Review by Trixter800
"I resisted the urge to make the tagline a pun involving maple syrup."
MapleStory is a fairly unique game, or at least before it inspired dozens of games to be similarly made. Back in the good old days it was pretty fun, but as the game developed, I noticed the developers became more and more money-hungry, in turn, butchering those who couldn't or didn't pay for the extras - usually these are "virtual clothes" that cost $5 ... and expire in 3 months. Along with that, those who have fallen into the pit of begging their parents for money, have created a rather unfriendly, exclusive community who ignore those who are not of the "high-tier" classes or do not have perfect stats, or some that don't even have NX Cash, the real-money system I had referred to. And a good portion of this community is filled with rude people, hack and I've even heard the occasional "I'll come to your house and mess you up" threats said by no one but 11-year old kids who beg their parents for money, and the publishers do nothing about it because in turn, it makes them money. And really, let's face it, even in the good old days, the late levels comprised nothing but pressing down your strongest skill button for hours straight, and in return, getting nothing but a few percent of some EXP which you can easily lose by simply being a bit clumsy and dying.
Of course, community, customer service and grinding aside, the game is actually pretty unique and fun. The game has a decent menu presentation, as well as 2-D, yet pleasing visuals. The game can be described as an action RPG, where you start out by creating a character, which like a lot of CRPGs and MMORPGs, you choose typical customization options like skin and hair color, hairstyles (which, you have to spend $5 to get a choice of more than 3) and temporary clothing. You then venture out, on a 2-D side-scrolling screen. You can jump, attack, duck, and in some cases, double jump and teleport around the screen, which adds to the action portion of the game. The enemies are like in Mario, touch them and you suffer damage. Well, when you see a horrible snail touch you, what's your response? Slaughter them with your sword, of course. You also gain access to skills, which is most likely going to be your preferred method of attack. They vary from invisible, permanent stat boosters, to impressive skills that can rain ice shards across the entire map. However, you just don't get them all at the start. You are given a certain amount of skill points each time you level, and have to invest into these skills for them to get more powerful.
You first get to choose your stats. There are four core stats - Strength, Dexterity, Luck, and Intelligence. They all serve different functions depending on your class, but there's always a set stat "build" that your character must follow. Well, you are given the choice, but it's statistically proven that there's a best method and if you don't follow it, your damage will show it to the point where your character is near unplayable, though. However, the developers have made it more and more beginner-friendly as the game goes on, and now speaking in 2009, you have to be pretty stupid to ignore all the grayed out boxes and warning messages to screw up your stats. I'll stop the rambling and go on to classes.
There are five classes - Archers, Warriors, Mages, Pirates, and Thieves. Though they "supposedly" all have their strengths and weaknesses, you do have Archers, who are treated like dirt in late-game, where community interaction is a near must, and Clerics, a sub-division of Mages, who are treated like God's gift of MapleStory. Yes, I mentioned sub-classes. You can further divide your class into two or three sub-classes - for example, for Pirates, there are Gunslingers and Brawlers. Most of them all have an exclusive weapon, such as guns go to nothing but Gunslingers, and Claws go only to Assassins. This creates a lack of customization of characters, and pretty much makes all characters of the same class the exact same, since there's a cookie cutter build for skills, equipment, and stats. There are also Cygnus characters, a different race of characters that have added a bit of variety. They have a level-cap, 120 unlike the usual 200, but are significantly stronger and have a slight variation in skills. There's five different Cygnus characters, one for each main class. Once you've reached a certain benchmark level - 30, 70, and 120, you can advance a job, and you gain new skills to invest your skill points in. That's about it.
The game revolves around you getting to Level 200. You gain EXP by defeating monsters, and completing quests. That's it. There's no twist that makes the game interesting. And even worse, the EXP is horrifyingly slow. You gain only 10% of your total amount of EXP to Level 200, the max, by reaching Level 120, the final job. This means you spend 90% of the game, assuming you make the impossible feat of Level 200, grinding (or mindlessly defeating) enemies, besides the occasional boss run, which I said earlier, is hard to get accepted in if you're not of a certain class or have a perfect build.
For the most part though, the core game is actually fun. What really spoils the experience is the greedy developer and the horrible community. The game is spoiled by the unfair advantage of NX Cash. While the game is marketed as being "free", the truth is, unless you spend $20 on a virtual wedding, which costs but $0 to 'virtually divorce', spend dozens of dollars for in-game x2 EXP Cards, or pour hundreds of dollars into Gachapon Tickets, little tickets that grant you a reward for $1 a pop, you're going to be ignored in MapleStory. Treated like an outcast. The community, is full of hackers and snobs, and often I ask myself, where the hell is a GM when you need one?
The presentation of the game is also not that bad though, straying apart from the gameplay. The graphics are pretty nicely illustrated, though you do see some lower quality monsters when you get to big bosses, as well as graphical glitches. The music is also pretty good, mostly MIDIs, though by no means, anything memorable. Usually they are atmospheric themes, such as playful, circus music in the Lego-like town of Ludibrium, or calm, ambient music in the caves of Ant Tunnel. Overall, pretty decent music is in this game.
Overall, MapleStory has a great core game, featuring a unique 2-D side-scrolling experience that has inspired numerous more similar games these days, with a decent presentation shown through music, sounds, atmosphere and graphics, though I really feel the game is ruined by nearly 'having' to pay cash in an advertised as 'free' game, as well as the horrible community. There is also a lot of boring grinding. But hey, for the most part, it's free. Give it a try, if you don't, it's not like you lose anything if you don't like it.
Reviewer's Score: 5/10 | Originally Posted: 06/20/07, Updated 08/17/09
Game Release: MapleStory (US, 11/30/05)
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