Release Date: Fall 2009
High fantasy and MMOs go together like peanut butter and jelly, so the only question if you're making an MMO is, how do you stand apart from the legions of other titles out there? Well, if you're NCSoft, you craft a story of an epic struggle between three races, you focus on making massive castle sieges and raids a major part of the gameplay, and you grant players the ability to fly. That's right; pretty soon you will know no borders as you take to the skies in Aion: Tower of Eternity.
The game features two playable races, both with a seething hatred for the other. You see, an eon ago, the Asmodians and Elyos lived together peacefully under the protection of Aion, their god. Aion's power was represented through a giant tower at the heart of the world, and all was well. Unfortunately, one day the tower was destroyed and the world was torn asunder. The Asmodians and the Elyseans were separated from one another by the Abyss, and each side thought that the other had been wiped out by the tower's destruction. Now, 1,000 years later, portals have begun opening into the Abyss, and the two races have discovered each other once more. Naturally, each blames the other for the current state of the world, but they both have reason to worry, as a previously undiscovered third race resides in the Abyss, and these new fiends have no allegiance and are willing to kill both sides indiscriminately.
When starting the game, players get to choose one of the two races to play as, though they aren't divided into your typical good and evil camps. The Asmodians inhabit a cold, harsh part of the planet, and, as a consequence, their features are a little more rugged and they look somewhat demonic. The developers have emphasized that their appearance doesn't mean they're evil â€” you can't judge a book by its cover, after all â€” but rather is a reflection of the hard lives they've had to lead in a hostile environment. The Elyos, on the other hand, inhabit a more tropical world filled with sunlight and lush greenery. As a result, they look very much like a cross between humans and elves, with nice tans and soft features. The Elyos have a bit of a superiority complex, at first pitying the poor Asmodians for not being as blessed as they. This haughty air gives them a bit of a jerk vibe, making you wonder if we aren't about to flip the script on what good guys and bad guys look like.
After choosing a race and character, players spend their first 10 levels doing simple quests and getting a feel for the game. Unlike most MMOs, you don't choose a class right away, but rather use a base set of all skills so you can slowly learn exactly how you want to play. Once your character reaches level 10, you choose one of four classes (Mage, Priest, Scout or Warrior) and then, after some more leveling, you can opt for one of two special sub-classes unique to each main class. Also coming at level 10 is Aion's most unique feature, the ability to fly.
Flight is set to play a huge role in Aion, and it's not limited to merely getting from one place to another. Aerial combat is just as fully realized as ground attacks, and there are many secrets hidden in the world that only a strong pair of wings will reach. It's important to understand that level 10 characters won't be able to swoop and glide all day, though, as the flight skill is limited to a cooldown bar, and once the bar empties, you will drop like a stone and possibly to your death, depending on the height. Additional levels, certain equips, buffs and character classes all play a role in how long you can stay aloft, and once they reach a fairly high level, players will be able to stay airborne for a good long while.
Aion: Tower of Eternity appears poised to offer accessible gameplay to newcomers as well as plenty of content for hardened MMO players. The game is loaded with helpful hints, tips and assists to get you acclimated to its mechanics, and giant siege missions and the constant struggle to hold onto power in a persistent world should give hardcore players plenty to do long after they finish the campaign quests. It's always an uphill battle to take on power players like WoW and EverQuest, but NCSoft is poised to make a strong run at the market. We will see very soon if the promise of flight is enough to lure players into this shattered world.
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