Published on September 29th, 2010 | by Swaine Dillinger1
Aion Assault on Balaurea – Review
Summary: Aion’s first major expansion is impressive stuff
It’s been just over a year since the acclaimed Korean MMO Aion was released in the US and Europe. And, after a year of being immersed in the lore of Atreia and the struggle between the Elyos and the Asmodians, it’s now time to take on the Balaur as NCsoft release the game’s first major expansion.
Assault on Balaurea focuses not on Asmodae and Elysea, the two continents on the inner halves of the shattered Atreia but on Balaurea. This new land, ruled by the Dragon Lord Tiamat, promises new zones to explore and a new twist on Aion’s much-hailed flying mechanic. Balaurea offers three new zones for you to explore and their own citadels, too. Elyos have taken over the zone of Inggison, while Asmodians have Gelkmaros and the two are separated by Silentera Canyon.
Both of the zones have their own beauty, thanks to Aion’s stunning graphics, and the fact they’re untouched by human and Daeva alike. If you’ve ever wondered what Atreia looked like before the Tower of Eternity shattered, then this is the place to look. But be warned, as plenty of creatures lurk here and they do not like you. One of the biggest additions to these zones (literally) are two world raid bosses called Dramata. Lore tells us that sometimes the Balaur try and transform into Dragons but that it doesn’t always go as planned. Rather than becoming like the Dragon Lords, these creatures become abominations – hybrids that are part-Dragon, part-Balaur.
In Assault on Balaurea, there are two of these monstrosities, one locked away (yes, you need to find a key) in each zone occupied by the Daeva: Padmararashka in Gelkmaros and Sematrix in Iggnison. As they both drop end-game loot, players are going to be very interested in killing these fearsome creatures. But be warned, you have an hour and you’re going to need an awful lot of people – we’re talking several hundred here – to even draw blood. Don’t be too discouraged if these guys are too big for you, though. Why not try Omega and Ragnarok, a pair of Stone Elementals? Like the Dramata, there is one in each zone and they’re going to be much easier for players to down. They also drop some nice loot, even if it’s not on the same level as the stuff you get from Padmararashka and Sematrix.
On a wing and a prayer
The thing is – world bosses aside – these zones are big. Remember how you felt exploring the mainland of Elysea or Asmodae for the first time and how long it took to run through? Annoying, wasn’t it? Towns and hamlets were far between and monsters from three miles away seemed to be able to smell lower- level players. Well NCsoft have heard your prayers and introduced a new mechanic to make getting around that little bit easier.
Aether is still thin on the ground and flyable areas still apply, but they have introduced windstreams which can be reached via updrafts and geysers. This system of aerial windtunnels allows you to move from place to place quickly but while inside, you cannot attack or be attacked. Some windstreams are too strong for Daeva to break free while others allow you to come and go as you please.
Unfortunately, monsters have a pesky habit of blocking entry by spawning on a geyser, so to access the stream you need to dispatch the mob. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? This system really does make getting around the new zones that much easier and you don’t even have to worry about your timer. It’s a simple mechanic which really does make Aion that little bit more fun.
Atreia continues to amaze, and Aion always has something new to offer. The level cap has been increased to 55 and there are new instances to try. Some are for groups but others allow the solo player a chance to get loot and Kinah. For the lore fiends among you, there’s the labyrinthine Taloc’s Hollow and the chance to find out the story behind Kromede the Corrupt, governess of the Fire Temple, as you undergo her Trial.
Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of Assault on Balaurea is the change to learn more about the Balaur themselves. Until now they’ve been creatures which strike dread into the hearts of Elyos and Asmodians alike. But because we’re not wandering into their homeland, it’s an opportunity to learn more about them and their culture. Take, for example, Beshmundir Temple. This is a structure – and an instance – in Silentera Canyon where the Balaur inter their dead. When not uncovering plots, it’s wise to step back and realise that the Balaur are not just monsters, they have their own culture and belief system as well.
Of course, this is only a smattering of what Assault on Balaurea has to offer. This is an excellent way of taking all that made Aion such a fascinating MMO in 2009 and building on those foundations. But changes has been made and lessons have been learnt. Assault on Balaurea is chock full of quests and new places to explore and (better than that) it means we’re a step closer to NCsoft’s vision of how they would like the game to look in the future.