I bought Aion last week and spent a few hours creating characters and playing. Unfortunately the long queue times prohibited me from playing more, so I haven't gotten very far yet. In fact I'm not even level 10, so my thoughts all surround the starter zones which are visibly beautiful. However, they are also colored by my experiences in other MMOs. Massively believes every MMO should be judged on it's own merits, yet that simply isn't possible. The very act of judgment is learned, and it's based upon previous experiences. Hence our MMO desires, likes and dislikes are factors of our previous experiences.
As I said, AION is quite beautiful. Not only the landscapes, but the characters are quite nice but I wasn't able to access any content where I could judge what the lag would be like later on. One thing I did notice right away however, was in the relative difference between the low level WoW experience and Aion's. In WoW you start off relatively powerful against anything you experience. You basically walk through quests and kill everything without much effort. In Aion it's not much different in that all the initial quests are brain-numbingly simple. Collect 4 of this, kill 6 of that sort of thing. But there was a surprising difference in the amount of damage you take from creatures. I was very surprised to see myself at half life on my Scout after killing two creatures.
Perhaps I am not using the movement bonus system properly, yet when I would try to give myself defensive bonuses by moving backward I quickly found myself out of range of the creatures I was attacking because I could back up faster than they could close the distance with me. And strafing to the sides to give myself avoidance bonuses didn't seem to matter much either. In the end I found it more simple to just stand at a creature and bang away at it. I'll continue to try to make some sense of the system, but thus far I see no real benefit from the contextual bonus system what so ever.
Thus far Aion reminds me much more of Warhammer than it does WoW. In WoW the zones are generally large and the questing is more non-linear, than linear in nature. You gain access to several quests at any point and can do them in any order you desire. Completing a quest will often lead to another quest (chain) and so forth. But in Aion the questing is akin to what I experienced in Warhammer where you have quest chains that you are more or less ushered to and are meant to follow those along. The quests also move you geographically along linear paths in each zone. I don't mind that per se, because there were plenty of times in WoW where I wish something similar had been implemented. WoW players often miss many quests in a zone because they simply don't know they are there, hidden away in some nook.
I appreciate that NCSoft is being cautious about rolling out new servers, but I wonder how many people like me they are turning off because they can't log into the game to play?
Remember how I said I hadn't experienced any lag yet? Well I just logged on to excruciating lag. And everyone in general chat was complaining about it. Happens to every game from time to time though, so I wonder how much of that was due to the many people in the zone, or whether it was a server issue non-related to my specific zone. In any regard, there goes my opportunity to play Aion for the afternoon.