Aion: Assault on Balaurea First Impressions
Every expansion launch has its own brand of excitement. Even for the games that are a little less mainstream or a little less played, there is still a stirring within the community and in game and one cannot help but get caught up in it. Having played Aion at launch and for several months after, it was easy for me to slip back in game to enjoy the expansion high that has come with the long talked about Aion 2.0 named Assault on Balaurea. There are lots of fun new features and a couple of surprises tossed in that make this an expansion worth checking out.
For the Little Guys
Lower level solo instances are anything but small.
It is always very frustrating for me when an MMOG rolls out an expansion that only really addresses top end content. Sure, the developers want to keep the veteran playerbase entertained with new things to do and new ways of earning awesomeness, but don't the players who have yet to reach cap also deserve a little something new?
Yes they do! There is no doubt that Aion has a few content holes that have been needing to be filled and Assault on Balaurea addresses two major ones with two new solo instances. These are fairly large zones, only accessible by a single player, that offer quests and rewards. The first is Haramel, found in Veteron Citadel or Altgard Fortress and available to players levels 18-22. A quick access quest leads you into the zone, and inside there are more NPCs who will offer you tasks along your journey. As a reward for running the zone multiple times you can earn pieces of intermediate armor and you can run the zone every 3 hours making it great for repeat experience. Get into this zone quickly though because it is more useful at levels 18 and 19 then it is at level 22.
At help along mid-level players, another solo instance was added in for levels 37-41 called Kromede's Trial. Just as with Haramel, players need to pick up the entrance quest in either Heiron or in Beluslan. Unlike Haramel, you can obtain special use items that grant a limited use skill only useable within this zone. It's a handy tool to have, especially if you plan on spending a lot of time in this instance which is also more challenging and tricky than the lower level solo instance.
Both of these zones offer additional content at level ranges that really needed the boost in diversity. Additionally, players don't have to worry about PvP interfering in a good instance run and there are level appropriate harvesting nodes within the zone so you can work on your extracting skill while you get your solo groove on. Combined with overland content and group dungeons, this is just another way you can enjoy what Aion has to offer.
Unfortunately, lower levels did not get any new group instances or overland content which would be nice to see as well. I do like the solo instances though and hope that future updates add more for other level ranges.
Chillin' at Cap
As expected, the bulk of Assault on Baularea is geared towards capped players. The cap has been extended to level 55 and the two new overland zones as well as four of the new instances are specifically for this level range. It's a lot of content for five levels so if you are lucky enough to be sitting close to level 50, you will be pleased!
Overland zones have tons of new content for high level players.
The Elyos zone of Inggison and the Asmodian zone of Gelkmaros both offer typical overland content with the front parts of the zones dedicated to primarily soloable content and the back part of the zones full of challenging group encounters. These zones also have a very cool feature of being connected by a canyon where faction versus faction warfare plays out regularly. For those tired of paying big kinah to travel throughout the zone will enjoy the alternative travel form of windstreams and updrafts which finally allows a form of travel that makes use of those hard earned wings we all ascended for!
Did you like the idea of the lower level solo instances? Higher level players also get their own solo zone with Taloc's Hallow. Single players from levels 51-55 are permitted into this zone once they have earned the entry mission. You can't just get the quest though; you must complete either the Elyos quest "Bound for Iggison" or the Asmodian quest "Crash of the Dredgion" first. Once you have finished up one of these quests, the entrance quest for Taloc's Hallow will pop into your mission journal.
Much like the lower level Kromede's Trial, Taloc's Hallow has special use items that give the player skills only usable while in zone. The quests have solid weapon rewards and this zone can be a challenge. The cooldown timer is 48 hours, but the more you run it, the better it gets!
When you aren't making your way through the overland zones or the fun solo instance, stop on by one of the new group instances with your favorite static group or a quick pick up group.
Beshmundir Temple is available after a quick access quest. Stay on your toes though and be prepared, because this zone is only accessible via the previously mentioned faction-shared canyon between the overland zones and it is a fairly difficult zone. Both Elyos and Asmodians will use this entrance so there might be a little fighting on the way in. Group leaders will choose a difficulty (normal or difficult) before leading the group into the zone. Be sure to pick up whatever quests you see in here because various parts of the zone need to be unlocked. I love that not only does this zone have a quick cooldown time of 12 hours, but also being able to choose difficulty means that if you have a stellar group set up, you can add a little interest to your dungeon run.
Looking for a challenge? These dungeons have it!
Udas Temple and Lower Udas are both challenging instances although many find these a bit easier than Beshmundir. Both have a 6 hour cooldown timer and both are found in either of the new overland zones. Get in on these when you can because the loot drops are great!
For bigger alliances, Abyssal Splinter is a new dungeon for up to 12 players. With the benefit of having no entrance quest, it does have the entrance requirement that the faction of the players wishing to enter have faction control over the Divine Fortress. No small feat, eh?
Chantra Dredgion is probably my favorite concept and I almost wish PvP throughout the game was limited to instances such as this one. Staying true to the PvPvE ideal, this zone allows both Elyos and Asmodian in at the same time. What? Yeah, that's right! If you want to check out this zone, you'll have to fight for your life much like the lower level Dredion. Unfortunately, early reports say that perhaps the new Dredion is a bit unbalanced but just like anything regarding PvP, it sometimes takes a bit more time to strike a good level of fairness.
Aside from all the playable content, there are also new skills for levels 51-55, additional crafting skills, extraction nodes, and very cool Fabled weapons. These ultimately awesome weapons can be found through repeatable quests and by tapping the essence of weathered objects in the new zones and many are upgradable.
A Little Bit for Everyone
Pets are already my addiction. I'm pondering buying the box version of the expansion just to get the exclusive pets and I've been working hard in game to earn enough kinah to get my first fortune pet.
These adorable little creatures come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Though there are only five types of pets: companion (these don't do anything but stand around and look pretty, pack (holds your stuff!), signal (tells you when bad guys are coming) and fortune (poop prizes), and the multi-talented purebreds, there are so many of each type that you can truly spend a good amount of time attempting to collect them all.
My first pet, isn't she adorable?
The pet NPC has a couple of choices from most of the types of pets. Companion pets can be as little as 100,000 kinah while the pack pets are the most spendy at 6,000,000 kinah. There are a few options in the NCsoft store for pets so if you are a little too poor in kinah to afford what you want, be sure to check there for available purchasable pets.
With so much going on in this expansion, so many players are back in game again and enjoying the new content. For higher level players, this plethora of new content is a dream after the old schoolers grind played their way to level 50. For lower level players, new features and instances offer more variety in gameplay during a time when leveling is smoother and faster.
The expansion launched September 7th and has been made available to all subscribers. For those who do choose to purchase the box or digital copy of Assault on Balaurea, they get bonus items that generally include 30 days of game time and exclusive pets but no need to buy anything in order to access the new content. Returning players just need to patch up their existing copy of the game or new players can find an all inclusive version of the game that includes all new content.