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Ontology on the gone!

The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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08/26/2008 Archived Entry: "Game Review: Mabinogi"

Distributed by Nexon

Review by Jilly Gee

Released earlier this year, Mabinogi is a fairly recent (at least in North America) free-to-play massively multiplayer online role-playing game from Nexon, the same company responsible for the incredibly popular Maple Story; aside from having the same logo appear before the log-in screen, though, the two are nothing alike.  More like the Harvest Moon series of farming simulation games than any MMO I can think of, players of Mabinogi can still live a fulfilling virtual life even without slaughtering numerous spiders, wolves, bears, and going after insanely hard dungeon bosses.  Not that there aren't any spiders, wolves, and bears to massacre, or any insanely hard dungeon bosses that will kill you and your party a few times over.  They're all still there; they're just joined by many alternate activities.

Encouraging players to live the "fantasy life", players have the freedom to set aside their battling and work on their life skills, such as cooking, tailoring, music playing, sheep shearing, wood chopping, and the like.  Just because a player goes the route of the peaceful life, though, does not mean life becomes easy and boring.  People who choose to perfect their tailoring, for example, can put ability points into the tailoring skill and make materials and unique outfits to wear or sell to others.  Requiring much more dedication and patience than just acquiring the right materials and clicking a button, players must first weave their raw materials into cloth, which often fails and leaves players with less materials to work with, but not more cloth for their efforts.  Even after the right cloth and the right threads are obtained, a timed sewing mini-game needs to be completed before the tailor has a finished product.  Similarly, to finally get to the end product of a cooking experiment, a mixing game needs to be completed.

For those who don't take to the life of domestication, there are of course fields full of wild creatures for adventurers to take on.  Typically in MMO combat, players fill their hotkey bars with useful spells and then accustom themselves to a sequence of number pressing to get battles done.  I usually pay less than half of my attention to those battles, taking those moments to pop up whispers to friends, but Mabinogi forces me to at least look at the battle with its rock-paper-scissors scheme.  Every attack has a counter and players not paying attention to how the enemy is moving and what mode it is in currently could very well have their attack nullified and their bodies knocked back.  This makes for a harder, yet more exciting battle.  Fans of boring button clicking need not feel left out; there is a less thought-intensive, less effective auto-attack feature, which will probably be useless against bosses, but great for low level monsters that you just want to plow through.

I am really more of a reader than a gamer, so I usually take to adventure games more than any other type.  Point and click games, visual novels; those are are what make me feel at home in front of a screen.  To be able to read long descriptions of various things in the world and pick at the minds of non-player characters on many things of unimportance is where the real fun is for me.  I can't click on just any old thing in Mabinogi and get an interesting description, but I can get detailed information on what NPC's are thinking using the game's keyword system.  When speaking with characters, sometimes a keyword will be recorded in the traveler's diary, which allows the player to approach other NPC's and ask about that keyword.  Ample hints are given on which characters should be approached with which keywords to advance the story, so the more goal-oriented players won't get frustrated searching for the right person.

To advance their characters, players are not just limited to completing quests and slaying monsters, so those who devote themselves to a life of peace can still level up.  Almost every NPC has a part-time job to offer, a timed quest in and of itself, which has the usual rewards of money and experience points.  The jobs start off very simple, usually turning the player in to some kind of courier service and eventually working their way up into a production service.  Get paid and advance tailoring skills at the same time with a job from the clothing shop!

As much fun as I find all the atypical activities in Mabinogi to be, I only play this game on and off and have been doing that since closed beta.  The reason I treat this as my "secondary" MMO is that it is much too hardcore for me.  The huge experience loss upon death, the possibility of item loss, the excessive amount of grinding needed to be able to afford the pretty outfit at a ridiculous price of millions of gold from the NPC are all too much for me and my impatience.  Combat against anything other than dungeon bosses yield very little reward, certainly not enough to be able to afford even a hat should I spent all night killing them; actually, even if I spent all night killing the dungeon boss, I still wouldn't be able to afford accessories as the rewards are paltry in comparison to item costs.  Even completing life tasks is hardcore, with inventory space being very limited, requiring lots of running all over the place to gather and put down materials and tools, and having to gather more materials when a failed production attempt results in lost materials.  There are people who are not satisfied and having fun unless they are challenged by all these harsh requirements and this game was built with them in mind.  Me, I'll be spending the bulk of my virtual life where the bears and wolves drop so much junk I can just live comfortably off of the sale of their carcasses to NPC's.

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