AION, first impressions

So I gave AION a fast go last weekend [Thanks to a friend who let me on his account] I haven’t been too impressed thus far, however I’m sure I haven’t experienced enough of it to come to a full conclusion about the quality of the game.

My main issue was with the graphics. I run my current MMO’s on a six month old PC, 4gb RAM etc etc. While I know I’m not harboring today’s top-of-the-line gaming monster machine, I expect that I should be able to run most games, as I do, on medium video settings no problem.

At default, my game lagged pretty badly. I must’ve had FPS at something like 7. I assumed that this was a beta and that was going to happen naturally, so I played around with the video settings to come to a happy medium so that I could move around better. Hark, for I am Mage

I had to remove anti-aliasing, and my character seemed a little pixelated. I was really sad that I had to lose the blending, soft glow, and beautiful scenery just to walk around. Perhaps I’m just spoiled by my current MMO’s for giving me a great visual experience regardless of how low my video settings have to be, and more often than not, I can up the graphics by more than a little and still have great game performance.

On the plus side, though, the game-play was unique but not overly confusing. I really enjoy how quest chains worked, in that it actually felt like a single storyline and dialogue. In fact, every quest is given as if you’re actually having a small conversation, something which helps draw you into it more instead of just skipping the talk to get your kill grind on.

Questing doesn’t feel too monotonous either. With my other games, I’m always pointed where to go. GW gives you an arrow to send you to the exact location of your quest while WoW has mods like Questhelper to basically do all the work for you. I never had much of an issue finding my destination in AION, as the quest information supplies plenty of info on where to go. Fear My Fire Bolt Rank 1!

With a few short minutes of playing around, I was able to find the menu and get a bit familiar with shortcuts and UI. Most items had tooltips that easily explained what they were used for. The compass-style mini-map is a bit cluttered for my taste, though, but I’m still getting used to all the symbols.

I wouldn’t mind having some sort of learner’s tutorial system, though, explaining how to do even the most absurdly basic of things. I had to be told that sitting between battles helped regen mana and health faster. And not the emote /sit, the hotkey sit. [???]

Character creation was impressive. You can essentially make your toon look pretty diverse, and future options will include different voices which haven’t been implemented yet [the weird squeaking place holder they have right now is freaking me out]. I love the options for body-type, that’s something I’ve been wanting in an MMO for ages. You can fine tune your character’s face as well in a sims-esque scroll-bar style system. The hair styles were also fabulous [yes, I’m easily swayed by pretty things]
I guess if I had to nit-pick , I was a little meh’ed that all the faces were pretty Asian, but AION is a Korean game, so that’s to be expected. In this world of Asia-worship, I’m sure nobody cares. My other complaint would be the lack of ability to change eye color… I feel that that’s a basic thing and should come before changing lip-color, which is an option…[lol wut?]. All-in-all, though, the ridiculous amounts of options for character creation is impressive and fun. You can easily spend hours crafting your perfect warrior.

The gathering system is unique and my favorite from all the MMO’s I’ve played thus far. I really enjoy the fact that you don’t have to specifically choose one time of material to gather: instead your gathering skill applies to all raw materials. I’m still not entirely sure how the pass/fail thing works, but in the end it’s still pretty basic. Your skill goes up, you fail less.

All in all, as I said before, I haven’t experienced enough of AION to truly come to any conclusions about the final release in the US. I still plan on doing the pre-order so I can continue to test out the game and hopefully get a better feel for the mechanics of it all. My next review will focus more on the gameplay. I still have faith that AION will be a good game to try this fall.