Aion: Legions of War carries this disquieting shadow that will always chase it wherever it may roam – this game isn’t an MMORPG. For the abstracted crowd, this is a sin punishable with a one-star review, but isn’t it the players’ fault for assuming something that isn’t accurate?
This first paragraph is meant to put things in perspective, as there are quite a few misconceptions about what NCsoft is trying to deliver with Aion: Legions of War. Aion 2 is in development for mobile devices, but this isn’t such a game; this is a hero collector RPG set in the universe of the popular PC MMORPG.
To suitably enjoy the game, you must appreciate it for what it is and not for what it isn’t. With that being said, if there’s one thing that the mobile platform doesn’t need any more of is hero collector games. Most of them are designed with no other intention than to push players into spending their hard-earned cash on Gacha, with promises of powerful, game-changing heroes. Is Aion: Legions of War any different from those games? Fundamentally, no.
An Epic Gacha War
Given its Gacha RPG roots, Aion: Legions of War dispenses with all those flourishes from true MMORPGs such as character creation or a rich world to explore. Instead, progression is all about collecting loot and summoning heroes to battle in the arena, rinse and repeat. It is no different from other mobile Gacha RPGs and you’ll be hard pressed to find a truly original mechanic that hasn’t been seen before several times. You need an example? What about the unmistakable presence of the infamous quartet of Enhance, Evolve, Awaken and Transcendence? I swear, there must be a universal design document for this kind of game somewhere…
It’s difficult to pinpoint who is the real target audience of Aion: Legions of War. On one hand we have the fans of the iconic PC game who are mostly disgruntled by the approach chosen for this spin-off; on the other hand, players who are new to the series already have plenty of similar games to play. This leaves the game uncomfortably sitting somewhere in the middle.
However, I don’t want to sound overly negative, as I knew what I was getting myself into right from the start. Praise goes to the amazing visuals that for once live up to the “console quality” claims from the developers – it’s up to you to figure out which console, but I would settle for near-PlayStation 3 quality. However, Aion: Legions of War isn’t exactly bursting with visual content for you to admire, as this quality mostly lies within the hero design. The arenas also look good, but they are awfully similar, so it’s not like you’ll be dying to see what new venues your hero squad is going to explore next – and by explore, I mean fight.
Progression is appallingly linear, another staple of the genre. The recurrent goal is to drive the power rating of your team of five heroes up, with frequent changes to your squad based on the several classes available (Templar, Sorcerer, Cleric, Gunner, Aethertec, Ranger, Gladiator, Songweaver and Assassin) and their affinities (Fire, Water, Wood, Light and Dark). Heroes can evolve up to 6-star, a process that requires the consumption of a predetermined number of similar heroes.
As you clear stage after stage from the Adventure mode, you’ll often stumble across a bigger challenge that requires additional effort from you. Equipping your heroes with armor and weapons usually raises their power a little bit, which could make all the difference. Obviously, you need to use coins or gems for this, with failure to enhance looming around the corner. Even the simple act of unequipping gear requires an amount of gold, which is a not-so subtle way of pointing players in the direction of the cash shop – there is a relevant amount of promotions and notifications that become invasive after a while.
Enhancing your heroes through consumption of other, disposable heroes is something that you’ll be doing every other round. This is the standard procedure in every Gacha RPG to raise your hero’s level and requires frequent trips to the Advancement screen. Prepare yourself for the alarming amount of summoning options, several of them through Confinite of different sorts – this is a powerful material from where the heroes will break free. But there are also summons from hero shards, social rings (send and receive from friends), Gem Summons, Summonite Shards and more. You’ll struggle to get the best types of materials to summon a 3 to 5-star hero, but that is to be expected.
‘My Sense of Auto-Combat Is Absolute!’
There is so much at work behind the curtains of Aion: Legions of War that it’s almost a shame you end up not caring. There is an intricate web of skills, counters, combos, interrupts and tactics that could truly result in an exhaustive and stimulating game, were it not for the evident pitfalls of the genre. Why would you micro-manage every little detail if you can let the AI do it for yourself, with much faster and usually better results? You settle for watching a game that could have been great, but instead… you’ve become a spectator, someone who is tapping through countless menus and is forced to sit it out when it comes to what should be the juicy part of the game. It feels like a wasted opportunity.
