In last month's issue of PC Gamer US, we revealed Aion's plans to go free-to-play with our hands-on impressions of the massive update. NCsoft has quickly turned around the launch of Aion 3.0, which has just landed on live servers for everyone to experience today.
Among the big updates are giving every piece of content in the game away for free, new open-world player housing, and a whole expansion's worth of new spells, zones and dungeons. Read our article that originally ran in the March issue of PC Gamer US, check the official features guide , and download the game client for free here to jump in.
Two and a half years after taking to the skies, Aion is going free-to-play. But let's be honest, it wasn't the subscription model that drove players away the first time—it was the grind. Thankfully, 2011's updates killed off that problem, and the massive update (3.0) coming with the free-to-play shift next month adds a ton of content and aims to widen the breadth of activities. If all goes well, it'll make you forget that nasty “G” word ever happened.
The first big addition is housing: 1,000 ownable homes netled into expansive themed neighborhoods in the open world. Indoors, it feels like The Sims, with complex decoration and furnishing options that can be purchased or crafted with the new Construction skill. Each player also gets a small instanced apartment, just in case they can't keep up with the undoubtedly insane auction prices for open-world homes.
Max-level players can mess around with their new skills in two new, pretty-as-always zones as they work their way to the boosted level cap of 60. Along the way, they'll encounter the new open-world PvP fortress—an improvement on the old Abyss area that focuses PvP on the center keep, encouraging bloodshed to continue 24/7, not just when the outside towers unlock.
The added dungeons I played add some creative challenges, such as fighting a boss who moves in and out of mirrored rooms, rampaging through a fortress under assault from siege weapons, and taking control of a robot mech that flies and shoots rockets.
It's not clear yet if it'll hold my attention in the long run, but—at that price—I'll definitely give Aion another shot.
How free is it?
In many ways, Aion's free-to-play model plays it safe and sticks with what NCsoft knows players like. When it converts sometime next month, expect to be happily not surprised to find every piece of existing content—including character classes, quests, and the entire 3.0 patch—totally free for everyone. Raise your eyebrow in mild concern at the fact that some stat gear will be sold in the cash shop, alongside the usual roster of convenience and cosmetic items. Then close your jaw after discovering that there's no subscription option, only a cash shop. It's a refreshingly simple system: every account has the same status, meaning free players aren't crippled by artificial limitations on bag size, credit accumulation, or grouping, as they are in far too many MMOs.