Review by rimur

"Fantasy Life?"

Mabinogi is a fantasy massively multiplayer online role-playing game loosely based on Celtic mythology.

The game is developed by devCAT studio and first released in 2004 by South Korean Game Distributing Company Nexon. Since, then, it has been a major hit in Asia, spanning across several countries such as South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and China. Finally Nexon deemed it fit to give it a US release in 2008, and it is currently undergoing Open Beta in Europe at the time of the writing. An XBox360 release was planned and cancelled, however.

Choose your fantasy life

You choose one of the three races to play as in the Mabinogi World. Elves are pretty fragile, have poor melee capabilities but are decent in ranged attacks and ways of the magic. Giants are physically strong and make great melee fighters, but are rather poor in ranged skills. Humans are somewhere in between, the most balanced of the lot. Skills are mainly divided into four categories in Mabinogi: Combat, Life, Magic and Alchemy skills.

Mabinogi employs a classless system and there are almost no restrictions on how you can spend your AP(ability points) to better your skills. Where in most other mmos where you have to pick a character class upon creation(Fighter, Thief, Mage, Cleric etc), in Mabinogi you can mix and match your own skills as you see fit. Wish to be a pure fighter? Spend all your points in melee skills then. Or would you wish to have a touch of magic? You can distribute some points to skills in the Magic category as well. With alchemy you can use crystals to perform feats such as summoning a golem to fight for you.

Life skills involve real jobs in medieval times, such as blacksmith, fishing, cooking, weaving, instrument playing, just to name a few. It is very possible to craft your own weapons in Mabinogi, or basically just make a living just by using your life skills to produce basic minerals to sell to the other players. In fact, most of my money came from selling produce to the other players.

Exploring is also a strong focus in Mabinogi, as you have a separate experience bar and level for exploration. Discovering ancient ruins, tuning in archaeological finds and sailing through dangerous rivers are some of the tasks one can do to increase their exploration level.

Time passes in Mabinogi as you adventure on, day turns into night and night eventually turns into day. About 36 minutes in the real world is equal to one full day in Mabinogi, shadows cast on the ground move according to the time of the day, the twin moons changes phases and it is very impressive to watch the world environment changing around you as you gallop through the desert on your trusty mount. There is also a dramatic weather system in Mabinogi, casting rain, thunderstorms, sunny skies onto the game world, much like in the real world.

Your character ages as time passes, at the rate of one year per week in real world time.

In Mabinogi, the actual skill of the player takes precedence over the stats of their characters

If you have ever played more than a couple of MMORPGs, you will find most of them engage the player in the same gameplay loop: Click on a monster, exchange blows with it until you or the monster dies. You might throw in a skill or flashy attack here and there, drink a healing potion or two, but nothing more intellectually difficult than say, watering a plant in real life. You will then probably repeat this for the rest of your mmo career, simply 'clicking' through the monsters mindlessly as you grind for level or gold. In this aspect, the stats of your character is vital, as you need to grind for levels and achieve attack strength/defense/speed scores to effectively defeat 'harder' monsters.

In Mabinogi however, combat is a lot more flexible. Even a beginner is able to defeat much harder enemies if he knows what he is doing. In fact, stats matter much less in Mabinogi than a lot of other MMOs, as actual player experience and skill is more important in defeating a monster. You will actually need to observe the monsters' actions, learn what attacks they have a tendency to use, and eventually find out the most effective way to defeat it.

It is hard to describe the combat in Mabinogi without actually experiencing it, needless to say, everything happens in a semi turn-based style and if you charge in headlong into combat just trying to slice everything up, you might very well soon find yourself lying on the floor in a heap of blood. Monsters are STRONG in Mabinogi.

The story continues...

As one adventures through Mabinogi, he will eventually come across quests which will bring him to the story campaigns. The story campaigns are divided up into Generations and Chapters, and playing through these plot quests will reveal more of the story behind the world, and several of its inhabitants.

The story is actually pretty decent, and some of them are not easy to beat alone so players will often band together to tackle these plot quests together. Joining forces with other players is also a requirement in many of these quests.

What's left to do?

Eventually you will get to a level where you find it hard to increase it any further. The experience points needed to level up increases exponentially during the later levels, so one would really have to grind their hearts out in order to advance in any more levels. Normally one would choose to 'Rebirth' their character at this point. You can either wait for you character to reach 20 years of age in the game, or buy a rebirth card using real money. As you rebirth your character you will have the option of resetting your character's levels to 1, as well as changing his/her appearance. This allows you to effectively train again while retaining all the skills your character has attained, granting more ability points to distribute into your skills.

The fantasy life isn't without its problems...

The game, while wonderfully crafted, is certainly plagued with its share of problems. Being a F2P game, many features are not available unless you spend some cold hard cash. You will almost certainly need a purchase a mount, as the world is huge and it'll eat up a lot of your time just to walk from one place to the other. You will certainly need to purchase more storage space, either through using pets or buying the storage service, as the game has one of the smallest initial storage space I have ever seen in an MMO. All these costs can rack up to make Mabinogi an extremely expensive game.

While lag has always been an issue in other games, in Mabinogi, lag is about a few times more deadlier. Battles demand precise control sometimes that even a bit of lag at the wrong time will deliver you into the clutches of death. Yes, it's a very unforgiving game and certainly not very lag-tolerant.

Advancement in the game is also slow, it will take you many many rebirths to max out some of the skills. You have to wait a minimum of one week before the next rebirth(it used to be three weeks in the older versions), so it's effectively a measure to prevent anyone from becoming strong too fast. I can understand why it's designed this way, but most of the skills are very AP-costly so there's nothing you can do except to wait, or maybe chop some wood in the meantime.

The graphics did not age well. The game is already out for five years and the polygon characters looked very simplistic. The saving grace is that the animation of the models are fantastic and a joy to watch. The sound effects were average and I always found the music annoying outside of the theme song, so I muted it at all times.

Closure

Mabinogi certainly revives a lot of the aspects that many MMORPGS have forgotten nowadays. Many mmos after Ultima Online and Everquest totally eschews the 'life' aspect of a MMORPG and instead thrusts you into a never-ending battle of clicking and using flashy attacks in an ultimately hollow game. Mabinogi certainly deserves extra points for creating an environment where you have the power to choose how to play your character. As the game is F2P, one can always download it and try it out, and decide later on whether it's worth it to spend some extra cash to better your experiences with the game.

I realised there are many aspects of the game I haven't touched upon, but I originally intended to write a short review and I think it'll span on forever if I am to touch on every aspect of them, part of the testament as to how detailed the gameplay actually it. Exploring is part of the fun, so why not jump into the game and find out for yourselves the world of Mabinogi?


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Gameplay : 9/10

+Combat is won mainly based on your own skill, not because you have 99999HP and stats
+World is huge, many tasks you can engage yourself into

-Some features are locked until you spend money on it.

Graphics : 7/10

+Smooth and beautiful model animations
+World is beautiful and changes with day/night and weather effects
+2-D character portraits are well-drawn

-Outdated character models

Sound : 5/10

+Theme song
+ Able to play self-composed music using the music skills

- A lot of the in-game music is sadly annoying

Controls : 8/10

+spot-on most of the time

Value : 8/10

+With the free rebirth option, you can not pay a cent if you don't want to. (I believe in playing something for entertainment like these though)

-You will truly need to buy at least one mount, and buy services if you intend to open up a player shop
-You will need to buy a lot of rebirth cards if you want to advance quickly within a short time


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 04/30/10

Game Release: Mabinogi (US, 03/01/08)


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