Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Keep On Running : Aion, EQ2, DCUO

Wilhelm is going through something of a slump when it comes to fantasy MMORPGs. It's something that seems to come to most long-time players of these games eventually although in his case it's taken a couple of decades to get there.

That's been the narrative for many of the bloggers and commenters in this corner of the blogosphere for a few years now. It's not really surprising. MMOs are very samey. If we're talking about the kind of 3D virtual worlds that span out of the diku-MUD scene neither the mechanics nor the gameplay differ greatly to begin with and when you skin those over with the traditional goblins, orcs, dragons and wargs then it really can all seem to run together.

I don't think I'd go so far as to call it " a gray, uninteresting mass", though, because, if nothing else, most of these virtual worlds are at least colorful and a few of them aspire to some level of idiosyncracy. Black Desert, for example, may not have held my attention long term but it certainly did hold my gaze.

As I was suggesting last time, though, it's not ideal to have to keep hopping from game to game just to keep the interest levels from flagging. The other part of MMOs that Wilhelm, like many, is finding problematic is staying in touch. These level boosts and bonus xp schemes are all very well but catching up to to where the end game has gone and having the necessary knowledge and equipment to prosper there are two entirely different things.

Playing multiple MMOs is a bit like the specialty act that used to appear on those variety shows that were a staple of television when I was growing up - the "Chinese Juggler". That was someone who spent ten minutes running between half a dozen poles, each with a dinner plate balanced on top, keeping them all spinning.

It does seem to be an awful lot of effort just to get nowhere very much. These days I can manage maybe three MMOs at a time. I tend to have one main MMO, one alt and one that I'm trying out. I played all three of those today - GW2, EQ2 and Aion. Plus another for luck.

In GW2 I just logged in, did my dailies, ran around in WvW for half an hour and then logged out. I spent a lot longer in EQ2, going through every new piece of armor and jewellery on my Berserker to see what slots were empty (most of them) before making adornments to fill them all.

I also found out that if you complete thirty quests in the overland expansion zone it gives an achievement and the achievement awards a Best In Slot offhand item. I checked and I've done twenty-eight so there was some research to find two more.

I could only find one. I did that. I think I'll have to do at least one of the timed key quests to get the final credit I need. I really, really hate timed quests and these are quite tough ones so I put that on the To Do list and left it for now.

As well as the crafting and the questing I did a couple of PQs. Then I spent a while trying to find out which vendor takes the currency you get from those. All in all I spent nearly three hours in Norrath doing the kind of "keeping up with the Joneses" kind of background activity almost all MMOs require if you want to keep your footing on the treadmill.

Speaking of treadmills, I also logged into DCUO for the first time in months to get the freebies from the Flash event. Last day today. Then I went to my base and set them all up in a little Flash-themed corner of the basement. One of them is literally a treadmill! Doesn't work, sadly.

Before I could do that, though, I had to google how to place furniture. These skills just slip away if you don't practice them regularly. The reason I stopped playing DCUO, by the way, has nothing to do with losing interest. I've been waiting for the long-promised complete revamp of how the stats, powers and leveling game work. I believe that it's finally on the Test server now. When it finally goes Live I'll play DCUO again. Probably. If I'm not playing something else.

The something else that I am playing at the moment, thanks to suggestions in the comments to an earlier post, is Aion. Aion really does tick all the boxes for the kind of problems Wilhelm's having. There is literally nothing going on there that I haven't seen done before, usually better.

That sounds like a harsh criticism but it isn't, not really. Aion is enjoyable. I'm enjoying it. I played for most of the morning, got to level ten, became a Daeva, chose my class or job or whatever they call it there (Gunslinger), visited the big city (Sanctum, same as Rift), worked out where the bank was and the broker, started a craft (Tailoring)...

Also I ran all over the city taking screenshots, peering out across the clouds, riding on flying platforms and generally gawking like a tourist, which is exactly what I am. And my character, come to think of it, so you can call it roleplaying if you like.

Aion is one of the games that looks better in screenshots than it does when you play it but it doesn't look at all bad in game either. A bit flat in places and everything suffers from gigantism but there are some nice views to be had, here and there.

The music is very familiar. Lots of would-be ethereal chanting and synthesized strings. I think I may have picked the Elven starting area by mistake - if Aion has elves - or different starting areas.

