There are no battlegrounds in Aion (e.g., Alterac Valley). Instead, the PvP is more "open-world" so to speak. The biggest PvP zone is called the Abyss. Players can only enter the Abyss from levels 25-50. Contained in the Abyss are the best XP opportunities, PvE rewards, PvP rewards, instances, and fortress raids. Think of the Abyss as a giant (and we mean giant) contested zone from a WoW PvP server. PvP is highly encouraged in Aion and it is difficult to avoid it once you reach level 25.
You gain Abyss Points (AP) by killing enemy players and Balaur NPCs in the Abyss (and lose it when you die). AP is kind of like honor from back when WoW first launched. AP gives you special PvP ranks and you can spend it like currency to buy various specialty items and abilities.
Two other forms of PvP in Aion include Rifts and the Arena. Rifts are portals that take you to your enemy's PvE lands. Quests still start sending you through Rifts in your mid-20s. The capital cities also contain Arenas where you can participate in giant free-for-alls against your allies. Basically, it's a way to practice PvP risk-free.
Aion uses Crytek's CryEngine rendering software. This engine is highly scalable and looks absolutely brilliant on high-end machines and pretty good on low-end ones. Comparatively, the graphics in Aion seem smoother and more detailed, however, it's really up to your personal taste. As for performance, the game runs about as well as WoW on most machines.
Polish can mean a lot of things, so we're going to generalize by saying it means "things work as intended." Like WoW, Aion is a very polished game. WoW wasn't perfect at launchand Aion won't be either. That said, both games display high attention to detail and most things work as intended.
Aion's European and North American release benefits from having been in Korea for almost a year. We're playing a game in which all the major flaws have been already fixed.
Crafting is fairly deep in Aion and similar to WoW. It really shines in its contribution to the game's player-driven economy. Players can learn:
- Cooking (food and purification)
- Handicrafting (accessories, wooden weapons, and small parts)
- Weapon Smithing (metal weapons)
- Armor Smithing (metal armor)
- Sewing (cloth and leather armor)
- Alchemy (potions, magical weapons, and items that can upgrade gear)
Trade brokers and personal stores: These are the two key forces behind the game's economy. The trade broker is like WoW's auction house. Personal stores are a bit different.
Players can set up their a personal store in areas of high traffic and sell just about anything. They can set their own prices, add a store description, and basically go AFK and let the items sell themselves. Alternatively, they can actively participate in trade chat. Aion's currency is kinah. There is no plat, gold, silver, or copper. A kinah is a kinah, plain and simple.
Aion's achievements are tied to titles. For example, do all the quests in Poeta and earn the title Poeta's Protector. Titles grant special bonuses such as stat buffs and appear beside your character's name. There are dozens upon dozens to collect.
Every class in Aion can fly at level 10+, not like WoW where you need to be a Druid or have a special mount. These wings can be used to glide anywhere in the world and even fly in certain areas.
Flight can be hard to master, but flying is necessary in the game for a number of reasons. Some content is only accessible by flying and much of the PvP you'll engage in will take place on land and in the skies. You can't fly in some of the PvE zones but the entire Abyss is a fly-zone.
Solo vs. group friendliness
The earlier levels in Aion are quite manageable for a solo person. Going solo is possible throughout the mid-levels as well, but it becomes much less efficient. Even though many new quests were added in a recent patch, we are hearing reports that there still aren't enough to get you through an entire level at times. That means you will resort to either solo grinding or group grinding.
Playing in the Abyss and rifting into your enemy's PvE lands carries more risk to the solo player. Aside from the risk, there's only so much you can accomplish while solo in the Abyss from a raiding perspective. The high level instances and fortresses require a group to really get anything accomplished. Ultimately, Aion is probably more group-dependent than WoW.
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