We are drowning in a sea of MMOs. This isn’t a bad thing, but it can make it tough to decide which ones are worth getting excited about and which ones will quickly be forgotten. Well, NCsoft’s Aion is definitely one of the ones worth following. From what we've seen so far, it looks great (for an MMO, of course) with the sort of crisp visuals NCsoft's been spoiling us with since Guild Wars, only better.

However, in terms of how it’s being received so far, Aion seems to be in danger of being brushed off by some as “just another Korean MMO,” and that’s a real shame, because even though Aion isn’t looking to radically reinvent the genre, we love the new direction it’s taking with combat. In case you can’t tell by the many winged warriors soaring about in the screenshots below, that new direction is up.

That’s why we’re excited to share some exclusive screenshots of Aion along with details about how air combat will work. The following was created just for you by the creative team at NCsoft. Makes you feel kind of special, doesn’t it?

Given as a gift by the god Aion to aid them in their battles against the tyrannical Balaur, the wings of the Daeva are a symbol of great honor. Be it the graceful, white wings of the Elyos, or the powerful, ebony wings of the Asmodians, they carry the noble warriors over the lands of Atreia and into battle with their fearsome enemies. But make no mistake, the Daeva’s wings are no mere means of transportation. The skies above are dangerous, and a true Daeva must be as adept at combat in the air as they are on solid ground.

The dynamic combat system in Aion rewards tactical movement. Charging an enemy will grant you bonuses to damage, but will leave you vulnerable to a counter attack. A strategic retreat will help protect you from further damage, while a well-timed dodge to the side will make you a much more elusive target. Fancy footwork can turn the tide of the battle for a skilled Daeva, both on the ground and in the sky.

Once a Daeva takes to the air, the battle can change dramatically. When in flight, a Daeva receives passive stat boosts specific to their particular class. The sturdy templar becomes even more durable in flight, gaining increased health and defense, while the crafty assassin will find their accuracy and critical strike chance improved. In addition, new “Flight Only” skills become available when the Daeva sprouts their wings. A sorcerer can unleash a barrage of meteors, raining destruction down upon their landlocked foes from the safety of the air, a Chanter can greatly increase the flight speed of his or her allies, and a Spiritmaster can weaken the wings of their enemies, reducing the amount of time they can remain airborne before they are forced to return to the ground.

However, a Daeva’s power is not limitless; they must learn to manage their strength lest their wings fail them at a critical time. Flight speed and endurance can be improved like any other stat through the use of items and player abilities. Equipping your weapons and armor with manastones can increase your flight time, allowing you to remain in the air for longer durations without rest. Potions can be used to instantly recharge your stamina, or grant you a burst of speed. Keep a careful eye on your flight meter, or you may end up with an unexpected rendezvous with the ground.

Above: Want to see more of Aion?Click here for more screens andclick here for tons of tours through Aion’s varied zones

When opposing Daevas meet in aerial combat, the sky itself turns into a ferocious battlefield where the combatants must use all their skills to gain the upper hand. A skilled Daeva will make use of movement bonuses and aerial skills while wearing down the enemy’s strength. Once their foe is left broken and bleeding, deliver the final blow and swat them from the sky in the ultimate act of aerial superiority.

Jun 17, 2009