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Maplestory Mobile Has Arrived. But It Won’t Bring Back Your Childhood

Maplestory Mobile Has Arrived. But It Won’t Bring Back Your Childhood

  • Culture
  • Life
It was the best of times, it was worst of times. It had the cutest graphics, it was a pixelated mess. It was an endless grind of slimes and mushrooms, it was a delightful afternoon of questing with friends. It had memorable music, a unique community, and some seriously adorable swag, but only if you could suffer the eye-watering prices and long hours of magic-claw, wait for respawn, magic claw.

I’m talking, of course, about Maplestory—the MMORPG that taught an entire generation the value of hard work, wealthy parents, cheating, friendship, and the benefits of organised crime. Now available on mobile as Maplestory M.

The question is, does it hold up in 2018 in a much more sophisticated gaming landscape? Or is it the flawed relic of a bygone era?

The Basics
Pick a server. Pick a job. Pick a gender. Then choose your hair, your skin colour, and what kind of anime eyes you want. After a brief tutorial on how to run, jump and commit atrocities against the local wildlife, you are packed off to the main area of Victoria Island, where adventure awaits in the form of endlessly respawning vermin.

For the most part, Maplestory M is a faithful replica of the old Maplestory you used to love. Henesys is still there and so is Ellinia, Kerning City, and Sleepywood. The n00bs continue to hunt snails and damage is still indicated by a riot of colourful numbers rising like balloon animals above your victim. Every map is still a linear gallery of platforms connected by ropes and Mapler’s fashion has evolved little in the decade past; everyone wealthy is pimped out to give Lady GaGa a run for her money.

The Jobs
However, subtle changes abound. For this review, I decided to reprise my old role as ‘Bandit’, only to find that the outlaw life of theft, skulduggery, and getting KS-ed by clerics is now defunct because Maple’s developers simplified the levelling system. There are no more stats like ‘luck’ or ‘strength’, and once-separate jobs like ‘Assassin’ and ‘Bandit’ have been merged.

Unfortunately, ‘Batman’ is copyrighted by DC so I’m a—sigh—’Night Lord’. I can use both daggers AND throwing stars now, but that’s poor consolation when your job title sounds like something Twilight’s Bella would call Edward Cullen during foreplay.

Gameplay: Quests
Gameplay-wise, Maplestory is still very much the Mushroom Genocide Simulator of yore. I speculate that the game’s lead designer grew up in a single-parent household after his father, a horny mushroom, left the family for a younger woman.

The vitriol is real. Every single quest in early game, be it scientific research, damsel rescue, or detective mystery, is centred around the killing of mushrooms. After you’ve killed 25 green mushrooms, you will be promptly dispatched to kill 25 blue mushrooms, 30 orange mushrooms, and then 50 zombie mushrooms.

Okay, I exaggerate, but only a little. Barring the occasional boss fight, every quest is a fetch quest where you have to kill X number of Y for random amounts of Z. Veteran Maplers will find this more comforting than fish soup on a cold day, but newcomers might find it ridiculous.

I certainly did, when NPCs gave me the most tortuously-convoluted reasons for needing a particular item.

At one point, I was tasked with killing 30 monkeys because monkeys dropped bananas and a character dying of thirst could only be saved by ‘Banana Juice’. Her brilliant approach to hydration is rivalled only by another character named Olivia, who gave me a quest to kill 25 spores. Apparently, the spores had injured her and she will remain paralysed from the waist down until you, the hero, exacts psychic revenge upon the local spore population.

Gameplay: Dungeons
A new feature is the Dungeon, which you may access at anytime with a ticket. Properly speaking, these are not real dungeons a la Fifty shades or Diablo. They’re more like magical planes where you can enjoy a brief vacation from killing monsters for money and experience, to kill monsters for money, experience, AND a chance to win rare equipment.

Autoquest/Autobattle
The best thing about Maplestory M is that you don’t actually have to play it. This is not a snarky comment. Auto-quest/Auto-battle is a legitimate feature that has been added into the game and marketed as an improvement upon the old system where players actually played.

In the past, you had to murder 30 mushrooms, manually pick their corpses clean of loot by holding down ctrl, trek back to the relevant NPC, and surrender your harvest for a meagre reward.

Not anymore. The auto-quest function does everything for you, and I mean literally everything. One click of the button will take you to Henesys hunting ground or Ellinia’s slime forest, where your character will kill slimes, collect collectables, and even self-medicate with red pots when your health bar dips. Another click will take him or her back to whichever NPC quest-giver put the hit on those slimes.

If you have a ‘VIP teleport stone’—and why wouldn’t you, they give that shit out like Dominos delivery vouchers—you can teleport instantly to the endpoint and pick up your mesos, potions, and yet another set of VIP teleport stones.

Even grinding, that beating heart of Maplestory, is now effortless. Every player gets a free daily allotment of 100 Autobattle minutes. Just plonk yourself around the monsters and switch on Autobattle to watch Maplestory: The Movie. You can even shop for hats and shoes while the AI performs the labour that kept you chained to the computer in secondary school.

