How you know a game is good when it gives you a great case of the crazies. Here I discuss my girl-crush on Alistair, from Dragon Age: Origins, and use that as a means to explain why you should be PLAYING THIS GAME RIGHT NOW!
So I’m on my third run through with this game. And I’m still approaching it as ridiculously as I did the second time. I’m over here more worried about hurting a computer generated pixel’s feelings more than anything else.
You know its a good game when you find yourself with a case of crazy.
"Oh Maker! What is WRONG with you women?"
During the first run through of Dragon Age: Origins, my character’s main love interest turned out to be Alistair. He’s blond, built, has the tendency to look like a kicked puppy when his awkward, boyish, somehow-still-innocent-but-sweet overtures are misconstrued and? He’s hilarious as hell. “We won? We did? Yay!”
…Did I mention, cute?
The second time I played through and epic battle of conscious and morality began inside my head. It started out with the innocent thought that: It’s a game! I could peruse any other romance I liked now! How about Zevran? Leliana! Choices!oneone!`1! I could frolic amid the companions Bioware had worked so hard on to entice me with. With their pretty faces and long back stories and funny quips. And did I go to these new interests to explore the new relationships and romances?
The moment Alistair’s brow quirked, lightly stubble-speckled face filled my screen I quibbled, inwardly. In the first few seconds of his introduction I felt immediately as if he was staring inside my ready-to-write-fan-fic soul and judging me. He knew. I felt terribly guilty for considering any other choice but Alistair.
I kept imagining his face. His sad, sad, you just ate a Mabari puppy! Why did you eat that puppy? face.
Going off the rail on a crazy Deep Road trail.
And that’s when the ridiculousness of it all hits me again. Alistair isn’t real. He’s a program generated pixel on some highly paid Bioware member’s screen. (HI BIOWARE HIRE ME PLZ? I CAN WRITE. AND MAKE REALLY GOOD COFFEE. :D) He’s a concept, a processor-birthed entity meant to entertain me and continue shelling out my $$ so this company can continue fulfilling my house-wife fantasies wit–he’s not real!
And I’m worried about what he’ll think.
And behold, there was a sign.
That’s how you know Bioware has succeeded with Dragon Age: Origins. Bugs, glitches, giant spinning heads, splotchy kiss scenes and speeches that don’t make sense with your choices aside, Bioware set out to make a kick ass game that gets you emotionally involved and invested with it.
I can’t imagine a sign that it’s done exactly that, than me worrying over what Alistair is going to think when I’m over there romancing the Crow. Or the pretty bard–and he doesn’t even know!
But I know.
As many times as I have already been swayed by his charm, good looks, and stupidity witty commentary, I keep going back out of some sort of guilt. I think that speaks louder about character, connecting with your audience and amazing writing more than anything I’d have to say about it.
Aion is touting itself as the currently #1 best selling MMORPG at this moment. Is it really worth it? What’s Aion got that other games do not? Is it going to be a flash in the pan due to bored gamers wanting something more than WoW? Click the link to read more about my opinion. Do it. Do it now. You know you wanna.
Authors Geek note: While the author has been playing Aion for several weeks, she does not claim to be nor tout she is some sort of Aion expert, either with the Aion Lore or game play. Should she be incorrect, please feel free to comment!
What is Aion?
Aion is a MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role playing game) being distributed in the USA by NCSoft. Originally, a Korean MMORPG, it has been released and played in Korea approximately a year before being tweaked for North American audiences and re-released here.
Loosely retold, the story is that you are an ascended being–a Daeva, who has forgotten his or her memories of the past and so you must journey to recover your powers and your memories. As proof of your ascension from humanity to Daeva-hood, you proudly boast a pair of white or black wings (depending on which side you choose, Asmodae have black wings, Eylos have white) and can fly wherever there are large amounts of aether.
The Eylos and the Asmodae have been at war with one another since the destruction of Aion’s tower, blaming one another on the cataclysm that sundered their planet in two–leaving the Asmodae occupying the colder, sunless half and the Eylos in the warm, bright other. To add further conflict, when the world sundered and created a great Abyss, a race called the Balur began occupying the Abyss attacking Asmodae and Eylos alike.
Graphics are a mix of breath-taking textures and details, bright colors or dreary settings to create the mood–to a biiiiit outdated pixel-ated spots and places and flat texture wraps designed to trick the eye into thinking it’s 3-D. In some areas, such as the capital cities for the two main races? Aion’s detail and attention truly shows. The main cities and player details are really eye catching.
