Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Aion vs Darkfall (A Casual Player's Guide): Part 1


Hello everyone, I'm Terathis, one of the other Nerds howling at this blog's Moon. I've never written on a blog before, so bear with me as I learn the ropes. I'd like to start with a brief review of two recent MMORPG's. If you don't know what that means, you're probably on the wrong blog.

Over the holidays, I purchased copies of both Aion and Darkfall. I've played a few other MMO's in the past, most notably City of Heroes, World of Warcraft, and Warhammer Online. I certainly won't claim to be an expert in the genre, but I've been playing these games and thinking about them for the last five years. However, I'm most definitely on the casual end of the time-in-game spectrum due to having a family with three young children. It's that perspective on these games that I would like to share with you.

What is Casual?

First and foremost, let me explain what I mean by "casual." It's a word that gets thrown around a lot, but rarely defined. The most common usage is in reference to play time. My guess is that most MMO players think that anyone who plays less than they do is "casual" and anyone who plays more than they do is "hardcore." My own play time usually occurs in chunks of about 1-2 hours late at night after the kids have gone to bed. I play 3 or 4 nights a week, so my total weekly play time usually ends up being less than 10 hours. Considering that there are players who exceed that in a single day, I'd say that puts me securely in Casual Land.

I reject the notion that casual has to mean "low skill." While I don't have the reaction time and situational awareness of a pro, that doesn't mean I'm a clueless noob. On the contrary, I really enjoy the tactical challenges of MMO combat (such as it is), and relish the opportunity to improve my game. Whether I'm soloing or playing in a group, I'm always trying to think of ways to up my damage or healing by a few points.

Why Darkfall and Aion?

Having never played a sandbox style of MMO, Darkfall intrigued me with its promise of a huge open world and skill-based, rather than level-based advancement system. I've generally preferred PVE to PVP in the past, but I was interested to see how the PVP in Darkfall differed from that in WOW or WAR. Player cities was another feature that I had never experienced before that I thought held a lot of potential.

Aion came onto my radar thanks to my brother in law who is an avid MMO gamer as well. While staying with him over the Christmas holiday, I had an opportunity to watch him play and recognized a lot of tropes from WOW. Aion was far more familiar to me than Darkfall, and I had to admit that it was graphically superior to any MMO I'd seen before it. After discussing the classes and gameplay with my brother in law, I decided to give Aion a go as well.

Installation and Character Creation

Both games were fairly easy to install. Darkfall required a fairly substantial torrent download whereas Aion came on DVD. Since I had a previous account with NCSoft for City of Villains, I was able to just add Aion to my list of games and go from there. Account setup went fine with Aventurine as well. Since the price of both games is the same, that part of the comparison is a wash. I have to say that the price of both games is probably too high. I know that 50 dollars has become the default price point for new PC games, but PVP-focused MMO's in particular are so reliant upon keeping server populations high that it seems to me that they would be better served by a lower initial price point. Syncaine of Hardcore Casual would probably refer to the box price as a "tourist tax." But I think that ignores one of the best (or worse) characteristics of MMO games. They are ADDICTIVE. Crack dealers don't charge 50 dollars for the first hit and neither should MMO developers. Just get people in the crack house in the first place.

Character creation is one of my favorite parts of an RPG and I'll admit to spending hours upon hours tweaking and adjusting a character's hair style or tattoo pattern in previous games. As you might expect, Aion gets the nod here due to its graphical prowess. Darkfall does offer a greater variety of races to choose from (six versus two), but I'm a sucker for the Asian look that Aion has in spades. You can create a genuinely beautiful character in Aion. Darkfall is not a complete slouch in this category. I didn't expect it to have nearly as many options as it has. While the races of Darkfall are all fantasy stalwarts with the exception of the Mahirim (Wolf People), there are a sufficient number of options to ensure that you don't look like every other member of your race.

To be continued in Part 2...

1 comment:

Samus said...

I think the term "casual" can mean more than just play time. A few years ago, Blizzard talked about most players identifying themselves as "casual" even though a large portion of those players played much more per week than any definition of "casual" based on time. Perhaps it's not so different from "casual" sex, where the important aspect is the level of commitment rather than the amount.