Aika is a free-to-play fantasy MMORPG published by Gala-Net (Allods Online, Luna, Rappelz). Originally developed for Korean markets, Aika’s big draw is its much-touted Five Nation PvP system, which can support epic battles of 1000 vs. 1000 players for world domination and political power.
Unfortunately, Aika more often misses than hits its mark in terms of gameplay, PvE content, and Western localization, and can feel very grindy for those who have become accustomed to engaging combat and unique quest dynamics in modern MMOs. Gala-Net’s game has some fun spots, a neat crafting system and a refreshing sense of humor, but its repetitive quests, elite PvP system and unremarkable aesthetics and story make it hard to get into and even less appealing to stick with.
Aika has some pretty graphics in a style loosely reminiscent of Aion or Guild Wars, with an Eastern military-cartoon feel to it. It’s very colorful but has a distinct sameness to a lot of its art assets, which kind of blend together after playing the game for a while. Character combat animations are pretty spiffy, which is nice, but as you’ll be using a lot of the same skills over and over again, you’ll probably start to find them as repetitive as the environments.
We would also like more choices for personalizing characters. All of the six classes are gender-bound, meaning that your Warrior alts are all going to be dudes and your Clerics are all going to be ladies, and they’ll pretty much look alike as there are very few customization options other than a few types of hair, preset faces, and the like. There aren’t any sliders, so if you like your characters short and squat with a honking nose and purple sideburns, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
The music in Aika is appropriately heroic, but there’s very little of it and gets repetitive pretty quickly. There’s a little bit of voice acting and combat sounds are ok, but otherwise there’s nothing remarkable here.
Aika has a fully realized world that offers a lot of PvE content as well as several PvP modes. There’s certainly a lot to do in the game, but not much of it is particularly compelling.
There are six classes to choose from, ranging from the fighter types of Warrior and Paladin, to the Dual Gunner and Rifleman scouts, and the Warlock and Cleric spellcasters. Combat is standard hotbar skill-based stuff, and your class fortunately gains a lot of abilities to fight monsters (and other players) with as you level up.
Aika uses an RPG-style dialogue system to present quests instead of chat boxes, which is kind of fun but tends to break any immersion you might experience in the game. When you click on an NPC, the camera squares you off against that character with a chat menu and switches between the NPC and yourself as you discuss the quest. The dialogue tends to be pretty humorous, but the quests themselves are very repetitive and send you to take out the same mobs you’ve been grinding for the past five quests. The quests loosely tie into a main story line that has a lot of history behind it but isn’t very engaging.
At level 7, you can undertake a series of quests to link up with your first Pran. She’s kind of a like a fairie little sister sidekick that follows you around with snarky commentary and can give you stat boosts and even has some skills. It isn’t weird at all to suddenly have a little elf child following you around and berating NPCs for stuff that they say. Seriously. She’s kind of funny and can take on different personality types, and you can customize her skills and gear. The Pran system is a little random and we’re not sure why you can’t have a little brother or Gila monster instead, but it’s a fun quirk in an otherwise generic-feeling game.
PvP is clearly Aika’s main draw, as there are several different opportunities for face-punching in the game. You’ve got your basic instanced Battlegrounds, which you can enter at low levels, but in which you’re likely to get wiped by high-powered players even though there seems to be some kind of level balancing in place. There’s only one battleground, with one mode, team deathmatch, so far, which seems pretty thin on content compared to other MMOs that don’t even put PvP as their main attraction. There are daily Arena matches between teams of up to 100 players as well, within different level brackets.
Then there’s Castle Siege, Relic War and Altar War. Castle Siege is a weekly battle between the top guilds (and their allies) to achieve political supremacy over a Nation for a week. What is a Nation in Aika? We asked the same question, and had to figure it out from the main website as it’s not explained very well in-game. When you reach level 10, you can complete a quest to become a citizen in one of the game’s Five Nations, which each have distinct outlooks and goals. Rather than being distinct geographic locations, they’re more like affiliations that have their own instances or channels of the game world, which you can travel to by talking to an NPC.
So, Castle Siege pits the best of the best high-level guilds against each other to determine who can lead a Nation for a week, allowing them certain political powers like adjusting tax rates. Relic War and Altar War are more open-world PvP objectives between Nations, which result in Nation-wide boosts and bonuses depending on who controls or steals from certain objectives in different Nations. As we’ve mentioned, Aika supports 1000 vs. 1000 players in PvP, but we haven’t seen this to verify how well it works or how fun it is. We can say, however, that every time we’ve logged in, there have only been a few battleground matches going, mostly between very high-level players.
Aika also has a very easy-to-use crafting system, which is great for its ditching of level requirements. You don’t get any experience for crafting, which means that you can theoretically create any item available as long as you have the proper materials. This can be really useful for some craftable quest items, which can generally take a long time to grind otherwise. Some items don’t seem to drop off of quest mobs very often, so it sometimes makes sense to head over to the remarkably well-designed auction house, grab some materials, and make the stuff yourself.