Aion Review

This review is written from the perspective of a player that has reached level 17. Any content that Aion offers after this level is not appraised here.
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<p><em>Aion</em>’s 2008 release in South Korea has given NCSoft plenty of time to polish the game for its North American launch, and it shows. Servers are stable, the client runs well, and the beginning of the game does a great job of introducing new players. However, a few weeks with the game expose content and pacing issues that will send most back to the perennial <em>World of Warcraft</em>. This lack of play variety makes <em>Aion</em> the pancake of MMOs – starts great, but there’s not enough variety to finish the plate.</p>
<p><em>Aion</em> sets new technical standards for these types of games. The visuals are without equal, relying more on amazing art direction than high poly counts and lighting effects. The Elyos – <em>Aion</em>’s pretty race – reside on the inner half of a spherical planet that enjoys direct sunlight. As such, their environments are complimented by crystalline waters and lush trees, painted in broad strokes of green and blue. The Asmodians, on the other hand, get the half with no sunlight, leaving these humanoid demons to romp in areas with scraggly rocks tint-shifted with reds and purples. Each side boasts awesome vistas that handily trounce any other MMO – thanks in no small part to CRYEngine (the same technology that powered <em>FarCry</em>).</p>
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An excellent soundtrack compliments the visuals well. Scored by Kunihiko Ryo – a name that will probably be unfamiliar to players that don’t have PVC schoolgirls on their desks – the music shows impressive range and loops well. A few of the battle songs are so good that I initiated several fights just to hear the rocking guitar licks. While some of the soundtrack can approach generic fantasy fluff, there’s always a twist to keep things interesting.

Adding to this all is the fact that Aion is extremely playable. Quest descriptions mentioning a specific NPC or monster offer a map marker directly to the objective, and while questing is not as directed as Warhammer Online, the only time a player will not know where to go is when a mission specifically calls for exploration. Additionally, little videos and voice-overs accompany text tutorials near the beginning of the game, which do a great job of explaining the game’s mechanics. Combat largely echoes World of Warcraft, with the notable exception of skill chains. These behave similarly to those in Final Fantasy XI: once a skill is used, it can branch into others for bonus damage or status effects.

Unfortunately, a lack of game variety and poor quest organization sap most of the fun out of Aion’s moment-to-moment action. Quests frequently send players trotting all over zones to talk to various NPCs in a long chain, with nothing to do on the way but get annoyed at the monsters who constantly nip at their heels. More than that, the game quickly becomes a slog after graduating to double-digit levels. Drops other than vendor trash items are infrequent, and rarer still is the opportunity to get new gear and change one’s avatar. Players will often run from distant quest area to distant quest area without much to mark the passage of time.

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<p>Granted, this is all before experiencing the PVP, which is <em>Aion</em>’s big draw. However, spending almost thirty hours with the game hasn’t granted me the level necessary to participate in PvP, and if the constant requests for experience grind groups in the looking-for-group chat channel are any indication, the hard slog doesn’t lighten in higher levels.</p>
<p>Some players will enjoy <em>Aion</em>. Gamers that enjoy grinding and the moment-to-moment activity of killing hoards of monsters will be very happy, but other MMOs offer better, more well-rounded experiences. <em>Warhammer Online </em>offers more accessible PvP, while <em>World of Warcraft</em> can’t be trumped in terms of player progression and variety. <em>Aion</em> has a niche – something that many MMOs can’t find – and as such it will be around for a while. However, only players falling in that niche should apply.</p>
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<td><span> Our Rating for Aion</span></td>
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<td><span>7</span></td>
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<div><span><strong>TGR Rating</strong><br />
A functionally superior MMO with pacing issues that only certain players will tolerate</span></div>
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