Review by matchbox_matt
"A take on the freakish Bratz-esque game."
Maple Story is a side-scrolling MMORPG featuring a disturbing, or as Wizet calls it, "cute" cast of characters with the objective of finding out how long it takes a sane person to crack under the constant pressure of subliminal advertising.
Don't believe me? Go to their web site : www.mapleglobal.com
Now that we got that out of the way, we're going to go to the real deal: my take on Maple Story. Well, lets start with what you're going to do from the get go.
You start out by creating a character using the huge array of customization options available (just kidding; there is no customization), and put together your own little screwy character under the honorable title of "Beginner". You load up, and you get out on the large, eventful fields of Maple Island. So that brings us to this:
The gameplay. MS is a huge level-grind based on beating pokemon to death with sticks while wondering what's beyond the area you are in now; with a twist of platforming. So while you're jumping around with your little monster, you get to enjoy scenery, battles, and wishing that your character would walk faster.
If you want to go more in depth than that, though, then lets start with the battle system. Fighting in Maple Story is based on 3 factors: holding the attack button, picking up items, and not dying. Judging by the fact that the leveling pace is terrible (the time it takes you to level grows exponentially: from a couple minutes at level 3 to 4, to taking days from 23 to 24), battling the same monsters over and over again with this shallow system is going to get boring. You could say that there are additional factors that add an extra dimension, such as casting a defensive spell, or improving so-and-so's ability to throw rocks, but that only applies after your character stops sucking, which can be a pretty hard achievement depending on the class (mage, thief, warrior, archer) and how well you placed your stats.
Talking about stats, you might want to know what you're going to be by the time you hit level 2, because you can't rearrange your stats once you put it down, and MS happens to be one of the most stat sensitive games ever. For example: you get to level 8, thinking you played it safe and properly allocated your stats by making sure everything was balanced and even. You decide you want to be a mage with your ~20 all around stats, when you realize that the moment you pull out the wand that you can barely do any damage; so, of course, you have to resort to beating everything with a stick until they slowly die. It is then later that you learn that the only essential stats of mage's are intelligence and luck. So technically, you screwed your next 50 levels because you didn't pull it off right in your first ten.
The experience of realizing that you just wasted 40 hours of your life, if not more, will happen to every MS player at some point in time, considering that they never even realize that they made a mistake until they're already level 25 (like me). That is unless, of course, that you have either read this review, or had someone tell you how MS works before you played it. The chance of either of these occurrences happening is pretty much next to zero, so you can imagine how bad this ends up for the rest of us.
Moving on; as an alternative to the basics of Maple Story, the game features plenty of exciting stuff to do, such as (and probably limited to) : talking to people, trying to make money, and "quests". Lets start with the later, shall we?
Maple Story doesn't have quests. They can call it that, but mostly the only thing you're going to find is the average fetch routine. So you can go ahead and indulge on the exciting challenge of collecting 200 mushroom tops for the next hour. If you're not really up for that, however, then you can always shoot for the platform quests.
A platform quest consists of a couple maps you must go through a few times in order to achieve a goal. These maps are pretty much huge open spaces with unbearably small plots of land that you must ascend in order to reach the top. Jumping up these things requires perfect timing and immense patience; that is, if you have any left, seeing as you're probably going to be hit by flying pieces of crap for the time being. Let me remind you that a blow from one of these things, or anything for the matter, will send you sky-rocketing to the bottom, blowing off every ounce of effort and time you had expended in order to get to that point. Fortunately, you'll get used to this, as it will happen myriads of times. And when you boil it down, the only real factor that comes into play is how you'll react to the monotony: with focus, or with frustration.
Luckily, if fetching and platforming isn't your thing (which probably isn't), then there is still hope. Party Quests. Get in them, and you'll be rewarded with a series of challenges that will speed up the snail pace process of leveling up. The only catch is that the five challenges never change, and it can take hours to get in one, because the folks at Wizet were genius enough to only let one party in at a time. Seeing that this is the fastest way to level up when you reach the 20's, and level-grinding the normal way sucks ass, everyone will be trying to score a PQ at once; meaning that it will take longer to level up this way.
Aside from level-grinding battles and quests, you'll pretty much be facing staggering poverty and the hard-ships of making profit. Money making in MS is a grueling process, done by either picking up cheap change from the thousands of monsters you will kill, or selling rare drops to the community of MS. Unfortunately, rather than placing the item up for bids like on ebay and doing something useful with your time, you will have to advertise what you're selling in order to hit the cash you need to buy the stuff vital to not dying in your voyages. So be prepared to stare at a text bubble filled screen for a couple hours hitting Up and Enter repeatedly in order to see results.
Not that you'll be missing the visuals or anything when you're looking at the text, because, quite frankly, Maple Story looks like crap. It probably has the worst 2D graphics in any online game to date. Sure, the sprites have tons of character animations, but everything is incredibly rugged, and you won't be able to do a thing about it since MS is locked on a low-end 800x600 16-bit interface. Luckily, where they fail in visuals, they exceed in sound. Because, unlike the visuals, you'll be able to turn it off. Sure, the music is charming, but it becomes extremely repetitive and is pretty generic to begin with. This shouldn't be a bad thing though, because MS is a low-end game, so you should be able to run iTunes in the background without trouble.
What is trouble is the community. If you have ever enjoyed being hacked, scammed, ridiculed, or possibly raped at any point of your life, then Maple Story is a god-send. The society of Maple Story is composed of myriads of unethical, convoluted children that will do whatever it takes to make sure that your life is as close to an emulation of the seventh circle of hell as possible. Whether it's the constant spamming, the border-line useless moderators, the disfigured text strewn with misspelled curse words and ill-intention, or the immaturity of the majority of all the players you're going to be rubbing elbows with; Maple Story does a damn fine job of making sure that your time is adequately wasted. The only relief you're going to have is if you have a personal friend online, but looking at this god-forsaken mess, I highly doubt that relief will ever come.
Although it isn't the worst MMO on the list (see: Ragnarok), it will still land you a migraine comparable to that of a brain aneurysm if you're not used to kneeling on salt for hours at a time. Also keep in mind that the probability of becoming the next character on the list of Myspace suicides is unfathomable if you're impatient; somewhat ironic, as the game demands immense amounts of endurance and concentration in order to withstand the onslaught of repetitive and mundane tasks that consumes this title. Don't worry though: if you're looking for a game to play and this was on the top of your list, I'm pretty sure Minesweeper will do the job.
Reviewer's Score: 2/10 | Originally Posted: 06/12/06, Updated 08/01/06
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