Like many players, I got burned-out from Aion's grind not too long after launch. But NCsoft promised more fun and less grind with the latest expansion pack, Assault on Balaurea, so I strapped on my wings and flapped my way back into the fray to find out whether or not the game kept that promise.
Contest: Win an Aion plushie! Details at the bottom of the post.
It's gotten better in some areas. PvP and PvE elements have been integrated even tighter: your race must control two of the Balaurean Fortresses through PvPvE battles to access some dungeons. But overall, PvP has changed very little. The leveling grind is still pretty rough, but the two brand-new solo dungeons—Haramel (level 18-22) and Kromede's Trial (level 37-44)—certainly mix it up enough to lighten the burden.
The solo dungeons are a welcome addition to the game and well worth spending time in while leveling. Haramel is much too easy to challenge veterans, but it will help new players learn how dungeons work in the game. Kromede's Trial, on the other hand, will provide a challenge for even the most hardcore players, which I love.
Balaurea is gorgeous. Beshmundir Temple (level 55) in particular has some eye-catching open areas and cavernous interiors. It also happens to include my favorite boss fight of the expansion: Isbariya the Resolute. Surviving the battle required our whole team to quickly tag nearby cubes when Isbaryia's magic bolts rained down on us. And we had to be on our toes at all times, so that we didn't get squashed when the boss transformed members of our group into phantoms who had to battle spirits that only they could see.
My wings are staying on; if you left Aion because the dungeon content had grown stale, you should join me. Grind-shy gamers should continue to keep their distance, however.
Update: Be sure to read our follow-up interview with Aion's Associate Producer Sean Neil about the updates in patch 2.1 to get a full view of the current state of Aion.
To win the plushie, design a new non-combat pet that you want to follow you around in-game. It can't fight, but it can alert you to dangers, retrieve loot, be your pack mule or just float around being cute. Describe your pet's appearance. The most amusing/heart warming/horrifying description will win the prize.
This contest is open to U.S. residents only. The winner will be chosen at 5PM PST 12/21.