Review by serados

"Every game session should be a new experience - not the same repetitive fighting"

Maple Story is an unconventional MMORPG in the sense that it's 2D, as opposed to the 3D games of today. Its anime-inspired graphics and beautiful 2D sprites leave a great first impression, but the core of any game - its gameplay - fails to make this a truly great MMORPG.

Maple Story's gameplay: What a mess. To break it all down, Maple Story is basically about only a few things:

1) Getting Mesos (Maple Story's currency) to get better equipment
2) Getting Mesos for nicer clothing
3) Killing monsters for levels
4) Getting items for usage, or to sell for Mesos

That's all there is. The few quests that are included are completely pathetic (mainly platformer standard jumping quests that does not give good rewards), and there is only ONE Party Quest that is the closest to co-operative gameplay you can get. What's worse is that you can only access the Party Quest between levels 21 and 30.

In Maple Story, every new user starts off as a Trainee, and you can get your first ‘job' switch at level 10 in specific towns. First jobs are typical RPG fare like Thief, Warrior, Bowman and Mage. When you reach level 30, you can change to one of two branches of your first job, and at level 70 you get another job change. Though you have to encounter monsters a lot stronger than yourself in order to reach the towns for job advancement, Maple Story has a 90% discount for people of the beginner class for a taxi which will take you to your desired town.

As Maple Story revolves so much around fighting (there's not much else to do anyway), it's surprising that one level takes an eternity to get in, in my experience, the lower range of 10-20 (I've played for over 30 hours and have not gotten past level 19 - maybe it's because I'm playing on MapleSEA instead of Maple Global). After each level, you gain 5 stat points that you can allocate to each of your stats (Strength, Agility, Intelligence and Luck). However, you only know the minimum stat requirements for your job – and that's only one stat. You have no direction at all on what stats to allocate, and sometimes your intuition is wrong, then your character is set back a lot.

To cite an example of the snail-like rate of leveling, between levels 14 and 20, Slimes are one of the best monsters to kill for "powerlevelling". The catch? Each slime monster gives around 10 exp, whereas you need as much as 13000 exp to gain one level (I took around 5 hours to get one level from level 18 to 19). To finish this unholy combination, monsters are found in limited supply and time must be spent to wait for these monsters to respawn. This concept is found in many MMORPGs, but the problem in Maple Story is that some classes are just too strong against crowds - the Mage class, in particular. Also, because it's a 2D game, it is very easy to have some random Mage coming in and casting a spell that zaps all enemies on screen, killing the monster whose HP you've worked so hard to a low level.

Also, ways to build your character are limited to a few. Screw up on stat allocation, and you won't likely recover thanks to the slow levelling system. Everyone will end up with more or less the same characters, assuming people have the patience to play to the end. Not surprisingly, the guides found on Maple Story's forums mostly contain the same information and stat allocation for a specific character class and playing style. This alone showcases the lack of flexibility Maple Story has in its character classes and stat allocation. It is not just common to see the Thief-class skipping Strength and Intelligence completely and pumping Luck completely while giving a few points to Dexterity for better equipment – it is the only feasible way of stat allocation for the Thief-class. Substitute “Thief” with “Magician”, “Luck” with “Intelligence” and “Dexterity” with “Luck” and you get the Magician's stat allocation method.

In addition to stat allocation, each class also has unique skills. You get three skill points every level which can be used to upgrade a skill or learn a new skill. Skills are unlocked by level or by learning other skills. This is also another area where Maple Story fumbles. There are quite a number of skills, but not all is useful. Even the MapleSEA FAQ admits that, as it says you might find yourself leveling slowly if you allocated stats and skills incorrectly. That might be fine, but there is no direction at all on what skills to allocate, short of finding a guide. For a first-timer who wishes to play without help, this is very frustrating. The rate of leveling does not help this at all, as each level literally takes an eternity to achieve.

A factor important to MMORPGs is the social factor. However, Maple Story has few things that would lead you to interaction with other players - other than the Party Quest (even then, it's just barking out of instructions and some random chatter before parting). Even Runescape does this better, and you feel you are in a world full of other humans, not just the computer. You know there are others in Maple Story, but somehow you don't feel others are there. It's just you and the computer in a powerlevelling frenzy, with some other distractions like killstealers and trolls.

A minor gripe is that there is no PvP mode, but as Maple Story is 2D, any decent PvP implementation would be understandably hard to accomplish. As a result, Maple Story is purely Player vs Environment. In any PvE game, there must be some sort of motivation to retain your interest. In Maple Story's case, there is none. Sure, there are some quests, but the level requirements are way off the mark. “Beginner” quests for those level 11-20 consist of a jumping quest that takes you deep into the heart of Sleepywood, a town near the dungeons where monsters much higher than your level are spawned for a pathetic reward of several screws. Mostly, the quests just make you kill monsters over and over and over again to get their item drops for much less than what you could have got by selling the loot. Another example is the level 11-20 quest that requires you to collect over 100 Octopus drops. These monsters are too powerful to fight at that level, and to put it as a “Beginner” quest is absurd.

Maple Story has some of the best 2D graphics I've seen to date, and probably the best selling point of Maple Story. Its graphics are very attractive, cute and lovable anime-style sprites. Many monsters look disarmingly innocent, such as the Slimes, Snails and even iron-clad pigs!

There is quite a wide range of clothing you can put on your character, from singlets to jackets to Hawaiian's a virtual clothing store in there! Therein lies its appeal to first-time girl gamers, as well as young children. It's cutesiness appeals as much to young girls as a plushie, and Maple Story's graphics are definitely its main attraction.

Maple Story's sound is decent, but I've heard better. Maple Story's music, although calming, gets on your nerves after a long time. This is made worse by its gameplay, which requires you to play for long hours - more on that later. There are at most 15 different compositions played at various points, and they are all looped. There could be more variety in the tracks, as they sound similar to me.

Maple Story's sound effects are not stellar, but good enough for an average gamer. Slashes sound like slashes, whacks with the baseball bat can be differentiated from a stab with a dagger. Monsters also have unique sounds, and that's quite a good touch as well.

Controls are smooth and accessible. You can customize the controls, as well as bind spells to keys, which is a very nice touch for spellcasters. As you can change the control layout to your liking, it should not be a problem.

As for the people who say that Maple Story gets better as you play - sorry, but I don't think most people have the patience to kill monsters for over 30 hours before seeing the ‘fun' Maple Story has.

In the end, you realise that you have much better things to do with your time. Spending this much time on Maple Story is definitely not worth it. Much better games and MMO's exist out there. Every game session should be a new experience - and Maple Story has failed to provide that.

- Cute, anime-style graphics
- Easy to pick up and play
- Completely customizable controls

- Gets boring very easily with little to do other than fight the same monsters
- No co-operative gameplay
- Some classes overpowered in PvE-only Maple Story
- Everyone who knows what they are doing (or has read a guide) ends up with the same characters
- Lack of stat and skill allocation direction

Gameplay: 2/10
Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 5/10
Controls: 10/10
Replay Value: 4/10
Reviewer's Tilt: 4/10

Final Score: 4/10
Maple Story could have been done better, if leveling was made faster and there were more feasible quests to do.

Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 01/23/06

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