Aion Ain’t For Me

"I can fly, Peter!  Into the sun, if I must!"
"I can fly, Peter! Into the sun, if I must!"

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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.


24 thoughts on “Aion Ain’t For Me

  1. Hudson July 7, 2009 / 7:14 am

    My thing is the Champions beta was worse, and drove me to beta test Aion, which is a far superior game in terms of quality and performance as well as atmosphere.

    BUT, Aion is ok not awesome. Either choice is lose lose in my book and I dont look forward to doing WoW type things AGAIN in my games. I have done it for 5 years almost and I am SICK OF THE QUEST MODEL

  2. Longasc July 7, 2009 / 7:28 am

    I have not played too much in the Beta Weekends yet, but it kept me interested and I am looking forward to the next.

    It is a pity that I could not test the WAR, this PvPvE, yet. It is not WoW with a raiding endgame, but people do not compare it to Lineage II as they simply do not know it. Even DAOC would be a better comparison.

  3. Slurms July 7, 2009 / 7:36 am

    I plan on giving both Champions and Aion a try. I don’t have as high of hopes for Aion as I do CO for mostly the same reasons you gave above, but I guess I want to see what it has to offer before writing it off.

  4. Longasc July 7, 2009 / 7:41 am

    The “Beta Weekend” strategy is a good way to keep people hungry and excited.

    It is still much more fair to players than Age of Conan’s Beta where they promoted the hype and silenced unwelcome naysayers on their forum. I think there are tons of players who are bored with WoW or MMOs in general and wait for the next good MMO.

    I even dare to say I wait for the MMO revolution – AION for sure is not the revolution of the genre.

    But it explains the red carpet phenomenon and the high hopes of many people.

    I suggest you get a preorder key and participate in the next beta test weekend.

    I do not play any MMO at the moment, but I did not want to play another MMO of the well known type, and I am not in the eastern style of graphics and gameplay either.

    But it was worth a try, still undecided if I will buy it. You cannot test much during these weekends, how could I test PvP if I just managed to become level 11. 😛

  5. Crimson Starfire July 7, 2009 / 7:41 am

    I concur.

    Wow, another DikuMMO grind fest with a new theme…

    Lets see, what’s the buzz feature on this one? Hmm… flying combat. Cool…

  6. Andrew July 7, 2009 / 8:14 am

    I’ll join you in a collective “meh” about Aion.

    I played in the first beta, and while it was polished, smooth, and even slick, it just felt too much like the predictable guided tour MMO for my liking right now.

    I’m not looking for a game to hold my hand through an endless chain of quests right now – I had that with WoW and need a break.

  7. BVD July 7, 2009 / 8:15 am

    Sorry Syp,

    Maybe I woke up on the wrong side of the bed and am feeling grumpy, or maybe it’s because WAR is mentioned here and you haven’t been talking about WAR much lately, but I think I kind of feel like ripping into your post on Aion (I’ll try to be constructive and not just an angry jerk though).

    You’ve posted a lot about being optimistic about new MMO’s coming down the pipeline, and that people shouldn’t rain on your parade with negativity – just let you be a fanboy and enjoy the hype. Yet, then you go and say why Aion isn’t for you, why it’s features aren’t really a big deal, and how you’re not impressed by what this game promises – considering your usually opimistic nature Syp, I think that’s about as negative as you can get.

    I have no vested interest in Aion and definitely will not be playing it, but if I were to comment on those four things that are causing a buzz around Aion, I’d say:

    1. Polished – would actually kind of agree with almost everything you said, but would also note that it won best Korean game of 2008… so polished or not, it sounds like the developers did a really fine job at the time of release (something a lot of MMOs can’t claim… *cough*… AoC). And some games that try to polish themselves for a whole year can end up looking like a pile of dung, rife with bugs and glitches, after the first year (*cough*… WAR).

    2. Sort of WoW-Like – man, you have as much fire in your belly for WoW as I do for WAR. I never played WoW and I never will, but from what I heard that game is kind of a big deal and set some pretty high standards for MMOs around the world… so what’s wrong with a game taking some good things from WoW and reworking it into their game? I would encourage anyone in the MMO industry to learn what worked and what didn’t from others. To not do so would be plain ignorant!

    3. Flying Combat – somewhat agree that it isn’t a dealmaker, but I don’t think you should just discredit it because CoX is doing it too. Some of your readers are equally disinterested in playing Super Hero MMOs are you are disinterested in playing high fantasy games where everyone’s avatar is a supermodel.

