NOV 08 2017
So I've been playing this game about a week or so now. I remember playing it closer to when it launched, maybe three? four? years ago. It was cute then which was my big impression at the time and you know? It's still cute.
Very zen game and really zoomy for the first 50 levels and it pretty much bum rushes you through the first five zones, complete with auto-pathing and having your kill-targets about four steps away from the quest giver. I mean that. Sometimes just turning on the spot from the quest giver has your kill target in bow range.
Normally, I hate this sort of stuff because its often a really terrible experience; poor optimised, badly translated from the original language, insane grind built into everything until your eyes bleed, a completely whacked out item mall and pay-to-win pieces in the hundreds of real life dollars. But Aura Kingdom? Not any of those things, surprisingly enough.
For one thing, I love the art style. Sue me, its bright, clean and just chibi enough to appeal to me as a former Sailor Moon fan. My skills are flashy without being stupid, my outfits make me feel schmexy, and every zone has its own vibe going on. It's compact and streamlined and meant to keep you moving from spot to spot without really thinking about it. The solo dungeons are more of the same - no running off and getting lost, that's for sure as it's a linear path right through it, kill some (minimal amounts of) trash, kill a couple of boss, kill the big boss, rinse and repeat three more times before you're locked out for a few hours. Can be done in less than 10 minutes a run, sometimes in less than 5 if you're overgeared like I was for a few of them.
Now the above might be a total turn off as a description if you're looking for a game that's got serious meat on it's bones and that's fair. What I can say is that Aura Kingdom has an abundance of charm, it doesn't take itself super seriously and the game makes it really easy to get focused on simply achieving the next level/zone/achievement in a play session which sometimes all one needs.
I have to mention that crafting is a bit of a mess - since I was leveling so fast right out of the gate by the time I was able to purchase a recipe to make something, I was already getting better world drops and pretty much blowing right past any opportunity to make anything. For example, I was looking at the level 50 orange-quality bow at about level 47 and the stats looked great. I bought the recipe to get the component item list (my mistake right there) and as it turned out by the time I ran through all the dungeons over the next couple of days, all the multiple times I needed to run them to get the materials, I'd leveled to 55 and actually ended up randomly fishing up a drop that was better than the recipe! So now I am chastised. I'll look up the item list on the internet next time and do the gathering stuff FIRST before dropping actual gold on the crafting recipe, assuming it's still worthy at that point.
It didn't really set me back though, which made me feel slightly less foolish. The recipe purchase was about half my available gold at the time but I pretty much earned it right back plus a bunch more with all the running around, so I didn't really feel like I'd been hit in the pocketbook. I've played games where that was not the case at all.
Now, it's very possible that I've just now hit that spot where crafted gear starts to trump over world drops. As of this writing I am now level 58 and the solo dungeon I ran last night had level 57 trash and 59 bosses so the world level has finally caught up to my character level. Leveling itself is not really super zoomy anymore so it may start making sense to invest in some quality pieces. Having been burned on the orange bow debacle though, I'll hold off until I pass 60 and see how the world/game looks at that point.
Let's see, what else. As you play and complete quests, you earn Loyalty Points and those can be used those to buy things out of the store. There's a bunch of bling items as always but the big ones are, of course, extra backpack space and mounts (which okay, are still bling, but c'mon - everybody needs a sweet ride). In my week of playing, I earned enough LP without half trying to buy four extra backpacks (5 slots each) and a fancy flaming lion mount so now I'm charging across the landscape in style. The pain point is, as always in most games, the storage space. They just don't give you enough for what drops so I've had to be pretty ruthless about what I keep and what I sell. Pretty much if its a component for some part of the game that I won't be touching for awhile (like fancy bait for fancy fish catching), then I sell to the appropriate vendor to gain their tokens.
That takes some getting used to. You can salvage equipment that you don't need into "fragments" that you can then use to upgrade (called Fortification) the gear you actually are using, but things like bait can be sold to a Fishing vendor in the main town for Fishing Tokens and gathered items like berries, nuts, spices also drop "Ethereal Crystals" which can be sold to the Gathering vendor for Gathering tokens, etc, etc. This game has, like, twenty different currencies, its so bizarre. Quest Tokens for completing missions, Dragon Points (tokens) for killing elite monsters, War Coins for pvp victories, it just goes on and on.
A small shout out that the quests themselves are really quite well written - I mean, we're not talking Secret World levels of amazing or anything, but if you read the text, you're often charging around helping some random soul find the perfect flower so they can propose properly to their sweetheart, or helping a kid avoid his chores, or being duped by a thief to steal something he's too lazy to heist for himself or any number of other amusing little interludes. There's formatting issues as left-to-right doesn't always fit neatly in boxes meant for vertical characters but overall its not terrible, just a bit awkward.
Aura Kingdom also has fighting pets (called eidolons) which is cool. One is given during character creation and then the main quest gives you four more a little later down the line. You can "link (them) to Gaia" which earns you crystals every ten minutes which you turn around and feed to them so they level with you. Seems like it's a major part of whatever passes for endgame; obtaining new ones and evolving them to fight with you. I chose Grimm, a little fire dragon who's stats were mostly in damage, under the theory that a dead enemy is an enemy that can't hurt anything. I ended up swapping him out for Aelius when he was given to me around level 35 or so as that eidolon has both damage and a tolerably decent heal skill which was nice to have going off every so often. At least until I hit level 40 and picked up a healing sub-class for myself, so I may need to rethink what I'm doing.
The crystals you get pretty much only let you keep up one eidolon as level-par with you so invest wisely, padawan. Like I said, probably an end game thing where you spend quality grind time trying to get those crystals. I've run across an NPC in the main town that tells me at level 60 something will open that will let me field a team of eidolons in instanced fights which sounds... cool. Another thing to work on, along with the billion other projects like gear and weapon struggles, earning my next fishing achievement so I can unlock Level Three in that and figuring out what the hell one does with Archaeology, exactly.