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Wings Over Atreia: From Shugos to splitting up, Aion's instances are evolving

MJ Guthrie

Today I was all set to focus my energies and words on cajoling NCsoft to not do certain things to Aion. I was poised to carefully blend pleading, ranting, and even some common sense into the perfect concoction to convince the studio to avoid introducing various trappings to Atreia. Then, surely as a means to distract me from said designs, the studio released news about the new instances coming after 4.0. Wait -- after?! A ha! Yet more fodder to add to my nonononono rant; after all, who wants to be teased about things coming after an expansion we don't even have a date for yet?

However, after a bit more reflection I decided that -- for today at least -- I'd rather applaud the company for looking at new ways to approach instances instead of rail on it for sharing the info so darned early. Perhaps it's the whole "you can catch more sparkies with honey than vinegar" approach, but the truth of the matter is I am happy with the direction this latest announcement portends. Aion is integrating variety into the dungeon-diving sphere, and that's a move that can only be good for the game.

Even better, you don't actually have to wait until after 4.0 to experience the first rumblings of this shift. Thanks to the Shugo Kingdom Adventure event going on now, Daevas can try their hands/claws at a new (though temporary) dungeon experience,

What about these new dungeons has me hopeful for the future of Aion? Let's dive right in and take a look.

Offical Aion Image
With the exception of the Shugo adventure, the new dungeons won't see the light of day for who knows how long, so why bother to get worked up over them at all? Because it shows that NCsoft is still moving forward and thinking ahead in regard to the longevity of Aion. Because been there, done that does wear thin after a while.

Even when new zones are introduced with their flashy new places to explore, the dungeon mechanics throughout the game have remained relatively unchanged. Most places go a little something like this: clear trash mobs, kill boss, move on to next trash mobs, rinse and repeat. Of course there are variations, but this pretty well covers it. Folks do tire of the monotony of this cycle, and it becomes just another an exercise in grinding. However, the upcoming dungeons are throwing in more than just a few tweaks -- they're tossing in a helping of full-on new features as well.

Official Aion image
To each his own

Although not listed first in the announcement, Dunar Shelter was the dungeon that really caught my eye and made me take notice. Dunar Shelter really diverges from the standard dungeon mold, literally. Players will actually split into three groups, each one taking a different path to the end boss. This feature alone gives this dungeon brownie points in my eyes as something new. But that's not even the best part!

What really sets this instance apart is that it causes players to think outside of the box when it comes to facing and defeating challenges by spotlighting skills other than just battle prowess. You see, although the first path is all about killing mobs quickly, the second and third paths require something a little different. Behind door number two Daevas will find a room that requires manipulation of cannon and updrafts in order to exit, and the third door opens to a jumping puzzle. All who successfully navigate their paths will then reunite at the boss.

I know it's like a gajillion years off, but I cannot wait to dive into this dungeon! There simply aren't enough opportunities in Aion to use skills other then pew pew to contribute and advance, so I hope this is just the start of many.

Another instance of splitting up in an instance will be in Ophidan Bridge. In this case, however, Daevas will need to keep control of key points simultaneously while fending off the Balaur who want those points, so fighting appears very much involved for all participants. In a sort of fortress siege minigame, the group will have to destroy generators in order to lower a bridge and destroy the Runic Siege Gun.

Official Aion image
Hold the line!

With the exception of maybe fortress sieges, there aren't many cases of facing wave after wave of enemies while protecting a point. Plenty of other games have utilized this tower defense kind of mechanism, so why not Aion?

The Impenetrable Bastion will offer just this experience to Daevas. An alliance of 24 Daevas will have to stand firm and defeat the onslaught of enemies until such time as the boss decides to make his appearance. In a system reminiscent of Dark Poeta times, loot will be calculated based on the rank the alliance earns at the conclusion of the battles (rank being dependent on how long it takes and the score summary of all battles).

This type of dungeon has built-in replayability as folks work to improve their ranks and ultimately gain better loot rewards.

Old familiar faces

Of course, there's nothing wrong with tweaking more familiar systems to add new twists and turns. For instance, Kamar Battlefield ups the Dredgion ante by pitting 12 against 12 in a race to secure the most points. Adding to the new feel of this dungeon is the fact that vehicles are included for use inside.

In Sauro Logistic base, players will earn a higher-level boss (with higher-level loot drops) for each key they collect from named mobs along the way. Though it's not a completely new concept (after all, fighting or avoiding named mobs affected the boss fight in Kromede's Trial), the base will still sport a twist at the end: The final battle has a time limit. Daevas are warned that after about 6.5 minutes, the final boss will become impossible to defeat. No pressure, really!

Aion screenshot
Shugo for a day

But let's stop gazing off into the horizon for a minute and enjoy the new little experience we have before us right now. Until March 27th, Daevas can experience some tower defense fun in the Shugo Imperial Tomb. The tomb appears to mimic the concept Impenetrable Bastion (you'll be staving off waves of enemies until the boss appears) with the notable exception being that players will be transformed into Shugos and have only special Shugo skills for the duration of the instance. Worried about not having high enough gear to participate? Don't. All players are on completely equal footing regardless of gear and stats.

Aion screenshotSadly, this instance is level-locked; only those level 51 and higher can enter. It also requires a group of two or three. Is it worth it? Even if you discount the fun factor, in the words of one Daeva, "The rewards range from decent to amazing." The top prize is one of two sets of eternal wings with stats. You can also come away with Stormwing armor and weapons! If, like me, you want to dive in and try to complete your Stormwing set, just keep in mind that the Tomb has a cool-down timer that resets every morning at 10 a.m. Eastern, so plan accordingly.

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow

Time sure creeps by when you have to wait! The worst part is we don't even know how long we have to wait for all these new dungeons and their more unique features, considering we need 4.0 to launch first. Since we have such a long wait ahead of us, I'd like to propose something for NCsoft's consideration: Let's see more of these changes in all level ranges. While I am energized that these changes are inbound, I'd really like to see this philosophy manifest itself in more than just the max-level content. What's wrong with sprinkling a few more dungeons in the lower-tiered lands once in a while? And while we're at it, why not make the limited-time instance scale to level ranges with appropriate gear rewards?

At least with Shugo Kingdom Adventure, many of us can get a taste of some of the upcoming mechanics, even if only a nibble (and for a short time). I know I plan on taking advantage of the opportunity, and you can join me! Tune into Massively TV next Thursday as I livestream my own run through Imperial Tomb.

Soaring through the Aionosphere, MJ Guthrie touches down biweekly 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

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