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In the beginning, Aion benevolently watched over his world Atreia. He created the humans, and the Balaur to safeguard and watch over them. Eventually, the Balaur became obsessed with power and subjugation. Five of the Balaur rose to a height of strength above the rest, and became known as the five Dragon Lords. When Aion refused to grant them the power they desired, the power to rival his own, they revolted and declared war on the god that created them. Aion's hand was forced, and he created the twelve Empyrean Lords, beings of divinity and power to protect the Tower of Eternity.
Some humans "ascended" to become Daeva and, like the Empyrean Lords, had wings and the ability to fight the Balaur. With time, enough Daevas rose to form an army. The Empyrean Lords would lead the Daeva into battle and fight ceaselessly. Eventually an attempt at peace with the Balaur was made. The five Drakan Lords were invited inside the barrier for peace talks, but before the peace-talks could begin, one of the Drakan Lords was nearly assassinated by an unknown assailant. In the fighting that followed, the Tower of Eternity was destroyed, resulting in the cataclysm that broke Atreia in half. Five Empyrean Lords, most of whom opposed the peace treaty, came to power in the dark part of the world, "Asmodae," and became known as the Shedim Lords. Another five who had mostly desired peace became the Seraphim Lords and ruled over the lower half of Atreia, "Elysea." Two of the Empyrean Lords sacrificed themselves to keep Atreia from crumbling entirely.
Those that lived in the light part of the world, the Elyos, saw little change. These followers of the Seraphim Lords created the city of Sanctum. The inhabitants of the upper part, the Asmodians, saw many changes. Their hands became claw-like, their feet became talons. The darkness made their complexion cool, and their eyes grew red adapting to the absence of light. They live in the city of Pandaemonium under the rule of the Shedim Lords.
Players begin the game as a character whose background isn't totally known. It is hinted, through early quests, that the player's character came to the various factions through an accident, though they (the player) do not remember where they came from. Due to this memory loss, it is assumed that the player is human, and they are treated as such. However, over time, by completing tasks increasing in magnitude, preventing the Balaur from being summoned to the beginning zone, they "ascend" as winged, immortal Daevas. The ascension process takes place at their respective capitol cities, though the tone is different depending on the race chosen. In the case of the Elysea, the ascension is met with great celebration and treated as though the player's "friends" (NPCs from the quest chain) suspected all along that the player was one of the immortal Daeva. However, in the case of the Asmodae, the tone is very different. The character's quests leading up to that point had them acting as a "scavenger" of sorts, and they are seen and treated as being a "lower" life form of a lower station. However, when asked to prove their divinity, under penalty of death, the Asmodae player spreads their wings to the shock (and horror to some) of the assembled guests. From that point on the questing experience is relatively similar, though further minor nuances are found that do differentiate the two races.
The character creation system allows customization such as adjusting the height, weight and scale of various body parts. Different hair styles, skin colors, facial textures and voices can also be chosen. Further detailing can be found in the selection of eye shape and color, nose shape, ear size and shape and tattoos for the character's face and body.
The game allows players to dye their equipment to change its color and to change the graphics of one weapon or armor to that of another that they have in their inventory. This allows a player to display equipment graphics of items which they find visually appealing, while benefiting from the actual stats of different weapons or armors. Players can only change the graphics of a piece of equipment to that of another piece of equipment of the same type.
This adds another layer of customization (as it allows players to control the look of their avatar without sacrificing the better stats of an item that they find visually unappealing) and a new strategy to the game.
Many of the skills acquired as characters progress may only be performed in a certain order, or chain. Generally the skills located farther along in the chain are more powerful than those at the beginning, or those that have no prerequisite.
The end game of Aion revolves around battles within the Abyss (PvP zone). Within the Abyss are fortresses which can be controlled by individual Legions (Aion equivalent of a guild). Battle for control of these castles involves combat against players of the opposing faction and computer controlled NPCs at the same time, using siege weapons obtained from end game PvE raid content. Legions in control of a castle are entitled to funding from taxes and players within the faction get specials from NPCs and discounts for travel and vendor items. The game currently does not allow factions to fight against those of their own race, except for casual duels or practice in the Arena.
The participation in PvP is rewarded with Abyss Points in the game. The game ranks players as battles are won against fellow players based on their participation in the Abyss. At higher ranks the character's wings will change in appearance to show the character's elevated status. Also certain items can be purchased with these points such as high-end armor and weapons. This is referred to as the Abyss Rank system, and there can only be a limited number of high ranking players per server. The highest ranking players compete for the relatively few rank positions available. Abyss points are gained by killing other players in combat, and points are lost by being killed by another player. Higher points are awarded for a kill of a much higher ranked player than for killing an equal or lower ranked player.
There are four primary classes, and eight specialized classes in the game. Players start the game by choosing one of the four primary classes: Warrior, Mage, Scout, or Priest. After attaining level 10, the player must choose from two specialized classes associated with their chosen class. Warriors may become a Templar or a Gladiator; Mages may become a Sorcerer or Spiritmaster; Scouts choose from Assassin or Ranger; and Priests from Cleric or a Chanter.
Up to six players may form a group, to assist one another in battle, and share the benefits of victory. Certain areas are designed for group play and a group is required to enter some areas in the game. Up to four groups may form an Alliance for situations that call for greater force of numbers. Being a member of an Alliance restricts you the rewards received when a quest designed for single or group play is completed.
The base process involves learning a particular form of crafting, of which there are six in Aion: weaponsmithing, armorsmithing, handicrafting, tailoring, alchemy, and cooking. Players can learn all six crafting professions, but can be an Expert in only two.
Any item that can be crafted is actually composed of several individual components, or materials. The player can either learn which materials are needed for a particular item automatically or via purchase of the design. Generally these materials must be purchased from vendors or from other players, gathered out in the wild (via collection or extraction), crafted already, or morphed. Not everything can be crafted, however.
There are many different aspects to flight in Aion, which plays a vital role in Travel, Combat, Quests, and Crafting. Flying is only permitted in certain areas, known as flight zones. Flight is limited to 60 seconds but can be increased with various armor, titles, and other items in-game.
There are three type of quests in Aion: ordinary quests, campaign quests and Work Orders. Ordinary quests require the player to complete a task to receive a reward. Campaign quests are focused on story, and are crucial for player progression. Work Orders are used to increase skill in a chosen profession. Some quests are repeatable. Some quests especially campaign quests, cannot be shared or abandoned.