Character customization is okay. You can truly make some unique and different looking avatars to represent yourself in the game. However, it’s not quiet enough to make them stop blurring in my head. There are far too many pretty, oh-so-pretty boys running around with teeny tiny delicate ladies. (Yes, including myself–guilty of making a short female avatar!)
The armor sets are not as unique as I’d like, and while you can dye your armor different colors, it’s not quite the same.
There are vendors in the main cities which sell actual no-benefit-clothing. They are so ridiculously overpriced however, in my opinion, you are better left to worrying about extras such as this when you can afford to rake in the several hundred thousand kina needed to own one piece or two.
What’s the questing like?
And I do mean that in the grindy-oh-god-just-drop-my-god-damn-shit-already-jesus-been-at-this-for-two-days-way. Those of you familiar with the grind of Lineage might find this game (while not specifically as bad) familiar and like a second home.
And yet, I don’t mean the grindy either.
Aion’s quests are good for those who seek the lore of the land or like a good little laugh. They range from: steeped in history, to: find my pet pig. The rewards for the quests aren’t often the end goal but the amount of things you kill. NCSoft has attempted to make the outright grind-fest which was the original Korean game (which 1 or 2 repeatable quests–so I hear–for every five levels have turned into a butt-ton of quests every level or two) into something a little more appealing to North American Audiences. And in a sense, they succeed here, marginally.
What’s the game play like?
The game play itself against PVE is pleasant if, again, repetitive. As I am not the sort to get into super depth about armor, crit rate, percentages and what not–I’ll be passing over this with my usual generalities.
I do feel that Aion is a gear-centric game. The better your gear and the better your manastones/Godstones slotted into your gear (mana stones are little, well, stones with + bonus to stats. Such as +8 to Evasion to +14 to Parry. Godstones are Proc stones, such as: 10% chance to stun on hit, etc) the easier time of it you’re going to have with your class.
As you level, you are eligible for skills to purchase from your class trainer. There are the normal, subset skills for your class and then a triggered, special ability connected to the original skill which can also be triggered. This depends either on a percentage, a stat, or in some cases can be triggered each time by just hitting your regular skill. Whether or not you succeed against PVE or a PVP will depend a lot on timing and your gear.
It sounds Grind-ey. Am I really going to have to Grind?
Eventually, yes. There is no real way to avoid having to spend an hour or two, three, or more grinding for mob drops either to sell on the Auction house or gray (useless) drops to sell at a merchant just to afford your skill-up books, or your crafting/gathering skill ups. Or travel. Or paying for Soul Healing to remove XP debt after death. The game is designed to be an enormous money sink–and this is where at the very least Aion shines perfectly. They did a great job. It seems like every time you turn your head in this game some NPC some where wants you to pay them or buy something for them for several thousand kinah (the monetary system) which you likely do not have.
Don’t be fooled by people who shrug and say it’s eeeeeassssy to get several 100k in an hour or so below level 25. These are people who are either grinding for hours straight, or people who have more time than the general crowd to play the market. The average gamer with responsibilities elsewhere (jobs, time away, etc) generally does not have time to do either very well. If you want $ in this game you will have to set aside time to grind and sell. Period.
I’d only recommend the crafting if a) you are willing to grind for either the parts and pieces you need, as half the crafting materials you need can be collected, the other half can only be found from mob drops or purchased from players from the AH, b) grind for the money needed to get these pieces off the AH, as eventually you’ll out level the things you need and they will no longer drop, or c) you like never having any money. Seriously. No matter what you do, crafting wise, it will cost you money to make something. Even if you just grind the work orders blessedly placed by your crafting instructor to help you grind levels up without using materials you will desperately need to make your own Staff of Awesomeness.
Work orders, however, still require you to purchase components to finish the work order. While the main “materials” are supplied to you by the crafting trainer a player picks their work order up from, the cost for extras is still steep enough that in the beginning levels you’ll find yourself running out of money just for a few points.
And the PVP?
Can I absolutely avoid PVP?
No. Due to the rifting system and the zones these happen in, you’ll be forced at the very least to run from–or observe PVP from a distant happy safe place. I’ll explain more when I get to rifts.
PVP from my point of view: It’s fantastically frustratingly awesomely awful. All at once.
