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MapleStory 2 Review

MapleStory 2 - image
Critic Score: 4 out of 5
User Rating: (46 votes, average: 3.24 out of 5)

As I indicated in my preview of the MapleStory 2 Beta, I was not a fan of the original MapleStory. It felt grindy, tedious, and I was not fond of the presentation. It didn’t seem like it was easy to swap your stats/skills around if you needed to, and the whole 2D MMO style just doesn’t resonate with me. That’s another story for another day though – I have to say though, I’m very positive and happy to be playing Maple Story 2. The kindest thing I can say about it is that it shares a universe with MapleStory and is not MapleStory. MapleStory 2 is its own entity, and that’s for the best. That makes MapleStory 2 more accessible and thus, more enjoyable for not just the returning players, but for newcomers like me. It’s cute, fun, and pretty relaxing to play – something that MMOs I feel are straying away from, with their need to make everything insanely challenging, grimdark, or ultra high-resolution.

When did “casual” become such a four-letter word? In the original MapleStory, you grinded the same map for hours, maybe even days. That’s not fun to me. The way I understand the original game, is that the quests weren’t altogether useful in terms of progression, but in MapleStory 2, I’ve leveled solely by completing the story. I haven’t grinded areas except to complete map challenges. So that alone makes it far superior to its predecessor. I go from map to map, completing the main story. For a change of pace, there are lots of maps that you don’t really go to in the main story (at least not immediately), and you can wander there for map completion, fishing, or simply tackling side quests and getting more items and experience. So what is MapleStory 2?

MapleStory 2 Screenshot

Spin through the cute, cuddly enemies! Spin them into bits!

MapleStory 2 is a 3D voxel-style MMORPG set in the MapleStory universe. I’ve read that MapleStory 2 is a prequel, taking place before the Black Mage, which is pretty interesting for me, and means I don’t really need to know anything to get into the game. Character creation is simple, and you have eight classes to choose from (With RuneBlader coming with launch). I’ve played several of the classes by now, and while they’re all fun, and I initially loved my time with the Heavy Gunner, Berserker is my new favorite. No matter which style of MMO class you want, they’ve got you covered: Knight, Berserker, Priest, Wizard, Archer, Heavy Gunner, Thief, Assassin. I do like that there are two options for each generic RPG trope (Knight or Berserker, Thief or Assassin, et cetera). It’s still an action MMO, so your attacks and skills are done in real time, and moving around is important. There is a huge world to explore, and this land needs your help. I’m going to avoid talking about the story, because it was fun to explore for myself, and there is definitely darkness lurking in this otherwise adorable world. Whether traversing dank tombs, huge cities, or open fields, it’s always somehow adorable.

Comfortable controls are important, and the biggest thing for me is that action MMOs should feel at home on a controller. That’s one of the biggest selling points for me, and that it shows my PS4 buttons. You can use a keyboard, but it just feels better on a controller. You have so many buttons, thanks to holding down the L/R buttons to open up your attacks, use items, et cetera. Now, I still do all of my menuing with keyboard shortcuts, but in terms of the actual exploration and combat, nothing beats my controller. I tend to bind my important attacks to my L+Face Buttons, alongside my healing item I’m using, and the miscellaneous stuff on the right side (Mounts, Fishing Pole, extra healing reagents). The controls for MapleStory 2 are sharp, responsive, and I can set them up however I need them to be. The major reason for me to menu with a keyboard though, is there are a lot of Menus to navigate in this game. You have professions, the store, inventory, character, skills, housing, gardening, achievements, the subscription menu; there’s just so many buttons in the bottom right and menus that come from them. It’s much easier for me to memorize hotkeys/use my mouse and set the controller down. This is not some high-octane game where you can’t stop and breathe (though enemies do respawn quite fast). This leads me to the next important upgrade from MapleStory: skills.

MapleStory 2 Review

You have plenty of options, and can even save different builds. Play however you want!

The Berserker from the outset has about 20 skills to choose from, and leveling and completing achievements gives you Skill Points and Attribute Points. It’s a standard Diablo-style skill tree, with abilities (passives and actives) having level/skill point requirements. Simple as that. Each class will start with a few skills, such as a Passive, a Movement Ability, and an Attack or two. The best part about these is that you can swap them any time you want. Just press the Reset Skills button! And you know what’s even better than that? There’s a “preset skills” button with generic builds for the class you’re playing. New to Priest and not sure what your options are and what points you should put where? Just click presets, pick one, and see what the game suggests. You might not agree with the build, but it’s a fantastic way to see how to build a class. You can also set different builds, for whatever situation you’re in, so you have to reset skills less. This goes for your Attribute Points too, only there’s no preset for skills. The game does tell you what your stats do though.  I love that you get Attribute Points for more than simply leveling up. Completing story chapters and exploring the world also grants them, so that’s even more reason to wander and see everything!

