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After giving Aion more than a fair try for the first 6 months of it's life here in the NA, I threw in the towel and moved on. Returning to this game sure has been exciting, and has also held my attention far longer than I expected it to. This writing is more geared to those who quit the game like I did at some point.
I had a level 50 ranger on the Elyos side when I resubbed, along with a few other mid level characters, but I found it to be a pain to try and relearn all of my skills. So I decided to start out fresh, and began leveling up a chanter and a cleric. I had given away most everything I had when I quit, which made it a bit more challenging starting from scratch.
Poeta, the Elyos starting area, much like I remembered it. The graphics and music were still outstanding. The quests were the same, and still very linear, although I did skip every quest except for the level 9 campaign on my cleric, which is needed to hit level 10 and choose your class (ascend). On each character it took me around 1 hour or so to hit 10. I would guess a newer player might take 2-3 hours or more depending on how many of the quests they actually read or how much scenery they stopped to look at.
Welcome to Verteron, and my least favorite area in this entire game. I do still enjoy parts of it, namely the Krall area/quests. This area to me though is entirely too linear with the questing and there isn't a lot of wiggle room to do anything but be in the place where you are supposed to be. Haramel is a new solo instance added to the area that I believe is for players 18-22. I ran it 2-3 times on both the cleric and chanter. The instance is nothing special, and actually somewhat boring, but the gear is decent and the exp is very good. It definitely helped speed up the leveling process.
Being in Eltnen again was refreshing. The area is much more open than the previous two. Leveling is no longer linear as you can also visit Theobomos at 20, which I did not visit this time around. The options began to open up quite a bit at 25 with repeatables, elite areas like Kaidan Mines, and the Abyss. The Abyss is accessible at level 25 after completing a quest, and is the only area in the game that you can fly around anywhere in. There are plenty of places to quest/grind and even pvp if you are lucky enough to not have your face ripped off by someone 10 levels higher than you. Nochsana Training Camp or NTC, the first group dungeon, is available at level 25 and located in the Abyss. The instance was fun and helps you to learn your role in group play for more challenging dungeons to come. The quests, especially campaigns, seem to reward much more experience than before.
This is where most players hit the wall when leveling, myself included. The exp around 34 or 35 spikes upward quite a bit while the quest rewards and exp from grinding mobs do not. Fire Temple is available at 30, and the drop rates from the last boss (Kromede) are still horrible. Lower Fort instances are also accessible at 30 if your faction owns them. A new solo instance, Kromedes Trial, was added for levels 37-44, which greatly increases leveling and I believe is on a 22 hour cooldown. I spent my time doing a multitude of things once I hit 30 because the options of what you can do explode. My first priority was to run Fire Temple at least 1-2 times a day (takes about 30 minutes a run). Then I did my campaigns and quested in Eltnen, Heiron, and the Abyss simultaneously. Heiron is an area for 30+, and is home to Poya Jungle, my favorite place in the game. I could run around and gather there all day (unless I get ganked repeatedly by Asmos). Watching Takun and Gojira (godzilla and king kong) fight in the jungle was amazing! Although more than once I got demolished by them as I happily gathered egrasi without paying much attention. All in all I enjoyed this stage of the game, and it felt great to be completely out of that one dimensional beginning. Whereas 1-20 is doable in one day, 31-40 probably took me at least a week of playing for a good portion of each day.
I love the Steel Rake instance, I really do, but I don't think I can ever run it again. I grinded it and grinded it (only for my hat), and once that was done, that was it. Well designed instance however, and the first one I would actually consider challenging, especially for new players and unorganized groups. There seem to be a good number of quests added, including repeatables. I personally do not mind the repeatables, but I know others may hate them. The ones at Jepairan Village made for extremely fast leveling 40-44, and was actually faster than 36-40. I had quite a few encounters during this time with asmos in Heiron. Many of them twinked to the teeth and able to three shot me. I like me some pvp but I can say without a doubt that even if I wasn't fighting a mob, that I would have gotten destroyed by 90% of them in less than 10 seconds. I say that because the tendency is for the opposing faction to attack you while you are enganged in combat. I can't really blame them however, wouldn't be very wise to stop and wait for you to finish what you are doing so that they can begin, this is war! While I saw many others whine about it over open channels, I simply just move on to another area if there is too much heat. Steel Rake, Theobomos, Eltnen and the Abyss are all viable options. Eltnen and the Abyss are good until 44 at least. At 46 I began running Theobomos Labs (Tlabs), which was very exciting the first 30 or so times. The run takes about an hour with a decent group. I also spent a few hours mountain climbing around Indratu, which has to be one of the most amazing things if you can actually pull off the jumps. There are certain people that just can't seem to get the jumps down, but if you've been up there you know what I am talking about. At 46 you can also start running Dredgion for abyss points (AP), a PvPvE instance. I completely ignored the Dredgion during those levels and I regret it. Never pass up free AP! Although 40-44 was faster for me than 36-40, 44-50 slowed down quite a bit. It probably took me a good 10-12 days to go from 40-50. I decided to focus on my cleric, and left my chanter at 46 during this stage.
