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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Aion Review

Title: Aion
Genre: RPG Online
Producer: ncSoft

I first heard of Aion probably a few months ago, but didn't pay too much attention to it as I was still busy playing WoW: Wrath of the Lich King. It wasn't until I made my routine visit to JB Hi-Fi and EB Games that I noticed this new game. And the concept art for it was unreal.

I've been playing WoW for the last 5 years, and during that time I have tried a few other MMOs such as Guild Wars and Perfect World International, but not one was able to capture me as WoW has. There are a few others out there that are pretty big too. Age of Conan and Warhammer just to name a few, however I never really tried them out as they hadn't sparked my interest.

After a few years of the monotonous level grinding and rep farming, it was time for me to try something new. And when I picked up the latest issue of Atomic magazine, and saw the release date for Aion I made a mental note to check out the official website. Let's just say that I'm glad that I did.

I was able to get my hands on a copy of the game just recently. After spending 45mins intalling and patching the game I was ready to play. Oh I forgot to tell you, remember the days when a game installation required several CD's? Well, those days are back. Only we've moved on from CD's to DVD's now. Aion has 2 DVD's, dual layers of course as the system specs mentions that you need 15 GB of free space. The account creation process was a bit of a pain, but eventually that was done. The game took a bit of time to load. but because of that I was able to see what graphics engine was powering the visuals. It was none other then CryEngine, for anyone that can remember the first Farcry, players were given a lethal dose of eye candy. The login screen was breath taking, as expected of CryEngine.

Once logged in, I was required to create my character and I had a choice between two races. The Elyos and Asmodians. The class selection is very limited, players are given the choice of choosing Warriors, Scouts, Mage and Priests. The warrior class is recommended for beginners, how ever since I have played WoW for a while I decided to go for a casting class...the Mage.

After selecting my class, I was taken to the character creation screen. The level of details that the developers have gone into to allow how a character looks is mind blowing. I'm sure there are other MMOs out there that allows that much freedom for players to create their character, but for me, the only other game that allows for character customization was Perfect World International. Even then I was impressed. Aion's character creation and customization allows your imagination to run wild. At the time of writing this review, I have heard of players spending time re-creating famous figures, namely President Obama and Wolverine.

During the character creation process, the player is given choices such as the shape of the head, and body type. However, by clicking on the head or body, another pane appears and further customization options was available. Players were able to customize the face, hair style and hair color, eyes and eye color, lips and lip color. There is even a palette that you can use to get the color of the hair or eyes to just how you want it. The characters height can be customized as well, you can either as tall as a giant or as small as a gnome...personally, gnomes are only good for kicking.

Character creation out of the way, I was in the game and playing. Well, not yet...the player was greeted to a brief introduction of how the story unfolded, not bad I have to say. Now then, we are able to play, the interface is very familiar, and if you are a veteran of the MMO scene, you will feel right at home here. I was already impressed by the login screen, I was left speechless the moment I was given control of my character. The level of detail given to the environment is breath taking. Mind you, I'm running an old Nvidia 8800GTS factory over clocked card, with most of the settings on high. I guess with that setup the game environment would definitely look good.

After completing a few small quests I was told to head off to the nearest town, which was a hop skip and jump away. Most would agree that the hardest thing to render would be water, well the producers of Aion has done a top notch job at rendering the water. Not only do you get the sense that there is water movement, but you can even see the reflection on the waters surface. I'm not too sure if that was mainly due to my system having Direct X 10 as the game requires DirectX 9. But no matter I was treated to some whole some eye candy, and I wasn't going to complain.

The first town that I came to is Poeta. Questing and levelling in Aion is the same as in any MMO; killing, collecting and talking to NPCs. And by the time that I had arrived to level 10, I was given the choice of either being a Sorcerer or a Spiritmaster. All the other classes branches off from the base class as soon as you reach level 10 and have completed your Ascension quest.

There are 3 types of quests in Aion. Your campaign quests (yellow icon), your side quests (blue icon) and profession quests or Work Orders, this allows you to level your profession. Another feature that is unique to Aion is the title that a character can unlock. Each title allows the players to have different buff. Titles are usually unlocked as you complete both the campaign and side quests.

To travel around in the world of Aion the player has your normal flight paths, but at level 10 you can teleport to different locations. What I feel is a great feature is the wings. At level 10 and after completing the Ascension you are literally given your wings. At lower levels flight time is severely limited to 60 secs, but flight duration increases as you progress through the levels. Unfortunately, flying zones are very limited, lets hope that with more patches players are able to fly anywhere they want.

Storage room is quite limited in Aion. We are given one bag, referred to as a cube. But the cube runs out of space very quickly. You can unlock more rows, but even that runs out in no time as you complete quests and gather raw materials to level your professions, and lets not forget that potions takes up room in your cube too. Banking services are also available, and can be found at the capital cities as well as some major times. Players will find that there is also a facility similar to the auction house, and also the player can set up their own stalls to sell things to other players. The mailing service is also quite limited. If you wanted to send multiple items to another player, you would end up spamming the recipient until kingdom come.

I just reached level 19 on my sorcerer, I am enjoying the game immensely. Like I mentioned earlier, there isn't a lot of titles out there that would get my attention off WoW. I can honestly say that for some odd reason, I feel at home with Aion. While I am a believer that says WoW ha raised the bar for how MMOs should be, Aion's level of detail and story line has captured my imagination. All that I need to do now is to reach cap level and try out the pvp area and see if this game is really worth investing time and effort into.

***Editors note: At the time of writing I was playing on a my desktop that has the 8800GTS. I just took delivery of a new Dell XPS notebook which has an ATi HD 4670 card installed.

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