A bonding experience. Love ya man, really.

Last week's article seems to have struck a nerve. I feel like I know more of you now on a more personal level. And that's not just because I skulk around Atreia spying! The thoughts and comments you have shared have reaffirmed how universal our experiences are; what we think is a slightly unique situation is really just like so many others (OK, maybe not the legionmate who walks around in a duck suit, but others). You know the saying "You are unique dear, just like everyone else." Whether we have Black wings or white, whether we're a PvPer or even a carebear, many of our hopes for Aion are really quite similar.

But I digress. As promised, this week I continue with my happy rave (it's better than a rant, yes?) about some of the treats promised us in the upcoming 2.5 patch. And just like I would with a proper dessert, I saved the best for last. Or at least my favorite! This week, we look more in-depth at additional pets, additional instances, and additions to legions.

Relive that yearning experienced when anticipating Christmas mornings of yore and join me past the cut to sneak a peek at our hopefully-soon-to-be unwrapped update goodies for Aion.

Friends, Fluffy- and Fido-style

I'm sure all of you have had one person in your life who was known as The Ice Queen. In that vein, you can certainly call me The Fluff Queen; little extraneous goodies is where it's at, baby. And even though pets do have some practical uses, they have to rank as my all-time favorite fluff in Aion. So it is this aspect I am personally looking forward to the most! For all you other petaholics out there, here is a basic run down of what we can expect: more pets, more pet interactions, and additional pet utility.

First, we are going to be getting 13 new pets. One will be obtained via a pet-related quest; seven will come from daily quests, and the other five from the new instances (four from Academy Bootcamp and one from Araka). I don't know about you all, but I tend to hoard as many critters as possible and will be working toward catching them all. I gotta! The official patch notes offer a sneak peek at four of the pets, including one with boxing gloves and another in a witch's hat.

Pets will also have moods, which can be monitored while they are out romping in Atreia alongside you. The idea is simple enough -- if you want your pet to be happy, interact with it. New pet interactions to get your companion in that giddy tail-chasing mood are being added as well. Two pet emotes will be available as quest rewards (looking after pet and pet training) or purchased from the pet merchant. The third addition -- pet play -- will only be available for purchase from the NPC. These mood-enhancing interactions can be accessed through the new manage pet system. The manage pet command, however, can only be used once every 10 minutes.

Other than not being a cold heartless meanie, why would you care what your pet's mood is? Well, when its mood reaches 100%, a pet gift button becomes available, which you can click and receive a gift from your pet. These gifts are coin items appropriate to your character's level, so they are quite a bit better (and less smelly) than the real ones your furry companion leaves for you in the real world! Before you think you can pet your pet to riches, realize that the gift button can only be used once every hour. So give the critter a break and don't rub his belly off. And lest you think paying scant attention to your pet other than here and there will reward you, the mood resets 10 minutes after the pet is dismissed.

Now, on to the useful features! This feature actually surprised me: Pets will be able to automatically consume items for you. I am unsure whether any pet will be able to do this or if only select new pets will have the medicine bag feature. Basically, this will be like activating power shards -- you can turn the feature on to use potions, scrolls, food, and drinks automatically. However, if you play like I do, be careful -- you might leave your greater courage scrolls on and active while AFK and burn through an entire stack of 200 in no time flat!

The most talked about upcoming feature for pets is their ability to pick up items automatically. However, contrary to speculation, it does not appear that pets themselves will have any additional space to carry your loot. Instead, loot seems to go straight into your own inventory. There are catches, too; any items set to be rolled on will not be looted, nor will be nontradeable items (you know, those really annoying quest pick-ups).

Little extras that are not as spectacular but are still nice include the fact that pets will no longer be dismissed every time you teleport, fly, or return, and you will also be able to choose to hide all other players' pets.

