I don’t want to drink the Aion Kool-Aid

September 11, 2009


Recently many of my blogging brethren have talking about Aion, the new title from NCsoft.  Even the commenters on Massively have been saying the game has stunning gameplay, immersive storytelling, bountiful PvP.  Honestly, I don’t see it.  I really don’t.  All I see is a pretty game that has World of Warcraft and Lineage II shoved into it.

That last sentence probably offended some people in the audience, so let me clarify — YOUR GRINDING YOURSELF RETARDED.  CAN YOU HEAR ME?  DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH?

Ok, ok, so offensive jokes and nasty tones aside, Aion‘s not that bad.  It’s just not that good, and that’s where my problem lies.  I’m afraid too many people are booting the game up, staring at the graphics (which are gorgeous, btw, don’t get me wrong) and immediately heaping all sorts of praise upon the game simply because it has some glitter and glam.  I’m one of those people who insists that graphics never make the game, and I’d like to keep those thoughts alive.

Before I go any further, let me say what I like about the game so everyone here knows I’m not just an insane Aion hater.  I like the graphics, they are very pretty and the CryEngine stands out wonderfully.  The customization options on the game are really great, and I feel like I have my own personal daeva, not a simple “choose what avatar may or may not represent you” list.  Also, third, the dialogue in the quest and NPC speech boxes.  This game has lots of writing and the translations are not half-assed.  Major props to the localization teams because they deserve them.  The storyline, for the most part when it’s presented, is interesting.

So, with all of the nice things now said, let’s go to the not so nice things.  Be prepared to grind yourself retarded on this game.  The experience does come slowly, and the quests, while they have great writing, just don’t provide that much incentive.  Take, for example, one of the Elyos starting missions.  You have to destroy these little furry creatures that are ripping apart this guy’s farm.  Why are they ripping apart his farm?  Who knows, they just are.  Now you get to deal with it.  Kill 5 of them and that will make it all better.  For all of this good lore and nice writing, sometimes the incentive just isn’t provided, and that sucks.

It makes things feel grindier when other games use this formula and can escape it.  Champions Online does this nicely via evidence collection, doing favors for public officials, or just stopping bad guys from doing something bad.  Why do I have to take out 10 of these prison guys?  Well because they just broke out of prison and they’re destroying local property.  Why do I have to take 5 pieces of rubble off of citizens in this hotel?  Because rubble KILLS PEOPLE.  So… Aion… Why should I kill 5 of these creatures to save this guy’s farm?  How about because he’s growing food for the local village?  How about because these furry animals are being driven insane by an Asmodian plot to destroy the Elyos food supplies?  How about that?  Just give me something.

Furthermore, at low levels, the game relies heavily on the auto-attack and doesn’t let you get through battles easily.  Even by my 10th level, battles were still being sustained for a while and just not going anywhere.  Granted I was playing a warrior, so my attack power wasn’t the best, but battles dragged.  Even when I was using my abilities, their cooldowns were so long I’d use them once per battle.  This slowly begins to change later, but it doesn’t do it as quick as you’d like it to.

So, my final beef — my biggest beef — comes from grouping with my roommate.  He’s a mage, I’m a warrior.  Together, we finally solved that whole issue of “slow battles.”  We started wailing through content left and right, destroying enemies while barely taking damage.  And even together, for all of our awesome, it still took us 4 hours to get to level 10 and reach our ascension.  Afterwards, what changed?  Nothing, really.  Now we had wings and we went back to doing the exact same crap we were just doing.

Now picture doing all of the stuff we did alone.  By yourself.  Without the benefit of the damage boost from the mage or the taunts from the warrior.  It would be painful… and, trust us, we killed lots of mobs to get to where we were with very little questing fun.

I guess that’s my problem with Aion.  It’s slow.  It’s Lineage.  You can see it pretty clearly in the design.  It’s Lineage II with World of Warcraft sprinkled atop.  It’s not new, it’s not amazing.  It’s the same old stuff we’ve been getting, just with a shiny coating and half-assed flight.  Oh, I guess it’s also worth mentioning that flight is not the game changer I thought it would be.  You get to fly for a minute at start (this goes up later when you get better pairs of wings) and you can use flight potions to stay up in the air.  They wanted to make flight tactical, but in doing so they killed it for PvE use.  Also, many areas disallow flight, so it kinda negates out the whole idea of flying combat to change up the game.

