Aion review

  • Flying and gliding
  • The gorgeous environments
  • Chaining skills and customizing stigma stones
  • Grinding through levels 27-30
  • The bots and the gold sellers
  • Not enough solo-able quests

One of the most striking things about Aion is its grand visuals and fantastic environments. The azure skies, fantastical fauna, and floating cities in Aion make for a nice break from the boars and dusty castles you’re used to seeing in fantasy MMOs. But it’s the highly detailed lore that really helps create a vibrant and believable fantasy world.

Aion draws on mythology from around the world to create the land of Atreia. Torn apart by the cataclysm, Atreia was divided into two worlds. Elysea is constantly bathed in light, while Asmodae is shrouded in darkness. That’s where you come in. As a fresh player, you’ll need to choose which faction your character hails from.

Above: Aion is one of the prettiest MMOs we’ve seen, and is full of picturesque moments like this

Expect to learn a lot more lore over the course of the game, introducing you to Atreia’s sordid and bloody history. But in terms of class structure and gameplay, Aion plays it by the book and keeps things familiar for anyone who’s played an MMO within the last few years. Primary classes include mages, scouts, warriors, and priests. The titles pretty much explain what they do.

Once our character reached level 10, we ascended - literally. Our character received a pair of wings and we were transported to a heavenly city in the sky. Once there, we got to choose a specialization class, which breaks the above four classes into eight. Scouts could become rangers/assassins (hunters/rogues). Priests could become clerics (straight healers), or chanters (paladins). Warriors split into templars (tanks) and gladiators (DPS melee), and mages can choose spirit masters (straight magic damage) and sorcerers (a pet summoning class).

Above: Aion really takes off when you complete your ascension and gain your wings

The classes, regardless of specialization, are fairly weak until level 20, when stigma stones get unlocked. Stigma stones allow a player to choose how certain skills and talents that affect how they play their class. Stigma stones are plentiful and can be bought or found as drops, so we found we could tailor our assassin to our preferred play style fairly easily.

For example, there is a stigma stone that allows for a stun, an ambush stigma for an out-of-stealth backstab attack, a flurry stigma to increase attack speed, a stigma that protects against attacks, etc. Choosing which stigmas can be expensive, but are a necessary investment for any character.

Although Aion didn’t do anything astonishingly different with their class system, there are tons of skills that flourish in group settings, and all the needed tank/damage/healing classes are well-represented. So players familiar with the typical RPG class breakdown will find themselves right at home.

Above: Aion’s cities and landscapes are grand

The user interface will also be very familiar to those who have played other MMOs, and so is the combat system. As expected, skills can be assigned from a skill menu to numbers in the user interface, and while combat macros can be created, we preferred to play with the time-honored technique of mashing our number keys till we found our favorite sequence of skills.

There is one particularly unique feature found in Aion’s combat system. It uses chain skills, which link attacks together in a number of different ways. Some attacks automatically trigger the next skill in the chain. Some attacks only trigger when the character parries, blocks, evades, or procs another action based upon the game mechanics. As your character grows more powerful, certain chains branch out. So when a chain triggers, you’ll be able to choose where your combo takes you. Should you try to stun the opponent to buy more time while another skill cools down? Or should you link your last move with a pure damage attack to finish off your opponent?

At level 25, the Abyss is unlocked. The Abyss is a PvPvE area. Yes, that stands for Player vs Player vs Environment - and yes, it’s just as hectic as it sounds. In the Abyss, you’ll find the biggest bad guys in the game, the Balaur. These god-like characters are a mighty NPC faction, responsible for the death of the gods and the slow siphoning of the world's energy. The Abyss is where the final battle between the Elyos, Asmodai, and Balaur for the control of the world takes place – and it’s epic. Here, legions (or guilds) can join forces to take and hold castles through besiegement and strategy, requiring players to hold back opponents from both their opposing faction and the mighty Balaur NPCs.

Aion did an excellent job reigniting our interest in the game at this point. At times, Aion seemed a lot more grindy than most contemporary MMOs. Mobs are packed into each area like sardines, and the objectives and quests that link zones together follow a more linear path, with less room to explore and solo quest. Gaining levels, even in the 20s, also takes millions of experience points. But just when we were getting ready to die from the boredom of humdrum quests MMOs are infamous for, the Abyss saved the day with new quests, huge instances, powerful mobs, and PvP.

Part of the thrill of the Abyss is that there is no ‘safe’ zone. The Abyss is open to all Asmodai and Elysians. So we could be calmly killing skeletons and find ourselves dead with an Asmodai standing over our corpse, laughing. Battles can erupt between races at anytime and anywhere in the Abyss.

If you hate MMOs and wouldn’t log onto one if someone paid you, Aion is not going to change your mind. You’ll still find lots of grinding, gold farmers, and deaths in instanced dungeons to hate. That being said, if you do like MMOs, Aion is one the prettiest and most polished titles to release this year. Players who prefer solo quests will find themselves pushed into level grinding by the difficult group quests they encounter early on. But if you like PvP and running instances with friends, you’ll never run out of things to do once you reach the Abyss.

