The Dope on Aion

So the World’s Shortest Aion Review caused a little bit of a stir. I was asked by Anjin to elaborate after cooling off, and here we are, a post that will doubtless be even more controversial.

This will actually be my fourth response to Aion, the first two being profanity-laced rants (one text, the other audio,) and the third was the aforementioned World’s Shortest Review, which I admit was pretty cavalier. I have always tried, at least, to keep the tone here at Ardwulf’s Lair positive, to find things to like about the MMO hobby instead of things to bitch about. I have not always succeeded, but I’ve generally done pretty well. It was this instinct that led to the earlier “review” (a term used ironically,) getting posted rather than the rants.

So here I go again to try to describe my reaction, which is one of dismay, even disbelief, followed by outrage. Because Aion is terrible. Not merely lackluster, but comically, outrageously, insultingly awful. My expectations were very modest – I didn’t really expect to like it, but from the buzz I anticipated a slick and polished product, because lots of people I like and whose opinions I respect had said it was so.

They’re all wrong. I love you people, really I do, but I don’t know what you’re thinking.

The thing to remember is that Aion is not the typical western MMO a couple of weeks from release; it’s a fully launched title several months past release, one that presumably all the major problems had been shaken out of. Instead, here’s what we have.

The controls are imprecise and clumsy and the interface is awkward. You can move with the mouse… forward. You can’t steer with the mouse alone, nor could I figure out how to get mouse movement to work in a sensible way without enabling Asian-style click-to-move – which I despise, and this isn’t any better. It’s all very clumsy. WoW, EQ2, Champions Online, LotRO and Vanguard all have better “touch” for lack of a better term.

The localization is bad enough that race descriptions – the very first pieces of text you see when coming into the game – are broken English of the “all your base are belong to us” variety.

Questing is totally undistinguished. All the enhancements that a game like Warhammer laid on top of the standard model are missing. Quests send you to find somebody, with no description of where the guy is, and no map pointers unless you go through a popup box to put one on screen – for some quests – and all the old ones stay as well unless you remove them. The symbols over questgivers’ heads are hard to spot and harder to distinguish at a glance.

Character customization is good, but in a bad way. What I mean is that there are lots of sliders that let you modify your appearance, to the point that you can create freaks that are two feet tall with two-foot diameter heads. This falls into the “bug, not feature” category in a game like this, as far as I’m concerned; one bobblehead doll of a character ruins the immersion of everyone around them.

The game doesn’t even look very good, in my judgement. The character models are quite decent if you like the anime-type art, as long as there happen to be no freaks onscreen. The landscape graphics are extremely weak, with none of the sprawling vistas we’d see in a Vanguard, or even a WoW. Zones are bordered by plain impassable cliffs. Clipping errors are rampant, even in the character creator.

It felt like a punishment to play. I stopped midway though my half hour, and had to force myself to continue. Another fifteen minutes was enough to get me logged out and working on cleansing my hard drive of this blight I’d unwittingly afflicted on it. Say what you want about Warhammer, but at least it’s fun and engaging at first – you know, when it’s most important to be. Aion may be sunshine and rainbows midway through the game, but I’ll never know, because the first few levels suck mightily.

NCSoft has some good games in its lineup; City of Heroes and Guild Wars, most notably. But neither of those was designed by NCSoft, coming out of Cryptic and ArenaNet respectively. NCSoft’s former offerings Tabula Rasa and Auto Assault, which I think we can all agree at least had potential, were developed by Destination Games and NetDevil. NCSoft developed Lineage and Lineage II, to the latter of which I had a similar but much less vehement reaction.

Which leads me to another point of outrage; this is going to be the next big MMO? Aion is like World of Warcraft in its level of polish? You’ve got to be kidding me. It’s okay to offer nothing notably new, but to offer an amateurish and unpolished experience on top of that? Pardon me for asking, in the immortal words of Mr. Hand, “What are you people? On dope?”

Maybe I just hate Korean games… but I don’t think my tastes are so atypical of the western MMO player that I’ll be alone. And you know, something I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned here is that I’ve written a lot of reviews of movies and games; some professionally. I’ve studied the work of critics as they break down and analyze a work. I don’t do reviews here (except in a tongue-in-cheek way, as yesterday,) because I’m shooting for a conversational tone. I think I can detach myself enough to tell the difference between something I dislike and something that’s actually bad. I dislike Guild Wars, for example, but there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s an extremely high-quality game. Conversely, I like Warhammer but I think it fails on several important levels.

Aion sins in both regards; I disliked it and I think it’s a sloppy, unimaginative mess, and thus the vigor of my disdain for it.

