Review by LilyVance

"Maplestory. Not as Bad as Everyone Says"

It is a time honored tradition heralded by fireflies once again alighting upon verdant boughs and the happy silence of school bells for Emily and I to turn to our computers once more and download what can only be labeled a guilty pleasure. Maplestory is a package many gamers would choose to snub in favor of more mainstream,= and more beautifully rendered games such as World of Warcraft or Aion. But my argument for Maplestory has remained the same these past few years, and I stand beside it now.

Maplestory is free. Some might advocate that there are plenty of other free MMORPGs, and I would agree. Some of them are even good. But none of them quite have what Maplestory has. Which are bright, vibrant graphics, good music, a light hearted ambiance that pervades in even the murkiest of dungeons, interesting monsters, quirky quests, and some pretty fun party quests. But Maplestory is far from everyone's cup of tea, and there are plenty of ugly acne scars mucking up this otherwise adorable package.

There's a loosely established plot that Maplestory has recently been building on, consisting of a black mage that was doing bad things, got sealed away by five heroes, and is now making a come back through nefarious schemes like dolls and water that gives you the sniffles. You take on the role of one of those five, capable of choosing from four different types. There is the Evan, a dragon wielding mage, an Aran, a polearm warrior who uses combos, a Cygnus Knight, who works for an empress and can choose five different subclasses, and an Explorer, which basic class choices of archer, warrior, mage, pirate, and thief. With an Explorer you'll be offered a job advancement at level 30 and the choice between two classes with two different playing styles. For the most part, all classes are balanced, with Maple constantly patching itself to reassure that there is some equilibrium.

The game itself is a 2-D side scroller and your character is in typical anime style- big headed, big eyed, and small bodied. There's a very high chance that you're going to look like everyone else in the tutorial, as appearance choices are limited and haven't changed in years. Depending on what type of hero you chose, your tutorial will vary, with different back stories, settings, and length. However, the quests are all the same, with different NPCs serving them out, but it's easy to get into.

Within an hour or two you'll be transported to Victoria Island, the main continent of Maplestory. There are multitudes of cities, dozens of monster infested forests, floating platforms, beaches, oceans, and dungeons to explore, equipped with their own unique type of monsters and soundtrack. But don't expect anything too difficult. So long as you don't jump into a pit with a Golem at level 10, you should never expect to die, and with the plethora of quests that they're constantly dumping on you grinding may never cross your mind.

Of course, if you don't want to do tedious tasks for imaginary people, there is always the opportunity to join a party and conquer a dungeon or group together for some party quests. It's here that I find that the community of Maplestory (which is, admittedly, a little lackluster, but what do you expect out of an MMORPG?) is at it's best. People are in general very nice and helpful, and if you keep off the overly crowded servers you will rarely be bombarded with requests to 'cyber', or pleas for gold. But, like all MMOs, Maplestory's community is best when you recruit your friends to play. Nearly all quests can be competed with multiple people, and with some demands such as 'slay 999 of these horny mushrooms' it's really for the best.

Of course, if you choose the most populated channel Maplestory can offer, your experience will be a little different. It can be very difficult to join a party quest, as you'll be competiting with multiple people, and the n00b to average player ratio can seem rather skewed. The higher level you get, the more they'll dog you, asking for all assortment of things. This is especially true if you have 'NX', a currency that allows you to buy things such as pets, clothes, weapons, and bonuses from a cash shop. The community is only worse if you happen to be a girl, as you'll get, literally, dozens of requests per day asking for nude pictures or if you'd please be their sweetheart. But all of this can be avoided if you just choose one of the many other less populated channels.

Overall, Maplestory is a beautiful, wonderfully orchestrated world that is so large I have never seen the end of it. Is it as good as Warhammer, or Guild Wars? Not even close. But it's a game you can settle down with for casual enjoyment and feel like you've made some real progress with an hour or two, which is something most games don't provide these days. There are plenty of quests, so no need to grind, but even still some things may seem repetitive and tedious. If this is the case, I prescribe finding friends to play with you, as this is when Maplestory really shines through. Especially during events, which seem to happen every other month or so, when special items can be gained and ludicrous monsters are regularly found throughout the channels. If you can stomach 'cutesy' graphics and a subpar story line I sincerely suggest giving it a try.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 06/16/10

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

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