Each week Rise and Shiny asks you to download and try a different free to play game, decided by me, Beau Hindman. Some of the games will be far out of your gaming comfort zone, and some will pleasantly surprise you. We will meet each Friday night at 8 PM Central time, followed by this column the day after. If you cannot make the event, I will stream and record it here. I welcome any suggestions for games, either in the comments or at beau at massively dot com.

I decided to start out with Mabinogi because it's easy to jump into, yet has more systems and skills than most games I have ever come across. While the graphics might turn some players off, once they give it a chance they should find a game that never ceases to delight. Nexon America continues to improve the game, adding new features and expanded areas several times per year. I have been playing the game for quite a while yet still have to complete even the first few chapters of the main storyline! Not only can you chase after dreams of conquest, but can become a tailor, a blacksmith or many other jobs that will result in the same fame and riches.

So let's take a look at the game that we picked for this week, and please let me know what you think in the comments section!


Graphics

Mabinogi will not satisfy hard core realism fans. It's cartoonish, to say the least, but some of the areas will surprise you. It seems that with each new area added to the game the graphics become a little more polished, yet still retain their old charm. The Anime feel of the game will throw off players that have never experienced a game like it, but stick it out and the charm will grow on you. One explanation for the older graphics is the older engine, and the fact that Nexon America wants to keep system requirements low. Overall I'd have to say that you just have to give the graphics a chance.

Gameplay

Combat is an odd duck, as well. It's almost a system of "rock, paper, scissors" as indicated by the symbols appearing over the heads of you and your enemies as you fight. If a giant spider flashes a defensive sign, you need to use an action that might break or counter that. The action goes deeper than that, though, using archery, magic and even hand-to-hand combat for variety. A player could spend all their playtime perfecting their combat abilities if they wanted, but of course that would leave out all the other skills left to be conquered. And there are a lot of other skills! You can become a blacksmith, a seamstress, a healer, or a master of pets to name a few. I have dozens of skills, none of them capped out at the maximum level. Just today I discovered the musical ability skill and found myself addicted to playing a drum over and over. If there is one thing Mabinogi does almost better than any game I have come across, it's the skill based system. There are years of abilities to go after, if you so choose.

Pets

The pet system in Mabinogi is unlike most you will find as well. You obtain pets through the cash shop, usually costing between two to fifteen dollars. Whether or not the pet is used for traveling, combat, healing or just being cute, they all share a few things in common:
  • They all have some kind of built-in ability. Many have a heal ability, or a certain spell they are good at. All pets can fight with you or for you.
  • All pets can be played by you, meaning that you can log into the game just as the pet. You can raise levels and fight, but the skills are pre-chosen.
  • All pets have inventory space to use. Some have more than others, but all of it is useful. Like many free to play games, inventory space is an issue. Having a pet can help.
  • All pets can be named by you.
  • All pets can only be out for a limited time. After they run out of time, they need to refresh their timers.
  • All pets can die, just like your character.
It's easy to see how Nexon America might be making a bundle off of pets alone. The fact that the pet helps you in many ways, and can even act independently, makes them more than just a fluff item. In fact, they are a important part of your team.


The Rebirth System


Leveling up can be a tough thing in any game. In Mabinogi, the rebirth system helps alleviate some of this burden by allowing your character to be "reborn" every so often which resets either the character's age, looks, level or a combination of all. Your stats and current ability level stay the same, though, so even though you might have to go back and fight lower level mobs again you will have at your disposal the abilities that you had at the higher level. Imagine going back to age 10 with the knowledge you have now. Sounds pretty good, huh?

Rebirth helps mainly because as you gain levels you also gain ability points. Those ability points are put into learning newer or stronger abilities. The harder it becomes to level, the harder it becomes to gain ability points. Taking a step back into the time of non-stop dinging helps you continue to gain those precious points. Of course, once you get into much higher level content and abilities, rebirth becomes almost a requirement. A free rebirth is only given out once at a certain age, so the prospect can get expensive. Still, if you are an explorer of all skills like I am, the rebirth option gives you a chance to try them all pretty successfully.

Overall

Mabinogi is like no other game I have found. It is a combination of a fantastic skill based game, a great roleplay opportunity, a killer dungeon crawler with resetting random dungeons, a wonderful pet system, extreme customization and a perfect opportunity for those that love to try different abilities. I would recommend it to anyone who needs a game to play for a long, long time.

What did you think of the game? I know that for some it is a tough pill to swallow at first. As we wound up the group Friday night, I giggled at a reader and friend that seemed uncomfortable in the cartoonish world. I knew it was the perfect opportunity to give him a ride on my two seat Ostrich.

Fighting can be confusing at first, but in a group it can shine. The random dungeons can be a blast and perfect for grinders. But the game is not without its flaws, so let me hear them!

For next week I have chosen Crowns of Power. It should be easy to run on any PC, and should be relatively easy to learn. I have just started on the PvE server called Lightscythe, and my character's name is Beau. Add me to your friends list and let's take a look at it over the next week. Then, we'll meet in game on Friday night, May 21st at 8 PM central time, USA for some fun!

This article was originally published on Massively.
The Virtual Whirl: Vox virtualis