Emulating the success of Western MMOGs may allow Aion a stronger foothold in the marketplace, but it will be up to its own unique set of features to make it stand out. The most obvious example is a set of wings bestowed upon players when they hit Level 10. Not only do they make for an easy method of travel, but they're also a key component in combat, as controlling the skies becomes just as important as the ground game. Borrowing an idea from Square Enix's MMORPG, Final Fantasy XI, Aion utilizes a system for chaining skills amongst party members in order to dish out larger amounts of damage. The key difference is its accessibility, as the next skill in the chain is immediately highlighted for all eligible players, making it easy for even the relatively inexperienced to figure out how to contribute. Also unique to the world of Aion is the concept of "Player versus Monsters versus Player," which will allow groups to take on raid-level enemies while fending off attacks from the opposing faction. This, of course, will most likely appeal to the more hardcore MMOG fans, as the thought of simply battling giant monsters already strikes fear into the heart of most newcomers.
After spending some time playing the game, it's clear that the developers of NCsoft have done their research in what separates a Korean MMORPG from a Western one. Everything from the quest system to your character's handling seems much more in line with modern MMOGs and is a huge improvement upon their previous Korean title, Lineage II. Aside from slapping a bunch of generic descriptors on the title (May I suggest World of Aion Online?), they've done just about all they can to please as many players as possible. It looks like highly stylized fantasy anime, but the gameplay will be instantly familiar to gamers on this side of the Pacific. By the time Aion reaches the West, the already competitive MMORPG market will be even nastier than it is now, but regardless of how it performs, NCsoft can rest easy. They've brought their baby into the 21st century.
Jared Rea lost the summer of 1998 to Ultima Online and has never been the same since. He continues to enjoy MMOGs, believes they're the most untapped in terms of potential and was, for a brief time, the star of one. Don't ask.