Introducing Ahira

The first day of Aion was pretty chaotic for me.  As detailed in the prior post, I got in immediately but my friend got stuck in the queue, so we got a late start.  We were only able to get an hour or so of gameplay before I had to log off and attend to some real life matters, so I wasn’t even able to ascend.

Got back on later in the evening and was able to get through the early area and Ascend into Daeva-hood.  Thus was Ahira, Ranger Extraordinaire born.

The Preorder Helm looks fairly ridiculous on a dwarf....

The Preorder Helm looks fairly ridiculous on a dwarf....

I am really enjoying the Ranger so far, they are extremely difficult to level in the early game but very rewarding and engaging.  Kiting is a necessary skill and the inability to kite will result in countless deaths.  To make matters even more difficult, many areas are so packed with mobs that kiting is fraught with danger, as it is very easy to aggro additional mobs.  You have to be very cognizant of your surroundings at all times and plan out each and every combat.

Luckily, I was able to get into a Legion group fairly early this evening.  We were doing the quests immediately after the Altgard Fortress in the first forest area.  We started the night with myself, a Templar, a Cleric and an Assassin before adding a second Templar later in the evening and it was one of the best grouping experiences I have had in a long, long time in an MMO.

We were able to progress through a large chunk of quests all the way up to the Elite Black Claw area with no problems.  We entered the Black Claw area under-leveled, as we were only level 14 and all the mobs were red to us.  Even with that we were able to complete a couple of quests there and down quite a few mobs, though we had to be extremely careful with our pulls.  More than two and we were in a lot of trouble.

Speaking of which, it was so nice to play an MMO that has group content outside of an instance.  WoW used to have a number of areas like this but they have since been nerfed into solo-able content.  I love solo content but I would really like to see some group content in the mix as well.  Aion provides that and it’s refreshing.

At the moment, I am level 14 and moving quickly toward 15.  Not as high as I wanted but I am having fun.  Quite a bit in fact.  Tomorrow our group from this evening is getting back together for some more questing and I can hardly wait.

Rangers and the Archetype system.

I have played nearly every class in Aion to 20 or more.  I enjoy all of them for various reasons and all are fun to play while leveling up.  I find that the Priest Archetype is the easiest to level initially, the Mage archetype puts out a lot of damage and the Warrior archetype is a nice balance between damage and survivalbility.

"Yeah, I'm looking good!"

"Yeah, I'm looking good!"

The one archetype I have problems with is the Rogue archetype.  Assassins are fine. They are a bit hard to level and require frequent resting after kills but they tend to even out after 10 and become a pretty solid leveling class, all in all. They blossom, at level cap, into an awesome fighting force, one that can really do well in PvP and PvE.  In short, Assassins are great.

Rangers on the other hand are a wreck at low level.  An absolute, frustrating, bang your head against the wall train-wreck.  This is completely caused by the Archetype system in Aion.  You see, in Aion you start off picking from one of four character Archetypes; Warrior, Mage, Priest or Scout.  You level as one of those Archetypes up to level ten, at which point you Ascend and pick your final class.  For example, the Warrior Archetype produces either a Gladiator or Templar, the Mage Archetype becomes a Spiritmaster or Sorceror and the Priest Archetype develops into a Cleric or Chanter.

This is all well and good for those Archetypes.  Even though their class changes, the core of the class remains the same.  Gladiators and Templars are both melee damage dealers with good survivalbility, Sorcerors and Spiritmasters both deal magical damage from range, etc..  There are a few things you must adjust to, but the core of the way the class plays remains the same.

The Scout archetype is different.  It produces the Assassin or the Ranger.  Whats the big deal you ask?  Well one is a

I r teh broken....

I r teh broken....

melee character and the other is ranged.  Two totally different play-styles.  For the first 10 levels, your newly rolled wannabe Ranger will be forced to do nothing but melee.  The only skills he will get are all melee based.  No bow usage at all.

Then suddenly at level 10 you will become a Ranger and get your first bow skills.  The problem is, you don’t get enough, quickly enough.  You are instead forced into killing mobs by using the few bow skills that you have and then switching into melee when the mob gets close.  You are a weak melee/ranged hybrid for a significant portion of your initial leveling experience.  Not enough bow skills to matter and weak melee skills.  This makes leveling very difficult.  Way more difficult than any of the other classes in Aion, as a matter of fact.

Something needs to be done about this and Rangers brought in line with other classes in the low level game.  It is extremely frustrating to level until around level 25-30, which is when you finally accumulate enough ranged skills to make a difference.  Until then, Rangers can be a headache to play.

Thankfully, Rangers end up being an extremely powerful class.  They can dominate in PvP and PvE at level cap and anyone who goes through the leveling frustration is in for a treat.  Rangers and bow classes are normally among the most populous of classes in MMOs, I expect many to be rolled in Aion as well.  But, something tells me that we will see few at endgame.  The leveling difficulties of the rangers will make many look elsewhere for a class.

