After a few big changes Maplestory has evolved into a very different game. Too bad the core design is bad,and gets worse
Old Maplestory, a game of endless grinding that could cause even the most patient man to cry out in frustration. Money was hard to come buy, in fact you couldn't even use your skills because potions were too expensive for the money you would acquire. Having a 100 million was something, having 2.1 billion, was really something.
Fast forward a ton of years to the arrival of Big Bang. Leveling, now much much easier. Quests are more accessible. Game is much more friendly and easier to get into. Some old problems still exist, and new problems arise.
1: Nexon, possibly the first and foremost problem in the game. The people who lead the design in Maplestory are possibly the most greedy people alive, making horrible decisions one after another in the pursuit of money.
2: Malicious Hackers, Malicious Scammers, Malicious Merchants. Obviously these three are problems in almost all rpg games, however the way they affect Maplestory are much more radical, relatively, to other games.
3: Bad people exist in every game. However with Maplestory's easy to kill but high reward grinding, these guys seem much more prevalent. One problem is people who kill steal, they walk into your map while your leveling, and kill what you are killing, and hound you to make you leave so they can high jack the map and take it for themselves. This is espeically bad because Maplestory's grind is based off of killing a large amount of mobs at the same time to acquire a lot of experience meaning you will be attacking 4-8 mobs at any given time, so when someone walks into your map and forces you out, you can't help but wonder what kind of scum the person is.
For the developers of Maplestory, bad design seems to come naturally to them. Make no mistake about this, Maplestory is pay to win right now, and in the future will become pay even more to win. The only possible redemption for the game is the RED patch, however details are not yet released.
All the flaws with Maplestory design can be summed up in one statement. Maplestory is a free to play game that operates solely under the assumption people will pay. This means that if suddenly everyone stopped paying, the game would literally be nothing. Everything remotely end game is based on people paying money. This means upgrading base stats with scrolls, and re-rolling randomly generated potential stats till you get something you like. I will give an example of upgrading a simple weapon. (Note all prices are in USD)
1: Acquire weapon (No $ needed, but mesos needed. Mesos is Maplestory's in-game currency)
2: Now you use potential scrolls to add potential to your weapon. These scrolls are free. Potentials are random stats given in either a flat amount (i.e. +5) or % amount (+6% luk)
3: You can have 3 lines of normal potential, however you may only get two lines when you reveal the lines. If this happens you can use an item dropped from bosses to add another line, or buy a cube ($1.90 to $3.10 each) and try to do it that way. Or just try again.
4: Do you like the random stats you got? If you are playing this without paying, too bad. Go buy another weapon and repeat above steps.
4a: If you are paying, you can re-roll the random stats using cubes ($1.90 - $3.10 each) However, you have another worry to worry about. Those who don't pay can get two rarities, Rare and Epic, the two lower levels of potential. Those who pay can get Unique or Legendary level from using cubes. So are you satisfied with the current potential level of your weapon? To give an example on stat differences, everything goes up a by the amount that rare stats give. This is a bit hard to word, so I'll give an example. If rare potential gives 3% stat boost, Epic gives 6%, Unique gives 9%, and legendary gives 12%. 3+3+3+3 basically. This means Legendary stats are effectively two times as powerful as Epic stats. If you are satisfied good, if not, keep buying those cubes, they randomly increase the potential level on your weapon. Let's hope you get lucky.
5a: Now that you have the potential level you want, do you have the stats you want? No? Well, in that case, buy more cubes for $1.90-$3.10.
6: Now you have the potential you want, you have to do it all over again for bonus potential yay. Repeat above steps all over again, when you are done, proceed to step 7.
7: Use scroll on weapon (Free if you use +5ATK scrolls) weapon will not be destroyed if scroll fails (50% chance)
7a. Use scroll on weapon (Not free if you use +7-9ATK scrolls) weapon will be destroyed if the 20% chance of success scroll fails.
8: If scroll fails (50% chance) you need another scroll to reset the slot the scroll used. This scroll is free, and has a success rate of 20%.
8a: In order to prevent scroll from failing and your weapon being destroyed, you need to pay $11 ($5.5 on sale). If scroll fails and weapon is not destroyed, you also need a scroll to reset the slot.
9: Repeat above two steps 7 times.
10: Now to fully upgrade the weapon you need to buy 2 "hammers" which add an extra upgrade slot to your weapon. Unfortunately if you use the free method, there is a 50% chance of failure, and you lose that slot. Or you can buy it from the cash shop for $4.90. You will need two of these BTW, and they are $4.90 each.
11: Repeat steps 7-8 another two times.
12: Now you can use enhance scrolls to upgrade. Max level is 10-15 enhancements. The scrolls are free. Again if they fail you need to reset the slot. Be careful here, some of these scrolls will destroy your item if you fail the upgrade. If you want to make sure they don't, just dish out $11 ($5.5 on sale) each scroll. (Please note that the scrolls are used up whether or not the upgrade succeeds) Success rate of the scroll go down by 10% each time you enhance, down to a minimum of 10%.
13: Congrats, you just finished your weapon (for now, mostly). but that is just a weapon. Now you need to do this again 13 times minimum, using different types of scrolls specific to the piece of armour you are upgrading. Good Luck.
To give an example of how strong you need to be, my character has +105% luk, 149ATK from armour, 181ATK from weapon, +6% atk, +100% defense ignore, +60% boss damage and has an attack range of 105,000. I kill a 42,000,000 hp boss solo in about 15 seconds of continuous attacking. The strongest boss in the game has 8,400,000,000 hp. I cannot kill him. In fact I cannot even solo the boss with 2,100,000,000 hp.
In the game, I spent $200. this was a gift from a very close friend of mine who happens to have so much money he doesn't know what to do with it. I however made by myself through an extremely lucky break, the equivalent of another $200. My guildmaster has spent ~$1000 to date. At this point he cannot solo the strongest 5 bosses in the game. Now this is good, and this is to be expected. The problem is, even 6 of him cannot kill the 5 strongest bosses in the game. And 6 are all you are allowed to bring in. You see the problem is, all bosses are timed. Meaning you need to drop that boss in a DPS war before time is up. If 6 guys with that much money invested into the game can't do it, how can a person who never pays do it?
Did I mention there are plans to increase the hp of the bosses by 10 times in an upcoming patch as well?
From a shallow point of view Maplestory is a very unique game with cute graphics, diverse classes, and easy leveling but as soon as you break the top layer, the game get's pretty dirty pretty fast. I hope that I have illustrated the investment needed to be relevant in this game. if you want to play without ever paying, play for the social aspect of the game and forget about being even remotely strong.
There also is no real pvp system in Maplestory, and no real thing as class balance. Some classes are hilariously overpowered, while others are infuriatingly underpowered.
There are also a lot of server issues, and bugs with certain features.
But there is one thing to keep in mind. This game is addicting. I have written a harsh but truthful review, and yet I still play this game. This game is a guilty pleasure the same way gambling is, and that is only because half the game is gambling.
Another thing is Maplestory has so many events, it is hard to track them all, but the sheer amounts of events and updates keep adding new content into the game, making a reason for people to come back for more.
And last but not least, if you want to be relevant in Maplestory, you have to be on the ball all the time. Watch the economy, watch the events, figure out what you can do using event items to make money. With a lot of hard work and dedication, in around 1-2 years of playing you should be able to become relevant without paying a single dime. But make no mistake, someone somewhere is paying real money, and a lot of it, even if you are not. This game is very much a hardcore game under the guise of a casual one.