Saturday, July 4, 2009

Playing in Aion, Living in Age of Conan

I thought it is now time to jot down my thoughts of how I feel after going back to the world of Diku MMO' foray into Aion.

I have played about 12 hours so far, and want to give some impressions...but maybe not how most give their impressions.
As you can tell by the title, there will be some discussion of differences I see in Aion compared to AoC. But, I need to make clear that I am a jaded gamer now. I am very picky in what I will play, especially when it comes to MMO's.

So did Aion make me a convert back to the old ways?

First off, I want to congratulate NCSoft on a well polished, bug free experience, with a game that runs like a game should out of the box.
If the game launches like the CB has run, it WILL be the best launch of an MMO...period.
I have had maybe 1 or 2 rubber bands my whole play session, and saw one glitch (some mob was stuck in the ground), but the client never crashed and especially for how gorgeous the game looks it runs a sight better than most MMO's (EQ2, LOTRO, AoC...looking at you...).

Onto graphics. It is hard not to discuss this game without mentiong the visuals. Probably the best high fantasy title visually, with hints of WoW cartooniness mixed in with a Final Fantasy, Star Ocean vibe. The hints of technology mixed with the fantasy is a nice touch.
Models in this game for the players is spot on. One thing some games (ok...LOTRO, EQ2) get wrong is that the models are secondary to the world. Aion, the model is pivotal. The full control of how the character looks with one of the best total toolsets for PC creation, it is a dream for a game for me. I love it. I was quite happy with the way my model looked.

The game world itself besides visually being complete also looks alive. Moving pieces like spiders in the trees, how the character reacts in the world when idle, swaying trees, etc. All look great. And feels right.
Also, with a modicum of things to catch your eye, like things to stop and pick up as you run around is the added bonus.

But, it is all set pieces. How does the game and mechanics play.

Played WoW? then you have played Aion. Questing is the same. Global cooldown combat, though faster, (and more akin to Guild Wars than WoW) is still WoW.

What NCSoft did is take WoW, put it in a new skin, polished it up, added a few differences...including the major difference ..Flight..and made a good game.

After questing for hours, I lost sight of any difference in how the game approached a quest. They also made no effort (except for brief glimpses with cool cut scenes, or the ascension quest throwing you into your past...etc) to make them different.
Get me 5 horns, kill 11 crabs, get the fur of ...etc.

All in a line...pretty little quests...but, empty.

Combat does make up for that tedium, by being fast and as you get further in the game, more mobs spawning with furious resurgence makes for a spectacular busy game.

There is lots to do to keep you busy thats for sure, which is an important factor to stray from the tedium.
But, it is all about gathering and the gear.
Finding manastones to implant into armor and weapons is a blast. Running around and "picking flowers and sparklies" as the wife calls us anyways.

And finally, flight. Once you get to level 10 and gain your wings, this adds a bit more. We found ourselves going "oo...can I get to that spot?" "wonder what happens if I glide off this"...keeping it fun.

But, those quests. I have heard there is more variety to the quests in the newest patch overseas...but, can it be that different?

Sorry, but this is truly a "grinding quests" game. Thus why I said.."I play in Aion".

So, then why do "I live in AoC"?

Cutscenes happen in both games, but in Conan, the fact that your quests are handed to you in this format, makes it seem more immersive. The scenes of YOU talking with the quest givers makes the game seem more personal.
I feel like I live in Hyborea.
Aion gives me a box with a slightly small font, and instead of reading all of the box, I find myself clicking the appropiate answer, and then reading the quest afterwards to find what I need to kill.
I care less about what the NPC has to say. Ala WOW!

Quests, even though AoC does also deal in the "Kill 10 x" variety, seem to get more of these examples....
"You must kill a small number of their clan (10), then I wish for their leaders death (kill boss), then make sure to bring me back a crate of their supplies"
So, multiple objectives, with meaning behind each.

Aion. Killing sandcrabs and sea turtles for shells to bring to the armorsmith, well.... Kill 10 to lower the population.....duhhhhh...
All the same. I picked flowers once...but that was the only different quest.
When I was handed one quest and was noted I can do it 1/100 times (that meant I can go back 99 more times)...seems like a small effort to give me meaning.
I only learned I had no memories after some levels, only because I briefly caught it in a quest text.

Now, I could go on. But, the fact remains, Aion is a beautifully covered up Asian grinding game. It is well polished, a gorgeous high fantasy game, that does peak my interest...
But, when I made a second character when my server went down, I almost dreaded doing those levels again.

Never a good sign.

I start to wonder if any variety will happen in later levels, like dungeons with objectives and scripted events (like AoC or Guild Wars). Or are they open dungeons with multitudes of people running all around killing the same 10 mobs I need, and waiting on that boss to spawn. Then stealing it when it is my turn?
People clamor on and on about "open worlds", but I tell you what...I find more rude people in those worlds, and it also means no major instancing to make an area more unique to me or my group. To create a story of you will.

Anyways, I really liked Aion, but I did not find a lot to LOVE.
If anything, it peaked my sons interest in an MMO finally (he is 10, and has tried them in the past...luckily Aion kept him really involved), and my wife finds the female models totally to her liking (the 3 foot gorgeous nympho prostitute she made was a hilarious sight), that this could be the first "family" MMO in the house...and that could be a win in that games favor (or lose depending on what happens if we fight over loot or that boss

For now, I can play Aion, but I will live in the breathing realistic worlds of Conan for the time being.


Anjin said...

Interesting thoughts on Aion. I don't play betas since I want to go into a new game with a clean slate, but I do appreciate reading what others have to say. Sounds like you've had a similar experience to others. Aion = WoW with a pretty dress on, I guess.

I got years of enjoyment out of WoW, so I might do okay with that. We'll have to see when it launches. Of course, I may still be playing AoC and not care.

Lars said...

I agree the cut scenes make a huge difference in the immersion and enjoyment of the quests. I loved that in Age of Conan, Guild Wars, and Final Fantasy XI.

Anonymous said...

I'm really enjoying the Aion beta too but I'm trying not to play it too much. Can't believe we still have to wait 3 months before it comes out. Thing about MMOs is that longevity is the real indicator of success. AoC blew me away too but I only played it for 3 months. WAR did the same but I played that for even less time.