MapleStory 2 is not the tale I wish to read

“Anyone want a MapleStory 2 key?”

It’s one of the few perks, other than having aspersions cast upon your ethics and unfettered access to Bree’s rants, of writing for Massively OP to get free game keys now and then. However, very rarely are we tossed keys to games we really, really want to play. It’s more often smaller publishers desperate for press that get all liberal with keys.

But in this case, I was interested. MapleStory 2 had started to pique my interest — not as a game that I saw myself playing, but as a game that looked like it might be a solid addition to the genre and I was curious to see what it was about.

So I played it most of last week and wrote up a first impressions piece and you can check out what I thought about the game itself there.

And while at no point was MapleStory 2 in danger of winning me over and convincing me that I should be playing this going forward, I did appreciate several features in it. I genuinely like the graphical style. It looks very console-ish in an old-school SNES way (just with better fidelity). I could easily see this being a handheld or console title, so if Nexon is smart, there should be ports in the near future.

Plus, MS2 isn’t annoying in the way that free-to-play eastern MMOs often are. You know what I mean: A bazillion popups the second you log in. Obtuse daily reward calendars. Stats that are hard to decipher and gear that makes no sense except to the designer who made it and the wiki editor who wants to feel superior to everyone else. It’s more or less a very straight-forward, clean game that’s easy to grok and handle.

I hope it does well. I hope it finds its niche and injects some genuine fun and levity in this genre. But it will have to do this without me in its midst.

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The 10/10 Project: Day 6 (MapleStory)

cannonI think it’s fairly safe to assume that I don’t “get” MapleStory.  Sometimes that happens with the divide between the East and West when games are ported over.  There are plenty of MMO staples over in Asia that aren’t as common here, and I guess a UI that looks like a cat barfed up menu options all over the place is one of them.

My interest in trying MapleStory was that we have so few 2D side-scrolling MMOs and I was genuinely curious if this title might make a good tablet port in the future.  It’s easier to control 2D than 3D on tablets/iPhones in my opinion, and Glitch won’t be delivered to us in this universe.  Universe D, now there’s the lucky gits.

So let’s start with the good, because there’s precious little of it.  MapleStory’s look has a certain cartoony pop to it that is more engaging than annoying (in my opinion).  It’s a step or two above flash, has plenty of primary colors going on, and is fairly well-drawn.  The class choices also looked pretty interesting, and I went with a cannoner because the description said it came with a monkey.  That would sell me on just about any class, really.  “Janitor class?  Eh… I don’t know.  But it does come with an orangutan!  OK, I’m in.”

That’s where it stops, because there’s a high wall of ugly and unwieldy to overcome before any “fun” is to be had.  The download uses (sigh) Pando Media Booster, there are about six options when making your character that I had no idea what they meant, and when I finally got to playing my character, my class was nowhere to be seen.  I was Mr. Explorer, level 1, with a microphone (?) as a weapon.

The control scheme is so odd, too.  You use your right hand to control the cursor for movement, with the left handling jump, attack, and interact (ctrl, alt, and Z, I think).  But then you’ll need your mouse plenty, so my right hand had to keep moving back and forth.  My character didn’t really control that well anyway.  Jumping and attacks felt really off, and by the time that the game allowed me to finally start whaling on the cutest little stars that you’ve ever seen, I was terminally bored of trying.

I guess this is supposed to appeal to kids, but there are way, way too many buttons and menus at the bottom to make it as kid-friendly as, say, Wizard101 or Free Realms.  The dialogue, however, was right up your alley if you could only read at a third-grade level.  It’s just cheesy and simplistic and about half of it was a monkey saying “Ook!” at me.  And the chat window was one line?  I gave up trying to figure out this UI.

Ultimately what was disappointing is that I just wanted to get right in the game and start blasting things with a cannon.  It felt like MapleStory kept holding me back from that point for a while, and when it did give me a little slack, it was to whap stars with a microphone.  I was led to believe that the game was a lot cooler than that by the screenshots I’ve seen over the years.  Maybe it would be if I persevered, but first impressions count and this one turned me off.

