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We were given the chance to beta test NCSoft’s AION this weekend. The live event went from July 31st – August 3rd and focused on Elyos and Asmodian Levels 1-30. While we didn’t make it all the way to 30 we did get the chance to check out the game up to level 10. I have to say that I was a bit skeptical of this game just because of NCSoft’s history of repeating content in games. I also was not a big fan of Guild Wars once it got into full swing but was very interested when it was in its early development. I hope that won’t be the case with AION.

From first impressions I can tell you that AION is a mix between Guild Wars and Lineage II. Even if you have a less than adequate PC you can still run AION with all low settings and it’s still gorgeous. On full settings the graphics are even more amazing and most top end machines don’t even hiccup when playing. So the beauty of the game definitely caught my attention but I was more interested in the questing and crafting systems. I doubted I’d even get to see any type of crafting since the focus of the event was simply leveling so I hunkered down and went in search of those who needed help.

Like most any other MMO you’ll find that locating quests is pretty easy. NPC’s have a blue triangle above their head and require that you perform certain tasks in order to gain experience. While the system isn’t much different the story line certainly is. Much of the translation needs to be fixed because certain words, I think, need to be changed. Without giving away too much of the story I can tell you that your first 10 levels are rich with story about how you got to be where you are. You’re also not stuck in the “noobie” zone for that long. You will move very quickly from the starter area to the more advanced area quite quickly.

Some of the things I really enjoyed about this game are, obviously, the wings you get once you ascend. I like that there are no bags and you get a default “cube” that can be expanded by purchasing new cube slots. Another interesting thing that I think holds a lot of potential is death penalties. Of all the systems I’ve seen for death penalties I think I like AION’s the best. You can buy back any lost experience from a Spirit Healer. The more you lose and the higher your level will increase the cost greatly. Lastly, I love the fact that priests get to wear chain mail armor with a mace and shield. There’s nothing better than a battle cleric who can take a beating, no more of this cloth crap.

Now let’s look at some of the downsides to the game, which so far there aren’t many. The UI needs quite a bit of work because customization is pretty much nonexistent. Certain game functions could also do with customization like not being able to zoom in and out on your character without a mouse wheel. If you don’t have a mouse wheel than you’re pretty much stuck with whatever view they give you, which makes it hard to see. Spells and skill get “chain” effects which means upon using one another may appear. The only problem with this is you can’t queue up spells and abilities that don’t have chains. Lastly I think the flight system could also use a bit of work because there is a glide feature that frankly doesn’t glide all that well. I found myself dive bombing towards the ground more than I was gliding gracefully.

So far this game has done extremely well in closed beta. I’ve beta tested many popular MMORPG’s and this is by far one of the best weekend events I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending. Things ran pretty smooth and as for the player base you could tell there were quite a lot of experienced people on. This made it much more enjoyable and worth putting time into. I see this game being able to rival many of the top MMO’s out at the moment and I’m hoping it does.

We’d like to share some of our experience in closed beta with you the fans. Here are a handful of screenshots we took for your viewing pleasure:

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