I was at the store and walked past an advertisement for Aion. I am a fan of NC Soft and had perhaps seen this game mentioned at MMORPG.com. I was immediately interested! Taking a bit of a leap of faith and seeing the bonuses for pre-ordering the Collector's Edition, I put down a deposit and was pleased to see that by this time release wasn't far off. Anxiously I waited the month or so and then eagerly went to pick up my copy.
At the time of ordering, the store gave me a pre-order bonus key. This would later give me extra items in-game but excitingly also let me start playing the game a little ahead of release. However, not wanting to download the massive file needed for the client I didn't sign up for this until I had the physical copy to install. This is where I found out that the pre-orders for this game were so successful that the game servers (and even the forums of NC Soft!) were so badly flooded that getting online was perhaps too difficult to really get stuck into the game. Still, taking my time to enter the game I didn't really mind as the little that I saw had me so excited!
The biggest thing about this game's hype is the flight. It is said to be the best implementation of fight added to an MMOPRG so far. It's not long into the game before you get to experience this but I have spent my gaming time with Aion exploring the early parts of character construction, and just exploring the world.
As an Oceanic player I am very grateful that NC Soft had decided to assign a server to just us Aussies. At release it is just a West Coast server but I am told it will later be adjusted to our time. This makes a bigger difference than some people might realise. For a start, an MMO that has maintenance at times convenient for US players means that Oceanic players lose some of their peak playing time (I am assuming they will adjust maintenance as well). The dream for many of us is that one day we will have local servers to cut down latency troubles but, as conciliation, at least if all of us on the server are Oceanic-based and suffering the same lag, then no-one really has an advantage.
I had picked a server. Easy choice. Now comes the hard choice! Choosing a side means picking one faction and not being able to play the other. Fortunately you can wipe all of your characters and pick the other one or just start again on a different server. Of course, having only the one Oceanic server I elected to start trying stuff out and delete as I go.
So I started with a look at the "good guys," or at least the light guys - the Elyos. These are perhaps what we imagine when we talk of angels and celestial beings. This was also my first look at the character creation system and I was impressed! As I had a look back and forth between the different classes available, I spent some time learning how to adjust body and face types. The entire process was quick to discover and become proficient with. My first couple of attempts at making Elyos produced some visually appealing angel-type creations if I do say so myself.
Then I wanted to then go and try out the opposing faction - the Asmodians - only to find out that so many people were creating them that the server had restrictions on new people joining that faction. Ah well, the Elyos were already so interesting that I knew I could spend quite some time there without even needing to see the Asmodians.
Selecting a class came next. The choices were Warrior, Scout, Mage, or Priest. Each of these four classes has two options of classes to adopt upon levelling-up to 10 in an ascension quest. For me, however, there is so much to try out with the first selections of classes that I have not played a character far enough to see these.
My first attempt was a warrior. I was immediately amazed by the world I had entered. It was beautiful! Just walking around a little showed off the best scenery I have seen in an MMO. But I caught my breath again and moved on. I wanted to try out the combat! So, I found the NPC with the first quest and raced through the text to the part where he told me to go kill something. Woohoo! The combat was great! Every swing looked and felt incredible. The warrior was certainly fun and I wanted other experiences to compare with but just that one class was already appealing.
Next up was the scout. This was another melee class though feeling a little quicker yet more fragile. Where my warrior could fight maybe two or three enemies without rest the scout won its fights but had to rest more often. It's worth adding here how great the resting system is: no need for food or cooldown timers if you are safe you can just press the comma and your character will sit down and regain health and mana very quickly. A nice touch!
Had to try the mage next. Armed with a book instead of a traditional weapon, the damage-dealing spell-caster of the group could run circles around the enemy while wearing them down with their basic attack, pausing only to stop to fire off their special attack. The result was lots of damage and not so much hitting back. Of course, maybe later enemies with ranged attacks would negate the effectiveness of this but for now it was fun.
Last was the priest. I have very little experience with healers in other games but have at least tried a couple out. This one was great! Yes, they can heal BUT they can still put up a fight. If the difficulty and levelling-curve of the game are even then this should mean more people prepared to solo a healer and be available also for teams needing them. No more "healer needed pst" for an hour stopping a team from starting. I cannot say for sure if this theory makes sense as I am still some time away from getting into teaming but it shows promise.
Eventually the Asmodian crowd cooled down and I was able to wipe my characters and start over on the other side. In character creation I liked the small differences. The color schemes and little details like clawed feet and hands made for some interesting creatures that though basically similar to the Elyos would certainly appeal to some people a lot more. The Asmodian areas were as dark and sinister as the Elyos were beautiful. So now I am in the process of trying it out all over again!
The differences in factions are pretty much aesthetic but that only makes the choice harder. I can play only the one side and changing my mind means re-rolling the lot. Hard decision indeed!
For now I love it all. Aion looks and feels incredible and I have hardly scratched the surface. Perhaps it's the benefit of all the time it has already been released for an asian market, or perhaps it's just a polished product to begin with but either way I have been able to jump right in and enjoy everything. There has been a learning curve and a few newer concepts and ways in which it is different from other MMOs but the game is essentially great fun from the moment you start playing.
So this is one that has had a lot of hype to justify and in my opinion it does live up to my expectations! An awesome MMORPG.