Last played: 2012
Aion is really pretty. It’s almost too pretty.
Aion is a different kind of pretty than something like Guild Wars 2, which I think looks good because of the artists behind the game. Aion, on the other hand, looks good due to sheer processing power, and when it came out in 2009, it blew a lot of people, myself included, away. The game’s received graphical updates since, but still looks very good in older screenshots for a game that was launched five years ago:
It’s a game that a lot of my Lord of the Rings Online kinmates were really hyped for back in 2009 and, based on their recommendations and the previews in Massive Online Gamer (which I was just a freelance writer for at the time), I gave it a shot.
If Aika was the last game I played before I figured out that I didn’t like “grind until you get to the fun stuff” and “here’s the one thing we do different but you’ll barely get to see it” MMOs, then Aion was the first that did this to me. I slogged through the first 10 levels, picking through the dirt before I was finally accepted into the city of the Ascended. There was a lovely ceremony where I got my wings, which I then took for a test drive outside the city. Woo! I was flying! That’s what the game was about, right? That’s what all the images, all the press, all the excitement was about! Wings! Flying!
Then I left the city to continue my adventures and my wings were clipped. Other than the occasional short-term glide, I basically had to walk everywhere, following the specific paths through the wilderness laid out for me. When I hit the content gap at level 13 and had to literally grind mobs to advance, I figured I’d had enough. I picked it back up after it went free-to-play a couple years later, but other than fixing that gap, I was still at least 10 levels (so someone told me) before I’d get to do the cool flying PvP.
Aion has remained popular for people willing to work through the initial doldrums and get to what’s probably a really cool-looking, if derivative, endgame. If it had come out a little earlier, it might have kept people around long enough to not suffer as it did after launch. But by 2009, there were finally starting to be enough similar-feeling MMOs out there for people to realize they had options, and even a ridiculously pretty face couldn’t save the day.