Every time a new MMO is on the launching pad, staring down the final days of closed/open beta for the big blastoff, we seem to go through the same cycle. No matter what the title is, people just stream out of the woodwork to gush about it, talking about it non-stop, and those of us who are influenced by where the swarm has landed that week (and I don’t mean that in a negative sense, I’ve often followed the swarm), then a question quickly forms in the mind: “Is this good? Should I play it? Everyone’s talking about it, so I definitely need to hop on board!”
Sometimes it’s a good thing, sometimes bad, but no matter what the game is, just prior to launch they all get treated with the same red carpet welcome. It makes sense, because high-quality, mega-budget MMOs aren’t launched on a weekly or even monthly basis around here. The fact that one’s made it far enough to justify a launch is newsworthy in and of itself. And if it’s getting good beta buzz, so much the better.
Right now, 2009 is only promising us a shot at two big-budget titles: Aion and Champions Online. Like Darkfall, Aion is a title I heard very little about until a couple months ago, when suddenly (out of the woodwork) mobs of players seem to be streaming down the street toward it. I haven’t cared much about it one way or the other, mostly because (a) I have enough games right now to keep me occupied for the summer, (b) playing Champions Online is a definite lock for the fall for me, and (c) nobody’s convinced me that Aion is a game worth checking out.
Really, I’m listening. There’s no hate in my heart for Aion, I just can’t understand what the buzz is about. It’s kind of like this Twilight phenomenon going on right now (“So… it’s like Buffy the Vampire Slayer except the vampires are sparkly and there’s no Giles? Forget that.”). The three most-repeated testimonies of the title are that it’s very polished, sort of WoW-like, and there’s flying combat. A distant fourth is how it’s involving a three-faction PvP battle (the third faction being a computer-controlled realm that helps out the losers, or somesuch). Four things, and my panties are not bunched one bit. Why?
- Polished – I absolutely give kudos for Aion for this, assuming it’s true (and from the beta reports, it certainly is). Most experienced MMO vets have pledged not to touch any title that lacks a high level of polish, and it’s about time that we as a collective community hold gaming companies to a high (but not impossibly so) standard in this department. However, this polish is coming from almost a year’s worth of actual launched product over in Korea, and when you think about it, every MMO is certainly a LOT more polished a year after launch than at the start. So this is a good thing, but it isn’t surprising given the facts.
- Sort of WoW-Like - Hm. Not a way to win my heart over, to be honest. I’ve done WoW. There’s a reason I left. If I wanted to play WoW, I guess I would play WoW. Maybe that’s an unfair template to lay over Aion, but too many people have levied this observation to ignore it. A fantasy MMO has to be something special, something special indeed if it’s going to pull me back into that genre.
- Flying Combat – Cool, I guess, but this isn’t a dealmaker. A lot of games have flying in them these days, including Champions Online (which will allow you to fight as such, although you may face penalties if you do).
- PvPvE – Remember Warhammer Online? That didn’t sell me on the whole Realm War deal, so how is this going to?
So obviously, I’m coming at all of this from a particular viewpoint that’s pretty jaded with fantasy games, unimpressed by PvP promises, and never enthralled with Asian MMOs as a whole. But I’m willing to listen — and quite a few bloggers are making a case for and against it. Stay tuned.