Review by pikamemnon

"Submarine Sandwich dipped in Maple Syrup"

Maplestory is an action rpg that may be too sweet for its own good. If you've never played a Pokemon game, you may want to take off a point or two. (I will explain later) The Maple world plays out on-line and in 2D. Note that your PC needs to be able to handle 3D graphics despite the lack of a 3rd dimension. Walking into a hacked map can cause headaches but it is typically better to just move along and change channels plz. (Maplestory is a lot like a sandbox and people sometimes abuse this) The quality of the game is high and it is worth trying if you do not mind the lack of an official ending.

Something that needs to be mentioned is that the tech support/ customer service does not function properly. It is unknown why exactly but receiving specific assistance for issues proves to be overly difficult and slow. The current system is better than nothing but I hope the company works to improve on this weak spot in the future. If you keep good track of your sign up information(email, passwords, etc.) than the odds are that you will not need to resort to submitting a ticket for help. (Nexon does seem to be making some progress here though)

A majority of the gameplay is fighting monsters. Based on your choice of several classes, you battle various foes from up close or afar. The main starter jobs include bowman, mage, thief, pirate and warrior. Through later levels the classes attack skills balance out more but you will want to try to choose one that you like early on. Each class seems to be strong at certain levels but may also struggle at certain points because map layouts can work against your main attack ability. Beginners learn a few skills that can be helpful but not essential. A great benefit of the first class is that they lose no experience upon dying. Maplestory has a fairly easy learning curve and there are also tutorials for guidance as well. The only real downside to low levels is the lack of variety in clothing.

Beside the core classes, many specialized jobs have been released over time. Some could be called better than others but each of them usually excels in at least one aspect or another. The Cygnus knights can grant a unique buff to characters on the same account and classes such as Aran and Evan have their own backgrounds and home towns. Even within similar job classifications, each class usually operates in its own distinct way. (Bow users and Crossbow users for example, have slightly different play styles) The Skill link system is a neat addition that makes it more productive to create and level up multiple characters and it allows a player to stack passive bonuses on top of each other to further strengthen a single character.

For those of you who are looking for a more guided experience, Zero might be the way to go. (although it is a time restricted job and much more mission oriented then the rest) It has one of the best story lines in the game, voice overs during the tutorial and typically has the most rewarding quests available up to a certain level. One downside to Zero, is that the class also has the most required quests out of all the others and is limited in a few things until the long string of tasks is finished. (I would say that it is a small price to pay however, especially if you like to witness well developed plots unfold)

There is a great amount of colorful areas to explore in Maplestory. Every region has its own atmosphere with unique maps and music. Navigation can often be tricky depending on the environment. Areas with natural hazards are generally annoying but are usually worth trekking through in order to see what is on the other side. As your avatar gets stronger, you can survive more damage and therefore explore more dangerous zones. Each town has a different vibe and is normally monster free. Towns let you use one of two methods of getting around. The first method, warping (through various actions) blacks out your view and you re-appear at your destination. Depending on the distance, I prefer the second option of using the keyboard to move around. While traveling on flat ground can be slow, jumping from high platforms is fast and fun. Going against gravity is harder of course but there are ropes and ladders to help with that. Swimming is ok but not as quick as jumping off of cliffs. Nexon/ Wizet continuously updates the world and adds new maps often.

Monsters
The main way to advance in Maplestory is to kill monsters to gain experience points. The Maple monsters won't just sit back and let you pummel them though. After you hit most monsters they will immediately chase after you. To help prevent cheap deaths you can only take damage from one monster at a time. I think this is very important, as lag is common and combat is not turn based. Some monsters have magic that can hurt you through walls or from across the screen. Enemy magic can be a drag but it is your own fault for attacking in the first place. Most monsters behave as you would expect them to.(snails move slowly while Big Foot is fast) Pretty much anything that flies around away from the ground, is a pest and aggravating to take down. Super strong monsters can also be searched out and fought if you are looking for a challenge.

