By Erhan Altay
Mabinogi is unlike any free MMORPG I’ve ever played. I’ve never been much of an anime fan so I was hesitant when I first booted the game up but I’m glad I gave it a try. The art style is strange to say the least. Not only are the graphics cartoony but the characters are actually hand painted. This art style does tend to give Mabinogi a ‘kiddy’ feel but if you can look past that, you’re in for a feature rich game experience.
Make it Count
Originally launched in Korea as a mainly pay-to-play game, Mabinogi’s conversion to a free to play, micro transaction supported, game hasn’t been an entirely smooth ride. Because of this, many nearly essential features are only available through the cash shop. Each account can only create one character for frees so be sure to do your homework and make it count. Character creation in Mabinogi is a bit more complicated than in most games since players are required to pick a starting age. Your age options range from 10 to 17 , older characters start with more stat points; str, dex, int and so on while younger characters have higher stat growth per level. Starting older makes the early game far easier while a very young age makes it a struggle. Eventually, the player who started younger will gain an advantage over the older character but whether or not its worth the hassle is based on an individuals. play style. The game does recommend new players to start at an older age but after playing both a young and old starting character, I noticed no real difference. Beyond starting age, there are various hair, eye and mouth styles to chose from. Appearance customization is something Mabinogi does very well both from the start and later on through tailoring and clothing dyes but more on that later.
After character creation, players are taken to a glowing white area where, after walking around a bit, they will be met by a woman wearing a sultry black dress. I didn’t quite read what she had to say but my guess is she’s some sort of goddess sending me into the world of Mabinogi where I can pursue my fantasy life. This conversation is followed by the game’s intro movie which you can watch here, titled ‘Mabinogi Featured Video.’ This and all other cutscenes are skippable by pressing the ‘esc’ key but I recommend watching them. Before long, you’ll have received a ‘spirit sword’ and be ready for adventure. The beginner city of Tir Chonaill will be your home for a while but the best way to familiarize yourself is to simply follow the game’s quest lines. Periodically, based on your level and past quest completions, owls will fly over your head and drop scrolls containing new quests. Mabinogi tracks quests exceptionally well, all available quest locations and objectives are marked on your minimap by purple markers and each individual quest in your log has detailed step-by-step descriptions. In case you need even more help, selecting a quest in your log will cause a bright purple flashing arrow to appear on the screen guiding you to your next objective. Following quests from the beginning is the best way to level up and also the best way to earn gold and ability points.
A Skill for Everything
While players do level up in Mabinogi, the main form of character development is through skill rankings. Players gain skill in which ever skills they put to use. Melee attacks increase the combat skill, playing the lute increases the music skill and so on. When players accumulate enough skill points in a particular skill, they may use Ability Points to increase that skill’s rank. Ability points are acquired through leveling up but also through completing quests, making it vital to do so. There are currently dozens of skills available with many more on the way in future game versions which means there are limitless possibilities in terms of customization. Of course some skills are more useful than others and common templates do emerge. Combat in Mabinogi is handled a bit differently as well. Rather than simply beating your target to death, players must chose which of various combat related skills they would like their character to perform. These skills include things like bash, counter attack, guard and so on. The best way to imagine this is as a rocks papers scissors system where certain skills are weak against others. Finding out which skills are the most effective on a particular important becomes very important during later boss fights but the game gives players plenty of time to get acquainted with the mechanism. Throughout the first dozen levels I barely did anything buy my default attack and still managed well enough. It was not until later during a boss fight did I learn the hard way how to use skills properly. For those of you have played or heard of Shin Megami Tensei: Imagine ( aka MegaTen ), the combat and skill system between it and Mabinogi are very similar. The major difference being MegaTen focuses on combat and pet related skills while Mabinogi focuses on combat and social skills.
One of Mabinogi’s weakest areas are the randomly generated instanced dungeons. There are several types scattered across the game world but they all follow the same basic principles. Players approach the enterance, drop an item on the alter and enter the dungeon. The difficulty and variables of the dungeon are determined by the type of item dropped. The dungeons are composed of multiple identical looking rooms in a maze like structure. In every other room there is a group of monsters that must be defeated to continue, this eventually leads to a boss room. All this wouldn’t be so bad if there were only some scenery and monster variations. How many rooms must I clear of rats, bats, mimics and spiders? With the rest of the game world looking so colorful and vibrant, its unfortunate that more time wasn’t put into making the dungeons more attractive. Many quests send you into the beginner dungeon and dungeons become the best place to hunt after the mid teens so they are an unavoidable part of the game.
Even with its unique combat system, Mabinogi’s main attraction is not so much combat but the social experience. The sheer number of things you can do outside combat in this game is staggering. Just the other night, a woman riding a horse (requires cash shop purchase) saw me running towards town and offered me a lift. I was a bit confused at first but she informed me that in Mabinogi a second person could hop on a horse and tag along for the ride. When we did get to town, a musician was performing at the square with a donation box in front of him. He was playing his recreation of the Lost Woods theme from Zelda: Ocarina of Time. I applauded his performance and dropped 2,000 coins into his box. Its small features like this that really leave an impression, at least with me. Mabinogi also has plenty of larger social features such as player shops, player housing and guilds (requires cash shop purchase). There is even an arena and two warring factions; Paladins and Dark Knights for players who are interested in PvP.
Final Verdict: Great
Mabinogi sets itself apart and proves that there is still room for original ideas in the MMORPG field. With it’s calm graphics and emphasis on socializing, Mabinogi is not the game for the hardcore grinder looking to clear the hardest content or get the rarest gear. Instead, its a game that can be played by all age groups and appreciated on multiple levels.
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