August 28th, 2009, 11:32 Posted By: skynes
First draft so far.
Publisher: Various, depending on region.
Maple Story is a 2d side scrolling free to play MMO. It was developed by the South Korean company Wizet and is published and localized by a variety of different companies depending on region.
The first thing noticed when playing is the graphics. Maple Story uses pixelated graphics similar to the Super Nintendo but done in a chibi manga style. This leads to a very cute and bright game with much potential for silly enemies and creatures like giant killer tomatoes, smiley mushrooms and enormous pelicans with headsets. The downside to the graphical engine is that the pixels are very noticeable, especially on a larger monitor.
The gameplay is a mixture of super mario brothers with golden axe. You jump around platforms wielding swords and spells to defeat your enemies. As expected of an MMO your character levels up, gaining stat points and skill points. Stat points are spent on your basic stats, such as strength or intellect, each class needs different stats in the way you would expect, e.g. a Warrior relies more on strength and a Wizard relies on intellect. If you're unsure what to do, there is an auto-assign button which splits your stats up in a good way for your class. Although this may not be the best for min-maxing it's still a good feature to include. Your skill points are spent learning your class spells and abilities, the flame wizard I played had the ability to summon a flame elemental which followed me around and blasted my enemies. Each skill point I put into it (to a maximum of 20) increased its damage and duration.
The game is played using mouse and keyboard, with movement and attacking dealt with solely by keyboard control. You are able to customise any control except your movement, which remains as the cursor keys, this gives quite a bit of customisation and is able to suit most players needs. There is an option to use macros also.
As is normal for a lot of free to play mmo's the game includes a micro-transaction system whereby you spend real life money for in-game items and features. The items gained in Maple Story are almost purely cosmetic, things like a lightsaber weapon, a detectives hat or a Halloween outfit, none of which have any impact on the gameplay. The items which aren't cosmetic don't grant any combat advantage to the player, these items are pet incubators, stat/skill point resetting scrolls or a scroll which increases your experience gain for 24 hours.
As in most MMO's there is an important social side to the game. Guilds and Parties are common place, where players group up for a short or longer period of time and interact, both in playing the game and just chatting. The game also includes a marriage function, where two players can get married and throw a party with their friends.
However despite being around for such a long time, Maple Story suffers from some quality of life issues.
The game is based heavily around grinding, getting past the tutorial which takes you to level 10, requires you doing a variety of quests which almost entirely consist of “Go here and kill 20 of this creature”. This repeats from level 1 until level 10.
To be fair this is a common quest among MMO's and a common problem among many however the spawn rate of said creature is very poor, it can take up to 20 minutes to kill 20 creatures as having killed all those on the screen you must wait for them to respawn. This is of course assuming you're fighting them alone and not sharing them with 3 or 4 other players. I myself have seen a player standing in the middle of the screen and when the enemies spawned cast a screen wide fire spell which wiped out all the enemies at once, leaving none for any other player. They continued to camp that same spot for quite some time.
Many of the quest givers during the tutorial weren't in the town but in the field of battle. The game doesn't pause or render you invincible whilst talking to a quest giver, so not only are you being attacked whilst getting a quest, you're also unable to fight back. A minor issue but an annoying one none the less.
The other QOL issues are more cosmetic. There is no windowed mode option, in fact trying to put the game into windowed mode with software or tools will be detected as a hack by the game guard system and shut your game down. This same game guard also dislikes Alt-Tabbing out and should you do Alt-Tab you'll find that all your keys come out as BBBBbbbbbbb, making surfing or IM chat impossible.
The in-game UI can be a bit clunky and awkward, clicking the small X in the top right corner of tabs can take a few clicks as you're more likely to wind up dragging the window instead of closing it. Picking up items can be a nuisance also as items are not automatically collected when you walk over them. Instead you must press an item pick up key for each item you want to collect. When you've just killed three or four bad guys at once and they each drop 2 or 3 items, that's a lot of unnecessary button pushing just to get a small amount of money. As other player's items are likely to be mixed in it becomes very difficult to tell apart what are your items and what aren't.
Maple Story may have been released in different areas in different times, but the game itself is six years old. Such quality of life issues would have been expected and tolerated then due to such a small market. This however is 2009 and free to play mmo's are everywhere. There is no excuse for this now, the game must constantly be improving or it'll be left behind when the next big F2P MMO comes along.
Maple Story is a cute and amusing game, the bright and chibi graphics make it appealing to the eye and interesting to play. The wide variety of items and customisation options means you may never see the same get up twice and gives you many options to make your character unique. Compared to other free to play MMO's however, it is lacking in some quality of life areas which hold it back from being a really excellent MMO.
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