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...But I honestly feel what it tries to do, it does well. I encourage you to read what I am about to say and form your own opinions from there.
After a few hours ingame, my first though was...this feels like a shinier WoW. And I ~hate~ WoW. I can't stand people comparing every game to WoW, but I'd be a fool to ignore the game's draw. Aion works on a similar system, quests guiding you through the lands, being the main drive to all your exploring and level-up-ing. I guess what I mean is, the game feels very comfortable and familiar; the casual player will not feel out of their element while playing. It's very easy to jump right in and start enjoying the game.
On day 2 of my gaming, playing casually between laundry and school work, my character (Cleric) is almost level 18. I still have tons of quests I haven't done, even some from way back at level 12, mostly because I keep opening up new lands as I explore/hunt, with new npcs that need my help. These aren't just 'kill x mob' (though admittedly, most of them are) but I've been sent to piece a living statue back together, to find a wedding ring, to transform into a monster and scout their territory, help a kobold and a shugo (cat/ferret type thing) fall in love, etc. Most of these quests, NOT JUST THE MAIN STORYLINE QUEST, come with cut scenes! My favorite are the ones that involve my character, but they're all quite cinematic and enjoyable.
Most people seem to think the grind begins above level 25, so I can't accurately say whether or not the game is grindy, though from the community manager's words I would assume it is not; Liv and Ayase have both suggested both the Korean and Chinese versions are geared toward that audience, and in the westernization process for both US/EU much more quests are implemented and the grind toned down for our side of the world, which is generally more casual. I will give them the benefit of the doubt until then, though honestly with a level cap of 50 I don't mind having to put some effort into getting there. As long as there continue to be fun things to do, I will enjoy the journey. It can't all be about levels.
As for specs, the game is gorgeous and runs ridiculously smooth. I have no idea how they managed this; I've played games not even a 10th as pretty that lag me to hell and back. Granted, playing Aion sets my computer humming like a *censored* but still, even in towns surrounded by people I don't lag, though there is an occasional latency spike in those situations. It's never happened in battle though, and for that much I'm thankful for. I imagine even that will happen less when the game launches and there is more than one server/race for people to chose from, spreading out the population.
Honestly, I don't feel like I'm playing an MMORPG. I feel more like I'm playing an online console game, like "Infinite Undiscovery"; a very pretty mostly solo game where you recruit people for occasional, difficult PvE things (like one of the story missions where you must infiltrate a base filled with elites, impossible to solo unless very high level and by then, why would you want to?). I haven't experienced large-scale PvP yet, but through some dueling I can say the so-called "hardcore" players may not enjoy Aion; the battles are fun, especially with the combo skill system, but it's nothing new. Select target, pwn away. Those looking to jump around or run in circles so attacks miss, a la Darkfall, will not be happy with this commonplace system.
No game can please everyone, but I would definitely suggest people give the game a try before dumping on it. Still, if you're not the kind of person that enjoys games like WoW or LOTRO, Aion may not do much for you. Even after the beta events are over, should you be interested and unable to get into one, every NCSoft game has free trials, so I'm sure everyone will get some play time in regardless. Below are some screenshots for your enjoyment. My graphics card isn't great, its an NVidia GeForce 7900S (256) so I may not be doing the screens justice, but they're still quite pretty to me.
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