On September 7, NCSoft will launch Aion’s first expansion, Assault on Balaurea where Asmodians and Elyos will bring the war to the Balaur, by invading their homeland. This expansion which can be downloaded for free, bumps the level cap up to 55 and introduces a new region, the homeland of the Balaur. There are 8 new instances and a pet system. It also brings more stigma skills, crafting, weapons and armor.
The Balaur homeland is split into three main areas. Ingisson is the playground of the Elyos while the Asmodians have established a beach head in Gelkmaros. The two maps look almost like mirror images of each other and are filled with cities, fortresses, forests and dungeons. Over a hundred quests and many subzones will keep players adventuring for a while here. Both maps are joined by the Silentera Canyon (which is perfectly symmetrical) where there will be ample opportunity for PvP play as the two factions strive to conquer the Balaur and each other. The Canyon is designed for PvP adventures, with narrow passes and steep walls that players of each race will have to traverse to get to the other side, meeting in the middle in Jotun’s Square as well as a pair of structures by name of Hope’s Demise and Beshmundir Temple. Much of the new expansion is geared towards PvP. Capturing and holding of fortresses will unlock other gameplay options.
Community Manager Andrew Beegle showed me the new maps and new icons that show where the action is happening on the map. Cities and bastions being attacked will be shown to be “Under Siege” and a curious “Balaur Carrier” icon hinted at a quest / wandering NPC.
This expansion is a high level expansion. Balaurea is where players will level beyond 50 to the new level cap of 55. “This is not to say that the expansion is only for the high level players,” Andrew was careful to say, “There will be PvE content for all levels.”
Of the 8 new instances, 2 are solo instances for levels 18 and 37. The other 6 are for players 50 and up. The multiplayer instances range from single group instances to multi-group instances, revealing the stories of the Balaur, secrets of the Millennium War and battling dragons. There will be some tie-ins to how the races work together, Andrew informed me, and some discoveries to be made by both the Elyos and the Asmodians. “There are discoveries and revelations that will surprise players,” he hinted, “For one, they will find out that they are not the first Daeva to invade the Balaur homelands.”
The new expansion also introduces a pet system. The pets are not combat pets but will have custom emotes and look really cute following you around. Some are purely decorative, but others have distinct features beyond the cosmetic. For example, they can carry your junk for you – i.e. provide more inventory space (wonder if they will also sell your junk for you like your pet does in Torchlight?). They can act as a guard and alert you to approaching enemies. Some are production pets, which is to say you feed the right things to them and they produce useful things for you. Dozens of different pets will be available in the expansion and players can have more than one, although the upper limit has yet to be revealed.
Another feature in the expansion boosts flight time for travel. Naturally occurring wind currents will allow players to glide long distances, from area to area in Atreia. While in the wind currents the flight timer will not count down. Players may break off and glide down to the ground on the gentler currents, but some wind currents are so strong that players will not be able to leave mid-stream. In Balaurea, players will also find thermal effects such as geysers and updrafts that will help them glide further and get to otherwise unreachable areas.
To celebrate the expansion, Aion will be holding a summer full of events with a month long PvP extravaganza in August, leading up to the launch. “There will be some cool lore explanations leading up to the discovery of Balaurea,” said Andrew. So, keep an eye out for them. Leading up to the expansion, NCSoft is handing out free three-day passes to try out Aion as well as double-xp weekends where all inactive accounts will be reactivated to lure players who no longer subscribe back to the game.