You pick your team of five, obviously according to each one’s overall power rating. You can pick up a sidekick from the default suggestions or one of your friends to tag along. This sidekick will replace your first fallen warrior, so don’t forget to take someone with you for the most challenging confrontations. There are three tactics to choose from: All-Out Attack, Try to Survive and Focus (on skill use), which will make your team take a different approach in the arena.
When you are face to face with the usually larger than life enemy – sadly, these tend to repeat quite a lot, despite their accomplished design –, you’ll watch as your team delivers a barrage of hits and ultimately you click on each member’s special skill to activate it or let them do it as they see fit. You’ll lose some fights, you’ll try to take care of every detail yourself to see if it makes any difference in battle, and you’ll realize that it was no better than what the AI could provide.
Eventually, you’ll realize that Aion: Legions of War is designed with grind in mind and that no matter what your approach is, the ghost of paywalls and in-app purchases will forever haunt you.
There are some redeeming qualities to Aion: Legions of War. First, it is an extremely polished game and it is obvious that a lot of work went into making it look good, specially the gorgeous heroes. Secondly, no matter how cliché and tired the mechanics may be, they fulfill their purpose and can lure you in, trapping you in this vicious circle of battling and upgrading. I can see the appeal and there is a market for these games, otherwise there wouldn’t be so many of them.
But in the end, Aion: Legions of War doesn’t bring anything new to the genre. It’s the same old formula with a layer of Aion on top, a by-the-numbers game that for better or for worse, feels like dozens of others.
This is a sensitive topic, as Aion: Legions of War comes from a genre where gameplay is a neglected word. You spend more time tinkering with the menus, collecting loot and upgrading your heroes than you do in the arena – for obscure reasons, a few of you may prefer to suffer through the battles instead of using the automatic mode. Either way, there isn’t much strategy to use in the arena, besides clicking to use skills and occasionally trying to make a combo or an interrupt.
It’s slightly compelling to earn new heroes and upgrade them, but you’ll be fighting the same fight repeatedly – lose, enhance heroes and gear, win, lose again and repeat the same process ad eternum.
While Battle Royale is all the rage right now on PC and consoles, mobile devices settled for the Gacha RPG genre. Dozens of almost identical games are rushed to digital stores every month, unleashed onto an undemanding crowd that is content with collecting different characters in different backdrops. Aion: Legions of War has a very solid roster, but its core mechanics are tediously indistinguishable from other games.
Learning Curve: 7/10
Since the core of Aion: Legions of War is overly familiar, it’s extremely easy to get in the game and explore its options. It may take you a while to get to grips with the classes, affinities and skills, but it really doesn’t matter anyway; apart from the occasional battle, the auto-combat option will do all the heavy lifting for you.
Graphics / Sound: 9/10
Kudos to NCSoft’s artists for their painstaking effort in creating highly detailed heroes. It’s a pleasure to discover a new hero and get a new favorite face in the process. The enemies also are a pleasure to look at and crush to the ground, although the inevitable repetition becomes tiresome.
The soundtrack is splendid, and I was impressed with the voice acting. Although it is mostly comprised of cliched one-liners, they are delivered with such confidence and flamboyance that it is worth noting. Each hero seems to have its voice actor perfectly matched to his or her style and behavior.
Value for Money: 5/10
Aion: Legions of War isn’t shy when it comes to letting you know about its cash shop. Starting a new game usually comes with a few notifications with all kinds of limited offers. You can use the shop to trade some gems for coins, or your social rings, arena and guild medals for Confinites and Shards, but when it comes to real money, some packages don’t come cheap.
It’s up to you to decide if it’s worth investing more than your time in a Gacha RPG.
Aion: Legions of War takes the name and lore of the acclaimed MMORPG and splashes it across a generic hero collector RPG. Instead of leading the pack, NCSoft chose to follow the trend with this game, delivering a tried-and-tested experience dressed in an Aion garment. It looks good and is a polished game that sadly settles for comfortable mediocrity instead of pushing the genre forward, as it so desperately needs.
- Stunning heroes
- Great voice acting
- Designed to make you feel constantly rewarded…
- … So that you’ll stick around and purchase something
- Auto-combat makes you feel redundant
- Generic Gacha RPG