Early Access: The Aurora World
By Darren Henderson (DizzyPW), OnRPG Editor-in-Chief
Earlier this week I had a chance to jump onto GBE Game's private server for The Aurora World to check this heavily Asian influenced fantasy MMORPG out prior to next week’s closed beta test. And while the title looks similar to other Chinese developed MMORPGs on the market, I decided I’d better do my due diligence and dig deeper to see what it offers to separate itself from its peers.
Character Customization and Classes
Aurora World presents the usual customization in a clean simplistic way. You have four archetypes to choose from with each offering one of two variants of it to further differentiate yourself.
Surprisingly the only core melee archetype of the four available, the warrior is your one stop shop for tanking as well as party support. Those looking to shutdown their foes with CC while applying heavy dps pressure will like the Warlord while the more party-oriented commanders will like the party buffs of the Gladiator.
Those seeking raw spike damage will be right at home with the mage archetype. Archmages take spike damage to the max but are glass cannons. Those looking to hold off the enemy to better support their allies will be more comfortable with the Sorcerer.
Support minded players will want to look at this archetype. Bishops offer the standard heal, protection, buff and resurrection skills you’d expect from a support while the Apothecary is more of a survivalist that can delay an enemy’s assault with shields and life sap skills.
Those looking to use a hybrid of spells and summons will like the diversity of the Witch archetype. They offer a nice mix of support and dps making them valuable in just about any situation though take a bit more micromanagement than any of the other classes. The Warlock in particular can unleash intense destructive power without putting themselves directly in harm’s way while the Shaman can disable enemies while supporting allies and still maintain decent damage with their summon.
In terms of customization you can expect the average number of options with 8 hairstyles, 9 hair colors, 6 faces, and 8 facial decorations (i.e. tattoos) for each gender. None of the classes are gender locked either so no worries about getting pigeonholed in that area. My only real complaint is that only 3 skin colors were available and they were basically just variants on pale. The hair colors and styles on the other hand had as much variation as you would expect in an anime or jrpg.
Nations and PvP
The final choice players will make on character creation is joining a nation. This doesn’t seem to have a huge impact on gameplay (the same classes and skills are available for the sake of balance) but it does impact your starting location on an incredibly large world map.
Now this game might seem familiar for fans of titles like Perfect World and I as a fan of said title had concerns for imbalance between factions. But Aurora Interactive seems to have taken steps to try to sway the tides towards even balance by not only including a 3 faction system but also offering bonuses like gift bags and bonus experience for players that join the weakest of the three options.
The world of Aurora is huge and getting around involves everything from flying ships to riding oversized parrots.
In terms of the actual PvP fans of open world battles and Clan grudges will feel right at home. Starting at level 30 every player is open game which I’m sure will bring plenty of additional challenge in the later stages when players are forced to venture outside of their kingdoms and into the Divine and Demon Worlds where every faction shares the same questing grounds. Those that prefer more organized PvP matches will enjoy massive Clan Wars to test each other’s superiority, but be warned you’ll need to grind to level 40 before you can join.
And those looking to show their national pride can rally behind each nation’s democratically elected king to go head to head in 300 player battles filled with teleport points and capture/hold relics that allow the King to activate buffs. Though the buffs are still a mystery to me outside of one that offers a 200% exp increase, I know there are 5 control points on the map so you get an idea that each is incredibly important and worth fighting to keep.
My best guess at why they chose the name Aurora World is highly refined gear shines brighter than the Northern Lights. A Gear Star Rating helps identify the relative strength of party members, which can be a good or bad thing depending on who you ask.
This title is obviously built around the success of the PvP as it’s balanced for players level 40+ as the main source of entertainment at end-game. Ideally they are looking to see some competitive tales unfold and the intrigue surrounding players jockeying to occupy the seven government positions of each nation should be enough to create some real tension between the sub-clans of each nation. Unfortunately this is all speculation that will have to wait until the game actually has an active community so I can’t offer any real opinion on it from my limited time on the test server.
If I had to point to a feature that really distinguishes The Aurora World, it’s the Majinn system. Mounts and combat pets alike, Aurora World is populated with over 100 of the little buggers ranging from cute pandas to ferocious dragons. These creatures can be fed consumable items to evolve them and can absorb slain monster’s souls to acquire more powerful skills and some offer unique bonuses such as being able to provide a mount for multiple players at a time. This might not seem like a huge deal but believe me when I say my girlfriend constantly complains when we play a title that doesn’t offer a way for me to carry her on my mount. The Majinn each offer a trump card skill as well in the form of a Chaos Trigger that allows you to really push your pet to their fullest for a limited amount of time.
The Majinn are also divided into one of five of the classic Chinese elements including fire (multi-target attack specialists), water (slow debuff masters), earth (regen and defense specialists), wood (recovery), and metal (single-target attack specialists). According to the company representative these elements also act as a type of advanced rock-paper-scissors mechanic though again I was unable to test out the PvP so this will need further looking into in OnRPG’s full review.
Reputation and Events
Besides the Majinn there are some pretty unique events that set this title apart. With 18 events total ranging from PvP escort missions to a unique Chinese spin on Mario Kart to randomly assisting new players, there’s plenty to keep players of all types busy when they’re tired of the grind. And a nice reputation system offers rewards for event participation vital as it can net you end-game skills and other must have items for crafting and such.
The Aurora World doesn’t reinvent the wheel but it certainly puts some shiny new rims on it. Its gameplay isn’t groundbreaking but its features list certainly impresses and those that love the artstyle involving crazy glow effects on upgraded gear and oversized weapons will feel right at home. The controls function as well as expected minus a few places I disliked. For instance the game’s gravity made me feel like I was running on the moon and for some reason my character was unable to jump if I was running in a diagonal direction towards the camera. But this was an alpha test so they still have time to iron a few issues out. The UI is a bit intrusive by default but customizable enough to get it feeling just right.
In the end all the features in the world won’t matter if the game’s PvP falls flat so I look forward to the future when one of OnRPG’s content team takes a look at the more advanced gameplay. This title offers a huge world filled with danger from not only unforgiving dungeon monsters but also intense competitive amongst three factions both in and out of instances so I have hope for it. Honestly the game’s strength is offering what’s been successful in past titles in a clean and decently (though not perfectly) localized client so long as the cash shop is balanced, the game should do well. Those who can’t wait and want to see The Aurora World for themselves won’t have to wait long as closed beta testing begins March 7th!