This one is actually a bit out of order, Vindictus is the sequel to Mabinogi, however it was reviewed first. That’s because there’s really no pattern to which game will be reviewed next, there’s just a big list of games to be reviewed (in no particular order). That being said, there’s no reason to skip over this review; Mabinogi is a wholly different game from Vindictus. The only things the two games have in common are the setting, and the aim of the combat systems (both games try to provide a more active combat experience than a typical MMO, Vindictus is more successful in that regard; having the best combat of any action MMO to date). Vindictus really is about the combat, while Mabinogi attempts to provide more of a virtual life. While the capability is provided in both games, you’re far more likely to see people gathered around a campfire chatting, telling stories, sharing food and the like in Mabinogi than you are in Vindictus, and while the goals of the combat systems are similar, Mabinogi features much slower paced, more deliberate combat than Vindictus.
In Mabinogi you select from one of three basic combat skills (there are more, but three in particular form the base of the system), you have a basic attack, which will beat out a slow attack, which will beat the block, that blocks the basic attack. It’s heavily styled on rock paper scissors, it gets more complicated once there are more skills to play with, but that’s the gist of it.
Acquiring skills is a bit tougher in Mabinogi than most games, requiring you to find specific NPCs that teach specific skills, or sometimes just discovering the skill as you find the appropriate tools. The sheer number of skills is staggering, and your character ages as well as levels up. You get skill points as you age, and the max age is around 25, but you can be “reborn” as a younger version of yourself, which will allow you to once again get those skill points, so really, there is no limit to how many skills you can max out in the game, but due to the time it takes to learn specific skills, you’re best off specializing yourself into one or two general avenues of play at first, and learning a larger breadth of skills later.
Where Vindictus provides an amazing combat system, Mabinogi provides an amazing crafting system. Crafting in Mabinogi starts by collecting materials (as it often does), you then grab a schematic (or pattern, mold, what have you), and tools (some can be carried with you, other tools are features of buildings, like windmills). Much like in older MMOs, you have a chance of failing and wasting your materials, however, unlike in older MMOs this will not destroy your final product. It takes several successful attempts to make a product, but the number of times you fail in between is somewhat inconsequential, the overall quality of the product is determined by a mini game at the end of the crafting. Tailoring for instance will require you to sew up the last few stitches accurately and quickly, while cooking is dependent on getting the ratio of ingredients just right. Whatever the mini-game, if you do well you can produce an item with a much higher quality (and as such, better stats) than what a player might ordinarily find, or buy. Higher skill levels make the mini game easier, but it is quite possible to make a very high quality product at low levels.
Mabinogi has a store where you can purchase things such as pets, new hair styles, increased inventory, and the like, while many of the things sold will make your life in the world of Mabinogi much easier (reduced death penalties for instance), it is not required to reach your maximum levels. It is, however, required to experience the story quests, so minus points there. But if you can put up with it’s quirks, and the age of the title, Mabinogi is a good solid choice for a free MMO.
Although I do rate the sound of every game I play, I don’t always talk about it. In Mabinogi, sound plays a pivotal role, it can give you a warning about when an enemy is going to use a skill, and there are even two crafting skills dedicated to sound. Musicians can play music composed by composers (and many musicians are also composers) on a variety of instruments in the game. While the sound effects in the game are not the most realistic I’ve ever heard, they ARE, however, perfectly appropriate for the game, and the music-based “life skills” are impressive!
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