There is a wide variety of different monsters; from cute, eager to brawl mushrooms, to beautiful but deadly androids. Maplestory has no shortage of stronger things to fight but you may get sick of fighting enemies with big grins on their faces. I would say that the action in Maplestory is similar to what you would find in a game like Wanders from YS III on the SNES. You do not raise pet monsters to fight but Maplestory is a lot like Pokemon in terms of leveling difficulty. In most versions of Pokemon, gaining levels 1-60 is fairly easy while higher than 60 is hard. In Maplestory the hard part starts at roughly level 55 or so. Every level up can be a big deal and more so if you are on the verge of mastering a new skill. There are various quests to complete, including party quests and finishing them is optional.

Monster Life is Maple's version of a light farming simulator and while it is pretty to look at, your enjoyment of this mode may vary. Dedicated farm owners can earn bonuses but it does require a fair amount of effort to maintain them.

Plot ?/ 10 (depends on chosen class)
Maplestory does not contain one continuous overall goal. (unless you count getting stronger) Instead the game is broken up into an assortment of mini quests. If you are really interested, you can open the quest menu during and after quests to read bits about non player characters or their problems. The advantage of this approach is that it is very easy to skip the text. The down side is that these small bits of story are extremely easy to overlook.(sometimes that is a good thing) In a game like this you should be fighting most of the time but I think that some of the reading is worth taking a look at. Several of the jobs start off with strong backstories (Resistance members for example) but lose some momentum once it becomes more difficult to level up. It is bothersome but not a huge a deal.

The missions themselves can be relatively good or bad. Usually you will be tasked with collecting a large sum of certain objects. I like to think that several quests were intended to be completed by going to the Free Market rather than through hunting. The worst quests are those that tempt new players to get in over their heads. (although there seem to be a lot less of these now) I think the worst of the worst quests involve high numbers of items with mismatched rewards. The best way to play it is to just be wary of where you send your character. The re-balancing greatly improved the usefullness of some quests and reduced the tedious nature of others while also changing the amount of reward experience.

Because of the prize given or logically making sense, some missions are worth completing. Quests that earn rare or valuable items are usually good even if you can simply buy the item(s). There are a couple of quests that reward you with interesting or insightful bits of text (plus your normal prize). Some of the best missions are ones that are semi-related and link to other ones. If you can spare time out of your training regime, than quests that involve travel are very nice. Occasionally it will be your job to manage the space in your inventory to keep up with the flow of special items. Other good quests to complete are ones that require few drops and/or the items that appear easily. Jump quests are platforming challenges that sometimes give good items. The Jumping tests are worth trying but can be difficult if you do not feel like concentrating. The scattered story is optional but the rest of the game is more than good enough to compensate. Party quests can be fun and profitable but also frustrating if you cannot find a solid party.

Sound 9/ 10
Many tunes are quite catchy but hearing the same music for hours can be annoying. It is a good idea not to train in one spot for too long. Almost every monster has their own distinct voice/scream when they die or take damage. Curse Eyes let out deep and loud groans when dying but not quite as deep as Stone Golems. When Tick tocks get hit they emit a sort of bell chime, while Lupin monsters make monkey sounds. Windraiders shout "curse!" whenever they launch an attack. Considering how long you will be hearing the game, it would not be a bad idea to invest in some good speakers or headphones. The difference in sound quality is noticeable, especially on maps or monsters that use bass.(e.x. the CBD in Singapore sounds great when you can hear everything but otherwise it sounds meh) Many of the out of the way maps have great music that can make training a bit less dull, from the rockin track in the CWK forest to the energetic bgm in Aqua Road. Some of the newer classes even have their own spoken dialogue!

Play Control 10/ 10
Except for a few buttons, all of the controls are customizable and extremely tight. (they have to be for Jump quests) You still need real life DEX to achieve higher levels though. Skill and status points can be divided up however you see fit. Although most classes have recommended builds for stats and when to learn what skills.

