they never notice it, however if you ask them about their play-style, they'll let you know they are clickers, meaning, they click the icons on their bars instead of using the number row on the top of the keyboard. I myself enjoy the use of key bindings and am an avid user of Alt or Ctrl + a number key to activate abilities. There is an issue when using these key combos while keeping your right mouse button down. You lose your cursor! This can make your character very difficult to control if you are not a clicker.

Poor Camera Controls
While in flight (a major aspect of this game), controlling your camera to be free movement is very difficult and the ability to free look wile not snapping back to auto follow behind you isn't possible. There is no way to disable this, "Smart Camera" that auto centers behind the character. Sure, you can hold down your center mouse button and have a look, but as soon as you remove your finger from the button, your camera snaps back to looking forward. There is no separation over the character versus the camera, in this game they are one in the same. In all other MMO's I've played, these two functions have always been separate.

In a three dimensional combat system this becomes very frustrating when you play using your arrow keys or WASD to maneuver and your mouse to look around. Using this combination of movement and looking has been embedded into my brain since the early days of Doom and I can't get these elementary aspects of, left hand: up, down, left, right and right hand: look around, to change in my age no matter how I try to adjust to how Aion's controls. This is singly the most frustrating aspect of combat in this game that irks me to no end. This needs to be fixed ASAP.

2. Lack of Difficulty (-3)
First off, the macro system in this game goes a bit far. It actually promotes botting and ease of use your character. At the end of this point, I'm going to post a link to a video of someone who's made a very simple to make macro, which chains his abilities together and kills his mob for him. This lack of character interaction and ease of use for the end user, removes any challenge from the game. You can macro your way to level cap, but this really makes the game severely boring.

Beyond the macro system, there's not much of a challenge with encountering mobs. Most mechanics which you see in enemy NPC's early on in the game are repeated throughout the entirety of the game. There's also nothing I've seen new in this game that isn't something I've already seen in other MMO's or RPG fantasy games. The most difficult mechanic to figure out in this game is how to keep an enemy mob from resetting or killing mobs fast enough so that they don't respawn on top of you. Yes, they hit hard sometimes. Yes, they have a lot of health. This does not make them challenging or difficult in my opinion.

YouTube- Logan's Aion Macro Bot:

www.youtube.com/watch

 

3. Way too "Grindy" and lacking in a story. (-8)

I come from a long list of games, most of the games I've played in the past have disguised this grind in the form of quests and a story line. They've introduced some very inventive quest mechanics where you interact with the environment. With Aion, every few levels you can just about guarantee you'll have a gather quest, a coin quest and a kill x# of mobs quest. When those run out, you have repeatable quests with minimal rewards to finish off the level. There are other campagn quests in the game that are very long and drawn out and some of the stories behind the quests are funny and interesting, however, when these dry up, you find yourself scratching your head, wondering what to do next. The experience gains for the quests are far too little after passing level 39 considering you need such an obscene amount of XP to gain levels.

I found this interesting graph on another MMO review site that illustrates the amount of XP needed to gain levels.

Aion Level Curve
(source)


Others who have responded to comments of people who dislike the grind, come from games like Lineage or other MMO's which have a reputation of being grind fests making Aion anything but a grind to them.

My words to those people are this: While you may enjoy a grind, many people do not. I would really like to enjoy the end game and see what this game has to offer, however, I don't think killing thousands and thousands of mobs to gain a level builds a character or helps me follow a story line. When you respond to this thread calling me names because of how I view this, please come back to this point and read this response.

A grind is a grind, how well disguised that grind is will separate a fun, enjoyable process for me from one that is long, drawn out and quite frankly, boring one. Considering my previous point of how mobs in this game lack AI and share same mechanics all the way through the game, you learn nothing about your character or this game's lore by killing the same enemy NPC's for hours, days on end. Furthermore and in closing on this point, I feel that this is a very poor and lazy way for a game developer to push me into another month of game subscription. I don't pay money out of my pocket to be bored. I do so to be entertained, I am not entertained by killing trees in Herion.

Apparently this is supposed to be changed in an up and coming patch, quite possibly I will return when this wall of XP is reduced. It's absurd and quite frankly, I feel cheated out of a good MMO by the ridiculous leveling process in this game.

4. Fortress Siege Crashes (-10)

This point and my last one are by far the most detrimental points I can address in this entire review. If an NCSoft employee reads this, you need to put this at the top of your list of things to address in this game. I understand that a community member has found, what seems to be, a temporary fix which prolongs the crashes enough for you to enjoy taking fortresses. However, it's not an official fix. I've already invested a lot of time in my character and as Ayase has stated, there is no guarantee that this won't get you banned.