I think – and I now believe that Aion amply demonstrates – that NCSoft’s in-house development team is simply unable to design an MMO for the European and North American audiences. Aion is much more a Korean MMO in style, tone and level of polish than it is a western game, and thus while it may be a big hit in China and Korea, I think it’s going to land face-first over here. The launch will make a nice splash and it’ll be downhill from there.

And that’s all I have to say about Aion. Here, have some kittens.


29 responses to “The Dope on Aion

  1. Kittens! I feel much better now.

    Thanks for taking the time. After reading your one word review I actually download the Aion client to see what you meant.

    My verdict: I’ll be uninstalling it too. This game doesn’t feel like WoW; it feels like Runes of Magic. And if I’m going to play a WoW clone, I might as well play the free one.

  2. Ironically, the first point of your rant is a brand new bug introduced when NCSoft tried to cater to Western tastes more. They added the option to move the camera around by holding down the left mouse button instead of the default right mouse button. If you disable this option, you will find you can steer perfectly well with just the mouse.

  3. Nicely done although I enjoyed your one word review as well… (this coming from someone who gave TR a “mostly harmless” review).

    No need to waste the HD space on this at this point.

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  5. Ardwulf makes it quite clear its not a review.

    It’s more like when I was 8 years old and at my grandmothers house, and I found a bottle of Lucozade in the cupboard and took a really big swig, only to find that my gran kept her vinegar in an old Lucozade bottle. My yelling and spitting weren’t an informed critique of the relative taste-values of acetic acid versus sugary energy drink, but they sure told you what my immediate, innate reaction was.

    Ihaven’t played Aion, for the simple reason that I can see that I’d hate it just from looking at the screen-shots and videos. We’ll see how successful it is soon enough. I’d put my money on moderate, not a failure but a game no-one’s talking about much in a few month’s time.

  6. I’ve found you can steer just fine while autorunning (Numlock baby!) by holding down the right mouse button. Just downloaded the client 2 days ago so maybe thats a new feature…

    You are spot on though about the level 1 to 5 quests…might as well be Perfect World/RoM, ect. Totally uninspiring.

    But have to disagree with you about the world graphics. The mobs are spectacular, character models and spell effects/combat animations highly detailed, and the world itself pretty spectacular. Day and nite cycles are convincing and add a ton to the atmosphere.

    But graphics are totally subjective so to each his own.

  7. You can steer with the mouse, exactly like in WoW, you just need to turn off “Left Click to Rotate Camera” because they have just recently added that in which interferes with moving with the Mouse.

    You seriously had trouble Questing? Did you even use the LOCATE feature? Locate feature tells you exactly where the enemy is that you are looking for and also shows you where the quest items are at. No, it doesn’t just show you general area of where the enemy is, it even UPDATES as you kill an enemy to show you EXACTLY where another one is on your Mini-Map.

  8. I have to say, I feel like you just found a few things that annoyed you at the beginning and never gave the game a chance. Most of those niggles are actually soluble using the game’s tools!

  9. Thanks for the explanation. I disagree with all of it, but I was interested in what you had to say about the game.

  10. Now see I hate the way WoW looks and think that Lineage II and Aion are beautiful. I would play Aion if it weren’t for one simple thing. Time… I’m finding more and more that I just can’t invest time in MMOs like I could once and I wish that someone would make an MMO for those of us who haven’t the time to invest.

    Oh, I also am currently not interested in playing PvP where I can have my limited time jacked by anyone who decides their fun involves being a dick and attempting to kill me. I did that for years in L2 already.

    So, although I believe that Aion is beautiful and I personally like click to move, I don’t have the time to invest or I would play the game.

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  12. Your review was the most ridiculous, erroneous, biased and obviously retarded reviews I’ve ever read. Mostly invalidates anything else you say. I am not a fan of Aion may not buy the game but being unfair is unfair. You kinda remind me of those residual estate owners in the south and their attitude towards the “less privileged”.

  13. “Aion may be sunshine and rainbows midway through the game, but I’ll never know, because the first few levels suck mightily.”

    That gave me a giggle.

  14. Kinda floored that you hated the graphics – I thought it was a beautiful game, and felt vibrant and alive.

    That said, the game play was tired and old…. and that’s what matters to me.

  15. If Iwas to write a review about this game, it would read almost just liek the one you wrote. I feel exactly the same way. The game feels uninspired, and the first 10 levels are horrendously boring. The graphics, while they do have their good moments, are mostly low resolution and not a style that interests me much.

