"A video game comic and blog that would have been awesome and relevant 10 years ago. Maybe." -Famous Website
Ah! It feels like forever ago since we last posted and I have to say it's great to be back in the comic making saddle! It has been really nice to take some time off to refresh and spend time with friends and family. I hope everyone had safe and eventful holidays and are excited to start the new year off with enthusiasm; I know Pie and I are ready to dish out more Aggro for your pleasure!
A few weeks back I was pining on about how much I want an MMO to get rooted in and how much of a turn off easy enemy engagements can be. Imagine my surprise when a game off our radar with absurdly easy world enemies captured the attention of not only me and Pie, but a number of friends that we play MMOs with. I am talking about Aura Kingdom, made by Taiwan developer X-Legend and published without region locking by Aeria Games.
I've been really debating how much to blog about this all night, pondering whether it warrants the attention at such an early stage (open beta) and without seeing further into the game (around level 40 of 70). Ultimately though, it is quite rare for a game to really grab our whole group like Aura Kingdom has and it feels like it hits a number of things just right. Pie and I are often talking about game design and all the little things we enjoy about so many of the games we play, so I wanted to highlight some of those things in detail in this highlight series since we are so enthralled with this game at the moment!
So strap in, we're going to cover the walls with this game as I cover various aspects of it over the next few days!
**update** Aura Kingdom servers have been having issues as Aeria has been inundated from the response to the game. Sadly, this has put off my post since I need to get some screen shots and verify info in game. I will post as soon as I can; in the meantime, I've added a couple screenshots to the character building section to flesh it out a bit more, with descriptions.
Let's start with the bread and butter of what makes Aura Kingdom appealing to me: character building!
In many recent MMOs, we've been seeing more and more control being taken away from the player in how they build and plan their characters. The game makers may figure "Why bother developing skills and builds that risk giving players option-paralysis and will prove to be used by a very slim minority once all the math shows there can be only one (build)." I remember ArenaNet coming to some similar conclusion when they started gating their trait system.
This has always been a sore point for me in many games, especially where choices are of little consequence as game designers confuse calculation and incomparable choices when perhaps a little perfect imbalance should be thrown in to increase the various ways we play together, both cooperatively and competitively. I like to see that more options are given to players so that we may do as we will and create our own broken builds, if that's what we so choose.
Aura Kingdom breaks more modern form by going back to allowing players to make interesting class, stat, envoy path (think talent), and gear choices that let a player hone a character to play the way they see fit. Coupled with modern tech and quality of life lessons made by learning from other games, Aura Kingdom presents itself as worth exploring in depth even if the long term ramifications of their system (class/group balance, end game content) remain to be seen.
There are 8 base classes with 2 more on the way and all classes can subclass as any other. As you level you are given 7 attack skills for your main weapon, another 7 for your subclass weapon when it unlocks at level forty, and an additional 3 skills if you choose certain synergetic subclasses. However, you can forgo the 3 additional skills and go against the grain to build an off the wall character if you so choose. Want to be a melee high single-target DPS DoT class (Duelist) with the ability to heal the party (Bard)? Shoot the moon!
All subclasses will suffer from having much longer (2-3x main class) cooldowns on their skills. This, along with Envoy Paths unique to your main class make Duelist Bards play completely differently from Bard Duelists.
You are given an offensive stat pool to invest in ATK, CRIT and/or SPD as well as a defensive stat pool to invest in DEF, EVA and/or HP; mix and match as you please.
Pump all into ATK and DEF and become a hard hitting tank. Make a hybrid CRIT SPD build to have DoTs and HoTs critically hit and tick faster while pumping EVA to flee enemy attacks.
Work the stats to gel well with your class, talents, augmentations, gear, and play style as you see fit.
You are given a main-class specific Envoy's Path (which works similarly to FF12s license board) allowing you to choose which passive and active talents you want added to your build. In addition, you get ultimate skills from both your primary and secondary class, allowing you to choose which of your existing skills are further augmented with additional effects.
You get 1 Envoy's Path every 3 levels, allowing you to compliment your skill, ultimates, and stats.
Blue gear can have wildly different sub stat classes,
stat values and prefixes. Green gear of the same tier will
tend to be better but will always have the same stat
classess, with stat values differing slightly.
Secret Stones (orange) add further variety.
The staggering list of skills, ultimate skills and Envoy Path grids can be found here. Prepare for many long nights of decision making and re-creating characters as you start to discover the nuances of the classes you play as well as learn about those you don't and how you may want to rebuild based around your evolving knowledge of the game.
Gear also comes in randomized and normalized stat sets which allow you to choose if you want to go for a typical (normalized - green gear) stat build or specialized (randomized - blue gear) stat build. As if that isn't enough, the loot porn aspect of the game is off the charts, allowing gear to come with various prefixes, suffixes, elements, set bonuses and skill augmentations to allow you to min-max to your heart's content. Want to increase drop rate, upgrade your Slash Cut skill, reduce your damage from players or increase damage versus bosses? It's all out there if you get the right gear, which thankfully isn't as hard to get as you might expect.
Did I mention that you can upgrade gear adding to their offense or defense and inlay them with Secret Stones which can themselves have random buffs AND be leveled up as your character progresses?! +20 Weapon of Awesome Health Stealing inlayed with a Level 50 Secret Stone increasing your Slash Cut damage, crit and damage against lightning element enemies.
And that's just your sword - one slot of 12, not including costumes! It's all kinds of awesome craziness.
Finally, we come to your Eidolon companion pets. Collect them, fight alongside them, converse with them, get to know them, level them up, and upgrade their stats. Each one has their own personality, unique skills, stats, strengths, weaknesses and ultimate combo moves you can use as a sort of "summon" to do massive damage while giving you a few seconds of invincibility when things are chaotic and you need your potion or critical skill to come off cooldown.
The great thing about Eidolons is they are completely optional. You can use them if you are having a hard time, or you can put them away if you want more challenge. Pie and I were stuck in a Hell mode instance because our friends accidentally left and we didn't want our lockout to be used for no good reason. We pulled out our two Eidolons and ran the 5-man dungeon with just the 2 of us. It ended up being a fantastic way to help fill out party roles that were missing since the AI works remarkably well at doing what each Eidolon specializes in.
Aura Kingdom allows for some very in-depth and intriguing ways to build your character and stable of Eidolons, but all the character customization in the world will mean nothing if the game can't deliver a cohesive and enjoyable experience.
On Monday, I'll post Part 2 of my detailed look on Aura Kingdom, the all important gameplay.