I have been watching the AION game for some time, and since it was released in this country by NCSoft, I had hoped that they would use the same model as they do with Guild Wars, which is purchase followed by FTP [no subscription]. Well they apparently are greedy, and have gone with the WoW model, which is Pay for the game and then pay $15 / month. Sorry, but I’m not interested in this model.
However, I have found a FTP Private server. Oddly enough. GameZ AION is a private server with enhanced EXP, Currency and Drop rates.
Problems with the Game
I won’t be doing a full review here, I’m sure you can find lots of those on the web. I’ll just be relating some of my own issues and observations after playing the game for a few hours.
It takes a very long time to install the game. The install procedure at GameZ involves downloading and installing the NCSoft installer which will install the client. However, it doesn’t download it quickly, but runs it into your computer over about an hours time. This is because it’s a very large client. 18 GB on your hard drive. Yes, that’s Eighteen Gigabytes. Most MMO clients are between 1 and 2 GB. This is a whopping 18GB. Once you install the game using the NCSoft installer, you install and start another small program which directs the program to GameZ. Don’t start the program normally since it will point to the NCSoft servers.
Once you start the game you can create a character of either race. There is something funny going on at NCSoft regarding races. Apparently they did allow two races, and then they didn’t for a while, and now they do, but they soon will only allow one race per account per server. What a mess. Well GameZ confirms that you can have accounts with both races, so don’t worry about any pop-ups from the game that indicate that your characters will have to be moved.
There are a bewildering number of character options, mostly in body shape. Have fun, or not.
The name format restrictions are lame. A single word with a leading capital letter, and no spaces. But at least you can check to see if your name is available.
The graphics are awesome. Over the top. Although all the environments I’ve seen are muddy and dark. The problem is that you better have a high end, very high end, system to run this game on. As you can guess from the client download size, this will push modern systems to the brink. I have a high end laptop [Alienware m15x] that is 4 years old and it is tapped out running this game. I suggest you have more than 4GB of memory. The client is over 1GB of memory, so less than 4GB does not cut it. My laptop is 4GB, but I don’t get to use it all due to 32bit Vista memory usage, and it’s barely enough memory with the OS and Firefox to read the wiki. There is a very nice wiki however. Check it out. I found the quests I needed when I got stuck.
Also you need a very high end graphics card with more than 512MB of graphics memory.
Desktop machines will fair better with this game.
The performance on my laptop was herky jerky especially in town. Pandemonium is a huge city. I’m not sure whether this is the server or my laptop, but I suspect that it is my laptop. I don’t have the patience to install the game on my high end desktop to determine which it is.
Game play is of course colored by the private server high exp/drop rates. You are quickly at level 9 and asked to ascend before you really get started, but there are several issues that show up immediately.
Picking up loot is a chore.
Every kill requires opening a dialog and scrolling down to pickup what you want from the kill. And each time you right click to select an item you are tossed back to he beginning of the list and have to scroll down again. Bad design. What were they thinking. One of the problems is that the inventory is so small that you have to be careful or you will instantly fill it.
Only 27 slots in your inventory. Apparently they want you to spend real money in the store to expand your bag. Notice the high currency after only a little while playing the game. That’s a good thing.
Navigation is the Real Problem
But the show stopper for me is the navigation. As I have mentioned with other games that I’ve reviewed here, navigation can make or break a game play experience. And it breaks this one.
The quest log is designed by someone who has not played the game. You have to open too many windows to get from the quest log to a marker on the map. You open the quest log, then you click on the quest, and as you can see there are a pile of them. Mostly because NPCs tend to dump groups of quests into your quest log when you complete one quest. Then when the panel on the right is open, you click on a blue name – the target or the NPC for the quest, and up pops another dialog with a Locate button in it. All I wanted was a marker on the map, and I had to type a key and click three times? Showstopper.
The quest tracker shows the quests that you have checked in the log.
But none of the items in the quest tracker are click-able. So no help there.
Once you do get a marker, you can get a transparent overlay map like this to navigate with.
This is a reasonable and innovative idea. N toggles this display so it’s easy to bring up or dismiss as you fly along. You will be doing quite a bit of flying as it turns out. Wings are available for both races from the start.
Not only is navigation a problem, but quests lead you all over the place, when you cannot fly, or run more than a few seconds. So it takes freaking forever. Here’s an example:
I just finished one part of the quest called “Fear This” in the Mumu Village on the left part of the map, the next part of the quest is to talk to the NPC at the cross on the right part of the map. I can’t fly in this area. I have to walk. There is a “charge” skill that allows you to run for about 10 sec every 4 minutes. Big deal. Ok, I get that they want me to open up more of the map. Notice that the NPC is in an area where I have not yet been. But I can’t TP, I have to walk. So to walk, since there is no Auto-Route. I have to hold down the W key and steer for about 10 minutes to get there. That’s just plain bad design. A waste of time.
This is too much game for my laptop. Maybe someday. The herky jerky lag, probably due to my laptop, makes the game no fun to play.
Update: I installed this on the Core I-7 quad processor, 6GB machine and it’s not herky-jerky at all. It took over an hour to install and the program file folder is over 21GB.
The quest navigation is too much of a pain. If the performance was good, I might put up with that for a while. The long runs to complete quests are just plain torture, there’s no getting around it. While the landscape is beautiful – if it wasn’t so dark and colorless in most places – does not make up for the fact that it takes so long to get around between places to complete simple quests.
Maybe later on some new laptop in a year or two. Interesting to try, but not a keeper now.