I don’t want to drink the Aion Kool-AidSeptember 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.)