The RvR/PvPvE is what I came to this game to play. You need to find a fix for this flaw in the game engine very quickly or you will lose a LOT of customers. This is absolutely unacceptable and when this was happening during World of Warcraft's launch, they shut the game down till they fixed it. You may want to consider doing the same. It helped Blizzard by keeping negative reviews to a minimum and not exposing the public to a broken product. When the game's client was stable again, they released a patch and re-launched the game while compensating players.

5. Poor Customer Support and Lack of Communication (-10)

I'm going to appease a particular member's prediction on the Aion Source forums by quoting a post which I've already created to make a new one. It sums up my feelings and is the final piece of this review. This NEEDS to be fix and is one thing which you can just throw money at. Take a pay cut if you have to in order to hire more. If you don't fix this core piece of this MMO, you won't have a job in the long run because people will leave. My question to NCSoft would be: Do you want to run a company with a lot of employees and expand, or keep a small shop where you're always worried about the end of the month numbers?

Communicate to us. Even if it's negative, for the mature adults who play video games, we can accept that things won't always be perfect. However, if you treat us like children and ignore us, we'll leave to other companies who keep the customer's needs and concerns first.

The Quote:

www.aionsource.com/forum/reviews-critiques/85736-spoiled-blizzard-fanboy-who-should-gb2wow.html

Now since I come from WoW, I'm used to technical support. Let me show you people what I find to be, superior, not perfect technical support.

Yes it only takes 10 hours - 3 days till u get a response in WoW...
Awesome feedback....

Um, I can call the 1800 blizzard number and get a human on the phone in about 10 minutes.

If I go post on the Blizzard forums about a valid customer support concern or technical issue, I get a blue board manager responding within minutes. Provided my concern is valid (like a .dll crashing the client). If I don't get a blue (GM) response, someone from the community will typically have an answer for me.

If you're unfamilar with the blizzard forums, let me familiarize you with them:
World of Warcraft - English (NA) Forums -> Customer Service Forum

This is customer service. This is where, if you have a gripe, you can come here and kew kew about it. The little blue image next to the post means that a GM has responded.

Now... lets go look at Tech Support:


World of Warcraft - English (NA) Forums -> Technical Support

Along the top you'll see a list of threads that have the sticky  icon next to them. This means that they are of interest to everyone or common questions and concerns. They even have one of "known common issues with the latest patch etc..." where they address the known issues. They relay to the customers that they are working on the problems. It also has a MASSIVE list of how to fix known issues.


Now.. on to Aion's forums...

Aion™ Online :: Known Issues
This is the "Known Issues" forums. I think this is the place where if a question is asked and it's in the wrong place, the thread gets dumped here. I can't seem to find posts of any Devs or GM's here. Lots of issues, no communication.

Tech Support:
Aion™ Online :: Technical Support

Again, I looked through these forums for about 10 minutes. I couldn't find a single GM post.

Also, I looked on the home page. Nowhere could I find a "we're working on it" area. I'd like to see that.

 

 

 

Evokerz writes:

I approve, the bad ones.

Thu Nov 12 2009 8:01PM Report
dreamscaper writes:

Well, regarding the grind...

I blame this one fully on World of Warcraft. Before it, the MMOs of the time were about the journey, not the destination (like WoW's "the game begins at max level" mentality).  I've played games like Lineage2 and Ragnarok, where the quests can be non-existent. However, to player like myself, it simply doesn't matter. We enjoy playing the game. Leveling up is a goal, but I don't need quests ever step of the way to disguise it. Instead I enjoy simply logging in, joining my guildies in running whatever zone we're doing that day.

Aion does do a much better job that most eastern MMOs with the quests. But I think most people are focusing far too much on them. If I want quests, I'll go play LotRO, not Aion. If I want to focus on enjoying a beautiful world and pvp, I'll spread my wings and fly. :)

Thu Nov 12 2009 11:35PM Report
Astrialla writes:

Hmm. Well - I agree about the grind but being a slow leveler to start with I am finding that I'm actually handling it ok since I don't do hours and hours of killing mobs to level.  I usually log in, turn in quests, visit the shops, craft, quest, grind a bit then I'm done.  Add a lot of talking in chat in there :-) but of course not in glff lol.

However, I loathe the class separation.  I have never been so bored as a healer - there is literally very little I can do unless I want to start yanking aggro from the tank by hitting the dps nonstop when not healing.  Coming from LOTRO where a leveled minstrel healer can non stop buff and heal during a fight, it's a letdown to heal in Aion.  There's a reason that there are so many calls for clerics - it's cause no one wants to group up if you play one.  The odds are if you're in the Abyss you're never going to get a decent kill in when grouped and if you're in an instance there's little to do. 

I'll keep leveling up different toons in Aion but I'm not a fan of the class separation.   It might be great for a tank (have not leveled one yet :-) but it sucks when playing cleric :-/

Thanks for the review btw - well thought out.

Fri Nov 13 2009 1:53AM Report

MMORPG.com writes:
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