Much has happened in the world of Atreia since the last annual roundup. With two major content updates and an expansion, Aion has significantly increased the available content in-game. Not only that, but the move to free-to-play significantly increased the game's availability. If you haven't been in-game recently, now is a good time to stretch your wings and return to Atreia. And if you head back within the next month, you can join in the anniversary celebration.
Last year, the anniversary celebration included a free 10-day reactivation event. This year, however, you won't find any such thing. That's because the biggest news of the year happened last spring: Aion converted to free-to-play. But NCsoft didn't just make the game F2P; it implemented the most generous model on the market.
Aion's Truly Free model allows players to access every aspect of the game without any restrictions. That means no locked classes, no levels hidden behind a pay wall, and equal access to all content (unless you happen to play on European servers; trust me, we are pulling for you guys to get Truly Free as well!).
That brings us to the next point...
As much as Aion in Korea and Aion in North America are different, NA and Aion Europe are different. No longer can you just say NCsoft West because NCsoft is actually no longer the company that publishes the game in Europe. That task has been turned over to Gameforge, which works in collaboration with NCsoft. This was not a move beloved by players.
As a part of that change, European servers have a completely different free-to-play model, one that is more restrictive. The updates also lag behind North America's patches significantly; although NA is about to get patch 3.5, Europe servers just barely got 3.0 a couple of weeks ago.
Some players have found a way to circumvent these disadvantages: Instead of having to wait even longer for patches or paying for content, some Europeans opt to download and play on the North American servers instead. Scuttlebutt says that the difference in lag is actually negligible.
Speaking of patches...
This past year has been pretty plentiful in the content department. Between patches 2.7 and 3.1 and the 3.0 expansion Aion: Ascension, there truly is too much to discuss in detail. In fact, it took three articles just to touch on all of the 3.0 changes! But we can highlight a few.
One of the most obvious changes was the new zones of Sarpan and Tiamaranta with all their new quests, mobs, and dungeons. Other readily apparent changes include new siege mechanics in Tiamaranta, mounts, an increased level cap to 60, and personalized housing.
Some of the less obvious additions are related to medal acquisitions and crafting. Folks cheered heartily when every member of a group could loot the necessary drops for plat medal quests (as opposed to one member at a time). Crafters also received some love and attention, including a new profession (furniture-making), daily quests, and the ability to change expert-level crafting masteries -- for a fee, of course!
Over the course of the year, NCsoft made Aion not only easier to get (what's easier than free?) but easier to get into. If you thought the grind was lessened between the first and second anniversaries, that's nothing compared to now. It's like the easy button is stuck in the on position.
In 3.1, Aion introduced the Fast-Track server. Granted, you can't mentor on that sever, but folks up to level 50 can get double the XP all the time from everything except quests. Even better, XP amulets stack on top of this server-wide bonus. Although the bonus itself is not in effect for quests, Sean Orlikowski did mention during last week's exclusive interview for 3.5 that the Energy of Repose buff and items do affect quest XP.
Deavas jumping back into Aion now will also find that numerous instances are easier. Mobs have been readjusted (read: nerfed) or in some cases, outright removed! Two instances, Beshmundir Temple and Alquimia Research Center, had their minimum level requirement for entrance lowered, of course necessitating that the dungeons be easier so the lower levels have some chance inside.
Deavas needn't worry about gear and goodies quite as much either; the Atreian Atlas provides numerous items just as reward/gifts in the course of gameplay, including gold-grade gear.
To PvP or not to PvP
Some major changes came to the PvP portion of the Aion equation. First, 2.7 introduced a new way to PvP: the Third Crucible arenas. Then 3.0 gave level 55+ Deavas a place to hunt without the worry of enemy attack interruptions. And most recently, 3.1 brought with it the Fast-Track server, which is completely PvP-free for the 50 and under crowd. Unlike any time before, players in Aion can choose whether or not to participate in PvP.
Party like it's 2012
If all those changes haven't distracted you too badly, you might recall I mentioned something about a celebration. As in previous years, NCsoft is throwing a birthday bash for Aion and its going on though the release of the 3.5 patch in October. And in case you forget, there are giant, brightly decorated cakes sitting in the middle of both Sanctum and Pandaemonium to remind you.
In one of the anniversary events, Daevas can collect Aether Flames either by hunting mobs or by using the BlackCloud Marketplace. Mobs that drop the flames are found in Beluslan Fortress and Gelkmaros Fortress for Asmodians, New Heiron Gate and Ingisson Illusion Fortress for Elyos, and Sarpan, Tiamaranta, and the Abyss for both factions. (I say "one" event because Sean noted that there will be a number of different events Daevas can participate in, so more party games may be on the way. Also, he mentioned that some rewards will include cake-shaped kisks and a table that dispenses cake.)
The flames are then traded in for one of three types of candles: blazing, spiritual, or magical. Daevas can then add the candles to the cake and in doing so, buff all surrounding Daevas. The buffs, which last for four hours, are: tripled leveling speed for blazing; tripled drop rate for magical; and +2000 DP, +10% attack speed, and -10% cast time speed.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.