My childhood best friend Ed Lam, who you might remember from my old League of Legends days as “Grainyrice,” grew up playing MapleStory (similar to how I grew up playing Neopets and RuneScape). I’ve always wanted to at least try it out, but I never really had a good opportunity to get pulled into it.
Lately, MapleStory has been running some marketing campaigns about their new content patch and the Hyper Burning promotion, where your leveling process is vastly expedited in earlier levels so you can get into the game quickly and join your friends who might be veteran players and are far ahead of you. On top of that, I had a holiday recess coming up from my work at Tempo, during which I would have some extra time to binge a video game. Thus, I figured this would probably be one of the better times to get started, so I decided to make a MapleStory character exactly one month ago.
I ended up picking Angelic Buster, I’ve been having a great time playing. During my holiday recess, I live streamed a lot of my MapleStory gameplay on Twitch, and I had a nice time interacting with viewers and learning about optimal ways to advance my progression. While streaming, a decent number of people asked me whether I would recommend that they play MapleStory too.
Everyone’s situation is different, and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of what MapleStory has to offer, so I don’t feel like I’m particularly qualified to answer that question. With that being said, I can still give some of my thoughts and first impressions of the game so that you are better able to make an informed decision for yourself.
MapleStory is often called a massively multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG), but I think it is also as much of a hack-and-slash (also known as a “beat ’em up”) as it is an MMORPG. I really like games like Path of Exile and Diablo III, and I feel like MapleStory, to some extent, is a more light-hearted version of the aforementioned two games.
Combat is an important part of MapleStory, and the way you engage in combat is very satisfying. The skill animations are bright and flashy. The sound effects are striking and aggressive. The damage numbers make it feel like you are having a huge impact on the screen. Every time you use a skill, hear the corresponding sound, and see the corresponding damage numbers, you get a tiny little hit of dopamine that continues hundreds and thousands of times throughout a combat session.
The Hyper Burning event (where you gain two bonus levels for every single level-up you achieve) makes a huge difference in getting through the earlier levels. I especially recognized the difference because I had originally accidentally created a character without Hyper Burning, and then when I created a new one with Hyper Burning active, it felt far more refreshing.
MapleStory is known for its grindy nature, similar to many other Korean MMORPGs. With Hyper Burning, you’re able to avoid pretty much all grinding and go from storyline to storyline, sometimes even skipping some because you are leveling so quickly. If you are playing MapleStory for the story and want to complete all the storylines in chronological order, you are still able to do that—nothing is explicitly stopping you from taking the gameplay slowly (though you obviously wouldn’t get meaningful experience from quests if you’re overleveled for the requirements). If you are playing MapleStory to reach level 260 as quickly as possible to join friends who have been playing for a while, this makes it so you’re not stuck in-game for months before reaching your goal.
The quest system can get a little confusing. The map and quest log system is far from the worst I’ve seen, but once in a while, I’ll end up with a quest where I can’t use the navigation system to show me where to go and I can’t find the provided destination anywhere on the map. Luckily, because of Hyper Burning, if I ever run into a situation like this, I can just skip the entire quest chain and do another quest line in a different zone and still have plenty of experience to continue leveling up, but if I didn’t have Hyper Burning, I would imagine this would get extremely frustrating.
I have had some issues like this in MMORPGs like World of Warcraft before, but at least World of Warcraft has some extremely thorough fan sites that explain how to do certain difficult quests in excruciating detail; I’ve noticed that MapleStory does not have many resources like this, which makes things harder.
One side effect of Hyper Burning is that you get in the habit of skipping things. I was having so much fun leveling up and unlocking new zones that I missed some of the critical teaching quests that would explain core game mechanics. Because of this, I was doing fine up to a certain point, upon which my power level fell fairly sharply because I wasn’t taking advantage of all the power-boosting features I had available to me, because I didn’t know they existed. At that certain point, it was taking a very long time for me to kill enemies, which prompted me to start looking into what was going on.
Yes, it is my own fault for not seeing these important quests, but I would appreciate it if MapleStory had these quests marked differently, similar to how Final Fantasy XIV has the “blue/purple plus-sign quests.”
I’m torn about the interface. A lot of it is clunky and has very strange interactions and limitations, but I also like the “classic” style of interfaces. A lot of the newer games (as well as apps, websites, and pretty much everything nowadays) make the interface way too “idiot friendly” by using big round buttons and hiding a lot of important information, so I appreciate the fact that MapleStory doesn’t assume their players are stupid and will instead just show you everything you need to know.
I nearly quit the game at level 200 because it was so overwhelming. There are a ton of new things dumped on you at the same time, and as I just mentioned, if you did not know they exist and do not start integrating the new unlocks into your gameplay, you reach a point where you literally cannot kill anything and cannot gain more experience.
To be clear, I am almost certain that this is my own fault, because, again, I was way too excited with the progression and skipped too much quest text that probably explained to me how to use everything. Luckily, I was live streaming during that time, so my Twitch chat was able to guide me through everything. There were two particular members in chat who literally saved the game for me, as they walked me through literally everything step-by-step until it clicked enough for me to be able to deduce how to optimize that aspect of the game.
Even now, the way I’m supposed to get better gear is confusing and unclear to me. I was under the impression that gear would progressively go up little by little, like about 10 levels at a time, but I am hearing from some sources that it jumps from 150 to 200? The entire gearing process is very unintuitive, I haven’t really be able to find a comprehensive and reliable guide for gearing, and it doesn’t seem like there are any in-game resources on the topic.
Now that I’ve typed this all out, this seems a bit more disorganized and scatterbrained than I anticipated… but I guess that might be a good thing, as these are my unfiltered thoughts that are probably more comparable to asking a friend for their input, rather than looking like a polished review.
I’m level 245 now, and the leveling process has slowed substantially—but this time, it’s not because I’m doing anything wrong. Once you get to these levels, progressing to the next storyline quest is limited to once every five levels, and the only way to level up otherwise is to do daily/weekly quests, special events, and other day-limited tasks… or just grind killing mobs for long periods of time.
The reason I know I’m not doing anything wrong is because I am extremely powerful—one single spell cast is enough to clear out multiple enemies. I’ve managed to reach this point because Hyper Burning also gives you a lot of gear- and stat-enhancing items, so I used those to min-max and optimize my character. With all that done, now it’s just a matter of putting in a lot of time investment to level up, otherwise I just need to wait for daily and weekly tasks to reset.
Since the end of holiday recess, I’ve just been signing into MapleStory once a day for about half an hour at a time to finish all my daily reset tasks. With work picking back up, I now no longer have the time or motivation to play as obsessively as I did between Christmas and New Year’s, but playing and watching the animations and damage effects for a little bit per day is still satisfying and rewarding enough that I’ll stick to it until at least level 260.