Is MapleStory Worth Playing in 2021?

Welcome back to another episode of “Is it worth playing?” A video series where we go through every MMORPG, good and bad in search for the best, and at times the worst games in the genre.

Today we’re taking a look at one of the longest-lasting Anime MMOs – a game that has withstood the test of time: MapleStory.
MapleStory was developed by Wizet and published by Nexon in South Korea in 2003. The game launched shortly after in North America in 2005, and has been one of Nexon’s leading intellectual properties since, driving various spin-offs like MapleStory 2, MapleStory M and even the MapleStory Fest.

MapleStory is a very unique type of MMO. It’s one of the few side-scrolling action titles within the genre, but where it’s competitors like Dungeon Fighter Online allow for exclusively horizontal movement, MapleStory allows for both horizontal and vertical exploration.

MapleStory is set in an enormous world. Yet the world is segregated off from itself, providing players small zones to navigate between each entirely interconnected via small portals.
And before you jump to any conclusions, let me point out that these areas – these zones are in no way instanced. On the contrary, you’ll find plenty of players engaging in content, leveling, farming.
So many in fact that – and I’m sure many MapleStory players can relate, you end up in fierce competition with them over who’ll get to ultimately keep the spawn of monsters.
This is where I believe open-world PvP would come in handy, and why MMOs like Black Desert have flourished. Other players in your way? Don’t offer them your hand. Offer them “a” hand. You know. Off of a cliff. Or onto your blade.

maplestory-1-min

Speaking of PvP, let’s talk combat.
Side-scrolling MMOs don’t offer much in the way of exploration. That’s because you’re mostly given the option of moving in a very linear form. So these games are required to maintain player interest in other ways.
Combat and narrative are often the two main aspects they seem to narrow in on, and MapleStory is no exception to that.
Combat involves binding your abilities to a variety of different keys on your keyboard. As would be expected of any MMO or PC game, really.
Your abilities come in many forms. DoT’s or Damage over time skills, AoE’s or Area of effect skills, single-target skills, buffs, debuffs. I mean, as absurd as it seems at times, you’re given abilities that take up the entirety of the screen and deal massive amounts of damage.
These are my types of classes. I’ve always been fond of grouping up enemies and mowing them all down simultaneously. MapleStory allows me to really channel that – and on a variety of different classes.
Combat itself was very fluid. Abilities flowed effortlessly, spell and skill effects were very high quality, taking somewhat of a comic-esque form.
And the best part? There were so many different classes to choose between, with each and every class having not only their own unique abilities, strengths and weaknesses, but also their personalized, custom playstyle.
Where you often see classes in MMOs reusing many assets from one another – MapleStory doesn’t – well, I mean they might, but it’s done on a much smaller scale that I don’t really realize it.

maplestory-2-min

I mentioned 2 things that MMOs like this focus on though, right? Narrative was the other.
MapleStory has a unique narrative that is specifically targeted and tailored to your respective class. Sure, there’s story that carries over between classes, but every class has their own unique identity in this game.
And I’m not talking just the odd quest here and there. I’m talking about entire storylines, zones directly associated with your class and your class only. The sheer amount of effort they’ve put into making sure every class has their own unique look and feel – going above and beyond skills and aesthetic appearances is surprising.
And while classes have their own unique story, while there’s a main story to follow – more or less – there are also side-quests and entire zones and stories disconnected from the world in the form of Theme Dungeons.
These are, at times, hilarious to move through and complete. Each having their own story to follow, their own cast of characters, their own monsters and subsequently their own rewards.

MapleStory has a unique graphical style to it. I’m not sure how many of you recall the Anime… I wanna say MMO here because it shares a lot of MMO features, but I guess it’s more of an online community that takes the form of a video game? Called Gaia Online.
MapleStory shares, in my opinion, very strong aesthetic similarities to Gaia Online. With the exception being that MapleStory is a horizontal-action MMO.
Environments look great – sure, the backgrounds have a tendency to repeat several times in a row between zones, as do the enemies, with enemies typically being different colors as you move through the zones in question, but every area – not zone specifically, but area, has its own unique look and feel to it.
Characters take the form of sprites. Chibi-like pixel art. Opinions seem to vary between whether or not the game is cartoon-inspired or Anime-inspired, interestingly enough. Honestly, while I can see aspects of both present, I’d say that it takes a lot more inspiration from Anime than it does cartoons.
Sometimes the backdrops look much more 3D than the characters themselves, as the environments aren’t as limited as the character models. But then again, this game is almost 2 decades old by this point and honestly? Graphically, it holds up exceptionally well.

maplestory-3-min

There are hundreds of levels to grind through in MapleStory, with the leveling process taking the form of monster-grinding.
I’m well aware this doesn’t appeal to every type of player – as a matter of fact, I’m certain spending weeks, months even to grind levels on a variety of different classes isn’t the majority of players’ definition of a fun or engaging MMO.
Yet MapleStory has maintained a very loyal playerbase of players that have no issue with the grind. I spent about 10 days playing on and off for approximately 2 to 3 hours per day, and I think I made it to just a little shy of level 100. And that was 1/3 of the way to max level.
And let me tell you these were the easier levels to achieve, and done with XP potions from the cash shop. I didn’t wanna do this without the option of doubling my XP – I’ve been there, done that many, many years ago.
As grinding monsters is in essence the core of the game, I understand why most people shrug this game off when it comes to playing it. Well, that and the issues with Nexon ruining it just like everything they touch.
But for fans of grinding, there isn’t a better Anime game out there.

pros

✔️ For its age, MapleStory holds up exceptionally well graphically. You won’t find another game that looks as good as this one does within its respective genre.

✔️ Its combat is still, even in 2021, some of the best in the side-scrolling MMO category.

✔️ The narrative is ridiculously expansive, encompassing not only the main story, but class stories, and stories disconnected from the world itself.

✔️ It also somehow continues to receive regular updates in the form of content and new classes.

cons

❎ Yet even though the game receives regular updates, new players seem to shy away from playing it because of many glaring issues the game has, and has had for many years now.

❎ One of which is horrendous pay to win – something that Nexon loves to ruin all of their games with.

❎ While the combat looks and feels fantastic, that’s pretty much all you do in the game. Grind monsters, which grows tedious very fast.

❎ The leveling experience post-level 100 is pretty uninspired, as what made pre-level 100 entertaining was the variety of content to do outside of grinding.

Thankfully there are 2 different ways you can play MapleStory. You can go with the default servers, or the Reboot servers which are much more free to play friendly.
Regardless of what you choose, MapleStory is an incredibly fun game with some highly addicting mechanics that you won’t find elsewhere. From its combat, to its graphical style, to its narrative. This is a high quality title I would advise not overlooking.
Unless you dislike Nexon. In which case, go right ahead. ’cause at the end of the day.. it’s Nexon and they’re the same way with every one of their games.

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