First Impressions: Mabinogi

Mabinogi is an engaging MMO by Nexon, the makers of Maple Story, Audition, and Kart Rider. The name is derived from the Mabinogion, a collection of old Welsh stories. In that sense, it's well-named; Mabinogi is billed as 'your fantasy life', and much of what happens in the game follows a gentle, pastoral atmosphere -- even the combat, to a certain degree. We had the chance to check this out, now that it's in open beta, and here's what we found. Keep in mind that this is not a guide -- we have no insider knowledge to report. This is merely a record of our opinions and experience playing this game for the first few hours. Excelsior!


(Note: Click on the images in this post for larger versions; make sure you click 'Hi-res'.) This is the seraph of the login screen. She will appear later on in this post, but for right now, let's just enjoy her serenity, shall we? Note that next to the text fields there is an icon in the shape of a tiny keyboard. Clicking this presents you with a virtual keyboard to use to enter your username and password, if for some reason you think you're entering things incorrectly.

Here's your default avatar, mint chocolate chip pants and all. I'm not sure what algorithm Mabinogi uses to choose your starting outfit colors, but they sure are tasty. Here, you select your character's name (which you can verify for uniqueness), your gender, and your starting age. For each age, from 10 to 17, the starting stats are displayed beneath the selector.

For contrast, here's you as a little kid of 10 years. It's not shown here, but the first time you create a 10 year old, the system warns you that it might be unwise to select a 10 year old as your first character, as its stats are a good deal less impressive, and this might, in turn, affect your experience of the game. It might make certain activities more difficult, like combat or crafting. Of course, when we jumped in with our 17 year old, the majority of ages we discovered running around in-world were 10 year olds. Go figure.

Having chosen the gender and the age, we move on to the face. Really, you're selecting skin color here, as your face is preset, and noseless. Man, when Smell-O-Surfing™ arrives on the Web, Mabinogi developers will look back and realize they've painted themselves into quite the musty corner with this.

We move on to hairstyle choices. A few nifty options, but we went for the roguish, devil-may-care, tousled locks of your basic Sawyer character. Who could resist? Of course, it lacks punch without the addition of the permanent Don Johnson bristleface, but what do you expect, this guy's only 17. Notice the interesting anime-ish color choices, as well. You can get quite a startling gestalt going on with the right combination.

Here, we get to choose eye type, which is something you don't usually see in an MMO character creation screen. Sure, others let you choose expressions, or different eye physiologies, but this is more akin to physiognomy -- you can actually ascribe a character trait to a set of eyes. For example: these are the 'Clear' eyes; another choice is 'Innocent', which we eventually went for.

We then followed that choice with the 'Dumbfounded' mouth. Innocent dumbfoundedness, or dumbfounded innocence? Who cares? Look at that pink shirt! Apparently that color goes with our avatar's eyes. Who knew? See? MMOs are educational!

At last, the starter screen, where you will find your list of characters. Incidentally, this was not the first character we tried to create; the first one was a botch. In the process of trying to delete the old character, we were told we had to wait 24 hours before trying again. Presumably, this has to do with the open beta status of Mabinogi. But look at the beautiful, sunlit exterior! Nothing says 'Epic journey about to begin' like standing bravely in front of a stolen piece of Stonehenge. Or maybe this is where Stonehenge begins? Hmm ...

Okay, into the game proper. It should be noted that there's a whole piece of the narrative missing between the last screenshot and this one. When you really first start out, you appear on an endless white plain, with the only other inhabitant being the Mabinogi spokes-hottie, Nao. She starts telling you a few things you'll need to know about how to navigate this brave new world, but that's between you and she; we won't spoil it for you.

At any rate, upon entry to the area shown above (just outside of the starting town Tir Chonail), you are greeted by this peculiar character. Judging by his conversation, there's more to him than meets the eye -- which is good, because the entire time we were speaking with him, we kept waiting to hear him start talking about his Illudium Pu-36 Explosive Space Modulator. He tells you a few valuable things, but even if you're not paying attention, you receive a book from him which outlines a few important issues.