In short, this isn’t a bad game.  It’s just not the amazing superawesome engine that people are making it out to be.  Just like Champions Online isn’t the superdevil people were making that out to be.  Perhaps this is because I’m not in the Abyss yet, where Aion‘s focus lies, but I just don’t see this shocking change coming to the game.  It’s just nothing new here.  At least Champions brings some innovation to the table.

(Also, before the fanboi whining starts that Aion‘s innovation lies in the “new” PvPvE content in the Abyss, let me point you to the fallen Matrix Online, which included raid bosses in PvP areas.  Whoops.)



  1. because starvation KILLS PEOPLE. :p even if it’s just that farmer. Personally, I’m looking for something that’s how Wow used to be. I’m having trouble with Champions not because it’s a bad game, but because in MMORPG’s I want to be a healer…and have it clear that the players need healers, so we’re not sacrificing our soloing ability for nothing. I’m hoping Aion is like Wow, but better, so to speak. More grind is fine with me. There’s nothing I hate more than being able to level and gear a thousand alts.

    Honestly it sounds like you’re wishing this MMORPG wasn’t an MMORPG, but just an RPG. So, you’d like the Old Republic game, since that’s what they’re trying to do. I like games that are about getting better, you seem to like games that are about storyline and lore. Which is fine. I play standard RPGs, and read books for that kind of thing though…I play MMORPG’s for the advancement – most of abilities and personal skill.

    In other words: I want to fight, you want to read. That’s fine. But don’t freak out and call fighter’s idiots.

    • I totally agree with you JM. Although I did find Aion’s combat system lacking, if you enjoy it, then who am I to say that it’s not somehow fun. Even I took joy in running chains of skills together (I like that chain system, I hope more games run with that) and there were certainly moments that I felt that the game was fun.

      But, as I said in a reply below, my problem, and I should make this more clear, is that some people are calling the game innovative and revolutionary. It is neither, while it is still enjoyable and far from a bad game. It’s certainly not the train wreck of Warhammer (although I still kinda like Warhammer, go figure) but it’s not something that I feel is worthy of people saying it will push the genre forward.

      So, please, don’t get me wrong. Aion is fun, just not innovative, and that’s my opinion. But if you’re having fun, who cares about innovation? Games are fun. Period.

  2. Great thing is that as in everything else in life we all get to have our own taste in what we do.
    I loved Lich King expansion for WOW because quests had good interlocking story content and actually made sense… I hate the end game faction grinding etc – which did make me sit back and ask myself why the heck I was doing that when I could play something more fun instead… Champions does have nicely written quests which make me smile and pull you more into what is going on – but you are correct that I see many people struggling with what their ROLE is in this MMORPG since the current quest types and character creation mechanics make traditional archetypes almost redundant in many cases (certainly at my low end of the game – Level 21)
    If you are a traditional “healer” or “tank” then Champions will befuddle you somewhat.
    I think the main theme here though is to make what you do in the game feel meaningful – and that is something which some folks will care about and some really wont – as long as they get a good reward at the end…… kinda like real life and work 😉

  3. I’d have to agree with the first post. You don’t like Aion because Aion plays like an MMO. I’ve read elsewhere that you dislike WoW as well, and quit playing that too. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that you don’t like fantasty MMOs as a genre.

    For those of us that do, Aion is a lovely game. It absolutely isn’t Lineage II. The fact that you got 10 levels in 4 hours is proof of that; and really who complains about 10 levels in 4 hours? 2.5 levels an hour? Thats hardly slow.

    • Well I think that’s a pretty bold limb you went out on. My dislikes of Warcraft are very different from my dislikes of Aion, mainly because my dislikes of Aion are because I feel (please understand that this is how I feel and may not be how you feel) that Aion does nothing to push the market forwards. It capitalizes on the success of Lineage and Warcraft… but you know what, even that argument is petty of me.

