|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: NCSoft||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: NCSoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sep. 21, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: MMO||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
While the tiered class system does offer the feeling of progression and choice, it is down as soon as the player leaves the starting area around level 10, which makes it seem all rather pointless. If progression ends so quickly, why bother forcing players to do it at all? Instead, what's wrong with letting them choose among eight main classes from the start? I suppose it does offer a small amount of familiarity by playing one of the four main classes at first. Occasionally, players do need a small dose of a class before they are able to decide, and the tiered system does offer that.
While PvE does come standard in Aion, a large portion of its success hinges on its PvPvE system, which attempts to break the stereotypical feud between gamers who prefer PvE over PvP and vice versa. The PvP combat takes place in three major ways: duels, rift events, and in The Abyss. The dueling system is just what you'd expect and doesn't require any more input as it does the job. The rift events occur when a rift opens between both side's worlds, allowing players from both races to cross over into the other faction's land and wreak havoc. This provides a certain level of strategic depth to the gameplay because the rifts themselves can be destroyed, which can save your world from the enemy or leave you stranded and cutoff from reinforcements. Despite how much fun these scenarios can be, players won't get an opportunity to experience them until much later in the game, leaving nothing but the dueling system to keep their PvP-lust in check.
Once a player does reach the appropriate level, however, The Abyss also becomes available. Essentially, it is a large environment that exists between the Elyos' and Asmodians' worlds. This is also the setting for Aion's PvPvE system, which features the Balaur as an AI-controlled third faction. The zone is broken into small floating shards and littered with fortresses that can be captured. Initially, all the areas are controlled by the Balaur, which forces players from both factions to defeat them before they can gain a foothold. From that moment on, a struggle among the three factions ensues as fortresses are lost and captured. To help build relevance to the system, how much territory a faction controls determines what kinds of bonuses are given. Lower prices at NPC vendors and increased abilities give players a reason to fight and hold onto territory in The Abyss.
The PvPvE system, however, isn't without its flaws. Like all two-way faction systems, server population balance is key. As soon as one faction outnumbers the other, the problems with the system become apparent. And, while the system does attempt to accommodate players who enjoy both styles of gameplay, it is unclear as to how well it actually will. In the end, most PvE players will probably leave The Abyss to the PvP-oriented.
Another big element to Aion is the ability to fly at level 10, which is when you complete the starter area and receive your wings. The ability fight while in flight is also a very cool concept, and using it for travel definitely beats walking. One criticism of the system, however, is that it feels relatively underused. Many areas of the game restrict players from flying at all, which seems odd and just plain stupid. And, while the idea of fighting in the air sounds cool as well, players shouldn't expect aerial acrobatics or dogfights because you'll have your hopes dashed. Instead, envision your standard MMORPG combat mechanics, players standing around each other taking turns hitting each other with projectiles, melee weapons, and spells. While the idea of free flying in an MMORPG sounds amazing, and despite how the controls for doing so are solid, it comes across more like a cheap gimmick than an actual gameplay enhancer.
Aion isn't anything gamers haven't already seen in one MMORPG or another. While the game does a decent job at pulling a lot of concepts together, it will bring about more moments of nostalgia than it will create. It will have players thinking, "Hey, this reminds me of..." as they imagine special moments in Azeroth, Middle Earth, Hyboria, and other lands of adventure. With that being said, you cannot deny that the game is polished and feels solid, which goes a long way considering how buggy most MMORPGs are when they release.
In the end, Aion is one of the best, most well-polished MMORPGs to be released in a long time, which is reinforced by its popularity and hype. It stays within the traditions of an aging genre and makes sure to maximize on it at the same time. Nevertheless, its lack of unique components doesn't help set it apart from the competition, and calls into question Aion's ability to establish a solid, faithful, and long-lasting community. The bottom-line? If you're looking for innovative design concepts and new avenues of gameplay, then Aion won't impress, but if you're just looking for solid gameplay you already know and love, then it's definitely worth your attention.
CCC Freelance Writer