PVP happens in two ways in Aion:
The Abyss, which is the space created between when the tower of Aion was torn asunder. Occupied by the Balur who will attack Eylos and Asmodae alike, it’s a collection of floating islands in the sky a player must use their wings to fly to in order to travel. When in the Abyss and away from your factions NPC or fortress, you are attack-able to the opposing faction.
Within the Abyss are powerful artifacts and fortress’ controlled by the Balur. Artifacts can be taken with great effort and reward by either Eylos or Asmodae; but since this is the Abyss, either side may also hamper either side in their attempts to take over an artifact or Fortress. For example, say the Asmodae were attempting to take over a fortress for their own. Not only is a fortress difficult to clear and the end boss legendary to take down–Eylos may also pour in while the Asmodae are in the fortress. The Eylos can kill the Asmodae whilst they are trying to take over the fortress and should their numbers and strategy be strong enough, they may be able to take over the fortress themselves.
Designated Zones where rifts occur:
Rifts are tears in the ‘fabric’ of the Abyss, connecting the two sundered sides of the planet. They can be traveled through either from the Eylos side to the Asmodae side or vice versa. Rifts appear every few hours and in random places at random times all over the map of certain zones. They are level restricted and population restricted. For example, Rift A connecting to Asmodae will only allow 20 Eylos of level 20 to pass through before closing.
As I have only played Asmodae, I can only attest to the Rift PVP from that stand point. When you reach level 20 several of your quests will span in two different zones. One of them, Morheim, has the largest amount of quests for the 20-29 level range and a player will no doubt be spending time there. While the PVP is nothing like the Abyss, roving packs of the opposite side randomly appearing while you are trying to collect 20 mushrooms are an average occurrence in Rift appearing zones.
This isn’t necessarily as bad as you think it sounds like. Most often, those who come through the rift are individuals, groups of three or four or opposing factions just trying to finish quests–as the game some how feels the need to give you quests to do on the opposite faction. (As in: Eylos are sent to Asmodae territory to finish quests and Asmodae must go to Eylos territory to finish a few of theirs) Depending on the server, time of day, level range of the rifts–it’s currently rarer for me to see large, organized groups of Eylos terrorizing the country side. Usually it’s one or two hopefuls just trying to finish a quest being zerg-rushed by happy Asmodae.
The PVP system in Aion is…actually…fun.
You are rewarded each time you kill a mob in the Abyss, or each time you kill a player in the Abyss, or each time you kill a player in PVP regardless of where it is with Abyss points. You may accumulate these points for rank and to use Abyss points to purchase unique, orange gear which cannot be found anywhere else in the game.
I have been playing MMORPG’s for a modest seven years now. There are others out there that have been doing it far longer, but I’d like to point out that in seven years I have never participated in, nor wished to have anything to do with PVP.
In Aion I have actively put myself in the Abyss, joined a guild, followed them on fortress raids and taken great joy in stabbing at the opposing side. I’ll let you be the judge as to whether or not the above is a positive or a negative toward Aion itself.
So in a nutshell: is Aion worth your money?
You are bored of everything else and have nothing else to play.
Like PVP, or at the very least, don’t mind it or don’t mind having to grind extra in controlled PVP-areas (non Abyss)
You like pretty, pretty, pretty characters.
You played Lineage II or Guild Wars. Aion is NOT WoW, despite the similarities in some areas.
Realm Verses Realm works for you
You don’t mind the grind
Pretty, pretty characters with wings!
You have ONLY played WoW and no other MMORPG.
You don’t want to ever PVP or be near it.
You want to quest all the time, all day, every day/want to have a quest to do every time
Want uber rewards for quests
Dislike gold spammers
Dislike having to grind out a level or few, or grind for drops, etc
Pretty, pretty characters with wings make you do EW faces at your monitor
I’m thoroughly enjoying Aion at the moment, and I will readily admit half of that is because there’s just nothing else out there that I either haven’t already played (free or paid) or nothing on the horizon for a good long time and I need my MMO fix. The other half–is because I am actually liking the game despite the money sink, the gold spammers, the idiots (which come with any game) and the grind. There’s something about it, possibly because I AM a girl and I DO like pretty things–that keeps me signing in. And that’s all a game really has to do at the end of the day to work, doesn’t it–keep me signing in.
