Mystical Land

08 Nov 2014 18:04

Mystical Land (Retired)

This is no longer a browser based MMO and has been retired from our list of top ranked PBBG's. The features of this game were great for an MMO and even included housing. Sadly they decided to retire it as a browser game to compete with the 1000's of other application based MMORPG's. A note to developers: It's easier to compete with other browser MMO's than application based MMORPG's.

rating: +1+x
  • FvF: No
  • 3D Game: Yes
  • Free To Play: Yes
  • Premium Pay Option: Yes
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This review has been update for the September 7th, 2011 patch. Readers bear in mind that this is a review of a game still in Open Beta.

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Don't be fooled by the title, it's not just a game for kids and there is a wide range of young and adult gamers that play. Although I do think a name change would help their promotional efforts a great deal as it's a little embarrassing to mention to friends that I'm playing "A Mystical Land" and comments such as "what? Did they close down Hello Kitty?" are common among my friends when I mention the game title.

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This game has been reviewed many times on sites far more popular than mine but I have the honor of giving it a fair review as most of the others that reviewed it only took a moment to glance at the game for the sole purpose of getting out a review on time. On the other hand I am a gamer and when I play I want to learn more about it for the purpose of playing it, not because I have a deadline to turn in a review.

The good, the bad, and the ugly.

I usually classify games as either "good", "bad", or "ugly" and in this case all three classifications match. I'll start with the good..

The Good

A Mystical Land is a 3D Browser Based MMO developed by Mad Otter and published by Neonga Nation. 3D MMO's are common but 3D PBBG's are still working their way up into the 2nd generation market and that's what makes A Mystical Land more unique.

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The graphics are good and very close to the quality that I experienced in Earth Eternal. While playing you will often forget that you are playing in a browser until you look up and realize that you can switch tabs to check your email or enable Pandora. There is alot to do in this game and at first glance I daresay it is a crafters paradise because there are so many things you can craft but this still needs alot of work (see "The Bad"). The game will also have housing and village creation (eventually) but it seems the community has been waiting a long time for that. Once the housing update is released Mystical Land will be the first graphical Browser Based MMO to feature player housing… unless someone else releases a new title before they complete their implementation.

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The game runs well and the interface is somewhat intuitive and where many other PBBG developers cut corners, Mad Otter has gone far enough to make this game almost indistinguishable from a standard application based MMO. There are only two games in which I can make this claim and if I didn't know better I would say this is a breakthrough in browser based gaming.

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The game includes a guild system but it is primarily a social portal at this point with no mechanical benefit other than being able to switch to a more private chat channel. Someone behind this game has a mind for detail because there are alot of little things throughout the game that keep you guessing, exploring, and thinking. But at the same time the game has some awful balancing issues which brings me to the bad…

The Bad (Depending on how you look at it.)

The crafting system does not scale with your character level so in essence, you will never be crafting your own armor or weapons unless AML makes some drastic changes and IMO I don't think that will happen because crafting is the primary means to monetizing the game.

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With that in mind, there have been some positive improvements making the crafting system more reasonable. Some of the changes include a critical success rate when gathering, the reward of XP when gathering or crafting regardless of the differences between gather sources and crafting skill, and a reduction in the item count of materials needed to craft items.

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But leveling up crafting skill remains a very difficult task revealing that AML intends for it to be a somewhat exclusive ability available only to the most dedicated players. So, if you intend to be one of the few exclusive players that is able to master crafting then you might like this concept but if you wanted an easy crafting system, then you will probably regard this as "bad".

The Ugly

Despite the fact that the AML staff has a gaming background and that the developers have other titles listed in their portfolio, I found an extreme disconnect between what they expect of their members and of what the members expect of them. Communications with AML staff through their community forums has only recently begun to take shape after a great deal of complaining. In some cases the only way to prompt AML feedback or acknowledgment was through the use of rude posts that were designed to get noticed.

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However recent strides in development and improvements in the way patches were announced has led to an improvement in feedback and communications and hopefully this will continue until eventually this review can stand without the inclusion of "The Ugly" section.

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Strides in communications and improvements in crafting nearly led me to the removal of "The Ugly" portion of this review however these improvements are offset by the blatant and unapologetic disparity between players. Facebook users receive preferential treatment above all other players. To be more specific, Facebook members that signed up for AML with a FB account can send gifts to each other daily but other members cannot. To understand just how extreme this disparity is, FB members can literally login with 12 energy potions (this is an example of just one gift) awarding the player with an additional 720+ energy giving them a huge advantage over other players (including players that pay for energy potions). Despite community outcry regarding the unfair treatment of non FB members and the admission of AML staff of the existence of the disparity, no attempt has been made by AML to remedy this disparity. To further clarify the disparity it is necessary to understand that FB members represent just one of seven methods in which players can sign up to play:

  1. Google
  2. Yahoo
  3. Myspace
  4. Windows Live
  5. Twitter
  6. Facebook <—- Favortism
  7. Neonga Account
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To make matters worse, none of the members that have been playing since Closed Beta, and therefore longer than all other community members, can benefit from FB gifts due to the fact that FB account creation was not even an option at the time they signed up. The newest members benefit, the oldest and most loyal members do not benefit.

Character Development

MMO's once lent a great degree of personal expression in the form of character development. I still have fond memories of Asheron's Call in which there was so much freedom in character development that it was possible to gimp your character. Even run speed and jump height were skills that you could develop. These days most characters are basically the same with a few variations in restrictive "skill trees" and just when I thought it couldn't get dumbed down any lower, along comes A Mystical Land…

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If you enjoy a deep and complex development system with lots of choices then you will be disappointed with AML because aside from using points to place in skills when leveling up, there is no additional character development. To make matters worse there is a limit to how many points you can spend on a skill that scales with your character level so by level 10 you have 9 skill points but you can only have a max of 3 skills points in any one skill. So you end up with pretty much the same points in the same skills as everyone else in your class. Players like choices and players that get what they like tend to play the game longer and that leads to premium purchases too.

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How bad is it? A level 10 character can just barely outperform a level 1 character and the primary advantage between the two is the fact that the level 10 can equip better gear. Gear is the primary point of improvement for your character, not character development. And since it's impossible to craft your own gear during the time you need it, crafting also becomes pointless; you end up using whatever drops from mobs.

Summary

The AML staff has placed alot of attention on the game and plenty attention on how to make money with it, I just wish they would spend more time making the game fair for everyone that plays it and from which they will gain their monetary compensation.

Redemption

Despite the bad and the ugly I can't help but to remind myself that Mad Otter is a small indy developer that is probably grossly understaffed and despite my critisim I still enjoy the game under the condition and anticipation that it will someday (hopefully soon) be balanced and that game play will be fair for everyone, not just a select group of preferred players.

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I just think that even if they do eventually fix the disparity that it will be too late for those that felt isolated from the FB group because no matter what is done, the fact remains that for a very long time a preferred group of players benefited and the rest did not and those benefits will always remain a contribution to their advancement that other players did not get.

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It's hard to balance the good, with the bad and the ugly and so I find it difficult to recommend this game or not. Perhaps the best way is to experience if for yourself. Sadly, despite my conflicted opinion, I would still rank the game as a top pick because there are so few good PBBG's to choose from.

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