Nexon Mobile's new game looks good, but will only charm series veterans.
Nexon's MapleStory (just in case you've been living under a rock for the last 8 years) is one of the most successful MMOs available today. The App Store has previously been treated to a couple of spin-off adventures in the form of the Thief and Cygnus Knights editions. So what does this latest version bring to mobiles?
Technically speaking, MapleStory Live isn't an MMO in the same way that other Nexon titles like Vindictus might be considered to be. Far more of a social game with multiplayer-at-a-distance, the social components of MMO gaming are merely sprinkled lightly on top of the single player game, with interaction limited to noticeboard messages and the like.
At the character creation screen, you'll need to choose from one of two different characters: the Dual Blade who packs a meaty swipe into his sword and dagger thrusts, or the turret mounting Mechanic who can only be unlocked (as with so many other things in the game) via an in-app purchase.
As befits any game with aspirations to online RPG gaming, this 2D pixellated RPG adventure centers around talking to NPCs in hubs, receiving quests, hitting things over the head with your weapon, gathering up whatever they've dropped, and then heading back into town for your just reward.
While it may seem unfair to single out MapleStory Live for this particular online gaming crime, there's simply no getting away from the fact that the questing rarely evolves beyond grabbing ten of these, or killing six of those, before heading back to the quest-giver.
That didn't exactly do World of Warcraft any harm for its first few years, and so we won't be too harsh. The simplistic nature of the questing does also mean that you can enjoy making progress in the tiniest of pick-up-and-play slices should you desire, and the typical MapleStory mini-games also offer up some great entertainment.
While the questing may for the most part be rather thin, the game compensates with a sprawling world that has some genuinely amusing narrative blended into the conversations. Nexon being a South Korean company, it's no surprise that the art-style should be so anime-heavy, and familiar to any fan of 16-bit JRPGs.
If we had one issue with the visuals, it's that they have a tendency to judder whenever the screen scrolls. A pity really, and something we would have hoped to have been spared given the rather simplistic graphics.
An RPG could hardly be called one without a leveling system, and as you gain XP from quests and monster killing, you get to invest in your Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence and Luck. If you typically find yourself to be a little hesitant in committing to RPG character development, you can always take advantage of the preset options which allow you to take a defensive or offensive stance, or even a careful blend of both.
As we've hinted at earlier in this review, MapleStory Live isn't shy about presenting its pay-wall to you, and from the moment you start the free version the game is all about what you can't enjoy, rather than what you can. Even the basics required for any online adventure, such as storage capacity and mailbox communication, are locked out until you stump up some cash, and you are absolutely going to have to do this to get anywhere further passed the very surface of the game.
In this store, known as the Candy Shop, you can purchase a whole cornucopia of goods, services and character boosts using the Candy currency. To list them all in this review would cause your eyes to glaze over, suffice to say that whether you want a boost to your XP gains for a limited amount of time, a new mount to tear around the lands on, or just a bigger bank to store all your delicious loot in, then Nexon has you more than covered.
I don't doubt for a moment that MapleStory Live will provide something very enjoyable to those devoted fans of the main game. It'll sooth those pangs that follow every online addict whenever they head outside, away from the source of their fix. Everyone else who takes to this mobile title on the other hand will more than likely find themselves drawn to the alternative, fuller version eventually.
What's Hot: Fantastic and varied artwork, fun mini-games, and a wide breadth of world areas to explore.
What's Not: Limited social connectivity, simplistic questing, and the game has a rather over-bearing reliance on in-app purchases.