If you've kept up with my columns for a while, it should be no secret that I think Mabinogi is still one of the best games out there. While it does have its issues, the game simply presents more sandboxy goodness to players (while keeping those systems coming) than almost any game I can think of. In fact, the game has added so much since I started this column that a returning player can get confused. A new player might even become lost.
I like to officially dip my toes into old, familiar games once in a while. Checking back on these games from my past is a great way for me to get my gamer's bearings and see how my opinions might have changed. Mabinogi has been calling to me for a while because I haven't really jumped into it for that long over the past few months. I figured now is the time.
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I'm sure that Mabinogi has never been fully uninstalled from every machine in my house. It's always existed and stayed ready on at least one device, usually this laptop. While it definitely does not require a super PC to run, it can build up some heat on my portables. Once I turned down the graphics, I was able to run it on my touchscreen netbook, and honestly it didn't look that much different. There's something exciting about having a game like Mabinogi resting on a 10-inch laptop. The lore and setting have so many layers and the world of Mabinogi can be so complex that it's more like having a really heavy book waiting to be read. Also, there are almost always other players on, sometimes a great number of them. Keeping Mabinogi accessible means having access to a really diverse community.
Nexon, the publisher of the title, has increased security measures over the years and made blocking and reporting players much easier. The spam seems to have died down a lot. Of course that doesn't mean some players do not have their issues with Mabinogi or Nexon. In the comments section of this week's Livestream guide, players listed off numerous issues they have had with the game. I can only be honest here and say that I have never come across any of the issues that they are talking about, just like I didn't have many issues with Vindictus when it was first published. Still, it's important to remember that I don't play Nexon games several hours a day. Those issues might be common place for players who are even more loyal than I am.
I still have my particular issues with Mabinogi, though. Most of them are matters of taste and preference. The WASD movement that was placed in the game at some point this year (I must have missed it) is from that odd school of design that teaches that control schemes should be annoying and frustrating. I would give good money to Mabinogi if the team would just get the control scheme right and make W go forward, A and D turn your character along with the camera (not turn and run to the right or left while the camera sits there), and S mean step backward, not run toward the camera. The control scheme in Mabinogi has become almost a game-killer for me, especially since I can get pretty bad wrist pain after playing for a while.
The UI needs to allow much more customization. It can be awful and hard to read sometimes, and it would be great to be able to move the map around to check out the lay of the land. The UI feels so dated and bland that I know it turns potential players off to the game.
Watch live video from massivelytv on Justin.tv The next complaint is a bit of a blessing in disguise. If you have spent a lot of time questing in Mabinogi, then you know how complicated and detailed some of the quests can be. While there is plenty of "go here, kill ten of these" type quests, there are sometimes several steps that can be confusing or just plain hard to follow. If you start and finish a quest as soon as you get it, you'll probably be fine. But if you pause and come back to the quest at a later date, you will more than likely find yourself lost without a clue. Many quests expire yet remain on your quest list. I spent an entire play session just hunting down quests and deleting old ones. It was annoying. Sure, I can look up these quests in some player-made wiki article, but I'd rather stay in the game and have systems within help me out. I'd love to see better hints for quests, maybe something like RuneScape's questing hint system, in which players earn points to unlock hints if they need them. As it is right now, I hate questing in Mabinogi unless I am able to finish the quest quickly. Otherwise it is just a bit too odd and confusing.
Where Mabinogi absolutely shines is with its systems. Systems are the gears of the MMO clock, and without good systems, a game can become a bore. Mabinogi packs more good systems in itself than some publishers have in all of their games put together. There is a simple yet effective weather system that actually affects fires, crafting and other things. Then you have the pets and mounts system, the rebirth system that players use to almost remake their characters every so often, the player trading, the dungeons... it goes on and on.
My favorite so far has got to be the newly added merchant system. It keeps with the character of the game by being simple and fun, and it's something most MMOs wouldn't want to offer. Players buy goods from a set of NPC merchants, then literally walk the goods to another city. Each city offers a different price, and the money made can be used to buy special armor, weapons or buffs. It's wonderfully easy to follow, unlike questing, and is simply a blast to do. Granted, being forced to literally walk your character over great distances while wearing a backpack and trying to avoid sneaky thieves doesn't sound like much fun, but it is. You get to see the countryside, and it's a very immersive way to travel. Once you get enough money, you can rent handcarts, horse wagons or even an elephant to speed up your caravan of goodies. While some games like EVE Online feature similar trading, I wish more games did. I would kill to see Vanguard feature a system that pays back those players who take the long road.
There is probably too much that has changed over the last year and a half to cover in this one column. That wasn't my main goal, anyway. I wanted to show that the game is still wonderful, still has some of the issues it always has, and still features more innovation and great systems than almost any game I can think of. It's getting long in the tooth, for sure, but here's hoping that Mabinogi sticks around for many more years. It simply has too much to offer to go away.
Next week I will be playing a real indie game called Fantasy Online. It looks interesting, and I'll be streaming my first day of it next week. Come join me!
Each week, Rise and Shiny asks you to download and try a different free-to-play, indie or unusual game, chosen by me, Beau Hindman. I welcome any suggestions for games -- drop me a note in the comments or email! You can also follow me on Twitter and Facebook!