Early Access into Aura Kingdom
I’ve recently had the chance to spend two days in Aura Kingdom, the upcoming MMO by Aeria Games, alongside a few others for a preview look at the game. I didn’t get the opportunity to play alongside or chat to the developers, though I believe this is a good thing as it lets me experience the game without any help and tell you how it will appeal and draw you in as you figure out how to play by yourself, without somebody telling you what to do.
The first thing I really want to talk about is the combat and the general feel of it. This is something that is always a big decision maker when it comes to any MMO for me. As MMOs have progressed, combat has started to take a few different turns either giving you a more active involvement or keeping you reasonably passive. Aura Kingdom keeps you in the passive.
When I speak of passive, I mean that unlike Aion or TERA, which give you an incentive to actively move around during fighting for dodging and attacking purposes, this takes more of the World of Warcraft and the Star Wars: The Old Republic general approach of if you’re in the general vicinity, you will get hit and you can’t really stop it beyond a dedicated dodge or knock-back attack. For Aura, there is a bit of a balance by having it in the lock-in approach, but still featuring some action elements like manually avoiding big attacks and doing more damage from behind.
Of course that’s fine. It’s worked for so many before it and it’ll work for so many more. Aura Kingdom seems to agree that it’s not the most interesting of the two and attempts to make up for it by having the abilities be the fanciest, most ostentatious abilities you’ve ever encountered. It does this by filling the screen with more auras, large numbers and colorful lines and jagged shapes than you’ve ever seen before. Surprisingly, this works due to the aesthetic.
I couldn’t help but think of Anime games, but more specifically the ‘Tales of…’ franchise, specifically Xillia since that was the last I played. The visuals are almost identical, from the strong colors to the shading of characters. Where AK really differentiates itself and really starts feeling more influenced by Anime is in the monster and character design. Everything has gone the cute approach, from the player characters to even the monsters and other random creatures around the world.
Of course one of the core aspects of any MMO is the content. There already seems to be enough to keep anybody interested later on in the game. For the purpose of the two day trial I was given a level 25, where more interesting dungeons are getting introduced. Doing one of these with a group was pure and simple fun. The one I did offered enough challenge to keep it interesting, not being a pushover for the random group, which is probably the way you’ll end up doing them as it’s very easy to find a group using the already functioning dungeon finder system.
As well as the dungeons for you social people, there are a load of quests on offer for the more solo oriented folks like myself. Some of the quests are the usual suspects where you go search out an NPC, have a chat and then pick up the three gold baubles for them. There are the story based ones which will keep you reading, if you’re like me and enjoys the lore of these fantasy worlds. There are also simple quests that you don’t have to pick up like to kill a special monster and then take his head to a guard for a reward. These constant quests can also be repeated as much and as little as you please, though the rewards aren’t that big.
Fitting into these quests are also another type of quest, one for achievements, that focus just on the area you are in. Like the area completion system featuring in Guild Wars 2 and brought into World of Warcraft later on in it’s life, each area effectively has a checklist to go down that you fulfill to get the achievement for that place. Other, more specific, achievements are also featured. It’s nothing new for the genre, but we all know at least one achievement hunter out there.
Where this starts to stand out are in both the leveling and Eidolon systems. The leveling of characters in Aura Kingdom takes a more unique and freedom based approach. You get a skill point as well as an offensive and defensive attribute point when you level with more for hitting certain tiers, like level 40, and you manually place these. For attributes this is normal, choosing between damage, speed and critical chance for attack with block chance, armor and health for defense.
It’s with skills that the system is unique. Your character has a block of passive and active abilities, either increasing your health or offering a new attack, and it’s up to you which direction you go. Each point unlocks one of these abilities and then the ones adjacent to the unlocked ones are then available to be unlocked with another point. This is a more interesting and tactical approach to character building than the usual pick a skill tree and go down it
The Eidolon system in itself isn’t that unique. Anybody who played a hunter in WoW will be used to it. The Eidolons are a special type of creature or person that will join your side when special situations have been met such as through finishing a certain quests that offer you key fragments, a number of these getting you a new Eidolon. They control much like pets from WoW, though some have special combo attacks and some allow you to mount them for a new special type of attack bar. The other feature of Eidolons are that you can chat to them and they will give you points, and items, after a while.
What inevitably will be a key thing is how free to play this F2P MMO really is. It’s hard to really get an assessment of that from such a closed look. From what I have noticed, and been told, is that while they will be cash-shop items, costumes and such as that will also be found in the game world – albeit rare. If it’s true, then not putting the artificial lock on the F2P players will be a fantastic thing.
Even without, Aura Kingdom has the trappings of a great MMO to jump in and out of. The visuals are exactly the sort of thing that looks great while doesn’t take a huge system to run. The audio is frantic in fights, calm out of them and befitting the areas. The world, from what I’ve seen, isn’t that expansive – being divided into separate regions and not one huge fluid world – and the regions being reasonably compact at that. These are just the ones accessible in the event though, there could be a huge area that was hidden right out of my view, just not ready at the time of playing.
Will it surpass your favorite premium MMO like WoW, Guild Wars 2 or such as that? I highly doubt that. Will it be worth checking out and spending a bit of time on to see if it’s something you could get into? I most certainly say yes, yes it will be.Related: Aeria Games, Aura Kingdom, MMORPG, Preview