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Saturday | August 18, 2018
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Aion The Tower Of Eternity (PC)

Aion The Tower Of Eternity (PC)

The MMORPG genre has been dominated for so long by World Of Warcraft that it seems almost impossible for any other titles to get a long term foothold. Developers keep trying however because this market is so lucrative and today we look at the much hyped MMO entitled ‘Aion’ from far east developer NCSoft.

Aion is a bold attempt to offer a well rounded package to cater to everyone and for the most part it succeeds. The environment is visually impressive and this will immediately catch the eye of the less hardcore PvE gamer. Underneath the hood however there is a tried and trusted mechanic which MMO gamers will immediately be familiar with – such as skills, questing based around social tools and an economy. At the heart of the game is a PvP battleground called the Abyss, which lets gamers fight while flying around the environment. A rather strange design decision however is to keep players out of this until Level 25 which initially limits the PvP content.

The graphics really are very impressive for this genre with some stunning vistas and fully developed weather effects such as shimmering heat which rises from rocky surfaces during the day. Time for a bit of backstory – the world of Atrela has been devastated and all that remains are two island areas which were split apart and are now only held together by an aether field. Each of these lands has five zones in each and a major city – however due to the fact that the two races in the game are at war players are not really able to explore the other island. An issue remains however that while the various zones do have a lot of quest content to get to Level 50 the progression can be rather linear and there is very little satisfaction from replaying.

A facet of the game which will appeal to many are the excellent crafting options which really are tied so proficiently into the game it makes you wonder why other MMO’s haven’t got it right in the past. You earn experience from crafting and gathering materials and the completed products can be as good as those achieved from the higher level loot drops. Additionally, characters can level up by completing work orders which is a good alternative to using up important materials while learning the craft. There are also NPC traders who offer good support to players trying to progress their character development. You can also open a personal store if you don’t want to accept trader fees – once again this depth will appeal to many potential players who have found this area lacking in other games. It is unfortunately not all good however as there have been many complaints made about the storage management system – both guild storage and personal storage can be expanded but the costs exponentially increase which can break finances very quickly. This is only one of the few minor quirks with the economy as it seems to have been well tested during the development phase – this rewards people who don’t necessarily like to grind for days to get enough money to buy a spell or a new piece of equipment. I have played so many MMO’s in the last few years that grinding is no longer enjoyable for me so this came as a welcome relief.

Character customisation is very impressive and rather detailed with various sliders and colour options to let you create your persona just the way you want. Every character resembles a cat walk supermodel or a handsome fantasy style Brad Pitt but if you really want to do something different you can mess with the sliders to create a humorous abomination (as I did). Once the characters are created, the in game animations are smooth and rather anime by nature, especially when you leave them alone for a short period of time and they start actions out motions on their own. Surprisingly there seems to be a little character AI within the code as sometimes your avatar will respond to phrases or words you key in via the chat system.

The quest missions are enjoyable and Aion is very strongly scripted so there will be times when the quest bringer will explain certain aspects with cinematic content to highlight important parts in the story. NCSoft have always been very focused on scripting and getting across a strong narrative and once again they succeed. Playing alone generally works well however there are some missions and objectives that will require team work so it can be important to mix with others – obviously if you are totally anti social then you can skip these quests however I would assume that people playing an MMO want to mingle with others anyway (right?). There is nothing radical with the party structuring and the MMO veterans can still apply the tank-healer-DPS for most chance of success.

Combat is entertaining, but nothing out of the ordinary – you push buttons and the characters perform your actions accordingly. There are also the obligatory cool down timers and in regards to skill sets they will be the same as everyone else’s in that specific class. At higher levels the Stigma mechanic allows the character to slot 5 out of a possible 10 Stigma stones as well as 3 extras that can be unlocked through various quests. These extras are paired with your standard class skills to improve them and it works very well in practice. The only complaint is that you really don’t feel as if your character is truly unique as many other characters will act almost identical.

This brings me back to the flying element in the game because apart from specific combat situations in reality it really just ends up a variation of a long distance ‘mount’ system- a pretty much standard affair in an MMO. The reason for me saying this is due to the fact that most people only use flight (outside the Abyss) to gather resources from aether nodes floating in the sky. Most places in the game are actually no fly zones but if you find a spot to launch yourself from you can glide a considerable distance.

Flying in the Abyss however is fantastic when it comes to combat because it adds a whole new dimension to the experience, literally! This puts traditional strategic elements and turns them on their head because as your flight time is limited you need to judge how to make the best use of your time in the air. Right now the servers are still filling up so it will be interesting to see how this aspect of the game develops in the run up to Christmas. So far however NCSoft are handling the faction and balancing very well making sure it all still remains a good, competitive environment.

Aion is a stunningly attractive MMO which has received a lot of care and attention during the development phase and it shows. It is a well balanced game with a decent amount of content for both PvE and PvP players but this strength is also its biggest weakness because other MMO’s have more content to suit specific play styles. In Aion you will need to level up through the quest missions and then play the Abyss when you get powerful enough to compete. To be fair NCSoft are adding a fair amount of PvE content with the idea of localising it for the European and North American market. Right now I can certainly recommend it as a well rounded and entertaining game but whether it will last long term is a question we will have to answer another day.


Solid gameplay with plenty of questing and the Abyss elements shine through.
A very pretty MMO which definitely stands out from the crowd.
Ambient noises and music are all fine, but nothing out of the ordinary.
A fair amount of content right now, but until the game grows a little more it is hard to tell.

A promising start and one to keep an eye on for the future.

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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