First look at Aion: Better late than never edition

So I finally got into an Aion beta session, compliments of File Planet. I’d heard a lot of good things about the game and was looking forward to trying it out myself.

I rolled a fighter, my basic ‘go-to’ class for testing new games. I chose Elyos because I’d heard their side of the world was prettier. Character creation was pretty good. You can either pick from a selection of pre-sets, or customize your character via sliders. I did both, really. Used pre-sets then tweaked them.

So many people have covered the game that I’m just going to highlight some things that made an impression (for good or ill) on me. To lay the foundations of what Aion is, I’ll refer you to Tipa (A first look at Aion: The Tower of Eternity, Aion: The User Interface) & Stargrace (Aion Beta Impressions, Aion Beta Weekend – Round II).

So very briefly, I agree with the general consensus. The game feels like a pretty typical Korean game, but polished much, much more than most of the F2P games. It’s also very pretty, and yet runs quite smoothly on my good-but-not-great hardware.

My highest level character is now level 10. I wanted to get to 10 so I could see how the game changes when you “ascend.” I played the beta of Age of Conan and never got past level 20 and ended up wasting money that way. My understanding was that Aion changes at level 10 once you get your wings, so I wanted to see how much it changes. I’ve *just* made 10 so don’t really have a feel for the changes yet.

BTW, a quick word about beta-testing. When I’m selected for a beta, I try to be a good tester, trying to replicate bugs, playing in ways to try to break the game so I can report faults, and so on. When a publisher starts giving away beta keys in contests or (in my case) through a paid service (File Planet) all bets are off and I’m just playing the game as a demo to see if I’m interested in it enough to purchase.

So assuming you’ve read Tipa and Stargrace (or someone else) and have the basic idea of what the game is like, here’s my list of things I liked and didn’t like. We’ll start with the bad stuff first.

Things that bugged me:

Personal Shops: This is a mainstay of Korean games. A player can turn his or her character into a ‘stall’ to sell goods out of their inventory. This is fine in theory, but in practice what happens is you get areas that are just *blanketed* with personal shops. It isn’t so bad in the beta yet, but it will be after launch, I’m sure, if nothing changes. I really hope this system gets replaced with a centralized broker.

When you Ascend you get this very spiritual vibe from the game, that you’re going to this mystical place, and as soon as you arrive here’s what you see (click for full size):


Name filters: I’ve seen a high percentage of names that annoy me. EasyHo and CMyTits and the like. We need some kind of name filtering in here. And if I were running the game I wouldn’t let names start or end in X. I’m so sick of XDethNiteX and the like (I made these up but in each case they’re similar to something I saw).

Class choice at 10: Running one guy up to level 10 was fun, but I’m not looking forward to doing it again and again as I try various ‘final classes’ to pick the one I want to play. My prediction is that within 6 months of release they’ll let you create a level 10 character once you’ve run at least one character through levels 1-9.

Things I like but that might bug others:

Resting: In order to regain health at any kind of reasonable pace, you have to rest. That is, sit down on the ground. And of course you’re vulnerable like that, so it suits you best to find a safe place to do it. This is a tiny bit old school, but I kind of like it.

Kill Ten Rats: Lots of ‘Kill 10 Lizards” and “Bring me 10 Lizard Tails” type quests, which I know the blogging community wants abolished for all time. These feel comfortable and easy to me, and I don’t mind them. YMMV.

Things I like:

Lore, Quest Text and Dictionary: Yes, I am one of those people who reads the text quest. When you do, certain words will be highlighted. Clicking on one of these words pops up a ‘dictionary window’ with more info, and in some cases, a “Locate” button which will throw a waypoint onto your map. Even if you’re not looking for someone, it’s a great way to remind the player who is doing what and why in terms of lore. There’s also some semi-hidden lore, like a FedEx quest that has you delivering the book, but if you stop to read the book it’s a folktale that helps make sense of why certain characters are doing what they’re doing.

Here’s a dictionary example:


Map Overlay: Hitting M brings up a traditional map window, but hitting N brings up an overlaid map. This is something you see often in single player console RPGs, but it’s a nice addition to the MMO space.

Can you see the map overlaid on the world in this screenshot? The green dot with a yellow arrowhead is my location.