Tips for Aion

When playing Aion for the first time, its easy to miss a lot.  There are no tutorials in the game yet and some of the intricacies of the game are easy to miss.  So, here are a few tips to get you started, things that are not readily apparent when you first log in.

1.  Gather early, gather often. You can begin to gather “Angelica” at level one.  Not only does this allow you to upgrade the skill but it also gives you experience points.  Not a ton, by any means, but enough to make it worthwhile.  Plus, at later levels there are quests that require you to gather materials and if you do not have enough skill to gather the items you have to buy them or not do the quest.

2.  Shards, use them. Shards are items that can be purchased from a General Good vendor or picked up off a defeated mob.  If purchased they are relatively cheap for a stack of 50 at low level.  Make sure you equip them (standard right click to equip) and use them.  They work pretty simply, when activated (default key is ‘B’) they add + attack power to each hit.  Each hit consumes one of the shards so you go through them pretty quick.  For that reason, I save them for “emergency” situations when I need to down a mob quickly for some reason.  When activated they generate a cool lightning effect around your weapon until you deactivate them, so its easy to know when they are active.

3.  Avoid adds. This is not WoW, nor is it WAR or LotRO.  Adds will kill you.  One mob is tough enough, but if you get two of your level, prepare for a tough battle.  3 mobs is a recipe for disaster unless you are a healer, even then its really tough.  Pull carefully, watch for patrols and always have an escape route planned out in case it gets hairy.

4.  Manastones, use them. Manastones are a lot like gemming in WoW but easier to acquire.  They drop from mobs fairly consistently.  Most gear can have manastones socketed, white gear normally has one slot, green has two and so on.  Socketing can fail, which consumes all manastones on the item.  For this reason make sure to socket your least valued stone first.  After socketing the stones give various bonuses to the gear, such as +5 evasion, +20 health points and so on.  As I said, they are easy to get so do not make the mistake of letting them sit in your bag waiting for better gear, use them!

5.  Glide. Anytime its available, glide. There are no mounts in Aion and only limited places you can truly fly.  You can glide anywhere, however.  Gliding will allow you to cover ground much, much faster than hoofing it on your two feet.  To glide all you need is a decent sloped hill, large rock or tower to jump off of, once gliding you can hit your ‘S’ key to allow you to “ride the currents” and stay aloft for longer.  When going from place to place I find myself constantly looking for things to glide off of, even if they are a bit off the beaten path.  Gliding is fun and it can decrease travel time noticeably.

6.  Use the Locate feature in your Quest log. If you click on a quest in your quest log, you will notice that NPC names and locations have a blue hyperlink.  Click that hyperlink and a new box will open up telling a bit about the NPC, mob or location and at the bottom there will be a button marked ‘Locate’.  Click that and a waypoint will be placed on your map that shows the general location of the NPC, mob or item.  This will save you a ton of time.  Use it.

That’s it for now, I intend to add some more as time goes on.

Character classes (Oh God, more decisions!)

My first two MMOs, DAoC and WoW, I was lucky enough to find the class I loved in the first one or two tries.  In DAoC my first character was a Thane, which I played to level 20 or so before trying a hunter.  The hunter became my main after that and I played him for the rest of my time in DAoC.

WoW was even quicker.  I rolled a dwarf hunter as my first character and he remained my main throughout the next 4 years.  I loved him.  I also had a capped shaman and an almost capped druid, but I always found myself back to my hunter.

I wasn’t so lucky in my other MMOs.  In LotRO I had a fairly quick search for a main, after trying a burglar, guardian and hunter, I made a captain and leveled him to cap.  In AoC I made quite a few characters before settling on a Bear Shaman.

Warhammer was even worse.  I went through so many characters that I couldn’t name them all and I still have not made one I would consider a main.  I could have 2-3 capped characters, but instead I have none.  All because I could not settle on a main.

Now I am looking at Aion and praying that I do not have that trouble.  I think that the difficulties finding a main in AoC and WAR especially, were more driven by problems with the game than my indecision.  Or maybe I am just getting indecisive in my old age?  I don’t know, its easier to blame it on the game.

At first glance the Ranger would seem to be the logical class, as my best times in MMOs have always been with a ranged character.  The problem is I always try to use logic when making characters; what class is more rare?  What class will be needed at end-game?  That type of stuff.

Its not that I want to be the most powerful class in the game, to the contrary I enjoy classes that are tough to play.  The Midgard hunter was certainly no powerhouse and my WoW hunter was created and leveled back when hunters were more underpowered than anything.  I just want a class that isn’t overcrowded and needed at end game.

The logical choice, of course, is healer.  Right now, that is my highest class on the Chinese Aion client and I really enjoy her.  Luckily there is quite awhile until the release of the North American game client so I have plenty of time to settle on a main.  I just made a rogue with an eye toward ranger.

Lets see where this goes!