The rest of the sound, however, is awful. Some of the worst I've ever heard. The blooping and bleeping of the UI sounds like something from the 1980s but the yelping and shrieking of the mobs and especially of my own character is the real problem. I'm used to imported MMOs having a lot of very high-pitched squealing but this is much worse than that. I might have to mute the sound effects which is something I never do.

At least the translations are completely competent and professional. Almost everyone has something to say, not always very complimentary either. I rode the lift all the way to the Governor's office, walked up to him as you do and introduced myself. He was not happy to see me. I did laugh.

As promised, Aion is quite old school. Mobs drop gear you want to use. You can farm them for it without even needing a quest. There are named mobs that spawn among them somewhat randomly and they drop stuff too. That was fun.

While I was in the city someone called out to me to tell me I could get a free studio. I thought it was a player at first but it turned out to be an NPC. I didn't realize Aion had housing. Haven't found where to go to get my pied à terre yet but I will!

So there we are. Not bored with MMOs yet. Not bored with fantasy MMOs either. Still doing the same thing and getting the same results and waking up next day ready to do it again.

There's probably a roadblock labelled "diminishing returns" somewhere in my future but I haven't got to it yet. Let's just hope that by the time I do there's a side road I can take to somewhere unexpected.

Bound to be.


  1. Most of Aion's mechanics are pretty standard, which is why I didn't ultimately stick with it that long. Rather a shame -- it has potential. I don't know how likely it is to happen, but if they were to do an Aion 2 that was less of a WoW clone and a little more modern in its sensibilities, I'd play the hell out of it.

    I advise avoiding its crafting. Aion crafting is an ungodly clusterfrack of RNG, or at least that was my experience.

    I have mixed feelings on the sound effects. The beeps and boops of the UI are a bit much, and the fact characters shout an incantation for every spell cast makes the magic classes unplayable for me, but I love the combat sound effects for abilities and weapon hits and such. I think it's a large part of why I rate Aion combat much more highly than most other tab target options.

    Also, I'm not sure if this would effect your opinion of the game significantly, but I will point out that the faction you picked (Elios) is definitely the more vanilla option. The Asmodae and their zones have more personality, IMO.

    1. If I do decide to have a more serious run at Aion, which is not likely but not impossible, I'll have to read the lore and so on on the website so i have some vague idea what the choices I'm making at character create mean. When there are visually distinctive races (like fox people or cat people or trolls and so on) it's relatively easy to make a decision based on that but when it's all humans you might as well just close your eyes and slap the keyboard. Which is, metaphorically, what I did.

  2. I'm so singularly focused on my gametime. As one of my few (but very valued!) readers, you have no doubt seen me go from single game serious to next game while leaving the other in the dust. I am definitely an "all in" kind of person. That solves the comfort level of getting to know the game, the mechanics, the ins and outs. I learn, I play, I "finish" whatever it is I feel like I need to accomplish, and I move on. I'll go back if something (patch, etc.) drags me back. Right now it is SWTOR, it was WoW, and next might be EQ. I logged in and got my first mercenary but I didnt have the time (or the patience, really) to try to figure out much else. It may have to wait until I am "done" SWTOR.

    1. Playing MMOs serially instead of in parallel is clearly the more sensible option. I tend to do both at once!

  3. I tried Aion once or twice, it seemed like a nice enough game with an active community. It was my first real attempt at getting invested enough in a PVP-focused game to give that a go, but this was before the fast leveling/pve servers they've since added. I can't say I was impressed with the lack of racial variety either. I think I'd probably stick to Tera for a very similar experience (though no flying).

    Generally I have no problems with Fantasy burnout, I may fancy playing in a futuristic setting sometimes for a change but there's always at least one 'standard' MMO in my rotation. If anything my real problem is not having the time to play everything that I want to play!

    1. Tera is, I think, the only MMO I've ever tried where the over-sexualization of the female characters was so ridiculous I found it literally unplayable. The character I first made seemed to run in a crouch so as to make her posture as revealing as possible. I had to delete her and start again. Unfortunately that didn't stop me having to see similar character other people had made, albeit not from the same intrusive perspective.

      Given the general very louche standards by which MMOs operate it really takes a special game to stand out in that regard but Tera manages it.


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