There is something charmingly picturesque about MapleStory 2. It feels like a film shot from the perspective of an elementary or primary school student, someone who’s still young and appreciates colors and lights and creatures. There’s a sort of jubilant curiosity for the world that feels unmarred by the conflict, the combat, and the war that’s just over the corner. It’s a world full of big eyes, cute characters, and cheery optimism in the face of conflict—threatening but only distantly sinister.
I can’t help but feel like I am once again a young child, joining the flow of other children as we funnel through the guided tour life has given us. In my hand, a small paper bag, in which is a baggie of chips, a snack or cookie of some kind, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with the crust cut off.
Gameplay – 7 / 10
MapleStory 2 feels nostalgic for a lot of reasons, and the mechanics and combat are certainly among the more powerful ones. Anyone who’s played a free-to-play game in the past decade is already at least passingly familiar with the formula on which this maple-themed world is built. Maps are divided into zones, enemies spawn in tight clusters around certain spawn points, and players must use their weapons and skills to kill these enemies for safe travel and quests given by NPCs scattered about the fields and cities.
Skills have cute little flairs of light and visuals to go with their use, most have effects that carry on after the skill’s initial damage has hit, and almost all classes have a running theme to their skills that determine the character’s role in combat. Most of the damage classes deal a lot of damage in short order. Several have good crowd control with area of effect skills. The wizarding classes tend to have less health and defense. The healer class has low damage potential but can heal quickly. In brief, MapleStory 2 is unerringly familiar.
The only real challenge is enemies rarely get tougher, they just have more life and do more damage. Combat quickly transitions to a slug-fest that calls for repeated use of a character’s strongest skills, and it quickly feels like trudging through a swamp. There’s no real complexity to the difficulty, it’s just challenging in a slogging sort of way.
Though, when one enters a free-to-play game, one must expect a grind.
Innovation – 5 / 10
As above, so here. MapleStory 2 feels like “a free-to-play game,” at its best description. Behind the cheerful aesthetic and cute window-dressing, it’s just an MMO. The same formula most players have experienced in some form or another before, with a splash of childlike glee and a generous helping of color and adorable design.
Much like a carnival game, going in knowing what you’re in for is the wisest strategy, but a concerted effort will produce big, plush, fluffy prizes. If that’s a price you’re willing to pay, you will be both not surprised and rewarded by your experience. If you go in looking for something new, I’m afraid I have bad news.
Community – 8 / 10
Due to the fact that MapleStory 2 plays its formula so exactly, the players are already incredibly literate in the game. Grind to max level, storm through the story, look for high end gear, run dungeons with your friends, grind whatever crafting or hobbies grab your fancy, and look for more high-end equipment.
It means that folks around you will be mostly friendly and helpful, any effort to find a player who knows their stuff will likely produce quick results—almost everyone knows what they’re doing to at least some degree—and the general feel of the game will be a positive one. It’s a cheerful game full of helpful kids, and it reflects positive feelings of simpler times.
Graphics / Sound – 9 /10
Although it is by no means the most impressive-looking game out there, MapleStory 2 is very aesthetically fulfilling. All of the art is cohesive and indulgent, the colors are bright, the scenery has a kind of Minecraft-esque charm that is only aided by its exceptional character and art design. It is not a graphically intense game but a very pretty one.
Accompanying the charming and cute mood of the visuals is a soundtrack that is reasonably thought out. Although there are dramatic scenes and strident efforts among the heroic narrative, the soundtrack is almost always pastoral. There’s a sense that every moment was carefully assembled to be tonally consistent. Songs, graphics, music, decorations—all create a very distinct feeling of of childlike joy.
Value for Money – 6 / 10
The biggest specter in the room, excepting the slog as monsters climb into higher and higher numbers, is that MapleStory 2 is inescapably a free-to-play game. Every side craft like harvesting or fishing has premium items that speed up leveling or automatically accomplish things whether the player is contributing or not. Being able to communicate across channels and servers requires premium items. Instant transit from all locations is a premium item. Most of the costume pieces are premium items. Upgrades and buff potions can be purchased as premium items. There are lotteries and upgrades hidden behind premium it—
In short, there’s a lot to spend money on, and MapleStory 2 makes no bones about it. Though it doesn’t cram these premium items in a player’s face, there is a constant sense that the slog gets the tiniest bit less wearisome if you just pony up a bit of coin. And perhaps the cute game is all you’ll feel!
Summary – 7 / 10
Much like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with the crust cut off, it’s hard to feel anything too strongly about MapleStory 2. You know what you pull that sandwich from the baggie is going to be a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Even with the most premium ingredients, it’s a sandwich that’s hard to be strongly excited over. It’s not bad, but it isn’t going to be the sandwich folks get excited about. It’s old familiar—like a hotdog at a baseball game or whatever is on tap at the local pub. Given that, it’s kind of hard to say much very significantly about MapleStory 2. It’s a good execution of a familiar kind of game.
- Cute art style and pleasant soundtrack.
- Familiar formula means it’s easy to pick up and play.
- Controller friendly, which is uncommon for most PC MMO games.
- Familiar formula keeps it from standing out in a sea of alternatives.
- The slow slog as the game progresses makes premium feel expected.
- Progress is glacial for the side mechanics like crafting and fishing.