The last few days I’ve been diving into the open beta of the new MMO Aion. Right from the start I’ll tell you that my experience so far is mostly positive. There are a few things early on that worry me, but for the most part its shaping up to be a great addition to the MMO space. A WoW killer it most likely will not be, as I feel the underlying mechanics may appeal to different audiences. Without attempting too much of a comparison, Aion is most like WoW was in the early days. It also bears a strong resemblance to the story structure of Lord of the Rings Online. But, ultimately, its based firmly in the architecture of previous NCSoft MMOs, most specifically Lineage II.
A couple points to note before I get into the pros and cons: 1) This is still beta and things may change upon release or shortly thereafter, 2) open beta is the first time NA/EU servers have been patched with the latest and greatest build, version 1.5, so this is newer than the closed beta events of the last few months and 3) comparisons to WoW are inevitable, get over it.
What I liked:
- Incredibly awesome character customization, both during creation and during the course of the game (think The Sims 3 level of customization).
- Stunning, surreal visuals. This game takes the term “high fantasy” to the extreme.
- You can’t fall asleep and still pew-pew yourself to victory – combat takes focus or you will die, even against standard mobs.
- Killing all the mobs you come across is a lot more beneficial and lucrative than in WoW.
- The story and accompanying cut scenes are gripping and pull you into the game and its world.
- Character animations are a joy to look at.
- Gathering and crafting net you experience as well as skill ups.
- Any item that isn’t soulbound can be shared with other characters on your same account through the “Account Warehouse” (warehouse = bank).
- You feel powerful even at lower levels.
What I didn’t like:
- Flying – its clunky and, frankly, seems to be a gimmick to me. Also, so far my friends and I have only found one area of one zone that you can fly in. What gives?
- You can have failures in crafting and, yes, it can lead to the loss of materials.
- Your character gets charged to bind to locations and in the early game its way too much for the amount of kinah (the game’s currency) you make.
- You’re charged to teleport to different locations within the same city.
- Come to think of it, you get nickle-and-dimed in just about anything you do in this game.
- You have to actually visit the Item Broker (auction house) to pick up your cash from sales, its not automatically mailed to you.
What I’m worried about:
- I have a bad feeling that you will get to the point where you have nothing but group quests in your log, so you can’t really progress quest-wise without spending the time to look for a group. I haven’t seen it directly, but I’ve seen warning signs and I have a bad feeling about it. I’ve seen this way too many times in other MMOs and is the reason I left some of them in the past. Although, if forced grouping is your thing, that probably won’t bother you.
- The overabundance of WoW fanboys in Aion chat channels whining about what WoW has and Aion doesn’t (which isn’t much, in my opinion).
You have been warned:
- This isn’t WoW – quest experience and mob kill experience are about 50/50 in Aion as opposed to 90/10 in “that other game”.
- Skilling up gathering and crafting takes a while – not a problem for me, but for some, perhaps.
- Aion is a more “grindy”, Korean-style MMO (although not as bad as some) – none of this pussy-footing and hand-holding that is WoW.
Overall, I’m quite enjoying it so far. It’s a shame I probably won’t see how long that enjoyment will last in the open beta, since its only a week. I’ve been looking for another MMO to get involved in (although not anywhere near to the extent that I was in WoW), and this may be it. We’ll see at the end of the week if I decide to pre-order or not. In the mean time, I should point out that File Planet is giving away US Aion beta codes to anyone now, not just paid subscribers, so if you’re curious what all the fuss is about, you still have a few days left to grab a code and check it out. The open beta ends on September 13 and the full game releases just over a week later on September 22.