Release Date: 2008
The first thing that you should know about Aion is that it is pretty.
The screenshots don't really do it justice. Aion has a Korean MMO's design sensibility, where everyone and everything is attractive or beautiful even if there's no good reason for them to be, and is running on the (apparently surprisingly scalable) Crytech engine. Everything is colorful, well-animated, and strangely dreamlike, with surprisingly evocative sound design. If absolutely nothing else, Aion actually has its own look, as opposed to Generic Forest O' Monsters #5234.
Aion is currently working toward a closed beta, with a planned release date at some point in 2008. The world of Atria has been shattered into three realms by the destruction of the Tower of Eternity. Players can choose to be from the topmost realm of Elyos, or the bottom realm of Asmodean, and will oppose players from the other realm in PvP.
The third realm is called the Abyss, populated by an NPC race called the Balaur. The Abyss will host the endgame of Aion, along with its fiercest challenges.
Whatever realm you happen to be from, your character is a deva, who will slowly regain his or her true nature and abilities over the course of the game. You can initially choose one of four classes — warrior, priest, scout, or mage — which you can diversify into more specialized classes at higher levels. Warriors, for example, can choose to become either knights or gladiators.
When you reach level 10, you will receive one sure sign of your actual heritage: a set of fully functional wings.
Every player character can fly in Aion, although it's not a constant thing; instead, it's a special ability with a timer and, presumably, a cooldown. (The version of Aion being show was very early alpha code, so obviously, nothing about it is set in stone just yet.) The wings will last long enough to add a new dimension to combat and overland travel, but not so long as to turn the entire game into the last 20 minutes of "The Matrix Revolutions."
The rest of Aion is laid on this kind of foundation. At the time of writing, Aion will be set in a persistent world with a minimum of instances, and subscribers will pay to play using a more traditional MMO model than the currently-in-vogue free limited access scheme.
The combat is based around a series of combo moves. Simply auto-attacking won't get you very far, but chaining together your attacks can add up to some pretty impressive combos in short order.
NCSoft is currently hosting three different successful MMORPGs, if you count City of Heroes and City of Villains as the same game. It's anyone's guess whether they can manage to pull off a fourth, but Aion has the look and possibly the hook to succeed in the increasingly crowded MMO field. We'll have to see where this one winds up.