We were lucky enough to get some hands-on time with Aura Kingdom this week but is it something worth getting excited about? A new fantasy inspired MMO is announced on an almost weekly basis nowadays and that hasn't done anything for the credibility of the genre. With a long list of features that can be tied with many lesser MMO titles does Aura Kingdom stand up to the new generation of MMORPG games?
Aura Kingdom sets the bar high within moments of loading up the game client. Character creation is fully animated so players can see their class of choice in high level gear, utilizing their tools of the trade. There were 8 different classes available in the pre-beta client including Guardian, Ravager, Duelist, Gunslinger, Grenadier, Wizard, Bard and Sorcerer; a mixed selection of melee, ranged and magical classes. Each class was represented by a brief combat-related video and ratings in varying fields such as healing, AoE damage, Defense and other important factors. A wide selection of classes is common in today's MMO world but very few games offer the tools available to make an educated choice without searching other sources such as YouTube. Thankfully in Aura Kingdom, that's not needed.
Sadly the customization of appearance is a little slim as the only choices available were eye color, hair color and style, gender, skin tone and facial type. The anime themed graphics, although high in quality, made it quite difficult to create a more masculine character; resulting in a more school era kind of look.
The final area of character customization gives players the opportunity to select an Eidolon. There was 4 options available, each conforming to regular MMO archetypes. As I chose a melee Ravager with AoE DPS as a focal point I opted to choose the Daring Dragon; a specialist in single target damage. However, other Eidolon's can fulfill the roles of tank and healer should you want that kind of support.
So once character creation was out of the way I was introduced to game via a simple tutorial. Simple as it was, it showed me a lot of features I was not expecting to see. Aura Kingdom uses a combination of typical quest dialogue with heavily detailed cut-scenes and active conversations (similar to Guild Wars 2) to deliver a story experience that's actually worth the time it takes to read. Whenever I experience a new MMO for the first time, especially a free title, I tend to skip everything just to sample the mechanics and core features but Aura Kingdom's unique storytelling angle kept me glued for the entire experience.
Character progression comes in the form of an intuitive Skill Path. Each class has access to a massive selection of abilities but players must carefully choose which abilities to learn next as it opens up abilities at later levels. Thankfully all of the abilities are easily explained via tool tips so although the choices are highly important, you don't have to make them blindfolded. Character customization becomes more open as you progress wtih character Skill Points awarded every level up. This points can be spent to increase vital stats like Crit, Speed, Damage, HP, Evasion and so forth. Further improvements can be made to your character through the unlocking of achievements. These can be as simple as discovering hidden objects in the world, talking to certain NPC's or completing difficulty challenges. Each title offers different buffs to your character, allowing you to adapt to any situation in a speedy time. Combine this with your unique set of abilities and you'll standout in the crowd.
Aura Kingdom's combat system is also quite impressive for a free title. Using either W,A,S and D keys, or mouse clicks, players can navigate the vibrant fantasy world using traditional hotkeys to activate abilities. The animations linked with combat are very detailed and offer a lot more than just the flashing lights and dull animations associated with free games. Aura Kingdom also borrows real-time combat abilities from other titles that sees enemy monsters activate AoE and long-range abilities with players given a small window in which to avoid the attack. Sadly most of the abilities root the character in place for several seconds, rendering the entire system pointless but it's still in pre-beta and it's an issue we've seen fixed before.
Aura Kingdom house a traditional MMO questing system that sees players speaking to certain characters, interacting with specific objects and defeating big lists of enemies. The unique real-time animation of characters and the miniature cut-scenes go a long way to removing the typically mundane experience associated with today's MMO questing but it's still a rather traditional system. It's also worth noting that you're able to interact with quest objects while you're not even questing, enticing players with the shiny - interact - reward mentality but rewarding them with nothing. The quest rewards that I received also didn't appear to change my characters appearance, despite changing armor sets on a few occasions. Whether this is intended for pre-beta is unknown but it's something they'll want to address before launch.
And finally, Eidolons. Unfortunately I didn't get as much time with these quirky little guys as I'd hoped but the system wet my appetite enough to get me drooling at the mouth. The Eidolon chosen during character creation becomes available a short time into the first town, opening up the ability to bring a comrade into battle to aid with the quick destruction of enemies. My personal Eidolon came complete with 4 powerful abilities and an ultimate ability that saw both my character and companion join together to unleash a devastating attack, and it looked awesome. The official website and the tutorial in-game demonstrated different Eidolon's and their powers so I'm expecting big things at launch.
Sadly due to some technical problems on my end I was unable to experience Aura Kingdom any further. I can honestly say I was not expecting much when I first downloaded the client but I cannot wait until I get the opportunity to play again. Keep your eye on this one!