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The Digital Continuum: A week with Aion

Kyle Horner

After spending a week playing Aion over every other game in my library -- a feat considering I've got Brutal Legend and Uncharted 2 -- I'm feeling ready to discuss the game in a meaningful fashion.

It's hard to gauge what kind of game you're dealing with when an MMO launches, largely because the reality is that, often times, much of what an MMO is designed to be will change over the course of its first half year or so of development. With Aion, we're dealing with a deliberately designed concept that's been mostly well executed on -- more on that later.

What I really want to dig into right away is how much this game feels and plays like the greatest hits album of many past features seen in the genre. A greatest hits album has its upside in that it's got all your favorite songs from a band you really like. The downside? It doesn't feel like a cohesive album, and surprisingly, that's more of an issue than you'd imagine.

Now, some people are looking for a greatest hits kind of experience -- I myself have been enjoying the game for what it's worth. The issue becomes one of freshness. Some people would like a game that challenges them with new ideas and that's one thing Aion really doesn't do too well. It doesn't ask you to try this new concept out for a spin, just in case it might work out for the better. It's like a cold pizza you really enjoyed when it was piping hot in the box: It's still good, but you've tasted this before.

With that said, much of what I've been playing has kept me happy with my $60 purchase. In particular, I've enjoyed the skill chaining system in combat as it helps make the game feel less like a vanilla pseudo turn-based experience.

Moreso, I've been quite pleased with the graphics. If there's one area Aion stands out -- at least for the moment -- it's the graphics department. "Visually stunning" is a phrase you could use that would lie somewhere within the acceptable realm of videogame writing terminology. I personally like to say Aion is full of ocular confectionery, just because words are fun.

So when a game is cold pizza, how long can you play it? That's a good question. Let me be clear: My highest level character is a 17 Gladiator, so I haven't delved into PvPvE (or whatever I should call it) at this point. I do plan to get there, because Aion is definitely an incomplete experience without it. So when I say cold pizza, I'm referring simply to the first 20 levels. Although it could be argued that since the grind is so slow, it's fair to base an opinion on it by those first levels. I simply disagree, which is why I'll be playing more.

Well, that and I'm having fun.

And that's the thing -- don't let the people blowing the gold spam out of proportion scare you into not giving Aion a chance. If you've seen videos and read opinions that largely please you, I'd most definitely recommend the game to you. And if you don't know what it's about, I can easily sum up the first 20 levels here.

One part beautiful Crytek Engine + Two parts solid theme park MMO design = Aion

Beyond that, it's all subjective opining on anyone elses' part. I mean, if the game interests you purely from an artistic standpoint, then why are you even reading this? You know you want it.

And next week? PvP!

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