As some of you may have realized, I’ve been attempting to download and patch Champions Online to play in their “Open Closed” beta since the doors opened early morning August 17th. I was able to get on an create a character, but someone I love and who I just happened to marry has commandeered the game from me and is having what I can only describe as, ‘a ball’ with it so far. He has named his super hero Angry Shawn and is right now, as I finish typing this up playing the game still. What I have played and gotten my hands on is enough to give you a few first impressions:
You are in the comic book.
From the launcher, to the log in, to the options and what screen resolution you’re going to choose–everything reeks classic comic book. Bright eye catching colors that don’t hurt but still catch your attention, that font which screams COMIC littered every where along headers and options.
Blue and deep gold is the UI’s chosen default color.
Blue backgrounds, deep gold for trim and eye catching parts and pieces, with the standard comic book font in readable sizes. I like it. It doesn’t hurt the eye and it screams POW.
Character customization choices are damn near OVERWHELMING.
The choices and color customizations are insane. I literally spent thirty minutes deciding what to make this morning. The choices are endless; head pieces, horns, hair, no hair, normal skin, metallic skin, cats eyes, normal eyes, pupil-less eyes, crests, capes, stances, human, not-human, robot, elves, beasts/bestial features, monster features–I can’t or could not list them all.
Character customizations ARE horrifically cliche, especially on the female side.
The boobs. Oh my god, the boobs. Yes, you can choose to have a super heroine with smaller breasts that do not classify as a weapon of mass cleavage like the DEFAULT size–but it is like they didn’t put half the amount of effort in making the rest of the body or super hero costume scale with the rest of the itty bitty titties. I tried making a character that wouldn’t poke eyes out at fifty yards when cold and it just did NOT work. It looks awful, like her lungs had caved in and were trying to suck the front of her body in through her spine.
If first impressions are correct: EVERYTHING is instanced.
From the get-go you have a long, huge list of ‘shards’ to choose from. If I am guessing correctly (and feel free to correct me if I am wrong), and I believe the largest amount of people in a shard/instance is 30.
Shawn says it’s one of the smoothest running in-game play for a beta yet.
I’ll let you know what I think when I can, y’know, PLAY. ::Stares at Shawn.::
Graphics are an amazing balance.
A balance between the heavy handed black-inked lines of the paper comic books we all know and love, and the amazing textures, effects and realistic graphics to pull you in. I’m not sure how to say it–they’ve balanced fantasy with realism and come up with fantarealisay I guess. (Screen shots forthcoming when I can play. >.>)
Summary of Champions Online at a glance:
Tentatively optimistic. Shawn says it’s a blast, it is definitely something different in the market to tinker with and he’s having fun. Character customization IS huge, and well done. I’m going to go out on a limb and state the game is something you should keep at the back of your mind if you like MMORPG gaming and want something different. This may or may not be subject to change at the end of Open Beta and extensive playing of the game is had. We’ll let you know then.
There is always a period in every year where there are basically no major releases in PC and console gaming. When you’re like me and don’t care about first person shooters and sports games, the gap is even more noticeable. Even so, there is usually at least one title that is halfway decent in the Sim, RPG, MMO or RTS genres to keep me going. Sometimes I’ll be gifted with a game that rocks enough to keep me playing and playing through the gaming doldrums.
Well this year, most likely due to the fantastic economy we’ve been blessed with, what few decent titles I was looking forward to (namely Dragon Age: Origins) have been pushed back. Things are made even worse due to the fact that some of the titles I was looking forward to in the past turned out to be disappointing. You can absolutely lump Age of Conan in this group. Add in the fact that no game lasts forever, no matter how cool (sorry, Fallout 3, but I still loved you!) and you find yourself right in the middle of absolutely nothing worthwhile to play.
The problem is, with the better half out of the house in the great white north, I find myself in dire need of some gaming goodness! I’ve got a couple movies I’m looking forward to shaking off the boredom a little, but that will take up a whopping 5, maybe 6 hours. She’s out of town the next 3 to 4 weeks at this point. Ideally I’d settle into a good MMO if one frakking existed, but the cartoony nonsense that makes up most current MMOs, including WoW, distracts me from enjoying the game and I’ve played EQ2 until I’m bored with it.
So here’s the question, and this is what I need all of you freaks and geeks for: What games are out there… freeware, beta or full version… that are worth a look? I’ve been looking about and haven’t been able to find anything on the near horizon to be excited about.
Help me fill the vast numbers of hours I could normally spend arguing about what to get for dinner! Interwebz, to the rescue!