5 reasons why Aion can take on World of Warcraft

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Does NCSoft's fantasy online RPG have what it takes to topple the undisputed king of the genre?

Every time a new Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) is released, the proclamation that it will topple the king of all MMORPG’s, World of Warcraft, is inevitable.

First there was Age of Conan, then there was Vanguard, then Tabula Rasa and Warhammer Online. Despite each of these titles’ aspiration to take down Blizzard’s MMORPG, none have come close to reaching World of Warcraft’s estimated 11 million subscribers.

And then there’s Aion, NCSoft’s latest online role playing game which is set to launch in the United States on September 22nd. Described as an amalgamation of the best aspects and features of modern MMORPG’s, Aion is striving to become one of World of Warcraft’s largest competitors.

However, even though Aion has an already large subscriber base in Asia and is being helmed by the team behind successful MMO’s like Guild Wars and Lineage, does it have what it takes to make a substantial dent in World of Warcraft’s notoriously large subscriber base?

Here’s some reasons why Aion could just be the next MMORPG you’ll become addicted to starting late September.

5. Aion has been around since 2008

One of the main reasons why new MMORPG’s fizzle out and eventually fade into obscurity is because their subscription base isn’t stable. Initially, there’s a huge surge of first-time subscribers who are curious to check what all the fuss is about, but eventually, a staggeringly large amount of gamers end up returning to more established and populated options like World of Warcraft

It takes time and money for a game to flesh out its end-game content and iron out the kinks and glitches, but unfortunately, most gamers aren’t willing to stick around long enough for that to happen. It’s a Catch-22, really, and it’s this unfortunate dilemma that has doomed games with tons of potential like Age of Conan.

Aion, however, already has a stable, established subscriber base It was launched in Korea in November of 2008, and has since accrued an estimated 4 million subscribers in Asia alone. Additionally, the developers have had almost a full year of feedback from gamers actively playing Aion on live servers to ensure a successful and smooth launch in the United States.

There still is tons of room to grow and improve, sure, but if the numbers coming out of Asia are indicative of anything, Aion is a MMORPG that has the longevity, quality and popularity to stay around for quite a while.

4. Better graphics and customizable character appearance

As artistically creative and beautiful as World of Warcraft’s is, there’s really no denying that it’s aging graphics engines is one of the game’s weakest aspects. Aion’s graphics, however, look absolutely stunning for a MMORPG, thanks in no small part to Crytek’s heavily modified CryEngine that the game is built on. Not only did Aion take GameAmp’s 2006 E3 MMORPG “Best Graphics” Award, but it also offers a wealth of character customization options that World of Warcraft can’t even dream of competing against.

When you first create your character, you can modify virtually every aspect of your character. Gender, race, height, size of individual body parts, skin tone, hair styles--everything from your character’s voice to their facial features are customizable, allowing you almost limitless creative freedom in the creation process.

But that’s not all. You can even modify the appearance of your in-game weapons and armors through merchants and other non-playable characters in Aion. If you want to change the color of your armor, just purchase a dye. If you don’t like the way your sword looks, merely swap it out with the model of another sword without effecting its actual stats.

3. Hybrid of PvP/PvE Content

In World of Warcraft, there’s a pretty defined boundary between the world of Player versus Player (PvP) and Player versus Environment (PvE) content. With the exception of the rare city raids, random ganking and Wintergrasp battles, you’re usually either raiding PvE dungeons or participating in PvP battlegrounds and arenas. The two worlds seldom overlap.

Aion, on the other hand, is promoting a new type of gameplay appropriately named PvPvE. In PvPvE, you’ll find yourself fighting alongside other members of your faction to control strategic locations where vendors who sell exclusive items can be found.

However, while you’re busy waging war against enemy gamers, a third faction of NPC’s, the Balaur, will periodically intervene and radically alter the course of battle. Sometimes the Balaur will ally with you, sometimes they’ll fight against you, and sometimes they’ll attack both sides to make each battle exciting and unpredictable.

2. You have freaking wings

Seriously. How awesome is that? You obtain your wings early on in Aion and they grant you the ability to take flight for short periods of time. Later, you get the option to purchase upgraded wings which allow you to fly for extended periods of time.

While World of Warcraft does have some sweet flying mounts, you can’t really do anything on them besides travel. However, the celestial wings in Aion are not a silly gimmick or a mere form of transportation. Rather, flying is an integral part of the game play and adds a brand new dimension to both PvP and PvE combat.

For instance, picture a fight between two gladiators. They run around, strafe, looking for openings and lunge in when the time is right. Now imagine both gladiators are still trying to stab one another, only this time they’re strapped in fighter jets and are doing some super sick barrel rolls in mid-air miles above the ground, inverted plunges, nose dives and all sorts of other jaw-dropping aerial acrobatics.

Awesome, right? That’s the typical PvP experience in Aion. Only minus the fighter jets, of course.

1. Does anyone still want to play World of Warcraft?

I love World of Warcraft. I really do. But after five years of playing, it’s gotten old. There’s only so many times you can raid Naxxaramas, Ulduar or the Argent Tournament stuff before you begin to feel that the game’s once exhilarating and intense gameplay has become a repetitive and tedious chase for shinier, newer gear.

Blizzard has done a fantastic job of adding new content to keep things fresh and exciting, but even the most hardcore World of Warcraft fan will probably admit its time for something different. At least until Icecrown raids and World of Warcraft: Cataclysm draws nearer anyway.

Will Aion kill World of Warcraft? Not a chance. World of Warcraft has been around for almost five years now, and part of the reason why it’s so popular is because it is a genuinely good MMORPG. However, I do think Aion has a very good chance of stealing a nice chunk of subscribers from the MMORPG behemoth.

If Aion is everything its hyped up to be, then it could very well be the first game in a long while to give World of Warcraft a decent challenge and make gamers excited about MMORPG’s once again.

by Mark Fujii


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