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.