Today NCsoft's massively multiplayer online game Aion upgrades to version 2.5, Empyrean Calling, delivering a host of new content, features and tweaks aimed at pleasing players current and lapsed. Is it enough to lure fresh MMO fans to the game?
NCsoft seems to think so, choosing today's major update as the launching point for the game's new free trial program. Players new to the game will be able to download the full client starting tomorrow, with ten days and 20 levels of play before they'll need to purchase the full game.
What's Empyrean Calling bringing to the table for existing players? Here's a list.
• Esoterrace Instance: Triumphing over the Esoterrace region deprives the Balaur of vital resources needed for Tiamat's Army to continue the war.
• Empyrean Crucible: The fast-paced battle arena where groups challenge 10 stages of enemies, each containing 5 successively difficult rounds. Who will be strong enough to survive?
• Graphics Updates: An optional upgrade, the new superior graphics engine option adds additional support for high-end graphics cards. When enabled, this setting offers brighter lighting, improved shading and textures. In addition an improved in-game map system offers clearer visuals and increased interactivity.
• News Skills and PvP Gear: Players will enjoy two new skills – Skillbook and Stigma skills – and four custom skills that were added to each class. And while the new Eternal grade PvP armour sets and weapons (Asmodians can acquire the Archon Brigade General's and Elyos the Guardian Brigade General's set) cost a significant amount of Abyss points and Platinum Medals, players will immediately find they were well worth the investment.
• Mentor System: Help out fellow players who are at least 10 levels lower than you through a mutually beneficial arrangement, leading to rewards for everyone involved.
• Improved Character Customisation: Select from new face and body presets available, then change facial expression and shapes during character creation. New character animations and upgraded emotes have been added for an extra touch of style.
• Pet System Improvements: Adopt new pets through quests and new instances. Interact with pets through new emotes making them happier. Happy pets give gifts! Pets also have special functionality of their own which allow them to hold food, drinks and magic items to use automatically on its masters. Furthermore, pets can now loot automatically - no more looting drudgery!
• Legion Expansions: Maximum Legion levels and ranks have increased from 3 to 5, with each level affording increases to maximum member caps and an expansion in the space in a Legion's warehouse. New legion cloaks sport a re-tailored, bold new shape with new customisation options.
2.5 is the latest in a series of major updates rolled out since launch that have shaped Aion into something very different from the game people were playing back in September of 2009.
"Aion is not the same game we launched nearly 21 months ago, as each update we've released brings players exciting new features and content they've been asking for, and the Empyrean Calling is no exception," said Dominic Wai, brand manager, Aion. "The new instances, quality of life updates and the unique mentor reward system are only a few of the features players will experience when logging into the game today, and these are game changing features we are really excited to introduce to our players."
I only managed a couple of months in Aion before general boredom set in, and haven't felt the urge to go back since. Hopefully for NCsoft I'm in the minority, and these new features will help keep players flying high for years to come.