Aion 2.5 Hands-On Preview - The Empyrean Crucible and Esoterrace
I wasn't alone when shortly after Aion's
launch in September of 2009 I found myself getting a little bored. The
game was nice looking, and had some decent mechanics but overall the
solo grind through the levels left me begging for some group content.
By the time I had reached a level where the first group dungeon was
open to us many of my friends had quit and I found myself back at
square one. Alone in an MMORPG.
There's some good content in Aion,
don't get me wrong. It just took way too long to get there for my
tastes. After I left I often wondered how the community in that game
was doing, and what NCsoft had been doing to bring some more fun to the
My questions were answered last week when I sat down with Sean
Orlikowski, Game Guide Writer, Adam Christensen, Associate Producer and Scott
Hannus, Game Guide Lead to play through some of style="font-style: italic;">Aion's latest
content in the upcoming Update 2.5.
First we played through the Empyrean Crucible. Let me preclude this by
saying this instance is one of the more fun designs I've seen in an
MMOG in some time. The premise is simple. 10 Rounds of 5 stages each.
You enter into an arena and when you're ready to begin combat you
initiate the script by speaking to the NPC in the middle of the room.
The first round starts off easy enough but as you progress through the
stages the fights become more complex. Once the first round is complete
you can take a break, afk, grab a sandwich, whatever you need to do.
The second round won't start until you speak with the NPC again.
The rounds get much more complex the further you go. Now, some of you
may point out that these sorts of events have been around for years in
MMOGs and you wouldn't be wrong. However, what makes the
Crucible stand out are its environments. As you progress through the
rounds the environment changes around you. From dingy dungeons to an
ethereal plane of air, there's always something new right around the
Not to mention some of the encounters are just clever design. One of
the bosses in one of the rounds we fought through was lovingly
nicknamed "the pooping root." The name seemed appropriate as the more
damage the root-shaped baddy took, the more little roots it would spawn
behind him. Killing the little roots gave loot before claiming the big
prize at the end.
What happens when you die in the Crucible? Well, if you've defeated at
least one round you'll get to loot some chests at the end. In the
chests you'll find some tokens. When you get defeated in battle you can
give one of these tokens to the NPC standing on the perimeter of the
arena to get back into battle. How you distribute tokens is up to you.
If you think someone is apt to die more often, give them more tokens.
Or, spread them out evenly. It's all part of the strategy.
Next up we were treated to the Esoterrace Instance, one of the new
instances coming in 2.5. It's a level 50 dungeon so we were provided
appropriate level characters.
never had any issues making their instances look good and the
Esoterrace is no exception. The landscape and design of the instance is
nothing short of beautiful--lush forests, deep ravines, and thrilling
windstreams you can spread your wings and soar through. In fact right
from the start you will jump into a windstream and get a wonderful
aerial view of part of the instance.
As the dungeon is on a 22 hour cooldown, if you've defeated some of the
bosses previously within that window the windstream will change
directions depending which bosses have been defeated. This ensures
quick travel to where you need to go.
alt="Aion's Esoterrace Entrance" width="600">
After our flight through the stream we came to a path winding up a hill
that was populated by moonflowers and dog-like Kirrin. After
dispatching those we came across some Contaminated Vines which we could
harvest from. We were told if we found a key to hang onto it
as it would be useful later. One of our members did indeed find a key
so he pocketed it until later in the instance.
Winding further along the trail we came to a choice in paths. Had the style="font-style: italic;">Aion team not been
there I may have missed our next destination. There was a giant vine
covering a cave. Harvesting the vine allowed us entry into the cave and
out the other side we came across the Dalia Garden. This kind of
interactivity in an instance is most welcome. The more choices and
interaction players can have with the content, the more engaging the
experience becomes, and this was certainly engaging.
Through the garden we met up with our final encounter of the day -
Dalia Charlands. Dalia is a giant old tree and spawns additional
enemies as you wail on him. Overall the encounter wasn't
extraordinarily difficult, but I have my suspicions that having the style="font-style: italic;">Aion team walking
us through may have helped out in the luck department.
At this point a Huge Entwined Chest appeared which could be unlocked by
the key that was looted earlier. As far as the loot contained within -
it looked pretty swank, but I'll leave it to you to decide whether or
not it's an upgrade for you.
The instance continued on from there but unfortunately our time did
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed our run through both the Crucible and the
Esoterrace instances. They were both rich, fulfilling instances that
focused on group play and cooperation - the very thing I found lacking
at launch. Clearly a lot of thought went into the design of these two
new additions to the game and I'm sure they'll be welcome by any style="font-style: italic;">Aion player. I
found myself captivated enough by the experience that I may just have
to resub to Aion
myself to give it a go once the update goes live next week.
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