Wings Over Atreia: A whole new world, sorta

MJ Guthrie
M. Guthrie|07.19.10

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Wings Over Atreia: A whole new world, sorta
Mergers have come and gone in Aion; the fabric of existence was ripped asunder, then rewoven. In North America, five new worlds now sit where once there were fourteen, and eight replace eighteen in Europe. Using the mergers as a springboard for their apocalyptic rants, naysayers cried out that the end of Aion was nigh, fervently waving their assertions and jeering at current players. NCsoft, on the other hand, quietly offered promises of a better world, catering to the desires of players for more conflict. To my knowledge, there were no Daevas flinging themselves from the spires of Pandaemonium or Sanctum, nor did any economy crumble and collapse. Fatalities were nil -- well, not counting any local qooqoo sacrifices made in the name of server harmony and stability.

So, here we are now at "doomsday plus five." How did things fare? Let's glide past the cut and take a look at the aftermath.
Aion did, in fact, deliver on its main promise with the mergers; as anticipated, the population grew significantly, impacting both PvP and PvE play-styles. A few predicted annoyances cropped up along with the boom (can we say unable to load in game because of too many players!), but overall, in-game players expressed positive feedback about their new worlds.

The good

While some have been vocally using the mergers as proof that Aion is dying, those who actually play the game found more reasons to log in. Or -- more accurately -- more targets. For those who joined the game for the PvP element, the mergers have been quite the blessing, injecting new life into combat by providing more opponents. Large-scale clashes are more prevalent outside of the abyss as rifters invade territory and protectors are called out in response. Some groups are even planning regular invasion nights. Where once Daevas walked more freely, wary of only single threats, larger groups and alliances are sweeping across the lands, clearing a swath through their enemies.

If you are really looking for a fight, logic (and game design) tells you that the best place to go would be the Abyss, right? Although this may have been a stretch to believe pre-merger, many players are happy to report that there are, indeed, more opponents just waiting to be struck down in Reshanta. Now, even knowing that -- nay, expecting -- abyss warfare to be bolstered, and eagerly searching for more of those beautiful big red dots, some players (including myself) still weren't quite prepared for that first mad dash for fortress control. Porting to the upper Abyss brought this writer right smack into the middle of an intense sea of red. Death was swift in that moment; I couldn't even take my first step. Undaunted, I found another way up and joined with a giant wave of blue for retribution. Although sometimes a chaotic mass where you cannot quite tell up from down, large scale aerial warfare can be very exciting, and is preferred by many over one-on-one or small-group combat. l listened to one player giggle gleefully as he watched his kill count for one night match one-eighth of his total lifetime kills since launch.

Siege warfare has also seen an improvement in participation. Calls go out and Daevas answer, rushing en masse to fight for control of the fortresses. With so many more combatants, Deity Generals seem to melt so much faster, like tossing water on a wicked witch; Divine Fortress fell in only 25 minutes on New Israphel Saturday morning, after a surprise vulnerability at 1:00 a.m. Eastern jolted sleepy Daevas into action.

For those lucky enough to log in initially, players found major hubs filled to the brim with others hawking their wares in personal shops, advertising for groups, and just plain clogging up the streets. The sheer numbers of Daevas was a sight to see. Another benefit is a larger selection of goods on the broker; items that weren't seen before were toted over by the new neighbors. And although a few prices shot up shortly after merge, they are settling back down. Some players even made out like bandits, finding pretty impressive deals due to the mixing of the various economies.

The bad

Unfortunately, the plethora of enemy targets was not enjoyed by all Daeva. Reminiscent of the launch-day queues (shudder), a number of players could not even access the game. If you were unfortunate enough to log out in a major hub and didn't log in within minutes of servers coming online, you played the game of one-second logs before being promptly disconnected due to too many players! Some

I listened to one player giggle gleefully as he watched his kill count for one night match one-eighth of his total lifetime kills since launch.

people couldn't log in anywhere except newbie lands, leading to anxiety over the possible loss of names. Yours truly spent over 100 minutes trying to get into game. Luckily, this problem did not extend beyond a couple of hours on the first night.

Initial log-ins weren't the only casualty of the influx of players. When confronted by the sea of red and my initial "Oh my..." trailed off, my wonder at the vast scale of the fight was quickly replaced with disappointment -- even with all graphics reduced to minimum (certainly NOT a fun way to look at the game, but at times, necessary), I was unable to move and my game turned into a slide-show. Even decent machines chugged to a standstill. Some players finally left for the night in disgust after they disconnected repeatedly and returned to find themselves dead, not once able to defend themselves. Sadly, these players were excited for the increased combat, which made them even more disappointed that they could not participate. These players are sitting back, resigned that they cannot continue their gaming.

The invasion of rifters also disrupted those players who were trying to focus on PvE. While admittedly not a main focus of the game, this content is still a very necessary feature, and many gave up trying to play; until a swarm of comrades could come by and clear out the enemy troops, many lower levels were pinned in villages and unable to venture out to continue any quests.

And the ugly

Unfortunately, the larger the crowd, the more we see the baser side of human nature. While able to hide behind a screen, sometimes players in any MMO find it all too easy to harass others. In at least two confirmed cases, someone actually did take the name of another prominent player just out of spite. Players bragging about how they "screwed-over" another player, just for the fun of it, left a sour taste in the mouth of many. Thankfully, for this offense there is an appeals process. Additionally. instances of reported kill-stealing were up among the same faction, along with the crass, crude, or otherwise insulting remarks that accompany it.

While the game has a built-in system to prevent cross-faction badmouthing (although using translators and store-mode circumvent this), there is no such reprieve from the rantings, ravings, and antics of your compatriots. The same moaning and groaning and finger pointing happens in the LFG channel -- the difference now being the volume! Even more annoying, was finding that there is a fairly low limit to the number of people you can actually block. Unless you have advanced skills in speed reading, along with a natural ability to filter out the trolling drivel, I wouldn't suggest trying to follow along for too long. Many players are opting to simply shut off their LFG channel and avoid it unless absolutely necessary.

Overall, the mergers were a success, and brought more life back to a key feature that had been MIA in Aion. Those who left the game before due to lack of conflict, would do themselves well to sharpen their swords (or wave their books, or what have you), and join back in the fun. Although there was some initial lag, it seems to have smoothed out for the most part, and players are enjoying the increased combat, both against enemies and with companions. And with 2.0 coming in just seven weeks, you have time to perfect your combat skills before taking on the Balaur on their home turf!

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