Wings Over Atreia: Aion's classy balancing act

Wings Over Atreia  Balancing Aion's new class acts
I'm in trouble now. I thought I had it made; I thought I was on easy street. I had one Aion character slot left, open and waiting for that inspiration. Then along came the cloak-donning, guns-blazing gunslinger class. Right on! I know who that slot's going to come 4.0. Or do I?

Basically, NCsoft is evil! I had no interest in a musically minded class, none at all... until the Troubadour announcement last week. A healer! Come on, that's not fair; healing classes are my favorite, my passion, my calling in life. Short of a second Aion account, what in Atreia do I do now? This is not a good predicament for the decisionally challenged.

Thankfully, at least I know I have no interest in the third class. No, really -- this time I mean it! I know, because even though I gave it a shot once before, I just have no desire to play a tank. And how do I know it is a tank? Elementary, my dear Daeva.

Aion screenshotFilling the tank

Perhaps I am not a sleuth of Sherlock Holmes' caliber (it's kinda hard when Holmes had an author in his back pocket connecting all the dots for him!), but I can still exercise powers of deduction. And the clues are all pointing towards tank.

First, the silhouette is of a Daeva riding on some powerful mechanical monstrosity, and it appears quite capable of holding its ground regardless of the waves of foes that crash against it. And anyone with a super-hero background knows that the large, bulky body type is a typical brick class. If you have any doubts, just check out The Hulk, The Thing, and Juggernaut. And for that matter, the warrior class in Aion! Mechanical suits? You wouldn't call Iron Man a caster, now would you?

Secondly, it's logical. Consider gaming's holy trinity; since the first was obviously a damage class, and now the second has been revealed to as a healer, that leaves the tank to fill out the triumvirate. Besides, doesn't it just make sense to have a bit of balance so that groups have one of each archetype when everyone is re-rolling a new class? It would sure be a rough ride if everyone was a gunslinger; not even a cross-server group-finder could conjure healers and tanks out of thin aether!

Of course, since there are four archetypes in Aion (Mage, Priest, Warrior, and Scout), but only three new classes announced for the upcoming 4.0 expansion/update, it leads me to ask: Why are the poor Mages shafted?

Three's company

But four's a crowd. At least that's how it looks right now. And though some have speculated that the new classes could have their own new archetypes (allowing for another three classes to be introduced sometime in the future to balance out), it makes more sense that these three classes will simply be another choice in the current archetypes. Thematically, a gunslinger certainly fits in the scout archetype, and the Troubadour has healing powers, which makes it a Priest. Then if the rider is a tank -- and I am still pretty certain it will be -- it will fit right into the Warrior class. That leaves the Mages out in the cold. Are they left to wallow in only dual-class branching instead of the choice of three?

Here's a thought: The Troubadour is explained as a hybrid of a Cleric and Spirit Master. Could it be perhaps that this new class can actually be chosen from either the Priest or the Mage archetype? That would certainly be an interesting twist. Even if this cross-over selection is not possible, at least the Mage class is represented by melding the Spirit Master into the mix.

Aion concept art
Be healed!

Now the next question is, just how well will this new healer actually heal? Currently, Clerics have a corner on the market. Oh sure, some groups can get by with just a Chanter for PvE, but for PvP it is good to have those power heals raining down on you. Is it possible over-powered clerics are going to lose their favored status once this new class is up and running? NCsoft called the new healer slow and not difficult to play. Perhaps Troubadours will only be a slight step up from Chanters heal-wise. It will be interesting to see more of what these skills will be.

But wait! Cleric is only half of the equation; what about the Spirit Masters? True, an SM who can play his or her class well is dynamite in a group, but how many groups do you know who already pass up an SM in favor of a Sorcerer or a Ranger? Most, admit it. As it is, SMs have difficulty getting groups. Now, since the main advantage of having an SM in group is for the debuffs, will the class become obsolete once the Troubadour can take over this role? Will the terms "group" and "SM" become mutually exclusive? I hope not! Even though I am not a fan of the SM class (I just personally can't get into it), I don't like the idea of any class losing its usefulness and unique abilities. Of course, exact abilities are unknown at this point, so perhaps we shall refrain from judgement until we have more info to go on.

Aion screenshot
A change of heart -- and profession

Listen up NCsoft, because this next question is vital to my gaming happiness: Will you ever offer to sell a class change potion?! Because I badly need one! I would be perfectly fine if my level was reset to zero and I had to start all over again, but I would give a whole heck of a lot to be able to respec my SM to the new Troubadour class. I love the looks, love the name, and love many things about this character -- except for the class. I understand that any bound items of a restricted armor class would become unwearable, and that's OK. I just want to be able to keep who I have without having to remake just because I picked a profession that is not the right fit for me.

Maybe you can allow Clerics and SM's the option to reset themselves to Troubadour even. Think about it, as an SM I am already halfway there! Since I am already half a Troubadour, do you think they'd consider it? I'll be perfectly honest, I also don't want to lose my veteran rewards for the two-plus years I was subbed before the conversion to free-to-play. But since the rewards are no longer claimable, whatever new character I make will be missing the medals, wings, emotes, and various other goodies I earned for being a loyal subscriber. And yes, I'm stubborn for a pair of wings! Now, I'd also accept making all of these items account sharable.

Aion concept artHello, Kitty!

Just a final note about the new classes -- what in tarnation is up with the feline-inspired weaponry? Is it really popular enough to make whole weapons out of kittens? I thought the gun image was a joke example, but now that the cat is also on the Troubadour's instrument of destruction, I have to wonder. Will it be just a skin I can choose to use or, better yet, avoid?

Even worse, with both classes having a version, will the big bad mechanical beast be a giant kitten? Could you even focus on the boss mob if someone in your party was fighting from atop a Hello Kitty head? I am not overly fond of the whimsical weapon skins anyways, and this one is just kinda creepy. Especially if the strings are made with real cat-gut!

Well, now you know my dilemma. One slot, two choices. And soon, we will know even more about the third choice. So which class do you think you will play come 4.0? Will you automatically re-roll into one of the new ones, or will it totally depend on the types of skills each receives? Or will you remain content with the classes and toons you already have? Would you be willing to respec and start again if the option was offered? 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.