Wings Over Atreia
Awwwww yeah! Update 3.0, baby! Come to me, features.

Like Christmas for a five-year-old, this day seemed like it would never arrive for those of us who have been waiting for Aion's patch for what feels like forever. And ever. And then some. Aion: Ascension certainly took its jolly sweet time getting here, but now it finally has. Even better, you don't have to dodge creepy clowns or be sucked into a television screen to enjoy it.

Now the question is, is the product really worth the hype? I know I have certainly dished out a fair portion of hype in Wings Over Atreia over the past couple of months while sharing my excitement. Too many delectable features were on the menu, things that would breathe more life into the game, for me not to indulge a bit. But as with any hype, there is always a chance for things to not live up to expectations.

So is the new patch as grand and glorious as hoped? After my first few days in game, my answer is a definite...

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Sorta. Well, pretty much. Promised features are in-game, and there is so much to do that sometimes I just stand in my new little studio apartment trying to figure out what to do next. The explorer side of me wants to just wander everywhere and see everything. The aficionado of all prose part of me wants to do all the quests and follow the storylines. The housing addict wants to build furniture and decorate while finding new ways to actually afford a larger house. I'll admit it's been a while since I have lost track of time in-game and logged out with true reluctance, already anticipating my next session before the screen even closes, but I am enjoying that feeling again. That is the gift that the new patch brought. However, there were definitely some unexpected let-downs that dampened my enthusiasm.

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Our house, is a very very very fine house

I thought I would surprise you all and NOT start off with housing. Yah, right. Of course housing was the first thing I flew to when I logged in. Those who joined me in our launch-day livestream experienced a bit of the new housing area for the Elyos, Oriel, right along with me. But even that little glimpse doesn't cover everything there. The housing map is actually huge! There are mobs and plants to harvest, and in the Asmodian housing district of Pernon there are actually cyclones scattered about that seriously increase your run speed (albeit temporarily).

Getting that first studio apartment was exciting. And unexpectedly, there is a short quest chain that makes you romp about a bit and rewards you with different furniture pieces including hearthblooms, a table, and even a one-drawer chest. Yay storage! You can then buy more furniture like shelves, beds, chairs, and guestblooms from the housing merchant. It wasn't long before I found player-made rugs and other furniture pieces entering the market.

Aion screenshotBeyond providing a place to chill, housing actually has some benefits for Daevas. For one, if you log out in your house, you get a bonus to your energy of repose (which boosts XP gain and loot drop rate). This is easy to do because running that housing introductory quest gives a special recall to home skill. Daevas can also get gifts from the hearthblooms and guestblooms; by adding fertilizer gained from your butler to both your own plants and those of friends, you can gain items. The newbie housing quest chain gives you three hearthblooms: a lesser ancient icon one (for AP), a construction flux one, and even an enchantment stone one. You gain guestpetals for fertilizing friends' guestblooms and the friends in turn are rewarded with things like dyes, medals, or manastones. Guestpetals can be then exchanged for housing items.

Now, understandably, these various hearthbloom houseplants have a timed lifespan; instead of being indefinite, they have a timer after which they will be gone. After that point, Daevas must obtain new ones. OK, that makes sense, and I am all right with that. However, what does not make sense is the fact that other furniture also has a deadline. Excuse me?

Yes folks, some furniture -- including all the pieces you obtained from the quests -- is for a limited time only. This huge negative caused a major crash in my housing euphoria. Explain to me how a dresser up and poofs. It has four legs, so maybe it just walks out on its own? What good is a temporary storage unit? Perhaps this is some freaky way to support one artisan class, making it so furniture needs to be replaced almost like gear and consumables. Whatever the reason, I don't like it. I don't know who thought of this, but I do believe I have some tar and feathers ready to go.

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So far, the ability to decorate isn't anything spectacular, but you can get different wallpapers (one via quest) and flooring as well as personalize a bit with your decorations. Furniture options are a bit limited, but the real disappointment is in the minuscule item limit. With such a seriously restrictive limit, there won't be much in the way of real creativity until you move on to the larger houses, which brings me to my other disappointment: the cost of housing.

I expected housing to be expensive to get, but the prices and the maintenance costs are simply astronomical. Sadly, it pretty much crushed my dreams of getting anything bigger to enjoy having a garden. Anyone have a couch I can crash on?

Aion screenshotAsk for directions!

Trust me, now is not the time to puff out your chest and insist you know where you are. Go ahead and check out the new Atreian Atlas. It will be worth your while.

We knew that this new feature would "reward" folks as they followed a designated leveling path, but what wasn't expected was that it literally gives away so many free gifts! As Daevas level and reach certain milestones, they become eligible for specific rewards. And a bonus is that the gifts are retroactive; every Daeva who has accomplished any of the designated tasks during his or her career can obtain the corresponding reward by checking out the Atlas right on the Aion site. For instance, if you have completed the Miragent or Fenris armor set, you are eligible to claim an eternal treasure chest. This chest can have one of a number of gifts, such as eternal supplements, an eternal mount, or even a general goods merchant to put in your home. Yay... a very qualified yay.

Now for the bad news. Again, we are slapped with a big fat TEMPORARY on many of the gifts. The mount and merchant? They expire after 30 days. The pet with a 30-slot bag you acquire at level 10? It's gone in seven days. Seriously, what gives? Here have this cool item... psych! Personally, I'd rather not have an item then have it yanked away from me. Especially storage items! How on earth can you expect a packrat to clear that out in time, and what happens to the stuff if you don't?

Still worth it

Yes, there are definitely some disappointments (like the cost of the lowest mount possible being 11 million kinah and not finding any flight zones in Sarpan) that came along with the awesome parts of the new patch, but I still find Ascension worth it. And the fact I can do everything without worrying about a subscription anymore is pretty great, too.

Although I was able to take everyone on a short tour of Sarpan via airlink in last week's livestream, we really haven't had the chance to talk about the new lands of Sarpan and Tiamaranta much or any of the new instances yet. Like I said, there's so very much to do and only so much room here to cover it. But that's OK; we have plenty of time to explore, and I am taking my time and savoring the experience. All too soon it will be gone, so why rush it?

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Speaking of rushing, I wish to end this week with a message to all those who continue to bellyache and whine about the grind in Aion: Play it. Some on my friends list were already level 60 by Thursday night. That's barely over one day for the highest five levels. Others actually reached the pinnacle within hours. Really, the level grind has been tamed for a long time now (no comment on AP grind!). So before you rant and rave, jump in and experience it for yourself. After all, it won't cost you anything.

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.
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