New places go, things to kill

Although I love fluff with a passion, just about my favorite in-game activity is exploring, so any time a new area is announced, I am excited. While 2.5 won't be giving us any new lands, we will receive two new instances -- Academy Bootcamp and Araka. Both are accessible to groups only but have no entrance requirements other than being level 50 or above. Like all instances in Aion, they have a cooldown timer; you can re-enter these new instances after 22 hours. Like Dark Poeta and Beshmundir Temple, both of these instances are the same for both factions.

Academy Bootcamp: The bootcamp is an arena-style instance where you will have to defeat wave after wave of increasingly more difficult mobs. Luckily, you get to pace when the waves come, as you have to instigate the next wave by talking to the NPC in the arena. Yay for some recovery time!

One point that really stuck out for me is that all members of the team will be awarded the same number of points in the training regardless of how much damage they did to the mobs. This is especially helpful for healers and support roles who are just as vital to a well-run team as the DPS. "Academy Insignia" will be awarded to each team member depending on the score. Other than the fact that the reward items will be available in Cloister of Kaisinel and the Convent of Marchutan, little is known about what you can exchange the Academy Insignia for.

Araka: This instance is more steeped in story than the bootcamp, which is just a PvE arena to hone group skills. Not only does Araka have more of a storyline (the farm is a major production site for drana to supply Tiamat's army), but we are given the hint to be sure to listen closely to the conversations of the Reian tribe members, as they may provide very important information about the dungeon.

The one restriction placed on Araka is that each race must control its own camp's Balaurea fortress before access is possible. Once that is conquered, a dimensional gate will appear for the respective faction.

Legion lovin'

Even legions get some fluff. But while fluff is fun, legions can be serious business. And most of the upcoming goodies for legions fall heavily on the thank-heavens-and-hallelujah-it's-about-time side.

The primo goody coming in this area is the ability to increase legion level to four and five. Doing so is a bit costly, however, with level four costing five million kinah and level five costing a whopping 25 million! Luckily, with the new levels, the cap on legion members is also raised, to 120 and 150 respectively. With that many more members available, the cost for raising the legion can be dispersed better among the rank-and-file.

Another facet I am looking forward to is the addition of two more ranks within the legion itself -- deputy and new legionary. Each will be able to be assigned specific permissions, giving more personalization to the inter-workings of legions.

The legion warehouse also gets a boost, with one new row of slots opening per additional level. This may not sound big (couldn't we have gotten at least two rows each?), but some is better than none. Even bigger news than space, however, is the addition of legion warehouse access in Reshanta. No more racing to Sanctum and back to grab siege weapons! Another addition that I find very welcome is the log feature; although the record isn't permanent, leaders will be able to see who does what with the contents of the warehouse. My favorite new warehouse goody? NCsoft added the ability for others to put items in but not retrieve; donations will not have be made through an officer anymore.

Back to fluff! Of course, we couldn't end without another delve into fluff -- even for legion goodies, we get fluff. And I like fluff. See a pattern emerging? For legions, the fluff revolves around clothing. Having personal style (or legion style in this case) has shown itself to be a factor of importance to many Daevas. Some legions have even toyed with having specific uniforms and designated legion colors for clothing. Legions will be able to express themselves as units with items available from the legion broker. The default legion cloaks have also been changed and now include a male and female version for each race. Although they are fairly unattractive in my opinion, there are also 11 new emblems to choose from to personalize the cloaks.

So there you have it, my friends. A closer look at many -- but not all -- of the upcoming Aion goodies. There are still no housing or mounts or underwater adventures, but there are at least enough morsels to keep us from starving for something new. If you have another feature you are looking forward to (or just secretly hoping for), let us know in the comments below!

Soaring through the Aionosphere, MJ Guthrie touches down weekly to bring you Wings Over Atreia. Featuring tips, guides, and general snippets of life in Aion, the column is better than Tutty-on-a-stick, ackackackackackack! Have a suggestion to share? No need to bribe a Shugo -- just send mail to mj@massively.com.

This article was originally published on Massively.