Would I play it again?  Bwahahahaha.  What was the question?

One Year of Free-To-Play Fun

In an exercise designed to satiate a whiff of whimsy, I wanted to plot out an entire year of MMORPG gaming, where each month a player would hypothetically play a different title for free, paying $0 for their year’s experience.   What would I recommend starting with December?  Hang on to my every word, faithful readers, and let’s see:

December 2009 – For the Yuletide season, I’m going to recommend an old favorite of mine, Dungeon Runners, a sort-of snarky Diablo clone that enjoyed exaggerating and mocking RPG conventions while feeding your desire for mayhem and loot frenzy.  Since the title is being shut down on January 1, 2010 (with a nuclear explosion, as a matter of fact), this is the absolute last month to play it, and perhaps the best — they’re really jacking up the loot drops and XP rewards for DR’s final weeks.

January 2010 – Why not use the first month of the new decade to reconnect with a MMO of yore?  Anarchy Online has been running free-to-play for a couple years now (although with certain limitations if you don’t subscribe).  It may not have the glitz and glamour of more modern MMOs, but it’s one of the only “old school” titles that let people tromp around for nothing!

February 2010 – Assuming that Chronicles of Spellborn is still in “redevelopment”, or whatever that means, you can play this recent title for absolutely nothing — and that includes the full game!  Of course, there’s the very real chance that some day they might pull the plug or wipe the servers, but it’s a small price to pay for free fun.

March 2010 – Get your Harry Potter on by signing up for Wizard101, the acclaimed title that mixes together turn-based combat and bright wizardy venues.  They have an unlimited free trial that certainly gives you a nice big chunk of the early game, which took my wife and I a few weeks to run through earlier this year.

April 2010Warhammer Online’s “endless trial” is next up for your gaming pleasure — the full Tier 1 experience, with 24 classes, PvE and PvP is yours for the taking.  If you’re willing to roll up a few alts, then this will more than meet a full month’s worth of fun.

May 2010 – Ever since switching to its hybrid free-to-play/microtransactions/subscription model, Dungeons & Dragons Online has earned the title of the best free MMO you can get your grubby mitts on.  It comes highly recommended from myself, and the free content is quite expansive, certainly more than a month’s worth.

June 2010 – Cute little Asian MMOs that are funded entirely through microtransactions might not be your thing (and they certainly aren’t mine), but Maple Story is one of the best and most beloved if it is.  So enlarge your eyes to 500% of their normal size, color your hair bright blue, and embrace 2D zaniness.

July 2010 – An Adventurer Is You!  Or so proclaims the folks over at the long-running Kingdom of Loathing, one of the wittiest browser-based MMOs in the world.  There’s no catch on the cost (players who want to support the game can purchase special items in the shop), and the wordy game has enraptured many a soul — including mine.

August 2010 – We’ll assume that by next August, Allods Online will have left beta and gone into full launch, in which case you might already have heard the siren’s call to play it.  It’s been getting excellent press so far, and for a free to play title, why not give it a whirl in the dog days of summer?

September 2010 – Many a MMORPG player has cut their teeth on Runescape, the free to play browser MMO that showed how far the limits of Java could go.  It might not be the most polished or good-looking title, but it’s had a number of overhauls and revamps, and hey — it’s light on the wallet.

October 2010 – Speaking of runes, Runes of Magic bowled a lot of people over in 2009 as both a decent WoW clone and an excellent free to play title.  They’ve already released their first expansion (also free), and you could certainly do a lot worse than give this a try, particularly if you are a current or former WoWhead.

November 2010Sword of the New World is one of those odd little MMO cult hits that you know, intellectually, are better than the rest of the pack, but may have yet to ever give it a whirl.  So why not, in this last month of our hypothetical experiment, do just that?