Aion’s launch “success” was both a blessing and a curse to itself. The reported 400k pre-orders topping the sales league tables meant a huge rush of people to the game during the first week. As a result, there were very large queues of people trying to log in – with queue times in excess of 3 hours and up to 7 hours in some forum posts.
The problem of queuing was exacerbated by a game feature called “private stores”. Private Stores allow you to basically enter your own vendor mode anywhere while AFK, indefinitely. The point of private stores is that you can place yourself in strategic spots and sell items from your inventory that may be required in that particular location (e.g. potions outside a dungeon). Travel to the main city where the Auction House is situated is expensive (e.g. return trip at my level is 10-20% of my wealth currently, having upgraded armor at level 13, I cannot spare the cash right now to do trips at will). People have started using this Private Store functionality to avoid queues by remaining logged in from play session to play session. Aside from this issue, I enjoyed the game from the start.
The queues to get into the game have disappeared and the game is playing smoothly.
So far, I have found the gameplay to be increasingly deep in PvE (PvP only really starts at 20-25).
Once you start to play, it is immediately clear that the combat mechanic is quite varied. For instance:
- You have your regular skills which operate in chains (i.e. skill type 1 opens up a choice of multiple skills from type 2) but if you use a non-chain skill in the middle of the chain you break the chain. As a result, you have to make a decision as to whether to do so or not in a short space of time, as your chain also expires if you don’t use it.
- You receive Divine Point skills which require you to accumulate a Divine Point pool before using them. They tend to be very powerful skills so you need to consider when to use them or save them.
- You can also loot Power Shards of varying levels of strength (minor, lesser, etc). Those act like boosters to your DPS. You slot them into your weapon and press the B key when you want to activate them. They get consumed at the rate of 1 per hit. Once again you have to consider the appropriate time to use them.
- Your gear has also got multiple slots to insert Manastones that boost particular stats, some of which influence reactive skills e.g. some of your skills activate only when you Block or Parry so you need to use Manastones specific to your play style.
- Weapons and armour also have an “Enchantment level” which you can raise through applying Enchantment stones. Stones are generated through salvaging enchanted gear, which is expensive, and prone to failure (which I think resets the enchantment level of the item you’re attempting to enchant – same mechanic for applying manastones: they all vanish if you fail)
- Healing can come from potions, food, skills that consume other reagents (like power shards) so again you need to juggle these supplies.
Overall, you need to be pay close attention to what you are doing to get the most out of your combat capability.
Crafting is huge in this game: you need lots of harvesting, rares are rare, crafting takes time and the results are highly sought after. I sold a dozen items in a couple of hours easily, the market is very active.
Gameplay performance (graphics and sound) continue to impress me with their fluidity even with massive amounts of people on screen. Reports of PVP performance are good from the higher level guys; no slide show effects as seem on the large scale battles in WAR
Customisation is also very rich, both for your character (there is a plastic surgeon type vendor – expensive but you know you want J-Lo’s buttocks) and your gear: you can re-skin armour and weapons if you want a particular look to an item.
I am having a great time and am really enjoying the game. I’ll post another update once I start to explore the PvP aspects.