    This game is garbage, imo, and feels like just another free to play Korean MMO. There is no way I could justify paying $50 at release for this, and I urge anyone thinking of buying the game to play the open beta while you still can, because this game will not be for everyone. I preordered the game for $5 at Best Buy, and will not be buying.

  16. Pingback: Ardwulfs extended Aion Review « Kill that Cheerleader

  17. @Dandmcd:

    “This game is garbage, imo, and feels like just another free to play Korean MMO. ”

    Uh… no, it doesn’t. I don’t like Aion, but it’s not a typical korean grinder. Far from it.

  18. You know, I often read reviews I disagree with. Be it that the reviewer heaps praise on a game I dislike (WaR, for example… which I played until level 36 before deciding I hated it, btw) or dismisses a game I enjoy. Generally I can see why said reviewer is saying certain things, or feeling the way they do, even if I disagree. When it comes to this review though, I’m just mind-boggled. You either installed the wrong game, or decided to hate it before even trying it and found whatever reason you could make up to justify that hatred.

    And yeah, I know this isn’t really a review. It’s still a pretty lame attempt at explaining anything, and it’s just about 100% false and misleading.

  19. Um, a few points about this review/reviewer.

    1. He is reviewing a game that he played that was in Beta.
    2. Beta games are not finished. Idiot.
    3. The game is 100000 times more polished than WoW was after about 1-2 yrs after release. Idiot.
    4. It’s not even released yet in NA and EU. Idiot.
    5. They have responded to the NA and EU requests to changed/fixed several of your childish rants. You don’t like the way you steer your character, well, that’s the way it was designed and a million screaming Chineese and Koreans seem to like it that way, but good ‘ole selfishness shines through and you want it the WoW way. Idiot, you got it and you still complain.
    6. I know a WoW fanboy when I see one….. I quit that game after they increased the level max and have never looked back. People like you hold on to a game that caters to whiners, so go back to WoW and whine so they will cater it to your lame ass. Idiot.
    7. Idiot.

  20. This is the saddest excuse for a review I have ever seen, and a mortgage of any credibility you may have had as the serious writer you proclaim to be.

    A small part of your text is based on nothing more than pure personal preference.

    The largest part of your text is outright false.

    Would I have felt the urge to answer your ‘points’, it would prove impossible, since I can’t even connect most of what you say to anything real.

    I’m referring to hard facts, not subjective concepts. I’m referring to “broken english” “clipping” ‘not being able to steer with your mouse’, etc.

    I have been a WoW player for 4 years. If anything, this game is too much like WoW as it tries to cater to every whining little player out there, which brings me to the conclusion that the most positive thing out of this post is the fact you won’t be in this game.

  21. I could not agree with the OP any more. I just dropped 60 bucks on a game that I couldn’t wait to uninstall after literally forcing myself to play through 8 levels.

    The first thing I did was to disable the stupid sounds you make when you use a bandage and disable the background music. That made it tolerable enough to hate the other 7 levels I played.

    All of this because I listened to people pour praise on it both at work and at the store.

    All you people are Poke’nuts crazy – this game is a sham!

  22. I’m so done with Aion. All I’ve had is one major problem after another with it. First, it took two weeks for me to install the game. Dowloading the client from the actual site is just a waste of time and I had to download two torrents. And then there was the updating. Omg the updating was a nightmare. That took about another week to get it updated from to . So, I finally get the game play ready and I launch it. Guess what! There was ANOTHER problem. Right before the log in screen, the whole program crashes. I’ve contacted the support staff and, after 5 days,have yet to get a viable solution. It’s not worth it really and I’ll be damned if they think I’m going to pick up my $70 pre-order. No way in hell.

  23. I read this review with interest along with any other review I could find of Aion.

    I have been playing WoW for about 4 years, prior to that I played FFXI for a few years as well and I can say only one thing about Aion now that I have actually played the final release version (but only up to level 20). It is awesome.

    I can honestly say that all of your criticisms above dont seem to apply to the game i played. The controls were intuitive and easy to pick up. It isnt the same as WoW, which is probably your main complaint. Sometimes you need to play something new with an open mind rather than playing it to see if it can take the place of WoW.

    Graphics were great, sound was OK (at least as good as WoW) and it is just fantastically playable.

    The best thing of all is that the average player age seems to be about 10 years older than WoW. WoW is a very easy game for kids. Aion is somewhat more difficult (though still very accessible). I assume that you are an inexperienced gamer which is why this was so difficult for you.

    WoW without the fanboy kids that fill the servers would be great. Aion is that game on acid.

  24. ‘I assume that you are an inexperienced gamer which is why this was so difficult for you.

    WoW without the fanboy kids that fill the servers would be great. Aion is that game on acid.’

    lol just lol…..