Battle of innovations
Innovation. It seems that every new game being developed is laying claim to this phrase. How can you take a tried and true format at truly make it innovative? Do you rely on stunning graphic elements, realistic physics, creative storylines or unique gameplay elements? In the case of NCSoft's Aion: Tower of Eternity, the answer is a resounding "Yes!" to all of the above. The new MMORPG will drop players into a world they have never seen before, with challenges and elements like nothing before. In a broad-reaching attempt to redefine MMORPGs, Aion promises to bring the players a new level of control over their entire world, not just their individual players or alliances.
The world of Aion is populated by Angels (The Chosen) and Demons (The Fallen). These two factions are similar in design and feel, with expected variations in character attributes and appearance. Both will have functional wings, allowing the player to fly between locations throughout the game world. The game is built around the concept of player-driven storylines. Every action of the individual players on individual servers will have a significant impact on the world of the game. Accumulated activities will lead to events such as the opening of new dungeons, or the rising of a world completely different from where the player begins.
Visually stunning graphics are a promise often made when a new game is being promoted, and in this case it is definitely deserved. You will see heat shimmering near the ground, or mists rising from the marsh. And the physics of these elements will be as realistic as you could expect. Each material will behave differently, so wading through shallow water or striding through tall grass will both slow your character, but in different ways. The weather effects will also have a big impact on the game. Not only will you have to move differently in a driving rainstorm, you also might want to think twice before casting a fireball in the downpour. Hint: make sure you learn some water-based spells to avoid this problem.
Moving from place to place is one of the most time consuming elements of any MMORPG, and Aion has brought a unique solution in the form of flight. You will be able to spread your wings and soar from one place to another. Early reports are that the flight is linear from place to place, but we can hold out hope for something more free-roaming by the time the game arrives.
How about some hurtin'?
All the pretty trees and running rivers don't mean squat if you don't get to throw down some hurtin' on other players. Thankfully, Aion will step up with some promising new gameplay innovations. Most MMORPGs have two different gameplay styles. Players can battle the various critters and monsters of the world (Player vs Environment), or players can gang up on each other (Player vs Player) in epic battles for control of the game world. Aion claims to be the first game to combine the two, calling itself a PvPvE game.
The two factions of players, Angels and Demons, will battle each other, of course. When one faction begins to gain too much control of the the world, a third faction will emerge to restore the balance: Dragons! The fire-worms will not be player controlled, but will be the most intelligent and dangerous of the computer-controlled elements. So, once you and you buddies are sitting pretty after conquering your latest realm, it's best keep an eye out for more trouble.
There will be eight character classes, including Warrior, Ranger, Wizard and Healer. Other classes have yet to be announced. Each character will be unique, with ornate armor and weapons. And please don't forget the wings! As mentioned before, your character will affect the game world itself. All of your stats and actions will be recorded, as well as how you interact with other players. Over time, these will change the way that the game behaves. So, what works for you when you start the game might be completely different once you've spent a lot of time playing.
Aion is supposedly enhanced for solo play, so you will be able to jump in and play at any time, continually driving the story further. It will also support the creation of parties of up to 6 players, for some cooperative warfare. I expect this will come in handy when the Dragons show up to even the odds against your factions. Aion definitely offers an intriguing promise, and it will be interesting to see how well the game delivers. We will all find out for sure when Aion releases worldwide in 2007.