Wednesday, 8 February 2017

A Toe In The Water : Aion

Today I downloaded Aion. I wasn't planning to. It's probably fair to say it wasn't on my agenda for this year let alone this week. But there were several comments on yesterday's post from people whose opinions I respect suggesting it might be the sort of thing I'd enjoy and what with the GW2 update being a day late thanks to snow in Seattle, I thought I might as well give it a try.

Well, I say I downloaded it. I downloaded some of it. I thought it looked suspiciously light at just over 5GB. That turned out to be the feint for a 40GB sucker punch.

The download comes in nine stages. Once you get those first five gigs you can log in and play while the rest fills in behind you. In theory.

At a steady 3mb/s the first part didn't take long but unfortunately it added a three second skill lag to GW2, playing hob with Mrs Bhagpuss's defense of the home borderland, so I had to wait for a convenient break in the action.

In the meantime I visited the website, which is slick and confidence-inspiring. There's plenty of detailed information including a level-by-level guide on where to go and what to do from creation to cap. I flicked through the race choices (two, both human) and the classes (the usual four plus two slightly more interesting variations) and read a bit about the general gameplay.

He's behind you!

I'm not entirely sure why I was so uninterested in Aion back when it was new. The meaningless, bland name didn't help (I say "meaningless" although Wikipedia takes another view entirely). Neither did the lack of interesting playable races. It always looked uninspiring in the screenshots I saw, with a particularly insipid color palette and a fussy aesthetic. Then there was the compulsory PvP at level 25, too. That was off-putting back then.

Looking through the information and pictures in the website guides, though, not much seems to match that faded impression. It looks and sounds like most any other mainstream MMO of its era. Even the "compulsory" PvP seems to be more of an option than I remembered and anyway I've played so many MMOs since then that supposedly make you PvP in the course of leveling (Allods, ArcheAge, Black Desert...) that it's a non-issue by now.

Once the necessary files were installed I hit Play and the launcher crashed. I tried again and it worked that time. Character creation was impressive. Lots of sliders, yes, but all the ones I tried did actually change something I could see without a magnifying glass. There were plenty of presets too for those who don't want to micro-manage their eyelashes. You can also make a character so short it might as well be a gnome or so bulky it could be an ogre if you really want to. I didn't want to - yet.

Start as you mean to go on, I always say.

I managed to get a character the look of which I really liked. In close up, that is. In third person from behind, as I'll see her for most of whatever time I play, she looks as anonymous as every other F2P human female but at least she should look good posing in front of a sunset.

What she sounds like I can't say because although there were a range of voice choices and a button to test them, all that emerged was an electronic beep. I picked one at random. I hope she doesn't yell too much.Or cackle. Can't abide a cackler.

The game recommended a server for me. In fact it recommended all the servers that were available. I went with the one that was highlighted, which turned out to be the "Fast Track" server. It seems Aion has a server that runs double xp all the time. That's a novel solution to helping new players catch up to the pack.

It's also one of those games with "channels" as well as "servers" meaning you can hot-swap from Fast Track to Standard. I found that out because I was trying to escape the insane rubber-band lag that made the game almost completely unplayable.

I might have overdone one or two of the sliders just a tad...

Whether that was my connection or, as I suspect, a side-effect of the other 35GB choking my pipe in the background, I'm not sure. I guess I'll find out when I have the whole lot downloaded. I gave up around 20GBs. I'll get the rest when we're both asleep or out of the house.

I did manage to bounce as far as the nearest village. Oddly there seemed to be no quests at all where my Technist (Engineer or Gunner to you) spawned. Or indeed any NPCs. Just some odd creatures that, naturally, I killed to see what they would drop. Gold was all.

Visually the game had that same, overstretched, flat look I associate with almost all Eastern imports. It reminded me a lot of Argo, an MMO I liked quite a bit. Starting areas in most MMOs are very plain so as not to frighten the nervous so I'm not going to read too much into what I've seen so far.

Daeva already has some connotations that probably weren't intended
without adding "Teenage" to the front of it.
In the village I managed to find two quests. Neither of them was anything like I expected. I thought someone would want some rodents killed or a wasp nest cleared from an outhouse but no. The very first person I spoke to wanted me to buy her some flowers from the in-game store. Usually they wait until at least the fifth quest before pulling that one.

The other guy wanted something I didn't quite follow and I didn't take a screenshot and now I can't remember what it was, just that it confused me. Both quests were reasonably well-written in idiomatic English, though, so that's a positive. Quite funny, too, one of them.

And that's as far as I got. When I'm going to get the time to explore further I have no idea. The GW2 update finally dropped about five paragraphs into this post so I stopped and did that for about four hours before I came back to finish up here. I'd guess that will occupy the rest of the week at least.

Still, Aion looks interesting enough to investigate further, provided the lag lets up. We'll see.

1 comment:

  1. I remember playing Aion a long time ago, went up quite a few levels with a friend. I guess it didn't feel as dull as it should've, as we were leveling together and mostly joking around. Aion's among one of the first Korean MMO to make the transition from old school Korean grinders like Silkroad Online and the modern theme park/on rails MMOs.

    Curiously though, that's not really what turned me off from this game. I think the biggest disappointment was the flying timer. I expected unlimited flight and instead I got this stressful timer that didn't allow me to enjoy the game to its fullest. From the moment I unlocked flight I felt like the only reason I kept playing was because I had nothing else to do.

    Also, the game is just pretty bland in general. I didn't find the gameplay entertaining. I was playing a Chanter, a class that on paper sounds really cool, but in game feels so, eh, bland. I don't really know, it was a long time ago.

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