Free for All: A roundtable look at Maestia

Maestia screenshot
You might have tried out Maestia recently, thanks to our recent beta key giveaway. If not, don't worry: The game is in open beta and waiting for you to jump in. Wanting to learn more about the upcoming game, I sat in on a conference call with Alex Kim, Denny Kwon, and Garrett Cecchini of publisher Gravity Interactive. We discussed how the game will work and where it breaks from other foreign imports -- and doesn't. In fact, a "standard" experience was something the developers bragged about, meaning that control schemes and the overall experience would feel familiar.

As I found out during the interview and later as I played the title myself, the familiarity was nice, but I found the many unfamiliar systems to be much nicer. I don't like to write about a game until I have had a chance to at least play through it for a while, so now that I have spent some time killing monsters, burning through quests, and enjoying the sights, I'll tell you what I found.

Maestia skillset screenshot
I'd like to say that I am not generally a fan of games that look like Maestia. Everything and every character is so sharp and crisp and perfect. You've probably seen simiarly so-pretty-it's-ugly games before, like Guild Wars, Rappelz and Aion. I would rather see some grit or rough edges in my games. Still, I have to give credit where it's due: If you enjoy beautiful games, Maestia has you covered. The animations are smooth, and the creatures dotting the landscape are unique and plentiful. The game runs like a dream, as well, thanks in part to the magic water that Korean developers must drink. I always ask Korean developers about a game's uncanny performance when I get the chance, and they usually just sort of shrug and chalk it up to the fact that the game engine was crafted specifically for the title.

Despite the (ugly) pretty settings, there are many tools that help players level fast. This game provides the player with many familiar tools to level quickly, but it also helps with features like auto-walking and click-to-move. It even allowing players to turn in quests remotely by "praying." The praying feature itself is nice because it's sort of an all-in-one experience. Not only do you turn in quests by praying, but you can get a new quest, snag a bit of lore, and take part in a miniature cutscene. It does get a little repetitive, but it's almost always a nice touch. Players can also receive a mount early on, by level 12. There will be mounts sold in the cash shop, but they will not be much better than the ones found in-game. The cash shop is reserved mostly for customization items, potions, and other standards. Within the first 30 minutes of play, gamers will get a free costume as well. Mine looked something like a sailor's outfit that was much too small for my avatar.

Maestia screenshot
According to the developers, the intent is to let players level quickly -- jump in, gain a few levels, and pop out. But hardcore players who simply must be the baddest of the bad can play for hours at a time and become very powerful. It's a sort of casually hardcore mix, one that I've grown to appreciate. It should be noted that there is a mercenary system as well. It allows players to rent out NPC henchpeople to help conquer dungeons or kill off massive numbers of foes. There's a twist, however: If a player wants to go away for an extended period of time, he can place his character into the mercenary system to be rented out by another player. The mercenary earns experience, gains levels, and nabs gold almost as if he were being controlled normally. I didn't get a chance to play with the system yet, but I love the idea. There's also a pet system, but the pets do not buff characters beyond reason. Pets are mainly for looks.

Now that I've covered some of the exact details of the game, I have to sit back and ask myself: How much fun did I have? Well, the game immediately felt familiar as promised. The controls are smooth and responsive, and the auto-walk feature helped a lot, especially when I consider how injured my wrists can get after a night of gaming. I know a lot of "core" gamers snicker at options like auto-walk, features that make the game "easier," but I can tell you that for many gamers, those features can make the difference between a game they can physically play and a game they simply can't. I was quickly sent on kill-10-rats missions, something that should not surprise anyone. As I've said before, though, I've grown to enjoy a "soft grind," one that is made up of killing not hundreds of monsters but a few at a time. Maestia does a good job of keeping the content flowing quickly as promised, but it throws in enough variety to keep things mostly fresh.

Maestia screenshot
Maestia is a perfect game for players who want to jump in and kill stuff. If you want to explore the lore and setting of the game, you can do that as well. I like the fact that it makes everything so easy, but not in a way that sort of insults your basic MMO skills. There are some nice abilities and unique ways to set up each character by using Maestia stones, but I barely touched on those. The GMs often jump into the game to challenge players to duels (they don't cheat, they promise!), although there really isn't much PvP until a player hits level 40. At that stage, cities will switch to a PvP area when night falls, something I hadn't heard of before. There is a city-wide invasion planned as well, so keep an eye out for that.

Sure, there were a lot of promises made during the interview, promises that I tend to wait to see to believe. That just comes from covering a lot of games. Fortunately everything was as the developers said. Maestia was "easy" with hardcore options, looked great, ran wonderfully even on my older machine, and had nice lore that was delivered much of the time through quest text. The remote turn-ins helped so much and kept me in the field and destroying monsters. It sort of shocked me when I noticed how much I enjoyed avoiding running back to town to turn quests in over and over. It made me think that many MMOs could benefit from simply keeping the content flowing. Grindy? Yes, that's one way to put it, but "flowing" is a better description.

I'd like to thank the developers for sitting down with me on an interview. Good luck to them during this early open beta! You can sign up for a free account, but treat it like you would a or Origin account. You have an overall sign in, but you'll need to make individual accounts for each game. Don't worry; the process flows almost as well as Maestia does.

Each week, Free for All brings you ideas, news, and reviews from the world of free-to-play, indie, and import games -- a world that is often overlooked by gamers. Leave it to Beau Hindman to talk about the games you didn't know you wanted! Have an idea for a subject or a killer new game that no one has heard of? Send it to!
This article was originally published on Massively.