Rise and Shiny revisit: Mabinogi remains magical

Mabinogi screenshot
I try to take deeper looks at certain titles at least once a year. These are special games that prove to me that MMORPGs are still the best gaming you can participate in, pixel for pixel. Mabinogi is one of those titles. It's also one of those titles that almost makes me want to quit writing about games. Ironically, the more you write about games, the less time you have to play specific titles, games that could easily suck away hours of your life every day. These are virtual worlds with open character development and grand, sweeping storylines. If I had the time, I'd probably spend most of it in Mabinogi.

During this week's revisit, I knew I had to accomplish several things. First, I needed to clean up my quest list. Mabinogi is wonderful in the way it offers a player tons and tons of content and storylines, but they can be visited in a non-linear fashion that leads to confusion. Second, I wanted to revel in the glory that was the newly free extended inventory. Third, I wanted to check out the new systems and tweaks that have come along since I last dived into the game.

Mabinogi screenshot
Let's talk about the quests first. The main storylines in Mabinogi are broken into chapters, aka Generations. It starts off at G1 and will soon be reaching G17! I like the fact that there is so much content to explore, so many cutscenes and neat characters to interact with, but it can all be pretty confusing if you find yourself exploring side-quests or hopping from one generation to another. You can even ignore the main storyline and just craft, explore, trade, travel, fight or whatever you want to do. It's very possible that you'll find yourself wondering, "Where did this quest come from?" as though you'd just awakened from a night of partying. Some NPCs will even allow you to skip earlier quests to move ahead in the storyline. I attempted this but found myself regretting it.

Since last time I really put some time in the game, so much has happened with Mabinogi. The UI has been smoothed over and older quests were re-introduced. I took a good amount of time to re-orientate myself with the quest log and settled on a few key issues. I knew I wanted to look more into the Hamlet questline, a later-level series that puts players right into the middle of Shakespeare's world. It's a great questline that has some fantastic cutscenes and combat that results in some killer experience. I also stepped back in time to earlier Generations to pick up where my character left off. He was sent to hunt down some "dark armor," so I got right on it.


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Unfortunately, the quests in Mabinogi work a lot like many old-school quests. You can read a bit about what you are supposed to do, but much of the time the quest text or log gives you nothing to work on. It's unfortunate to see the game add so many immersive and fun tweaks only to force you to look up an outside website or wiki to figure out just what the heck you are supposed to do. The quest tracker will point the way, but many quests can expire and won't disappear from your quest log. It takes time to sort through, and deleting expired quests still makes me paranoid.

The main storyline in Mabinogi is immense, intricate, wonderfully and overly dramatic, and always interesting. The cool part is that we sandbox fans can go off and act like free spirits all we want, but when the mood hits, we can explore the main story or work on a craft. Mabinogi is simply one of the best sandboxes in existence today, but its graphics and complex systems can turn off many players, especially older ones. So, after having quite a bit of fun working on quests, I started to play around with some of the systems that were introduced since the last time I played.

Mabinogi screenshotThere's an interesting new transformation ability that lets players "collect" monsters and creatures during combat or while exploring the world. If successful, I could transform into the creature. There are scores of them to capture and learn, ranging from chicks to giant monsters. It's sort of like an achievement system that is represented in- game by physical transformations.

So far, I am able to turn into only a cute bunny, but it's a start. If that's not enough, any one of the mounts or pets that players buy in the cash-shop can also be played by the player, so you'll always have a new avatar to play with. I love to fly around as my crow pet, attacking creatures and exploring the world. I can't think of another game that allows for such a thing.

Late last year Nexon released a "classic" update that included the Puppeteer, a class that uses marionettes as weapons. The update also included a more specialized skill system and an update to weddings that allowed for same-sex marriage.

There are always events going on in Mabinogi. Currently, players can talk to a mushroom creature that actually comes from the popular Nexon title MapleStory. He'll give you a pet mushroom to feed; once it reaches a certain size, it can be traded in for different prizes. A lot of these event baubles will take up a lot of room in your inventory, but luckily the extended inventory has dropped in cost.

Mabinogi screenshot
Combat is still pretty challenging, mainly because the controls in the game can be so odd. WASD movement isn't as you'd expect it to be. There's something about gluing the camera to the back of the head that confuses many Eastern developers. W moves you forward in Mabinogi, but A moves your character sideways while the camera stays put. D does the same and S moves the character towards the camera. This is my standard gripe with many foreign MMOs, but I'm hoping that eventually the developers get it. I want a follow cam, darn it, a camera that turns as my character does. Fortunately, it's easy to get used to tab-targeting or holding down the control key to select the nearest enemy. Once you have a target, a simple hotbar press will start an ability and another press will fire it off.

It's odd, as I said, but it can also be very strategic and effective. I can fire a powerful ranged attack and quickly switch to an ability that redirects damage. He gets hit, runs up to attack me, and finds himself being knocked back instead. It takes timing and knowledge of your abilities but can lead to some really satisfying combat. I had so much fun while fighting this time around that I finally hit level 30! Normally I "rebirth" around level 20 and reset all of my levels and age, but this time I decided to go for the gold.

Mabinogi screenshot
In fact, everything about Mabinogi is unusual. Its graphics, lore, combat, monster design... all of these are not what you will find anywhere else. This can turn off many players, unfortunately. Once again, my week of Mabinogi boot camp has shown me just what an achievement the game is and how much players are missing when they get hung up on its graphics or unusual systems. It's a sandbox like you won't find anywhere else, but it's also one that offers linear adventure for those who crave it. I barely touched on all of the improvement made to the game since the last time I looked at it, but be assured that the game will continue to grow.

Next week I am taking a look at Dragonrealms as part of MUD May. It's a new one for me, so watch live as I interview Producer Eric Latham on May 13th at 5:00 p.m. EDT, right here on our livestream channel!

Each week on Rise and Shiny, Beau chooses a different free-to-play, indie, or browser-based game and jumps in head-first. It might be amazing or it might be a dud, but either way, he'll deliver his new-player impressions to you. Drop him an email, comment, or tweet!

This article was originally published on Massively.