Economy
In fact, the entire game has been stripped of anything that requires thought, effort or patience. After 4 hours of play, I found myself at level 45 with 800,000 Mesos, which is slightly more than the annual tax revenue of Kerning City in 2005.

Money, experience and consumables will rain down like a monsoon upon any Mapler who simply logs in. There is a 5 digit cheque for daily ‘attendance’, and a similar sum is awarded for the ‘achievement’ of drinking 10 potions. As for the NPCs, all of them behave like insecure rappers. They will throw money in your face at the slightest provocation:

Did you walk across the room to talk to another in-game character? Boom! 100 grand in your wallet!

Did you arrive at Lith Harbour? Enjoy this rideable pig, three pet dinosaurs, and a septic tank’s worth of blue mana potion.

This all sounds wonderful if you recall the Old Maplestory experience of austerity and deprivation. But it’s really not.

Although you’re materially rich, there is scarce enjoyment to be had because you didn’t earn it. The virtual fruit tastes so much sweeter if watered with the sweat of one’s brow, but Maplestory M gives you little to sweat over, and the overall experience is unfortunately all the blander as a result.

The Cash Shop
Only the in-game purchases costing real money has remained unchanged. The currency is now ‘crystals’ instead of prepaid cards from 7/11, but the hairstyles, the clothes, the megaphones and cosmetic surgery for your avatar are just as nauseatingly expensive as before.

In the interests of this review, I bought $8 dollars worth of crystals from the cash shop. In return, my avatar got a slime hat, a paintbrush, a cheap haircut from the hair salon and … that’s it. No wonder my friends stole their parent’s credit cards back in the day to fund their Mapling habit.

Still, it’s good to see that some things never change. >_<

Social 
In my opinion, the biggest and most lamentable change of all is the disappearance of Maplestory’s social scene.

Forgive an old man his romanticism, but once upon a time, MapleSEA was a thriving community that PAP grassroots leaders could only dream of. The game was filled with diligent farming addicts, fame-whores, scroll peddlers, ‘married’ couples, auto-click hackers, vainglorious fashionistas, blue-skinned nudists, and all manner of people—the good, the bad and the ugly.

The streets were alive with speech bubbles (Selling ores) and the infamous Free Market was a veritable NYSE of unregulated commerce (Sellin Cursed Scroll @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@). You could talk, defame, smile, flirt, invite, party, or befriend anyone and they would reply in kind without fail.

Not in Maplestory M.

What was once a ‘living’ society (for the lack of a better word) is now an empty husk where people mostly stick to themselves. For about half an hour, I went around saying ‘hi’ to random people but no one returned the greeting. Invitations to party went ignored except for one brief 5-minute alliance outside Kerning City.

Perhaps everyone is using the new autopilot function, or perhaps the abundance of resources has made collaboration unnecessary. I don’t know for sure, but the end result resembles Raffles Place at midnight: a ghost town where you can almost the hear the faded strains of lively chatter.

Verdict
And that’s the reason why I think that Maplestory M will disappoint and eventually fail.

I don’t hate Maplestory. On the contrary, I think that it does not get enough credit from the established video game journalists at Kotaku or Polygon, who have mostly ignored its wild popularity in Asia and its innovative micro-transaction system, now di rigeur for all profitable video games.

However, even in its heyday, when my whole school was addicted, few enjoyed Maplestory for its gameplay. The actual levelling was tedious at best and Maple’s so-called ‘story’ was a badly-written, barely-decipherable fanfiction.

No, we played Maplestory because it was social media before social media became a trillion-dollar business and, ironically, quite toxic and anti-social.

Think about it. Most of the girls I know played Maplestory because they fell in love with the overwhelming cuteness of it all. The guys gravitated to Maple because the girls were there and soon, a whole parallel ecosystem sprung to life in the chat rooms and parties that formed and reformed every day after school.

What is a ‘guild’ if not a clique and its accompanying sense of security? Didn’t a high-level character and purchasable cosmetics buy you the same attention provided by a good selfie today?

At its heart, I believed that ‘Mapling’ appealed to the same basic desires fulfilled by social media today: vanity, companionship and a universal, unspoken need for social validation. The game was mostly functional, but its hated ‘grind’ was just a means to an end. To not play Maple was to be exiled from The Conversation. To own a level 130 Bishop was to be a micro-influencer of 2005, with all its accompanying privileges and social capital.

People talked about you, and that was always a good feeling. Be it 2018, 2008 or BC 800.

But The Conversation has moved on to other platforms; other spaces. The question is, who will spend their pocket money or 24 million mesos at the Free Market when a good Instagram story gets so much more for less?

We are all Maplers now, for better or worse.

Have something to say? Meet me at the sewer no. 3. Alternatively, you can reach Forestbugs at community@ricemedia.co.

Author

Pan Jie Staff writer