    4. PvPvE – yes, I do remember Warhammer Online; the disappointment of that game will follow me to my grave. Perhaps the reason they didn’t sell you on realm war is because Mythic borked up the game royally so nobody could properly enjoy realm war. The concept of a computer-controlled realm that keeps a balance is actually intriguing to me, and I think had WAR had this or a 3rd player-controlled realm in the mix, well, maybe I’d still be playing WAR and Mark Jacobs would still have a job (ouch, low blow – but seriously, surprised I haven’t seen a post on your blog about MJ’s departure from Mythic… that’s pretty big news!).

    Anyways, Aion is a game I don’t really care about and a game I’ll probably never play, and yet I have all those good things to say about it. You’re certainly entitled to your opinion as a blogger, but I think half the reason I’ve frequented your blog so often in the past is because you’re optimistic and willing to give almost any MMO a chance (and at least a small spotlight on your blogspace).

    Don’t lose that objectivity (which, IMHO is what puts your blog on MMOs a head above the rest) just because Aion doesn’t have bearded dwarves drinking ale and smells too much of WoW! Then you’d just have the kind of blog I could see myself writing – the jaded and bitter rants and ramblings of a disenfranchised ex-WAR subscriber who vengefully prays for the collapse of Mythic Entertainment on a daily basis.

    Hope that wasn’t too nasty. I really do like your blog and your writing style… just think your strengh lies in your optimism, and don’t want to see you end up a jaded @sshole like me!

  8. Starayo July 7, 2009 / 8:19 am

    Ditto, Syp. A guy in my online gaming clan was going on about Aion and the only response I’ve been able to come up with is “…So?”

  9. Syp July 7, 2009 / 8:37 am

    @ BVD – Actually, I never claim to be objective in the least. News sites are objective; bloggers are and mostly should be quite subjective. People come to read what you think about a topic, game or whatever, and there’s very little separating you from your bias when you dig into those things.

    Sure, I am less-than-kind to WoW and Blizzard these days, but that’s how it is for me. I do try to be optimistic, but I don’t like all things all the time (blind optimism, perhaps?). And a promise I made to myself when I started blogging is that I’d write what I wanted to, based on what interested me and how I was feeling about it at the time. I wasn’t going to write for a specific audience or to please others — I’m happy when it does please, but if you get into that writing mindset, your quality just suffers.

    As for Aion, the approach of this article was to state why I felt bewildered over its publicity right now when there’s been very little to attract me to it, and to ask others to convince me if I’m wrong. It’s not a final judgment or anything, just a reaction to what’s been bouncing around MMO circles these days.

  10. Frank July 7, 2009 / 9:27 am

    Aion is riding the same hype train (remember the MMO Love Affair I posted about? Aion is textbook).

    But other than that there are definite issues. I wanted to give the game a try so I could write about it – but was unable to. There’s a current problem with Aion’s choice of anti-cheat software, Gameguard, that makes 32-bit clients blue screen, crash, or give errors. In this case it’s not so much Aion as it is something else, but I blue screened no less than 7 or 8 times and crashed twice, corrupting my Aion beta installation in the process once so I had to reinstall. So much for beta weekend. Where’s that vaunted “stability”?

    While the game itself probably has a high entryway (the Crysis engine guarantees that when the game actually goes live in NA/EU there will be lag and stability issues), you can’t tell someone on a 32-bit OS to “upgrade to 64-bit”, as threads have been saying.

    Given all this, I can see why lots of people would like Aion – but I’m skeptical about a company that released the awful grindfest that was Lineage 2 releasing Aion having already been influenced by the Chinese/Korean MMO playstyle, which doesn’t jive with me.

  11. shadowwar July 7, 2009 / 9:33 am

    I’m not going to convince you you’re wrong. I’ve made a few posts about it myself, and overall, the game is polished and pretty, but that’s about it. Noone can really comment on the PvP side because only the Korean market has been there (and people who played with the chinese client). Still, three cheers for them for actually living up to the quality demands we as players have, but so far, this game is looking like it’s not for me.

  12. theerivs July 7, 2009 / 11:04 am

    You said it best, if I want to play WoW I would play WoW. The thing is why aren’t the demon side uglier. I want more horns and fangs on my evil race.

  13. spinks July 7, 2009 / 11:20 am

    It’s having played the beta briefly and seeing the DaoC comparisons (which is a game I loved unreasonably) that tipped me over the decision point. I don’t think it’s going to be a long flirtation — I am a bit tired of fantasy Wow-style MMOs — but definitely enough for me to gave it a month to win me over.

    It does play well, and so pretty also. So it won’t be a hardship to give it a proper try.

    But I also think that trying a game for a month isn’t like getting married, it doesn’t have to be a longterm commitment to spend ages fretting over. I got less than a month’s play out of Spore, for example.

