“Rotten on the Inside” or “Real Life Parallels”
Full disclosure: I have not played Aion extensively. My interaction with the game has been limited to about 10 hours worth of gameplay on a friend’s account. Despite over-exposure to the MMO, I don’t much disagree with the opinions of my peers in the blogosphere.
Aion launched two months ago. Since then, despite enjoying a fairly successful commercial launch in a hyper-competitive market, against the caped heavy-hitter by Cryptic and the indie-developed Fallen Earth, I don’t hear good things about Aion. Jayedub, always the diplomat, said earlier this month: “To summarize, I thought that Aion is not a bad game, in fact it’s pretty solid; but not being able to experience the PvPvE till level 25 and the grinding gameplay was too much for me.” Pitrelli also got tired of it earlier in the month. I could link about 15 other blogs, but what boils down to is that Aion, gorgeous as it may be, is a perpetual grind-fest. It is not innovative, it’s design is more banausic than inspired, and arguing that “it gets fun around level 25” is the equivalent of saying “you have to eat 25 piles of dung before you get the cake.” I’d rather just not have the cake.
Ready for an awkward transition? Here we go.
I work in media. We have an anchor who looks like the girl next door, the sultry seductress, and the good girl, all rolled into one. But that is an on-screen persona, enhanced substantially by the application of copious amounts of make-up. I have seen what she really looks like when she rolls into work, and it makes her stalkers (two of which she has taken out restraining orders against) all the more laughable.
My point? Aion is similar to this anchor. On the surface, it looks like your dream MMO: visually stunning, graphically superior, alive with the ebb and flow of a dynamic world teeming with life and energy. But when you play it for an extended period of time, beneath a glossy, shiny exterior lurks an ugly beast, hell-bent on devouring your time and your coin, in exchange for prosaic content, bromidic gameplay and an incapacious, linear world.
Yesterday I stumbled across this new trailer for Aion. I can’t help but wonder if fresh coat of make-up is being applied to perpetuate the facade. The trailer touts the graphical revamp, and quite frankly it looks phenomenal. But great looks does not a good game make.
- Graphics: DX10 support; dynamic weather effects; glossier world
- New Areas: Underwater zones; other new zones; new cities; new dungeons
- Questing: New quests; questing revamp
- Playing Characters: New skills for existing classes; new classes
- Player housing: High degree of customization for interiors and exteriors of player housing
- Mounts: Tameable mounts; mounts for two riders; mounted combat
- Combat: Revamped to be more action-oriented; Scorpion-esque ‘GET OVER HERE!’ whip; crossbows
The word ‘new’ seems to be premeditatively married to the list above. However, it seems like more of the same. If you notice, none of the elements in the list above address the issues of monotony, the mindless grinds or the lack of innovation. At least not directly. A combat system with the added aureate effects is pointless, if I have to repeat the process for literally every quest and objective. Customizable housing, tameable mounts, new weapons and improved graphics are all great things, but they add to the periphery of the game, while the core remains effectively untouched. And if the core is still rotten, a shiny exterior simply does not cut it.
My time these days is completely occupied with a wide variety of MMO, RPG, and non-RPG pursuits. Even if the news about Aion was ground-breaking, I don’t know if I would have time to invest in it. But for those that play it, I hope similar dialogue in the MMO community necessitates that the developers pay some sobered attention to the suffering aspects of the game, and stop whitewashing over the glaring imperfections in the game with improved pizzaz and shiny fluff.