Well, I was pretty much looking for something to do while my friends were out of town for the weekend, when low and behold along comes Maple Story via MMORPG.com. I’d seen it around a number of times, and certain tidbits and such had turned me away, up until now. (The things desperation leads us to, yes?)
Well, about the graphics, since that’s what a lot of people seem to care about nowadays. I think it’s surprising that Nexon’s finally got some decent artists at the helm (feel free to complain if you want, but the last game I saw them do was The Kingdom of the Wind and Dark Ages or what have you, and I was incredibly turned off by it all,) and I’m glad to see cute, colorful sprites at last! I was very pleased with the avatars for the most part, and the monsters are nice, too. I’d rather see a game with beautiful hand drawn sprites than any super-rendered 3D game, though, so I may be a tad bias. They aren’t the best 2D sprites ever, mind you, but they’re quite pleasing to the eye.
The music is pleasing, and fitting, so no complaints here. Not really much room to comment on it, anyway. Anything else? Let’s see…the concept is refreshing! It’s basically YS online, and, well, this is good and bad. Which lends itself to the heart of my review, and the beginning of the not so positive bits.
Moving my Magician and Thief around the landscape, I’ve seen quite a few things and ultimately come to the same realization either way. Levelling up is a gigantic pain in the arse, and frankly, that’s all you’ll do. There are, supposedly, mini-games, but they are few and far between. To make it clear like chlorine, the pure YS-ness of Maple Story is its biggest annoyance. I love platforming, and I do love YS, but the formula simply doesn’t work here because of a few major reasons. Levelling usually either takes place on maps so crowded that you’re waiting around for monsters that will be kill stolen anyway, or on maps so full of monsters that you can’t effectively kill any of them. The way fighting works, as in YS and lots of single player platformers, is that enemies only need to touch you to do you damage and momentarily halt your movement. This is all fine and good when you’re playing some SNES platformer and there’re only three enemies on screen, and it only takes one hit to kill each one. However, when you’re trying your damndest just to take out one enemy and three others come marching up from behind him, therefor ruining your chance at getting any experience, it can get disheartening after the first ten deaths.
Of course, it could be argued that one needs to hunt more carefully, which I managed to do, as well. Let me first point out the fact that the very idea is a little silly; from the very first snail you kill, ALL the enemies you fight are, respectively, aggro. The earliest levels are already hard enough, without having to run from everything that moves because you just want to kill one thing. Especially Mages in training, who have to basically cross their fingers and find a lone enemy that they can hopefully keep away for 10 minutes so they can take it out with their 1′s and 2′s without another mob biting them in the arse and ruining the whole thing.
But, yes. I managed to find my little spot and wail on enemies intelligently. Sadly, levelling still seems to take forever, and, well…I won’t deny it’s likely more involving than most MMORPG’s combat systems, but frankly killing things feels pretty unsatisfying most of the time for some reason. I’m sure the game is fun at higher levels, but early on it’s really not motivating at all. This could have something to do with the community…
Or lack thereof, frankly. I don’t know if the platforming style is simply not conducive of real communiation, or if Maple Story just lacks the facilities for an in-game community, but there really doesn’t seem to be one. The beginning characters all quietly KS eachother while the uppers just…go off and do whatever higher level things they do, or sit on the benches in town and mind their own. I suppose it could be said that the gameplay itself encourages people to play by themselve, but there isn’t really any telling for me. All I know is that everyone seems to be too busy being competitive to form real communities and friendships, which is part of the biggest reason I got turned off 10 levels into the game; why work up your character if no one cares? I didn’t see anyone compliment anyone else during my time, or even talk as if their accomplishments even mattered. Not even parties sitting in town looking for Clerics. If people talked about more than KSing and how gay they were, maybe I could’ve put up with the gameplay issues I didn’t quite like, but I don’t really see the amusement in being a level 40 Wizard, still blasting away at giant mushrooms by myself so I can be stronger still. Or, you know, playing a one player platforming RPG with some 50,000 other people coincidentally.
Oh, and I didn’t like that you couldn’t have your hair changed yet/without spending real world cash. But anyway.
Six or seven out of ten? There are definitely aspects I enjoy, but a lot of the time it just really feels like a helluva lotta work for no real return. I mean, c’mon, if I wanted to play a game without any social interaction, I’d just play something on a console with a driving story or responsive, tight twitch gameplay. There’s room for improvement, and I hope it’s made. Or, well, somebody else makes it. Either way.