  14. Sharon July 7, 2009 / 12:28 pm

    This past weekend was the first beta weekend I was able to get into Aion, and after leveling characters on both sides to about 12, I lost interest. A whole segment of my WAR guild is headed to Aion, so I’m disappointed that I didn’t like it more.

    It was very polished and had a lot of neat little features, but I just thought it was too grindy, with some pretty poor quest design. It’s also too easy for people to kill steal, which made leveling a priest/chanter annoying.

    I was hesitantly looking forward to it, but now I’m pretty meh.

  15. We Fly Spitfires July 7, 2009 / 1:12 pm

    I agree that Aion isn’t particuarlly groundbreaking but I find myself feeling lackluster about almost all of the other MMOs out there at the moment that I’m hankering for something new to play. I doubt it will be a longterm investment for me like EQ2 or WoW but I’m going to give it a shot.

    Apart from CO and Aion, there’s also Global Agenda coming out and I like the look of it.

  16. Mitch July 7, 2009 / 5:07 pm

    I played Aion this past weekend, and it was pretty fun imo, but I don’t think it will have replay value. There is only 1 starting area for each faction regardless of class it seems, and everyone gets the same quests/movies etc (really similar to how guild wars pve was which wasn’t great). Its a cross between lineage/wow, and little bit of age of conan’s combo system (without the missing of combos).

    Tradeskill system I loved as it isn’t a huge gather fest (just a grind fest), but it doesn’t break your bank to do tradeskills. Some people say its similar to Vanguard’s tradeskills.

    Considering there’s nothing really much else to play anytime soon I’ll probably pick this one up.

  17. naamah88 July 7, 2009 / 7:24 pm

    Syp, I think you may do yourself a injustice if you do not at least try it out while its basically free. Let me give you a bit of background information on my time with Aion.

    I played DAoC for 4 years or so, its my favorite MMO of all time, by a landslide. After the game more or less died out, I made the switch to WoW. I played that for 4 years and it was good but didn’t come close to DAoC. I tired of the grind and wished for better PvP. Then along came WAR. This was going to be my game, I was a Mythic fanboy. I got into beta early, before keeps were in. As release got closer I saw all the problems with the game, but I explained them away; “oh, the engine will be better by release, I’m sure they will have the classes balanced soon. We haven’t really seen the endgame but I’m sure Mythic is on top of it.”.

    When the game released I tried to play it, leveled up many characters but in the end I was crushed. How could Mythic mess up this bad? In defeat I returned to WoW.

    I started hearing about Aion a couple of months ago, I heard the raves and the gripes and I even heard people comparing it to DAoC. I looked at it, but I HATE anime. I detest the whole art style. After a couple of weeks I decided to give it a shot and I went in fully prepared to hate it. I WANTED to hate it.

    After playing on the Chinese servers I found that the longer I played the less I hated it, in fact I started to like it. I still do not like the art style a lot, but the rest of the game makes up for it. Sure, its a lot like WoW in its mechanics and, yes, there are lots of quests and the like. But after sitting down and watching a friend of mine in the Abyss on his level capped Assassin (Korean server), I realized that THIS game is the closest spiritual successor to DAoC. It plays with the speed of WoW, but the end game is more like DAoC than WAR ever was. Its not just a zerg, but has lots of 6 vs. 6 fights, 1vs1 etc.. The raid bosses are out in the open, allowing for PvP there as well.

    On top of all that, it works. And it works NOW. No waiting for a performance fix (despite what Frank says above, the Crysis engine is holding up beautifully and runs well even on slower machines, in large battles), no waiting for broken endgame mechanics to be fixed. It just works and its fun.

    Flight is about as much of a “gimmick” as jetpacks are in Tribes 2, which is to say, not at all. It adds a whole new dimension to end game PvP.

    Give it a try Syp, its not revolutionary but its FUN. Leveling can be a chore just like any other MMO, but its well worth it.

  18. The Claw July 9, 2009 / 10:58 pm

    You point 1 seems a little.. well, a little weird.

    I thought polish was a good thing in and of itself? Not something to go “meh, it’s well polished, but so what? it’s only because it released in Korea last year.”

  19. Foobear July 22, 2009 / 5:15 am

    Aion’s okay. There’s nothing in it that got me excited. Even WAR got me excited, and I liked the Conan Universe enough to pick it up, but Aion is just really bland.

    People harp on the graphics, but they’re 1) sort of dated, and 2) Others, like AoC (especially the intro area) are much prettier.

  20. Zee November 10, 2009 / 4:27 am

    Aion was exciting enough. But there are room for improvements. Hope new game developers can reach out to these kinda blogs and tie up loose ends.

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