You could make the argument that Pran and the different PvP systems are innovative, but they don’t really add anything to the genre that it hasn’t seen before. Leveling your Pran is basically a more developed pet system, and the PvP modes in Aika, with the exception of 1000 vs. 1000 players, are nothing new.
If anything, Gala-Net’s game takes a bunch of different things that have become standard in MMOs, like hotbar combat, crafting, questing and dungeons, and implemented them well enough but made them feel more generic and uninspired.
We do think that Aika has done well with streamlining a few things, such as with Portal and Waypoint scrolls, which allow you to travel anywhere in the game world or your recall point as long as you have a stock of scrolls. Additionally, you can check your in-game mail anywhere, which is nice.
It’s apparent that Aika has not had nearly enough QA testing or localization for Western markets. The Eastern-style aesthetics are a design choice and they work fine, but there are a number of issues that crop up from the game’s UI and presentation that detract from its core experience.
The UI is functional enough, but text is noticeably translated from another language and wraps weirdly from one line to another. It’s as though game doesn’t have a proper word wrap function, so sentences will either cut off mid-word and start again on the next line, or text won’t fit neatly within its appropriate box or bubble. Aika also uses an incomprehensible system of left and right mouse clicks to achieve its goals, meaning that we’re not ever quite sure when we’re supposed to use which mouse button to do anything in the game. Sometimes we’re supposed to right click to use an item; sometimes that only works if we’ve left-clicked it first. When trying to drag an item from one inventory box to another, sometimes doing so will make the camera shift wildly like we’ve activated a mouse-look; other times it will work as it’s supposed to. You can get used to working around the mouse and text issues, but they can be frustrating and seem to be easy to fix.
The game is also not very good at explaining its different systems, requiring you to do outside research to figure them out. Gala-Net must know this, as they’ve put a “Beginner’s Guide” on their Aika website, which does a better job of explaining Pran, the Five Nations system, PvP modes, and so on. Still, there are some things we’ve just had to infer, such as the multiple login screens: when you login to the game, you first choose a “world,” which we assume is a server, as there’s only one choice. Then you have to select a Nation, and subsequently, a Nation channel – “Open” or “Limited.” The first several times we logged in, we thought maybe we had already chosen our Nation, and hadn’t the foggiest idea the difference between Open and Limited channels. After completing the quest to become a citizen of a Nation, and doing some more research, we figured out that choosing your Nation at login basically amounts to choosing the instance of the world you want to appear in, and we think that Open and Limited denotes whether you want to play on a PvE or PvP channel. None of this is explained in-game and is unnecessarily confusing.
Additionally, there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to figure out what level monsters are. Mob names are differentiated only by color, which is relative to your own level, so a monster could be several levels above you but you’ve only got some vague idea about how tough it’ll be to beat.
Other than these issues, we’ve ran into several bugs, like quest objectives disappearing from our tracker and mobs vanishing randomly, but nothing as frustrating as the game’s own idiosyncrasies.
If you like what Aika has to offer, there’s a lot of content here to experience, repetitive though it may be. Most of the endgame content seems to be heavily skewed toward the PvP modes, especially for high-level guilds interested in making alliances and using the political system to rule over the Nations. If this sounds like fun to you, the game is free, so there’s no reason not to check it out. It’ll just take a good deal of grinding to get to there.
There’s also only one starter area in the game, so if you like rolling a lot of alts you’ll be doing the same content on all of your characters. Fortunately, the classes are distinct enough to make mastering them interesting. Still, without having different races to choose from and alternate starting areas, there’s not much variety here for explorer types.
Aika has a decent set of social tools. Its LFG system works well enough, although we’re not sure how many people use it, but it also has a separate group-finding system that you can access at dungeon entrances that allows you to choose between different difficulty options for the instance. The battleground finder is also pretty well-implemented, and acts akin to a matchmaking portal in an FPS, but as we mentioned, there’s only one map and one mode right now, and there seem to be only a couple of active matches at any given time.
There’s guild leveling and tasks that you can undertake to help promote your cadre of comrades, with some good guild tools at your disposal. At high levels, guilds are encouraged to make alliances with each other in their quest for world domination, as allied groups of the ruling guild also get benefits and bragging rights. This feature could support some neat out-of-game negotiations and political maneuvering, especially based on the different Nation outlooks and goals, but we’re not sure how most guilds are approach forming alliances and can’t rate it.
The game’s community is pretty active and there are always a lot of people playing, except in battlegrounds. It’s pretty easy to find a guild if you’re looking for one, and there are usually a lot of people questing in Aika’s world, which is great, because mob respawns are QUICK. Try getting stuck in a field of moguns and wading out as they keep reappearing and you’ll see what we mean.
Aika is completely free-to-play, with a decent cash shop where you can buy crafting items, gear upgrades, dungeon entry crystals, potions, ammo, mounts, and the like. It doesn’t seem to be a “pay to win” sort of scenario, so you really can experience a ton of the game’s content without spending a penny.
In that sense, if you’ve been meaning to try it out, there’s a lot of value here as you’re not bogged down with a subscription fee or feeling that you’ve got to spend a little cash to get ahead in the game. Aika’s F2P model makes it easy to recommend checking it out; just keep an eye out for the hordes of elf children that will assault your screen the first time you log in.
The more we play of Aika, the more we like it, but at the same time the less we feel compelled to play it. Gala-Net’s MMORPG has a lot of weird quirks and systems that are not explained very well, but now that we’ve figured them out and understand them better, we like the game a lot more for what it’s trying to accomplish. Pran are a funny and fun addition and the PvP focus is an interesting alternative to PvE-centric MMOs, and we especially like the concept of Five Nations with different aims and outlooks.
At the same time, the core game isn’t all that fun, and even after getting past the game’s idiosyncrasies, there’s not much about the game that’s likely to grab your attention. Aika’s questing tends to be repetitive and grindy, without a very compelling story, and its aesthetics, while nice enough, are mostly generic. If you like what’s here, there’s certainly a lot of it, although you’ll be repeating the same stuff on different characters.
One of Aika’s best selling points is that it’s free, so we can easily recommend trying it if you’re interested in an Eastern-themed fantasy MMO with a heavy emphasis on PvP (and faerie sisters). There’s a lot of choice in the free-to-play market that might be more worth your time, but Aika has enough content to keep you interested if you like what it has to offer.