Balaurea (accessible at 50) is the newest addition to Aion, which includes three new areas (Ingisson, Gelkmaros, Silentera Canyon) and 4 new instances. Ingisson is the Elyos area, Gelkmaros the Asmodian area, and Silentera Canyon is the area in between the two. Upon first arriving in Balaurea I was overwhelmed with quests. There were so many quests to pick up it was a bit of a headache. Graphically the world looks great, and the windstreams make getting around a bit interesting (especially missing one). I do not enjoy the scenery or design nearly as much as I do Eltnen or Heiron though. There is a safe zone where the enemy faction cannot access and allows one to quest free of harm. The larger part of the area however can be infiltrated by the opposing side. The last solo instance added was Talocs Hollow. This is probably the worst out of the three solo instances added in terms of fun. It is easy and the experience is good, so it was worth running if only for that. Udas/Lower Udas, another instance available at 51 is also somewhat easy, but not without complete challenge. The gear from this instance is great and really helps set you up for success in Beshmundir Temple. Also the drop rates weren't completely terrible, I saw a few pieces of gear for my cleric running through it. The higher level quests (53-55) are located in the unsafe zone (still unsure if there is a name for it). This is what brought back the excitement of rifting for me however. I was ganked multiple times while leveling and even though it can get annoying it always made me play "on my toes." It just added that element of surprise that you might be hunted and chased at any minute. At 55 I started running the end game instance, Beshmundir Temple (BT). BT is a fun and well designed instance. Some of the boss fights have interesting mechanics and are not just tank n spank, Isbaryia for example. BT was not so kind as Udas was in drops for my cleric however. At the annoyance of swapping between healing stigmas and dps stigmas every day and not getting drops I quit running BT and began to focus on Esoterrace (AP instance) and rifting over to Gelkmaros to fight Asmos instead.
Most people say that rifting is dead, at least in Eltnen/Morheim. It is true that the buffs now in place make it almost impossible to kill someone that is within your level range. In Heiron/Beluslan there are also buffs, but they are lifted every other week so rifters can go and pvp without restriction. Most of the rifting (players don't refer to it as such, but it is) occurs at or near end game now in Balaurea. You essentially rift over to the enemy side, the concept is the same, and it is very fun to be both the aggressor or to have the enemy in your lands.
The abyss is not what it used to be. There are still tons of people fighting at the Western Shard... still?! Everywhere else though seems very empty. There isn't much sieging going on for control of upper forts, I know they used to be a huge deal. This is probably because Eso gives better AP and isn't near as boring to run, and can also be ran in small groups. If the upper fort instances gave improved rewards or were revamped so they weren't so boring I think there would be plenty of fighting over them again.
I did not even think about getting my abyss gear until I was 55. Besh Temple was the only thing on my mind on the trip up. In one month of doing Eso and Dredge I managed to get a full set of 50e armor, which is very respectable. Currently I am working on my 55 eternal neck (just made the 82 plats), only 100k more ap to go!
The only questionable thing I have seen in the cash shop was the 2 week period (that recently ended) where they were selling the guaranteed manastone socketing supplements. I still don't know how I feel about this one. I did not purchase any of these, instead I have spent millions upon millions buying regular supplements from the forts in Ingisson.. and they don't always work. Manastone socketing and enchanting sure are frustrating. However I don't think there is any greater satisfaction than hearing the success ding on the last manastone in a six slot piece of gear (maybe the success ding on a +15 enchant, but I wouldn't know). I think the biggest problem is everyone believing that they need green manastones, the whites are affordable and seem to go in easier. Hopefully they come up with another solution, although there is one in place they just need to improve upon it. Make the in game supplements have 100% success rate, just increase the price. I see no problem with this at all.
I wrote a review on Rift some months back. After I left that game I hopped around again to old favorites. Nothing really seemed to have that same spark until I decided to revisit Aion (oh how I said I would never play it again). The game is much less grindy than before. Some grinding will need to be done though as the quests do not cover all of the levels, be it on your own or in a dungeon with a group. I really like the fact that someone cannot just replicate what I have done on my character in a week or two. My character is a piece of work in progress, it takes time and effort (it is fun effort!). Perhaps it reminds me of the days when I played Muds ( text based online mmos) and players would spend years developing and improving their characters. It is a huge turn off for me to watch someone go from 1-max level in 3 days and then be fully geared in another week or so. That just doesn't happen here. On the plus side it isn't so grindy that it makes one realize that something isn't attainable within a reasonable amount of time (for example the old coin weapons being 2000 coins, now they are 300-400). I have no plans to leave Aion at this time, and I am looking forward to the new 1v1 arenas in 2.7 in a few days and the big 3.0 patch in the spring.