My initial thoughts on Aion.

Yesterday I bit the bullet and downloaded the chinese Aion client, made an account and installed the English .pak file. I didn’t have time to log on last night as I had to work really, really early today, but as soon as I got home I jumped in game and played to level 10. I made a cleric on the Asmodian side and prepared to see if the Aion hype is justified. I had my doubts going in.

Let me preface my initial thoughts with a bit of information. If you had come to me 3 years ago and asked me to name the games that were coming out between 2007 and 2009 and were most likely to replace my WoW addiction, Warhammer Online would be at the top of my list. I love the world, the art style, the humor and the company who was developing it, Mythic. On the opposite end of that list would be Aion. I hate the asian/anime art style, asian style MMOs have never appealed to me and I have serious issues with the developer, NCSoft. Finding Aion move to the top of that list would be akin to a sucker punch from Mike Tyson in his prime, out of nowhere and surprising as hell. Keep this in mind as I give my impressions.

Any impression of Aion has to start with the character creation process. Aion has the most in-depth and engaging character creation this side of City of Heroes. I could spend an hour just creating a character and personalizing it. Its truly amazing. Kudos to NCSoft for making, perhaps, the best character creation in any MMO.

After creating my character (an Asmodian Cleric) and logging in I was immediately struck by how well the game ran. Keep in mind that I was playing on the Chinese servers and I am located in Texas. Even with this there was little to no lag. After enduring the ability lag of WAR, this was a refreshing and surprising find. Besides the top notch net-code, the graphic engine itself stood out. I had high FPS even with many characters on screen at once and everything turned up all the way. My FPS never dropped below 75 or so. I have a fairly high end machine but, even so, the performance of the engine came as a surprise. Simply put, Mythic should be embarrassed. Compared to the Aion engine, Mythics engine is absolutely atrocious.

The graphics of the are sometimes a bit cutesy for me, in that normal anime-style, yet for all that, they are amazingly well-done. Colors pop, animations are well done and the art direction is very stylish and interesting. Spell graphics at low level are not “eye-popping” as is to be expected at low level, but they are still well done. Animations are smooth and flow well.

The best thing about combat in WoW is how “tight” it feels. It almost feels like a FPS in the tightness of the controls. You push a key to trigger an ability and that ability fires immediately. No other MMO that I have played has captured that control. WAR has horrible ability lag, LotRO is designed to be slower combat and all others that I have played have just seemed “off” somehow. Aion, by far, is the absolute closest to WoW control that I have come across and I was playing on Chinese servers half-way around the world. I have an idea that when I get to play on American servers the game will mirror WoWs control almost identically.

The gameplay itself is the normal quest fare that every MMO player is used to by now, at least at low level. This is to be expected, I suppose. Nothing really revolutionary here, but very well done nonetheless. The Epic Quest line seems like it may have a fairly good story with good quests as you go further with it, but I am not high enough to say for sure at this point.

I can say, almost without a shadow of a doubt that having wings and combat while flying will add a whole new dimension to gameplay, especially PvP. Flying is amazingly fun and you can foresee just how cool PvP combat is going to be while in the air. I can also see instances and raids being really interesting if they implement flying strategies in some of the boss fights.

Keep in mind that this is impressions at a very low level. I have not yet seen the Abyss, nor any other PvP. I can not speak with any authority on how bad or easy the grind is at higher levels. Crafting seems really well done but I can not say for sure. However, the basics are all here and extremely well done. If NCSoft doesn’t mess up the release, continues to add content and has a decent endgame, this game looks to be a real winner. I can not believe I am saying this, but Aion might finally be the game that replaces WoW for me, just as WoW was finally the game that replaced DAoC.

Yes, Mike Tyson landed that sucker punch and it absolutely floored me.

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