Welcome to the series of articles that is to hopefully become a record of The Best Of Free Online Gaming*. We here at The Reticule know that not everyone has the spare cash to spend on every AAA or indie release, or to sign up to monthly payments for all the latest MMO’s. Trouble is, if you’re looking for some free gaming there are literally hundreds of games taking up the free-to-play structure nowadays and trawling through them all to find ones that are worthwhile can take up a lot of time. I aim to bring you some mini reviews on a variety of the best free-to-play games the internet has to offer, saving not just your money but your sanity too. Last time we took at look at the newly released Tribes: Ascend, a fast paced and skilful FPS. Today we will be taking a look at NCsoft’s Aion.
*Disclaimer – Games included in ‘The Best of Free Online Gaming’ are entirely chosen through opinion of the writer. This is coming from a guy who apparently likes to “camp like a noob” so please feel more than free to disclose your disgruntled disapproval in a long-winded comment below. Better yet let me know why YOUR game of choice should be included in this list.
Originally released by NCsoft in 2008 exclusively in South Korea, Aion has since gained world-wide popularity for its gameplay style and “refreshing look” graphically. Winning awards such as Best MMO and Best Online Game in 2009 and receiving expansions in 2010 and 2011 the game and its community are still very active. In 2012 Aion became free-to-play and unlike many other F2P MMO’s, offers no restrictions in terms of quests, gameplay or exploration for the non paying player. However there are some restrictions on the amount and kind of trading you can do.
Aion is set in Atreia, a planet consisting of two halves of a shell-like world connected down the middle by the tower of Eternity. The tower was damaged during the Millennium war and ever since rifts have been appearing near the centre of the tower. This area has been cleverly developed to house Aion’s unique style of PvPvE combat in which players from both factions can confront each other whilst also confronting many of the NPC’s that can be found within the three levels of the Abyss. Here can also be found many of the raid and dungeon instances that players will progress through during each factions storyline.
Atreia consists of two playable factions. The Asmodians who reside in the upper half of the planet, and the Elyos who reside in the lower half of the planet. The land occupied by the Asmodians is untouched by the sun, leading them to become a tough and merciless but very loyal race. However, the land on the lower half of the planet, occupied by the Elyos, is rich, fertile and beautiful but with this beauty comes arrogance that had led the Elyos to misguidedly believe they are blessed.
There are a few things that make Aion stand out among the other MMO’s mentioned in this series. The artistic direction is refreshingly eastern giving a whole new style to characters and areas within the world. There are over three thousand story driven quests, many with cutscenes and voice acting, which is often a rare occurrence in many MMO’s. In many cases your character will not need a mount to travel and will instead use wings which allow for fierce and very enjoyable mid-air combat.
If you’re into your fantasy gaming but have never experienced an eastern styled MMO before then you’re in for a treat with Aion. The style of gameplay, graphics, customisations and story focused questing really blend together well to create a fun and challenging environment for you to play in. Whilst not breaking many moulds in the world of MMO’s and F2P there is definitely a fresh and enjoyable vibe around the game.