Aura Kingdom is perhaps one of the first Free-to-Play MMORPGs to launch in 2014 with an extremely big hype surrounding the game.
Developed in Taiwan by X-Legend Entertainment, the studio has established itself over the years with titles such as Grand Fantasia and Eden Eternal. It has also vowed not to close any games and continue to update them (only in Taiwan), a vow which only another company dared to declare (Perfect World China).
Of course, we are talking about the English client, which is published by X-Legend Entertainment’s long-time partner, Aeria Games. Just a few weeks into launch, how is the game faring? Playing regularly, I had first-hand experience of the service and content, and also a hands-on at the current end-game content.
X-Legend Entertainment has also developed games with a more Japanese anime flair, which is very prominent in Glory Destiny Online and now, Aura Kingdom. The cutesy factor might throw some gamers off, but for others (including me), the art style is certainly a welcome change from all the seriousness such as The Secret World. The overseas versions are doing promotions with the actual Japanese animes, with characters and special costumes appearing, and I certainly hope to see them in the English version as well.
Playable characters and classes
There are currently 8 classes available in Aura Kingdom, each with a different weapon and no gender restriction. There are many more coming, and the next weapon will be the Katar.
At level 40, all players can unlock a sub-class, with some combinations providing special skills. A really good feature will be the ability to manually add stats and skill points, something which was missing from recent MMORPGs as developers claim it was to “balance the game”.
Players do not have to manually switch classes, since the skills will be readily available. However, the skill cool-downs belonging to the sub-class will be longer, among a couple of minor disadvantages. The passive skills do stack up, which is definitely a boon.
Defensive gears in Aura Kingdom, while buffing characters with stats and bonuses, do not provide the external look. This is the job for costumes, which can be found from monster drops and cash shop boxes. The better of such costumes provide better stats, although not game-breaking. As you can expect, they are really hot items selling for hundreds of gold. Luckily, these are random rare drops from dungeon bosses, which are accessible to all players once the level requirement is met.
There are several costume slots, including the body, headgear, mouthpiece, back and even the eyes. There is no weapon costume (or skin) available now, but it is definitely something I am looking forward to.
Some players may call a “glorified” pet system, but even if it is true, I am not one to complain. These guardian-like creatures follow players around, with several methods to acquire new ones. Each have its own stats and skills, allowing players to choose carefully which ones to bring out. 3 Eidolons can be in standby mode, allowing a 2nd one to be summoned if the 1st one unfortunately dies in the line of duty.
Players need not to feed them, but they still have to respond to Eidolon chats and link with them for gifts. These gifts might contains some precious items, although they are quite rare. Each Eidolon is activated by a full key, which is also made of up 10 key fragments.
Eidolons actively helps players during combat, including attack and heal (if there is a heal spell). I view them as a reliable 2nd damage source, where items can be crafted and equipped on them to make the damage output more potent. There combination skills which can be performed together with the players, while some Eidolons can double-up as a mount as well!
I am not sure if it is right to label the combat system as a “traditional point-and-click”, since there is indeed some differences. You see, while there is the tab-target and target-lock system, skills can be cast almost continuously since there is no mana system. Yes, just a cool-down system, which is a feature rarely seen. With this, combat seems to be much faster and “action-y”, almost like a half-action combat title.
The team at X-Legend Entertainment did an amazing job with the casting of skills as well. Allow me to explain. Some classes have skills which can be used while on the move, while some require players to stand still at a spot for casting. While it only takes 1 or 2 seconds, it really makes the difference during more intensive fights. Some classes, such as the Gunslinger, has almost all skills which can be cast while jumping or running.
A major update is coming in the near future where all classes will get a special system related to the weapon. For example, the double-hand axe Ravager may gather rage points while fighting, and later release them to deal AOE damage (subject to change). This is just 1 example, wait till you hear about the one implemented for the Bard!
Level and game progression
This basically means how players will progress in the game. Almost similar to other MMORPGs, it is all about questing (including daily repeatable ones) and dungeon runs. The highest dungeon difficulty, Hell mode, where the most experience points and best loot items drop, only refreshes after 1 hour. Repeatable quests can be a chore, but they do reward gifts which are essential for progression.
There will be many PvE and PvP content to be added, including the 40-man raid dungeon, Sky Tower and even a MOBA-like PvP mode featuring teams of 5.
In my own opinion, leveling up is not really hard if the daily quests are done and frequent Hell mode dungeon runs are completed. Most players will feel the curve going up around mid-50s, which is pretty common as there will be more content and quests with future updates.
Cash shop evaluation
Similar to the original Taiwan version, there are several cash shop boxes (or gachapon) for sale, which randomly gives players items. There are several rare prizes with an extremely low percentage of obtaining, including Eidolons and permanent costumes. As expected, players are complaining in the forums about the low rate of getting something useful (potions, anyone?) given the relatively expensive price for each of these boxes.
There is something which known as Loyalty Points, which can be used to buy cash items as well (or loyalty items, most similar to cash shop, some exclusive here). Loyalty points are obtained when players make a cash top-up, or through in-game actions such as slaying bosses, completing quests and in the future, from fishing.
While I have nothing against the cash items, I will recommend Aeria Games to lower the price of the cash shop box. Given the low drop rate, it just makes sense to make it cheaper to allow more players to purchase and try their luck. Hopefully, the business team takes notice of this article.
For those looking for a new MMORPG and not adverse to cute and bright graphics, Aura Kingdom is an excellent title for you. There is nothing ground-breaking here, but the familiarity despite some minor changes still enchant players such as myself. Having a no-mana system definitely is the top reason why I am so attracted to Aura Kingdom, along with the anime graphics (massive anime fan here) and smooth combat system. There are certainly some small elements of “Pay-to-win”, but they are negligible even for the casual and non-spending players to have a good time.
Aura Kingdom Closed Beta trailer:Related: Anime, F2P, MMORPG, Review