5 months ago
The original iteration of AION, The Tower of Eternity, was quite bland when compared against its primary western counterpart (World of Warcraft) yet offered a unique aesthetic and several novelty features such as flight that allowed it to garner a decent playerbase. That wasn't enough to save it in the long run, though, as it eventually went F2P.
In that respect, I support the assertion of your thread: AION IS VERY CLOSE TO BEING A PERFECT EXAMPLE... of a Free-to-Play game.
The original "Truly Free" version by NCSoft, anyway. It launched with all content, including unrestricted access to raids and dungeons, player housing, mounts, etc, that a paying-player/subscriber would enjoy. Better yet, the "premium" shop boasted EXCLUSIVELY cosmetic items: alterations to the appearance of your wings, mounts and heaps of clothing. No stat boosts, no "actual" gear, no XP boosters or quest-skipping/fast-travel items, nothing that provided a tangible benefit for those with extra cash.
It was fabulous! AION truly was the pinnacle of MMOs.
...sadly, that era didn't linger: publishers realized that the goodwill of their entire playerbase was worth substantially less than persuading a few hundred-thousand of 'em to fork over a few dollars and, of course, let's not forget the whales they all sought. Mobile gaming took off shortly thereafter and "microtransactions" (particularly for convenience features) became the norm.
Today, even with the numerous expansion packs, varied content and such, AION is showing its age. The combat mechanics are genuinely archaic when compared against something like Black Desert, the graphics pale against UE4 technology and the overall quest-structure/mechanics remain largely unrefined since its inception.
AION is stil a decent game and, in its own right, a hallmark of the MMORPG genre. Like Ultima Online and Everquest, however, despite their contributions to the form, they no longer represent what MMOs should aspire to become...