The world of Mabinogi is as kawaii as they come. Nearly everything you see, save perhaps for the boss creatures, is rendered in a lovingly adorable style. Take, for example, this first page of the book you're given, where a superdeformed sketch of Nao appears. If you can get this far without retching, you're ready for the rest of the game. We love this kind of thing, so we apprehended this with glee, but your mileage may vary. People speak disparagingly of the 'cartoony' nature of World of Warcraft, but they have no idea.

Also seen in the above image: your inventory. This tends to fill up quickly, and item placement is important; for example, pressing the 'H' key will expend one of your health potions in order from the lower right. So it's necessary to organize your potions of varying strengths accordingly.

This is the Automatic View that the system chooses for you, which always wants to orient itself to point North. The in-game documentation has it that this will help you navigate the area better, but we found it to be a bit annoying, and slightly nausea-inducing as well. There's one of those 10 year olds we were talking about, and a chicken next to her. More about the chickens in a bit.

In the upper right, the mini map, which may be expanded by simply dragging on one of its edges. This is useful for scoping out the area before traveling.

This is the much more useful User Controlled View. As with many other MMOs, right-click-dragging will orient your view trackball-like, and the mouse wheel will zoom in and out. To the left, a navigational sign that you can read by mousing over it; to click it would be to attack it. There's actually a reason to do this -- many things yield items when struck repeatedly.

Consulting the Beginner's Guide yields some information about Quests. Essentially, all quest locations are marked on the minimap by neon pink circles. This is very helpful, but even more helpful is the floating quest text that hangs in the air above a quest location. Additionally, a large arrow points toward your destination when the particular quest is selected. If you continue to get lost after all that, you might want to play Parcheesi instead.

Caught in the act, bustin' a move. Actually, attacking that sign. For the record, it yielded nothing. In the distance, the chickens await! A word here about movement: there is no WASD to be had for love or money. We can't imagine what benefit is derived from forcing the player to click on the ground to move to where you want to go, but as with so much else in Mabinogi, presumably it's because it's better for you as a person.

There is one bonus to this method of navigation, however, and that's in the use of waypoints. You can click on the minimap to travel someplace, and that's handy. Furthermore, you can shift-click on a second spot, which connects the two places with a straight line, indicating that this is the path your avatar will take to get there. In this way, you can lay down a series of shift-clicks to travel quite a distance without having to do all the interim clicking yourself. The only flaw in this otherwise useful function is that Mabinogi's pathfinding routines aren't terribly refined. We frequently watched our avatar walk into a bush or a post, and get stuck, unable to free himself to continue walking along the desired path. There is some management required at times, but when it works, it works well.

Okay, it should be mentioned that one of the previous signs was an exhortation to prevent the indigenous raccoons from savaging the local chickens. Hence, our bold ambushing of a defenseless, unaware critter with its back turned. That ring on display lets you know you have targeted the opponent in question. At this stage, that's all you'll need to do; the automatic combat system takes over, striking until the creature is down. Not dead, but disabled. It's plain to see that Mabinogi makes a distinction between truly dangerous monsters who need to be destroyed, and innocent animals that simply need some tough love.

Don't worry; the combat gets more involved very quickly. The game starts you off slowly, then ramps up accordingly. Until then, there's this:

While we wish we could show you this, you'll have to imagine it: that chicken is rearing up and kicking the raccoons in their snouts, kung fu-style. You have to see it to really appreciate how awesome it is. Despite this, however, the chickens are getting the worst of it, with the raccoons ganging up on them 2 to 1. And here is where you come in, taking them out wherever you can, gaining experience and leveling up in skills you didn't realize you had. More on that in just a bit, but first, the attack:

And now, the response! Look at him fly backward! So satisfying ... until you look over and see a broken, huddled bundle of fur that used to be a vibrant, quirky, adorable little creature ... *sniff* We're sorry ... we have something in our eye ...

First Impressions: Mabinogi continues here!

This article was originally published on Massively.