Dust off your lute and break out the sheep shears - the “fantasy life” of Mabinogi awaits you. A free-to-play MMORPG based on Celtic mythology, Mabinogi (downloadable here) has been delighting Korean gamers with its rich fantasy setting since 2004, and now it’s our turn. You aren’t bound to classes like “wizard” in Mabinogi; any character can spend skill points (earned by completing quests or simply by aging - every week is a year in Mabinogi time) to learn any skill they choose. Instead of the usual quest-giver hunt, quests and rewards are dropped from the sky by civic-minded owls, giving you more time to admire the anime-inspired art style.
Don’t be fooled by its ultra-cute exterior; Mabinogi doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to combat. Battles are won through careful timing and countering your opponents’ attacks. Soloing becomes a challenge, but grouping for difficult quests or to defeat dungeon bosses is easy, thanks to the game’s excellent party formation system. Social gatherings often spring up spontaneously around campfires, and merriment abounds as food is passed around and someone starts playing “Through the Fire and Flames” on the ukulele.
Unfortunately, frustrating point-and-click controls and unreliable pathfinding frequently get in the way of the fun, and busywork chores like shearing sheep and harvesting grain become painfully tedious. And, of course, there’s a catch to the free-to-play thing: the free ride ends when you want to play through the game’s main story line or “rebirth” your character once it stops gaining ability points for aging. (Reborn characters return to level 1, but keep their skills.) Mabinogi offers a lot of engaging play for a free game, but you’ll quickly wish that its “free” price tag included WASD controls.
PC Gamer scores games on a percentage scale, which is rounded to the closest whole number to determine the GamesRadar score.
PCG Final Verdict: 73% (Good)
May 30, 2008