      The honest answer is what I put into the first paragraph — I don’t see the reason for the hype. The game is enjoyable, but it’s not off the walls amazing like some game outlets claim it is. That’s the center of my opinion, truly. Not that the game isn’t fun, but that it’s not as innovative as some reviewers have made it out to be.

  4. I think a lot of people are going to get set up for disappointment with Aion. I too am avoiding the kool-aid, for the same reasons you are. That and the fact that when I created my first character, I noticed his sword was A GOOD HAND AWAY FROM HIS BODY, FLOATING IN MIDAIR. I accept that from a game that is in ‘real’ beta, or from a small/independent company… but really, from NCSoft? No. Just, no…

    Between that and the game doing next to nothing to draw me in, I decided to uninstall it and wait. If the game is still ‘awesome’ to all these people in six months, I’ll give it another look-see.

  5. Also I find it amusing that you call CO innovative. I found it to have stolen more from other mmos, or ideas have been discussed for ages on the forums of other games. I’m not seeing the innovation in CO.

  6. Who gives a flying fuck about innovation? All I keep hearing, and reading is about lack of something revolutionary. Who cares? Just give me a damn fun game, and I’m happy. I dont care if the developers re=invent the wheel or find a new way to level. I just want fun. The blogging world has to calm the hell down with wanting something new everytime the next MMO comes around the corner. They are all beginning to sound the same. Is there a blogger out there with something new, revolutionary, and innovative to say about the genre anymore?

  7. I actually played Aion for 4 hours and got to level 10 last night with a priest. And I even forgot to buy all my skills, and didnt feel like going back for them. So levels 1 – 8 i did with just my level 1 skills, with probably the least damage output class in the game. I dunno what took u so long.

    Also level 1 to 10 in 4 hours is in my books, pretty fast for a game with a level 50 level cap. Consider EQ1, it would take alot longer to reach level 10 than 4 hours. And that was ALL grind.

    You MMO n0bs complain too much. Who cares about innovation anyway, I feel like innovation means making games easier.. Things like quick travel, maps, flying, auction houses, instances, ect.. all make things for the lazy gamers, the casual games, and the n00b gamers. I miss games being hard. And since its an MMO, its not like u can change the difficulty. They have scaled down MMO’s to be enjoyable for the weakest link, and those that want a challenge have to figure a way to do it on there own.

    In EQ1 there was no quest markers over NPC heads. There was no quick travel (unless you were a wizzy, druid, or paying). There were no maps. There was no respawn with all my gear. No, you had to get your corpse.. naked… There was no quest log, or broker (pre luclin), ect..

    The newer games are, the easier they are becoming. And in some areas it seems like Aion actually tried to take a step back from innovation, (“makethingseasyvation”) and bring back challenge.

    So what if u have to grind (which by the way questing repetitivly is not what was originally known as grinding ((grinding: camping a spawn for hours killing hte same 5 mobs repeatedly with a group to slowly gain xp))). In the end it will be that much more rewarding to hit level cap.

    Shut ur complaining and enjoy the game.

    Lets hope more games come out that are “slow” and “grindy” that way all these WoW generation of MMORPG’rs go back to playing prince of persia, and we can get our hardcore MMO’s back.

    PS: I played Champions Online for 2 weeks. My first toon was so FOTM and the game was so TEDIOUS, and EASY, that I couldnt stand another day of it.

    The game caters to people who wanna solo the entire thing (which I did by the way until I quit.)

    If I wanted to play alone, ill go play Prototype. Playing Champions Online felt like I was playing Prototype with comic styled graphics in a generic, lifeless world. Seriously.. It fels like a platform game.

    Bring back games that need a group or more to get through..


    • You know I’m a raging FFXI fan, right? I know harsh grinds. 🙂 My first game was also Ultima Online, then DragonRealms (the MUD), then EverQuest. I have the same background you do, heh.

