If you haven't checked back into Aion in a while, now might be the time to start plotting your return. Next week on January 28th NCsoft is introducing a special new experience for those who have been away from the game for more than 30 days; it includes special zones called Abbeys that provide exclusive bonuses as well as quests and gear upgrades. Even better, if one of the reasons you left was the frustration involved in losing all your equipment's manastones when you failed to socket a final stone, you'll be even happier to learn that that particular mechanic is being removed from the game! That's right: Aion players will no longer risk losing already successfully socketed manastones when trying to put another one in (a much needed change that I championed years ago!).
We've got the scoop on these new changes from Associate Product Manager Sean Orlikowski -- along with news of an upcoming Shugo event instance and the breakthrough system that raises enchantment levels -- in this special return of Wings Over Atreia.
Benefits to bring you back
It is not uncommon for special events or gifts to bring long-absent players back to the game
-- at least temporarily. Expansions and major updates have quite a pull as well. But therein lies the rub: Expansions and even events can't happen all the time. Players can't always match up their interest in returning to a specific date; a special event's scheduled run might not be convenient for some players, so they just skip it and find their interest wane again. And once the event is over, what's to keep the player in Aion? Temporary events might entice players back to log in daily to secure some goodies, but players need a reason to become engaged in Atreia again to make the return something more than just a temporary fling. That's where the Abbeys come in.
Devs have designed a new, permanent edition to the game that offers exclusive benefits to the returning players to help get them up-to-speed and engaged in the world. These two instances, Wisplight Abbey for the Elyos and Fatebound Abbey for the Asmodians, are located in the main cities and are areas just like Convent of Marchutan or the Priory. Only players who haven't logged in for at least 30 days prior to returning are eligible to enter the Abbeys, a benefit that extends to every level 10+ Daeva on the account. Admittance privileges, however, expire after 30 days.
In the Abbeys, players will find quests, buffs, and other bonuses (like the Energy of Repose recharge pad) to help them speed up their leveling out in the wilds of Atreia. As a bonus, some of these buffs -- like boosted instance rewards -- will transfer to all members of the returning player's party, so there's definitely incentive to join up with returning folks! The tasks offered in these instances are focused on players level 46 and above to give a boost in order to get to the endgame content. Although any level 10+ charcter can enter, the quests will not be available to the lower levels. As Orlikowski explained, "Once you've picked up your quests, you can use a series of portals to take you all around Atreia to complete your Abbey quests."
Fixing the reviled manastone mechanic
And a choir of Daevas sang praises! Sometimes it take a while for my Aion wishes to come true, but there have certainly been times when my wish list dwindled because certain things were actually granted, like housing, block lists, mounts, and specialized quest item and currency cubes. But one of my earliest desires was never fulfilled -- until now. I couldn't even tell you how many times I had pleaded for a change in how manastone socketing worked in Aion. In 2011's Twelve Days of Solorius in 2011, I wrote,
I know I do not stand alone in the desire to alter the mechanics of manastones; stop, I repeat, stop making every single manastone break when one fails! Hook this right into the enchantment stone system and allow for just the loss of the last stone socketed.
It may have taken a while, but my wish is finally being granted in the next update. And not only that, but it's being done in a way that's even better than my own suggestion. I'd proposed to have the next-to-last stone blow up, much like you lose a level of enchantment when you fail. However, what NCsoft is doing instead is just lowering the chance of success for each manastone while leaving all previously slotted stones intact even if the next socket attempt fails. Devs have found that with this new system, "players will require significantly fewer stones (60% fewer) Manastones to completely socket their gear." Talk about good news! If you are like me, you've gone through 100+ manastones on a single item before; in fact, a couple of my pieces still have one open slot because I just didn't dare chance it anymore and was going broke trying.
Another Aion Breakthrough (System)
It might be a good thing that the manastone mechanic is not mirroring the enchantment system because that system is getting a big change. Currently, players can enchant their equipment up to +15; nothing about that is changing. What is changing is the fact that +15 is no longer the cap for enchanted gear! In fact, there is no cap. In this new Breakthrough System, players can eradicate the enchantment cap and enchant their weapons and armor as high as they want to.
Using a special "Breakthrough Tool" and a "Breakthrough Stone," players literally break through the enchantment cap barrier. Even better, breaking through is 100% guaranteed! Want a +52 dagger? It is possible. Additionally, when the breakthrough item goes beyond +20 enhancement, one enhancement skill is randomly granted to the item. Even Purified items can go through this procedure. That's a lot of power, so what's the catch? The catch is no matter how high you enchant the piece, one failure in enchanting will drop it back down to +15 and you will have to start all over, including using a new tool and stone.
If you are feeling very brave and inordinately lucky, you can acquire your Breakthrough Tools from general goods merchant NPCs in both capital cities and stones from the bosses of some instances. Alternately, players can use another copy of the exact item they are attempting to Breakthrough instead of using a stone (helpful if you keep winning an item you already have!).
More Shugo vaults!
A week after these changes take place, a new limited-time event instance will open up. Called Shugo Emperor's Vault, this one will be themed like the Shugo Kingdom Adventures of yore but with a twist. Players will take on the role of one of three Shugo classes: the Sorcerer, the Templar, or the Gladiator. Each class has a separate flavor and different skills.
As players fight through this instance and defeat monsters, they will earn points. Once the instance is cleared, players will have access to a treasure vault filled with treasure boxes. To get free keys to unlock these boxes, players must get a high score in the instance; the higher your rank, the more free keys you earn. Additionally, keys can be purchased via the Black Cloud Marketplace. Because this version of keys can be traded, they can be sold or given to other players. The Shugo Emperor's Vault will be available from February 4th until the 18th.
Soaring through the Aionosphere, MJ Guthrie touches down on occasion 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 email@example.com.