Game play 10/ 10
Maplestory largely depends on how you want to play. The action is mainly about slaughtering hordes of monsters but you can choose to do other things. What Maplestory does, it does very well. Item crafting makes it possible to get almost all of the equipment you might need without browsing through a market, provided that you are willing to gather the materials. The system makes it something of a chore to create the strongest gears possible however.

To reach high levels and quests you'll need to be fairly committed and check out a good guide or two. There are currently 4 class changes and major promotions. On the other hand, one would do well to only play at low levels. By simple flash game standards, Maplestory is significantly better than average.

Graphics 10/ 10
The looks of the game fit in perfectly with the best of the SNES crowd in terms of appearance. (Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy) Monster designs and environments are creative and detailed. Buying new equipment can be tedious in rpg's but not so in Maplestory. When looking at an item, a box pops up that shows more information and a better view of the stats. It doesn't sound like much but it really makes a difference. Most equips are visible on your character and arguably you could play just to find items to show off with.

The Free Market
NX Cash opens up extra stuff and makes it easier to make mesos. The main (Maplestory) game costs nothing to play but you will have to work harder to make money. In the free market there are shops and a lot of people. There is a real economy at work, with inflation, trading, deflation, scams, everything and everybody. The best way to modify equipment is through the use of magic scrolls. Scrolls that work 100% of the time can be bought form NPC's in the game, others must be found or bought from other players. Attack scrolls are highly valued and hard to find. The lower the success rate, the greater possible improvement for the item. However, items have a limit as to how many scrolls can be attempted. It is not uncommon to see 10, ten percent scrolls fail. For all intents and purposes it is completely random.

I think this is an interesting aspect of Maplestory as you are forced to balance risk with benefit. Market prices vary from server to server but the last time I checked, a 60% scroll for glove attack went for over 6 million mesos!(when did this become a casino sim?) Its a neat balancing act as all levels of gear use the same kinds of scrolls. It would not be a terrible idea to try and get rich off of scrolls, it is possible since everyone has similar chances of finding random scrolls off of defeated monsters.

Peer vs peer
Non co-operative multiplayer is an interesting addition to the game that works fairly well. Depending on the mode, competitors enter an arena and battle each other for experience and battle points that can be traded in for hard to get items. I think it can be fun but also broken in a couple of ways. Some classes are much better at killing than others and this often leads to matches being dominated by a few players. It can be especially difficult to win in the team based modes because everyone is not always paying attention and that can lead to players getting ganged up on.
It is not a total loss though because in the lowest level bracket for pvp it is still a good way to level up. (even when coming in last place, though the exp varies based on the mode) Perhaps not the best experience possible but not bad either. It is more entertaining than regular grinding so long as you do not take it too seriously. (also note that pvp sometimes gets revamped but not always for the better)

Level guide (in my opinion):
1-60: Casual fun game
61-120: Harder but still fun
120: Anyone who reaches this level deserves a degree in time management, good going.
121-250: At this point, leveling becomes more like an extreme sport. Prepare to suffer if you bungled your stats or have out dated equipment. It becomes very expensive to upgrade gear.

The Big Bang
Monsters changed, maps changed, the BB included a lot of changes. The leveling curve at the start of the game is now much smoother than it once was. A nice modification that was added is greatly improved world maps that show monster types and levels. Almost all skills received a modest tweaking or two. Most of the adjustments are good overall and refine an already functional play structure.

Higher level maps mostly remain inferior for training purposes but areas such as Lion heart castle and Monster park somewhat address this. I cannot really fault Nexon for polishing the part of the game that has the best pacing (which is the beginning) but it would be nice to see some well designed training spots for 4th jobbers come out.

Maplestory is a pretty fun game stuffed with content. You can chat and team up with other players from the start if you want to. Training is a good challenge and the Free market can be a nice diversion. While it is easy to write off the game play as action/ rpg, I like how it sometimes crosses other genres and incorporates elements of other kinds of games. There is a lot to see but Maplestory really boils down to how far you want to take it. Go ahead and give it a try, just don't be sad if you wind up with a stomach ache afterwards.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 07/23/07, Updated 01/02/14

Game Release: MapleStory (US, 11/30/05)


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