Wings Over Atreia: Going for the gold

You did it. After dodging gank squads, hooking up to an IV on double XP weekends, and wearing out your mouse (true story, a legion-mate had to replace his!), you finally hit level 50 in Aion. Amid the fanfare in your mind and the "gratzes" you receive from friends, you can now sit back and relax, reveling in your accomplishment... OK done. That's right, after maybe two deep breaths, a smile, and 3.5 seconds, you are probably now looking ahead to the real big grind (especially if you were like me and just happened into the level without really thinking ahead) -- gear. Yes, maximum level in Aion doesn't mean much if you are still wearing quest blues from pre-Xeno. Gold is armor of choice, and having anything less can be a distinct disadvantage.

Today we begin a journey looking into gearing-up for the current max level (at least until 2.0 launches September 7th). There are actually multiple options available for getting that shiny (and glowing) gear, but each set has its own price tag in money, time, and -- admittedly at times -- frustration; depending on which gear you focus on, the amount you pay in each category will vary, but it will be significant no matter which you choose.

For those who focused on fast leveling, or simply did not know to plan ahead (yours truly), our work is cut out for us. However, for those who are not yet level 50, I cannot stress enough that the sooner you begin your preparations, the better. Depending on your preferred set, save materials, scour the broker for deals, grind AP, or make kinah, kinah, and more kinah. Because you are going to need it. This series of articles will give you some insights to help you plan ahead and be ready for that magical moment you ding.

Join me past the cut to see where you should focus your energies.

Although the most variety you see in the high-level gold sets is how they are skinned (thanks to patch 1.9), there are still a few options to choose from when it comes to max-level armor; different classes and play-styles prefer different sets or a mix-and-match combination of them. Each set offers bonuses the more pieces you equip. You can choose between PvP, crafted Balic, Anuhart, or Miragent/Fenris. Each has its obvious related skill bonuses, but players also have to take into account the actual cost of acquiring it. This week, we will focus on two options: Anuhart and Abyss gear.

Rely on Lady Luck

If you are one of the classes blessed enough to have the best stats available on the Anuhart armor set (which is identical in stats for both the Asmodian and Elyos factions), count yourself lucky. Then, pray to the gaming gods of your choice for more luck -- because you are going to need it. Not only must you have luck just for a gold piece of gear to drop, but you have to hope that your class piece drops, instead of any other, since each set-piece is class specific. Many groups run through Dark Poeta without seeing any gold armor drops, let alone dealing with the heart-wrenching disappointment of a drop that's unusable by anyone in party. Some players seem to breeze through and grab their pieces in relatively short order (a piece on your second run? Share that rabbits foot!), while others have literally run the instance extensively without a single drop.

You can choose between PvP, crafted Balic, Anuhart, or Miragent/Fenris. Each has its obvious related skill bonuses, but players also have to take into account the actual cost of acquiring it.

One disadvantage of this set is that you cannot even begin to acquire it until you reach level 50, as Dark Poeta (the instance it drops in) is unavailable for any lower character. All gear is also bind on acquire, so there is no hope of just buying it from the broker. However, this does not mean that you cannot prepare ahead of time; in fact, it is better if you do.

While this set is arguably the least expensive of the PvE choices (if your luck holds out, that is), there is expense involved -- mainly, in the components necessary to enter Dark Poeta. For each trip into the instance you will need a time activation stone, which is composed of a rift essence and either five or 20 Blue Balaur Scales, depending on whether you go to the NPC in Heiron (20) or in the Core (5). The rift essence is purchasable from the general goods vendor in either New Heiron Gate or Teminon Landing for 179,000 kinah, and if you don't have a stockpile of scales from your own hunting, you can usually find them on the broker with prices from 2,300 kinah each on up. With the chances of getting a piece during a single run being fairly low, you will be going many, many times. If you do manage to get an unusable gold drop, you can't even break it into enchantment stones, so the the only hope of recouping some kinah is by selling the armor skin or just trashing it at the vendor. Although less than its counterparts, the cost will still add up.

Another kink in this plan is that DP has a lockout timer of 12 hours, so the time frame during which you can actually work towards the armor is a relatively small window compared to that of the others.

Beat it out of them

Another choice for top-of-the-line max-level gear is the PvP gear from the Abyss. This choice is especially good if your main focus is PvP, both in stats and in armor currency, as the cost of this set is priced in Abyss Points and gold medals. AP is earned from PvP through rifting, sieges, fort instances, running the Dredgion, open battle in Reshanta, and even from actual PvE fighting in the Abyss. Medals are earned from participation in sieges. Kinah costs will be relegated to teleports and flights (and possibly soul healing if some mobs manage to kill you), unless you do not participate in enough sieges to be awarded the medals -- then, you will be forced to buy them from the broker. The best way to ensure receiving medals is to participate in fortress defense and, when the coast is clear of enemies, down the opposing faction's corresponding guard tower. Of course, you have to ensure that you have already taken some fortresses previously, to be able to defend them!

A major benefit with this choice is that you can be earning the abyss points needed for your armor starting at the tender level of 25. And trust me, you want to be saving; the time investment in this set is significant, and gaining AP is not a walk in the park. Many players even forgo buying any of the lower tiers of PvP armor (available at levels 30 and 40) in preparation for the level 50 gear. They buy it once they have enough AP saved and store it away until they reach a level at which they can actually wear it.

A big downside to aiming for this set is that the closer you get to reaching your goal, the harder a time you are going to have getting there. Once you reach soldier rank one, you start lose more AP each time you die in a PvP death. Each subsequent increase in rank shaves off more AP each time you fall in battle. Of course, the higher in rank you are, the more AP you offer an opponent, so unless you have a couple clerics shackled to you at all times in open PvP areas, you become a very large, yummy AP cookie. To obtain a full set of Elyos Elite Guardian Squad Leader armor (sans belt and helm), you will need a whopping 1,998,100 AP and 202 gold medals. For the other level 50 set (Guardian Tribunus), you need 1,332,300 AP and 136 gold medals. Since the lowest piece of armor for the top set is higher than a 2-star Army rank, you will be a tasty target for quite awhile.

At this point, some prefer to avoid any open PvP and turn to running only instances such as the Dredgion or forts to continue their AP grind. This can significantly lengthen the process as well as keep your current AP safer, as the fort instances have lockout timers and the Dredgion is only available three times a day. It also affects the balance of power during sieges, as some of the most powerful players choose to withdraw their support from their respective factions instead of risking AP loss through death.

If you want it made right...

Make it yourself. Or pay someone else to do it. If you are one of the folks who find that the benefits and bonuses of owning the crafted PvE golds outweigh those of the other two choices, you are in for a long (Miragent/Fenris) and costly (both Miragent/Fenris and Balic) ride. However, as these options are too involved to delve into this week, join me next time as we examine the crafty side of max-level armor and dive into the Miragent quest line.

This article was originally published on Massively.