  8. I will have to admit the tech folks did a good job making the servers more stable. I will stick with it and see how things go. They do seem to be responsive to player feedback with the flight ability for the SM pets as an example. Maybe they will change the flight time limits in the future if folks ask enough…

  9. I had an incredible and lengthy response in mind but I think I can sum it up. What a dumb bitch. Whew, that wasn’t as hard as I thought!

    • Cute. I’d delete your post, but that would mean people wouldn’t get to see your idiocy.

  10. Wow, JB. You make us old school EQers look bad. Then again, I started playing a month before PoP came out, so I wouldn’t classify as “Old School” most likely to you anyway, no? lol.

    “And we walked to the raid uphill both ways, pulling our mounts behind us, in Permafrost, in full banded mail, and we were LEET!” Jeez.lol

    Sorry man, I’m not trying to flame, just poking a little fun at the stuffy nature of the “Old School EQ” Sterotype.

    Personally, I never understood people’s reluctance towards innovation. I haven’t found a game that, for me, was as perfectly suited to me as EQ. Played for 5 years, 2 accounts, loved it. Have played pretty much every trial and OB I could get in the last couple years, and still have been looking.

    Aion, while it somehow flew completely under my radar, just feels right to me. I don’t know what it is exactly. I see good signs everywhere when I play it. It might be all of the LFG Spam I’ve seen in the LFG Chat channel, something that’s been missing in MMOs in this generation really, along with some more modern conveniences.

    I dont know, I’m enjoying myself immensely so far, and I hope that sticks. If it doesn’t, I’m still holding outside hope for FFXIV. I think of it as FFXI with Realistic Soloing. If you could realistically solo instead of LFP all the time in FFXI, I’d still be playing lol.

    I just hope they aren’t trying to be “too” innovative. Blarg, long post, my apologies lol.

  11. Sadly, I was looking forward to Aion, since my wife and I don’t mind old fashioned PvE grind games that reward teaming.

    Unfortunately, we can’t play. We’re among the minority of Aion players who suffer mysterious freezes and rubberbanding every few seconds. I’ve spent hours changing drivers, hardware, adding things, subtracting things, trying different characters, different servers, different graphics settings, and pouring over the forums (both Aionsource AND NCsoft’s). Nothing works.

    NCsoft is probably months away from dealing with problems that only affect a small minority, if they ever bother. I figure it’s just one of those odd games that is a lost cause.

    So get in touch with your philosopher’s stone and ask, is it better to despise a game you can play, or yearn for a game you can’t?

  12. I pretty much agree with your assessment of Aion (especially with regards to the furry animal killing part!) but with a couple clarifications.

    To me, Aion feels like people who love WoW and EQ2 and other similar games got together and said “Let’s make a game that is like these other games we love, but takes the best elements from each.” and adds a few new elements (flying, PvPvE) but doesn’t create any paradigm shift. If you like WoW and EQ2 and those kinds of games but just want a new scene, Aion will really satisfy (minus the lack of content that comes with any new MMO). If you don’t like those kinds of games, then there isn’t going to be anything in Aion to change your mind. Especially since what innovation it does have doesn’t really come into play until lvl 20 or higher.

    I tried Champions Online about the same time I started Aion and liked it up until I started flying. The handling of elevation in that game is annoying. When you look at the minimap and see the icon indicating that someone in your group is right by you, you can’t tell if they are above you, below you, or right next to you. That, and flying around is a bit awkward (at least with the options my honey and I chose) and mainly suited for escape and long distance travel.

    For now I am enjoying Aion, but I enjoy its predescessors as well for what they are. Nothing in this genre will likely ever live up to the single player console RPGs for storyline and to Eve for the economy and manufacturing aspects but they are an amusing diversion for me.

    PS. Queue is definitely server specific. I have been playing since the head-start and never once had a queue. That said, I really don’t like the way they have the client wired to CLOSE if it fails to connect to the server, rather than to just tell you to try again in a few minutes. It’s a slow booting app as it is, and for some reason every time I turn my machine on, the connection fails upon the first execution (even if aforementioned honey is already connected and playing on his machine.)

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