MapleStory 2 Review

Dungeons are fun, challenging, short, and don't feel tedious. It's a pleasant balance.

The main story takes you from map to map, and each has a series of side objectives to complete. These exploration goals are great for teaching you what you can do on a map – what items are weapons, where certain NPCs might be, et cetera. You can wander off on your own for side quests, as I alluded to earlier, but there are also dungeons to complete. These are fairly short affairs and can be mostly tackled solo. I recommend having a party to make them go faster. Unlike in the Beta, I’ve never had a moment where I couldn’t easily get a party for a dungeon. The main story has led me to all of them so far, but if you’re hunting for better gear, or a cool cosmetic, that’s the way to do it. I will say that the story quests have given me almost all of my gear upgrades, but there’s better stuff in dungeons just waiting for you. Plus the dungeon gear tends to be higher quality and is more likely to be enchanted. The enchantment tickets will only work on a certain quality of gear, and the (Intro) gear won’t cut it. Grouping for dungeons also gives chest rewards, up to 10 per day, 30 per week. These give bonus rewards for completion and definitely help your progress.

Once you hit level 20, you’re probably going to start wanting to Dismantle your gear, and that can be done in most towns/areas that have a big machine for Dismantling. This is how you get your enchantment materials to upgrade gear. I haven’t really enchanted any of my gear at low levels, but I have been farming the materials for later. I do have some Enchantment Tickets as I mentioned earlier, and those came from the main story. For level 50 epics and above, you can also change the stats on items, which I think is a pretty fantastic concept. So while you don’t need to grind dungeons and areas to try and find loot, it’s definitely worth your time if you have the spare moments to hit up a dungeon run. It’s easier when you have a guild/clan to run with, but my time as a solo player was not increased by waiting alone for a party.

MapleStory 2 Review

Lu Lingqi surveys her city, looking to dispense violence. Er. Justice.

Outside of the main game, there is just so much to do. There are trivia games, collecting pets, achievement hunting, making a club, crafting (Alchemy, Gardening, Smithing, Handicrafts, Cooking), and there’s even a Battle Royale mode, Mushking Royale. It’s a very MapleStory way to approach the Battle Royale, where you team up or go alone and join a map filled with dangers and traps. You also acquire awesome items and abilities to put you ahead of the other Maplers on the map, and the last one standing is the winner! I’m not really wild about Battle Royale titles, but having it as a distraction in the game is pretty neat. When you aren’t up to leveling, there’s still plenty to do. Plus post level 50 there’s Prestige, which is another exp meter where you receive lots of rewards just for continuing, so if you want to grind, there’s yet another way to do just that. You can build a house and furnish it with adorable furniture! I haven’t messed with Housing much but I did in the Beta, and it was easy to set up and use. It’s not mandatory, so if that’s not your deal, you can just skip it.

Cute But Dark: Great (4/5)

MapleStory 2 Review Screenshot

A reasonable, non pay-to-win cash shop? More likely than you'd think.

I never thought I’d say this, but I love MapleStory 2. It’s a fun, casual MMO, with a cute look and a compelling story. I’ve been able to play it alone without any issues, except for when I go to do dungeons, and even then after I’ve done it a few times, I imagine I could solo them. I did as a Heavy Gunner in the beta. It is linked to the original game, but it is definitely its own entity. One of the few major criticisms I can think of is that MapleStory 2 is pretty easy, and idling in town with a hundred people spamming their musical instruments is really, insanely annoying, I don’t find myself in that position all that often. For me, MapleStory 2 is an MMO where I can log in for an hour or so, go kill some cute monsters, progress the story, then move on with my day. It doesn’t feel like a chore or a second job where I must log in every day or I’m wasting my time.

This way, I feel compelled to log on because I enjoy the game! There is, of course, a subscription/premium you can get to increase your exp and also gives you a few rewards. If you’re a fan of the game, it does make things a little bit faster, but in no way is it pay-to-win. The shop for the in-game cosmetics is also 100% not pay to win. It’s all stuff to make your character look cute, offer new mounts/borders for your titles, stuff like that. Players can also create designs for the shop to sell for Merets (real-money currency), which I think is just amazing. I don’t have the patience for it, but I love seeing what people make. The only thing that makes things faster is the auto-gathering, but I don’t even care about that. That won’t make you better at the game. It’s a breath of fresh air to see a free-to-play game that’s not gouging their playerbase with their shop, too. You can also spend your real-money currency to auto-fish, where it will fish for you for a set period of time, and can even be set to use your lures/bait.

For me, when looking at a free-to-play MMO, there are a few important requirements. It needs to be fun and it needs to not feel like a pay-to-win/pay-to-progress. MapleStory 2 meets and exceeds those handily. MapleStory 2 is fun, it’s charming, and honestly, it’s pretty damn enjoyable. I haven’t had this much fun just playing an MMO in quite a while.

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