Free to play MMORPG
Mabinogi is a game that just refuses to die.
It has not only existed in one form or another sense 2003, it has managed to stay financially successful the entire time.
That is an obscenely long lifespan for any Korean MMO without the word “Lineage” in its title.
Just the same, I had passed on the game countless times, because it just didn't look interesting.
Based on the screen shots and promotional videos it just looked like another mindless, cutesy, big eyed anime mob grinder drifting in a sea of countless other mindless, cutesy, big eyed anime, mob grinders.
In fact the only reason I finally took the time to download, and try the game at all was, because I wanted to find something to write a totally negative review for.
I admit it.
I was intentionally fishing for a crappy game.
BAD BASILISK, BAD!
the beast I ended up dragging to shore was absolutely nothing like I was expecting it to be.
Okay lets just get this out of the way right now.
Mabinogi is an ugly, ugly game.
Most of the graphics and sound are barely more complex then Mega Man Legends; a PlayStation 1 game released in 1997.
The games music sound like old MIDI files.
Many of the games older zones have a locked draw distance that is so short that you can barely see any object at all until you are almost at interaction range with it.
The newer zones draw distance is much better, but just makes the fact that the old zones draw distance is so low that much more annoying.
Even with six years of graphical upgrades with shades, and bloom effects, shadows, and lighting the game just looks ancient.
However as some ugly person once said,
"But I have a great personality!"
So lets talk about whats under the hood then.
If I had to try and draw comparisons to exactly what this game is like, I would have to say it's something between Asheron's Call, and The Sims.
...Allow me to expand.
This is a game where you quickly discover you have a lot more choices on how to progress your character then just declaring jihad on the local rat population.
In fact many players will argue that combat is not the focal point of the game at all.
When you first start the game your character is essentially a blank slate (if your character is human anyway; more on this later).
You learn new crafts and abilities from NPCs, books, or other players, ranging from various combat maneuvers to farming, to crafting, to learning how to actually write and play your own music.
You can tend to a flock of sheep, or get a part time job in town.
Get your own house, open up your own store, or even join a guild, and build a whole town of your own.
It is conceivably possible for a especially pacifistic player to happily play the game, and level up a fairly high end character without even so much as picking up a weapon.
Your character also ages, the longer you play, the older your avatar gets, you eventually gain the option to have your character reborn which rolls them back to a level 1 child, but retaining all their belongings and skills.
Another point of interest is that NPCs also have a more predominate roll in Mabinogi then they do in most MMOs.
Many of the games quests, items, and abilities are accessed by interacting with the games many non playable characters using a keyword conversation system not so far removed from ye olde text based adventures of long forgotten yore.
Your character may even become friends or enemies with many of the NPCs depending on how you treat them, which can in turn change how other local NPCs react to you.
All this text is surprisingly well written; not the best I have ever seen, (Neo Steam still holds that title) but considering the head crushing amount of dialog in this game, it's more then serviceable.
Put all this together and many of the games players have gravitated to playing the game more like a online Harvest Moon rather then a Everquest.
However even with all of the alternatives to combat, the game has not slacked too much on the more traditional MMO conventions of burying an axe in a goblins skull.
The game offers many random dungeon locations that change their layout, mobs, and loot depending entirely on what kind of item you sacrifice to the alter located at the entrance.
Mabinogi sports a battle system that functions some what like a momentum based game of rock paper scissors; which is fairly easy to learn, but may take a while for most players to master.
Blocking beats combos, Smash attacks beat blocking, so on and so forth.
Many players may quickly find combat in the game overly frustrating though. especially early off as Human characters as most battles either end because you killed your target in two shots or because your target killed you in three.
This is where the Elves, and Giants come in.
Where Humans are pretty much blocks of clay that can be sculpted into any roll given enough time. Elves and Giants are a bit more like prefabricated model kits.
Giants excel at melee combat right out of the box, and Elves master bows and magic very early in their tutorial quests.
The disadvantages being they are nowhere near as flexible with what skills they can access as Humans are.
They are locked out of much of the early games Human generational quests and content as well.
PvP in Mabinogi consists almost entirely of either “whoever has the best gear, and the highest level abilities wins”, or in the rare case of two evenly matched opponents, “whoever gets the first hit in wins.”
I have yet to see any of the big faction war battles advertised on the games website, I don't know if anyone has actually, so its restricted almost entirely to duels.
This results in an atmosphere where you have a lot of kids swaggering around town looking for fights solely for the purpose of stroking their E-peen over all the “skill” they have for one shotting newbies.
I don't know about other people but I found this a major turnoff, and I couldn't help but notice almost everyone wearing combat armor behaved this way.
Other complaints I have with the game are things like the inexplicable fact that if you close out of the game it will empty your hotbars, yet it remembers them from switching characters or even accounts.
Another thing I can't stand is XP loss when you die.
XP loss from death was, is, and never will be a good design choice, and I spit on whatever bastard that first came to the conclusion that it was.
Mabinogi ups the ante Ultima style by making not only XP loss a penalty for death but the chance of you dropping your hard earned equipment also a very real danger. . .
Here comes my biggest gripe with the game. You either pay $9.50 for something called Nao's Support Service, or $14.90 for the Fantasy Life Club.
Services that prevent the drop of your items from death along with a bunch of other varied, and mostly pointless bells, and whistles depending on which one you buy.
They expires every 30 days.
You know that sounds an awful lot like a subscription to me.
Which I would really have no problem with except for the fact that other things like pets, and mounts also cost real money, and have to be bought individually for individual characters for upwards of 10 dollars or more each.
Which reminds me, any additional characters after the first have to be bought for up to 10 dollars each as well.
You tally those numbers up for an avid player, and this free to play game quickly becomes potently the most expensive MMO I have seen since AOL stopped charging by the hour for the original Neverwinter Nights.
Mabinogi is immensely deep for a Korean MMO; maybe the deepest ever.
Get past the pug fugly presentation, and it might just suck you in.
Be aware, while fully possible to play the game without ever paying a dime, Nexon, the games publishers have done their damnedest to inconvenience you as much as possible for it.
I recommend this game for people looking for an alternative to all the pure combat focused online games out there, however if you plan to spend any substantial time with the game, just be warned Mabinogi does not like cheap dates.
Sunday, June 28, 2009