I have a long history with Mabinogi. The following discussion is aimed for people who have experienced the game at some point. If you have not played Mabinogi, I recommend not playing it and waiting until I move onto another subject. There was a time when I could recommend this game, but that time is long gone.
My first MMO wasn’t World of Warcraft or any of its clones – it was RuneScape, a freemium sandbox MMORPG with amazing player freedom and quests full of cutscenes and memorable characters (I will always remember you, Zanik). Since I was a poor kid at the time, the only way I could venture into new territory was to try free-to-play Korean imports.
I started Mabinogi around the time Goddess of Light was released. I was much younger back then, and a bigger fan of anime than I am now. After countless bad experiences, I finally found a game that had the freedom that RuneScape had, but with better graphics and a condensed single storyline.
One Long Recap Later…
Fast forward to now. The game I loved is now a shell of its former self. The engine has become considerably worse, more outdated and buggy than ever before. Whatever balance this game had has been completely ruined by new talents, AP overload, and the ill-conceived “Renovation” updates.
Even Trigger, a staple of the Mabinogi playerbase and father of magic – the same Patreon funder who recommended the game to MMO Grinder – posted an amazing and informative steam review against this game. He hit the nail right on the head. Feel free to read his review before moving on.
At the end of his review, Trigger states:
“That about wraps up my deconstruction of Mabinogi‘s many current flaws, all of which contributed to my leaving the game and none of which have thus far been addressed. I don’t expect any of them to ever be addressed, either, because Nexon’s Korean development team basically just develops for the Korean users, and the players on the North American servers get whatever Korea gets. If you play this game, know that you have absolutely no voice in the game’s future direction. You will exist merely as a cash grab for Nexon.”
He’s not joking about players being cash grabs. Just recently, Nexon released a gachapon containing archangel wings that price at 60m. No, your computer monitor is fine. The economy is that messed up.
What’s worse is that in Korea, the wings cost almost $300 dollars to get during a limited event last year. All for some feathers on your back.
I think there’s more to the game’s lack of improvement than Trigger states. There’s only so much that can be done right now. So far, the new director has been shelling out bug-fixes and large “Renovation”-style updates. But the two biggest issues will never get fixed. You can quote me on that.
The people behind the Pleione engine are long, long gone. The game needs to be built from the ground up, and that’s a hard, expensive sell for any company to overtake. It may have happened with Final Fantasy XIV, but Square Enix cares about its brand (in its own weird, incompetent way) and communicates with global users in a meaningful way. Nexon has never done that. All that we have is a community team and a tech monkeys running the servers.
It would be more realistic to develop a sequel, but given the constantly-shifting state of DevCat, Vindictus’ deteriorating state, and the shutting down of Mabinogi 2: the Dissapointening, I don’t see that working out.
Bad, Bad Balance
Mabinogi is the continuation of a great experiment on new combat and progression game concepts. And in my opinion, nobody at that time knew that we were doomed from the start.
The basic progression system – lack of a max level, permanent stats given from skills, and huge differences between players who pay and those who do not – is power creep incarnate. The only thing that prevented this from happening sooner was slow progression.
Over time, this problem has been worsened a thousand times over. Past directors, in an attempt to lighten the load on our playerbase, have introduced systems that speed up power creep and increase the gaps between vets and newbies; gachapon hoarders from free players.
What’s been patched in?
- Free weekly rebirths
- AP granted from events, talent upgrades, generation quests and talent progression
- Insane gachapon rewards that make actually playing the game seem completely trivial and unnecessary
- A barrage of badly-planned skillset releases that allow players to power up their main talents without actually using them, with incredibly fast rates of stat gain
- More free AP over time from daily quest completion
- Pets that heal players and buff enemies, sometimes at the same time.
- Totems from events and the upgradable totem from Alban Knights dungeons that give permanent stat increases when activated
- Event and gachapon-only secondary titles that give insanely stupid bonuses
Top it all off with Reforges, the worst upgrade system I’ve ever seen in any game ever.
Why even release new content anymore? Why make things challenging? In mere months new content will go from “relatively challenging” to “I don’t even have to faceroll.” Like the dragon raids. And theater missions. And G19 raids. And lord missions. And MA tourneys. And abyss dungeons. We will soon reach a point where a majority of the playerbase will be more powerful than the hardest Alban Knights training dungeon.
Improved enemy AI will do nothing. It’s the numbers that are broken here.
And if the developers decide to fix this by removing systems and nerfing players, people will quit in droves because instead of protesting these systems we have fully embraced them. No sane developer would do this without losing his job. This is a genre full of people who complain about small percentages of damage being changed in a minor update.
The train isn’t going to stop.
If you want to play a game that improves over time and is worth your money (if you choose to spend it), don’t play this game. Like me!
Ultimately, I can’t convince people who have already drunk the Kool-Aid to stop playing. It’s up to each and every gamer to define why we game. I just know that I can’t recommend this game to anyone.
While the market expands en masse, our free time does not. Keep that in mind.
Mabinogi players, what do you think? How is the game faring for you right now? Feel free to comment below.