Sell all Misc: When you’re talking to a vendor to sell your vendor trash, there’s a “Sell all Misc” button that’ll deposit all vendor trash into the shopping cart. Armor, weapons, crafting materials, quest items…anything with any kind of use is ignored. It’s just the gray loot stuff that gets turned into coin with 1 handy click.

‘Gambling’ upgrades: Weapons and armor have ‘manastone slots’ and you’ll often find manastones to put in this slots. They’ll add some buff to the item. +10 HP or +12 Accuracy, that kind of thing. Adding 1 stone is always a sure thing. But if the gear has 2 or more slots, there’s a risk when adding additional stones. If the insertion fails, all the stones get destroyed. So you have to decide if you want to risk it. There’s an item that sells for 1000 coins that’ll break down a piece of gear into Enchantment Stones, which can also be added to a piece of gear, and the same applies here. Making a sword into a +1 sword is pretty safe, but if you want to re-enchant it to +2, you risk failing and wiping out the existing +1 enchantment. How far you take the enchanting is up to you (I’m sure there are some kind of limits) but it costs a lot to break down gear and I assume every level of enchantment has a greater possibility of risk.

Shared Bank: I only know this from a loading screen tip, but somewhere there’s a Warehouse and your warehouse is shared between all characters on an account. Not unique to Aion, but still good news.

Things I didn’t understand:

Inventory: Instead of an backpack, your inventory space is called a Cube. When you see an NPC who offers to upgrade your cube, he’s offering to give you more inventory space.

Power Shards: You equip these and…they do nothing. Because equipping them is only step 1. Step 2 is activating them (I believe B activates them). Once activated they’ll give you an attack buff (and make your weapon all glowy), but be warned, you burn through them FAST. I believe every attack uses up a Power Shard. I know the one time I used them I had 5 equipped and by the end of 1 fight they were all gone.

Well, this has gone on long enough. I’ve spent most of the day playing (and 1-10 are completely solo friendly, btw) and I’ve enjoyed myself quite a bit. I still need to discover more about what goes on at higher levels. I ran into an NPC that offers gear for some kind of trophies you get from PvP, and said NPC claimed that was the best gear a person could get. If that’s true and the main focus of the game at higher levels is PVP, I’ll pass. We’ll see though.

Also, haven’t really touched crafting, aside from harvesting various items. The harvesting side of things is similar to WoW or EQ2. Double click a node, and maybe get some materials, and maybe get a skill-up.

5 thoughts on “First look at Aion: Better late than never edition

  1. Thanks for that Pete! I’ve stayed away from this for now because I’m having lots of fun in EQ2 and I don’t need a second game pulling at me. Also, I suspect that for all its prettiness, Aion might not hold me for long, and I’m a little tired of game-flitting. I’m hoping EQ2 will hold me for some time now (and I’m getting a little worried, as the 4-month itch mark is approaching…).

  2. That map overlay is nice. I’ve wondered why that particular little trick hasn’t been used more before now. I first saw it used well in Diablo, years ago. It’s such a great tool that I’m hoping more devs pick up on it. …and now I’m baffled as to why Blizzard didn’t do so.

    Thanks for the writeup! I find that I’m increasingly not interested in spending inordinate amounts of time playing new games, but I’m still interested in the game design. People that take the time to play and report well make me happy.

    I’m a bit bothered by the “sell all Misc.” thing, though. Why not just get rid of vendor trash in the first place and give players coin instead to start with? Yes, the “sell all Misc.” is a nice shortcut, certainly, but it does make me wonder why we’re still playing the silly “loot everything” and “sort your inventory” minigame, complete with vendor trash to urge purchases of more inventory space. It’s not a terrible mechanic, but I’m tired of it, and it’s really pretty boring design to start with, I think.

  3. Plus just the weirdness of “Why am I dragging these tattered aardvark spleens back to town, and why on earth is someone paying me for them?” 🙂

    It’s a valid point and I find it kind of interesting that it never occurred to me, I’ve so accepted the whole mechanic.

  4. I’ve been wondering for a long time why my characters (some of whom are fastidious) would bother gutting open corpses and ripping out their livers, just so Mr SweenyMcNPC back in town can buy them. I mean, seriously… I’d just look at that guy and tell him he needs different hobbies. 🙂

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