Gamers can be forgiven for thinking few multiplayers online RPG’s exist beyond Everquest and World of Warcraft. Well, there’s Guild Wars of course, but all those cost money. What about a free online RPG?
Maple Story, though not quite in the same league as WoW, is a great MMORPG. It has players from across the globe, is quite challenging, and is completely free.
After download and installation, the first thing players will notice is the game’s Anime theme. Avatars can even use typical facial expressions found in the animation style. While the graphics may turn some off, others will find it especially engaging. Character creation is simple and limited; the real development takes place in the game play.
The two primary worlds/channels are Scania and Bera. Scania, typically more populated with other players, is great for forming parties and meeting people, while Bera has fewer players and is better for loners and avoiding the loathed “kill thieves.” Players may create up to three characters on each channel, and characters created on one channel cannot go to the other.
After going through a few basic “quests” like retrieving a mirror, the game opens up and allows the player much more freedom.
Like most RPG’s, players need to gain Experience Points to gain levels, most typically by killing monsters. Five Skill Points are given for each new level, and players can distribute them among a handful of attributes that will enhance actions like attacking and jumping.
When players leave towns and venture into the wilderness areas, the first creatures they will face are various snails and mushrooms. Gamers new to this will probably find the process tedious, as hours of repetitive killing are needed before the character reaches level 10, an extremely important achievement.
After the player’s character is at level 10, he or she can sail to the next region and select a profession – the archetypal fighter, archer, Mage or thief. Each class has its own themed town. The Fighter’s is tribal and mountainous, with fittingly rhythmic background music. The thieves city is a ghetto, and the Mage’s is a mystical, forested settlement. Class-appropriate weapons and armor can be purchased, along with healing potions.
New monsters greet the players after they land in the region. The familiar mushrooms and snails are still present, except tougher mushrooms, warthogs, walking tree stumps and green blobs are added to the mix. Of course, stronger monsters give greater experience and items when killed. Players will need to spend more hours killing monsters to gain levels, and at this point, many may be turned off.
To help pay for server costs, Maple Story offers upgrades, like hair color changes or pets, for real money.
So what is the real reward in playing Maple Story? It’s great fun to watch a character grow and evolve, developing new skills and becoming more powerful. Like other online RPG’s, it allows for a great deal of friendship and camaraderie; to do well, a diverse selection of characters need to work together to complete major quests. Buddy lists ease keeping in touch with friends, and creating Parties, who split experience points for all kills, allow less combat-oriented to aid their friends and still gain experience. Banding together with players from other countries can even be an educational experience.
Like a good story, an online RPG is full of archetypes that people can instantly connect with and understand; Maple Story is no exception, and it’s free, too.