Nov 30, 2009

More Info

Release date: Sep 21 2009 - PC (US)
Sep 21 2009 - PC (UK)
Available Platforms: PC
Genre: Role Playing
Published by: NCSoft
Developed by: NCSoft
ESRB Rating:
Teen: Blood, Use of Alcohol, Violence, Mild Language
PEGI Rating:

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  • johnthe5th - October 27, 2009 2:37 a.m.

    You guys missed one very important point... its actually kind of funny... You keep comparing it to WoW, but you fail to realize that WoW has been out for more than 5 years and has had all that time to fix its many errors (and believe me, there were a lot of them), where Aion has managed to be extremely fun, really popular, and has almost no glitches in its first month (well technically its been out for a year, but still, thats a fifth of WoWs time)
  • illbixby - October 25, 2009 1:06 p.m.

    I play the game and have to agree with alot of the reviewers points. What I don't mind is the constant charge for things in the game (teleports, leveling books, broker fees etc). To me it's one of the fun parts of the game (as crazy as that sounds). While grinding, I have to be mindful of how to make coin. I don't make weapons or armor but should I keep collecting miner weapon flux? Anwer later was yes when I found it sells for $2k a pop on the broker board. All the ways to make money to me are part of the resource management and upkeep of the game. The grinding is then about the various types of loot that I collect or gather along the way, and how I can make coin off it. But it does bring up the point for me that if the most exciting "game" in the game is playing the broker boards, uh, what game am I playing here?
  • Keenlane - October 23, 2009 1:18 p.m.

    I'm a current Aion player and I can't really argue much with the points made in the review. This is a resolutely old-school MMORPG. Levelling is hard work. Monsters are hard work. The game is a challenge just like MMORPG's all were before WoW came along and made it easy. I'm not saying either way is right or wrong, but the feeling I get from playing Aion is the same feeling I got from DAoC when I first played it. It's tough. It forces you to make alliances just to get ahead. I kind of liked that in the old days, before Blizzard introduced their reward-rich, user-friendly option. I'd rather know that every level I gained was well earned and thats my choice. The wings, when you figure them out, are a marvellous addition to the game. But you do have to figure them out. They aren't just there to help you get about. They're another tactical weapon in your arsenal. I'm not going to argue with the review, but I will argue that it has a very negative tone and reflects the reviewer's experience and attitude toward the game. It's a personalised opinion and I'd be interested in knowing how far he actually got in the game before posting this review. 6 or 60% is harsh for what is a very smooth, accomplished and beautiful MMORPG.
  • nick640 - October 13, 2009 4:33 p.m.

    Well, I didn't play WoW so I can't really respond to much of this review but I'd like to make two points here quickly for anyone that comes by and is trying to have a realistic idea of what to expect from this game. 1) The fact that you're hitting walls in the air, running out of flight time and falling to your death is exactly why you're not allowed in the Abyss until you're level 25. If you're still struggling with the basic mechanics, you're not going to be enjoying yourself trying to figure those out with aggressive monsters and other players killing you simultaneously. 2) Everyone I know that is actually playing the game, and most of what I've read (with the obvious exception of this) is that leveling slows down around level 40. If level 12 is taking you that long, this probably isn't the game for you. Did the have the Wii guys work on this review? :P
  • cladncut - October 12, 2009 5:51 p.m.

    Not only did this review constantly contradict itself, but you also compared it to WoW WAAAAY too much. I understand that WoW is a competitor and looked upon as somewhat of the Standard for current MMO's, but that is exactly the problem. Instead of looking at this as a comparison, it should just be looked at as a game itself. Walking into a game your going to review with an already biased view on it already puts a high expectation on it and you already knock the game before it even gets a chance. And no, I do not have the game nor ever played it. Just this review seemed like this game never got a chance on this website compared to some of the other reviews I have read. You are not playing WoW, you are playing Aion.
  • gta3mattb - October 9, 2009 12:27 p.m.

    This review contradicts itself too often.
  • HeavyTank - October 9, 2009 6:14 a.m.

    Whoa...well, personally I didn't want to play it just because of the stupid f*cking monthly fee, which is outrageous to say the least in my opinion..even more so when the game is from the creators of Guild Wars...anyway, I would've bought the game if there wasn't a fee....not anymore. And also, that's the reason why I like GR (except for that review of E:TW): their reviews do not praise unpraiseworthy games just because they're from some big developer. Also, reCAPTCHA text: Robert squashy
  • DeadGirls - October 9, 2009 3:05 a.m.

    I never intended to play this one. It has a dorky looking style, maybe I'm just too old. I thought I saw some talking beavers in their somewhere too? I'm going to publish an essay about how MMOs should be designed. The first sentence goes like this: If one removed all the RPG/Loot/Character-leveling elements from the game in question, would it still be fun to play?
  • waynski1457 - October 8, 2009 9:21 p.m.

    Yeesh, pretty harsh there. Understandably, but still harsh nonetheless. I think you should put together a video montage of you killing-looting-crying. Maybe get a few people doing it with you. Sounds funny to me at least...
  • erreip199 - October 8, 2009 9:01 p.m.

    reason i quited mmorpgss long ago... hell the only one i play from time to time to kill some time is runescape
  • frmonth - October 8, 2009 8:29 p.m.

    Ouch.... well i suppose this will shut up people saying that game sites are biased to gamesdevelopers advertising on their sites.

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