In my search for a F2P alternative to play when I cannot duo in Star Trek Online, I have come across Aika, the new offering from GPotato that isn’t Allods Online. Aika has just begun its second Closed Beta and has a planned release of Spring 2010 (then again, Allods still shows a planned release of Winter 2009 according to the site, so take that as you will). Aika initially caught my attention at around the same time as Allods, but at that time Allods was entering CB and Aika was not yet ready for prime time players, so the decision of what to try was made for me.
The two games claim to scratch different itches for me: Aika with the familiar anime-style graphics, much like a poor-man’s Aion, advertises Realm vs. Realm (vs. Realm vs. Realm vs. Realm) combat on a massive scale of thousands on the battlefield, lag-free – something Warhammer Online tried and seems to have failed to deliver – so I wonder if it will pick up any refugees from that game. It also promises small-scale battleground action, and, according to the forums, PvP is quite well balanced for a game of this type.
Allods, on the other hand, appealed to me with its WoW/Warhammer lovechild graphical style, interesting races and lore, and its engaging instanced tutorial that bade well for future encounters with PvE. The end-game seemed rather exclusionary to me, however, as do many games of that type, and the open PvP post-level 20 soured me somewhat on keeping up with the beta development. I know now that PvP flagging is live in the game, but I’ve kind of moved on in the meantime.
Right now Aika seems like a better choice for me to solo, but only time will tell and I don’t expect to reach any level of consequence during the short CB2 period given my playtime schedule. I’m a bit put off by the gender-locked classes and lack of customization, but I also realize that it is due to these very shortcuts that the game client is only 500mb in size and can support the large battles they advertise. The style of quest delivery is remniscent of unvoiced post-Tortage Age of Conan, which provides at least the illusion of an epic story that I can unravel by completing the quests in my log. If I can ignore the Lolis Clerics falling down and giving fanservice everywhere, I sometimes feel as though I’m playing Guild Wars, or a near cousin.
Oh, and unlike many other Korean games of its ilk, Aika allows you to turn on anti-aliasing from within the game, up to 16x worth. Of course, this is not worth anything if you forget to use said feature, as I did for the first half of my play session.
Verdict: Too early to tell, but shows promise. I have yet to get my little buff fairy (pran), as the quest to obtain her is a hour-long timed scavenger hunt and I had to get going.