Action MMORPG MU Legend (MUL), Webzen’s free to play follow up to MU Online (released in 2003), launched into Open Beta on November 7. MU Online still has a strong following, and Webzen is still pushing out new content nearly a decade and a half after it’s launch, with the latest update released just days before MU Legend’s own launch. Will MUL catch on like its predecessor, or will it struggle like so many others? After spending a few weeks in the game, it is time for our MU Legend review.
Tell me if you’ve heard this one:
You’re a powerful warrior, and you start the game with a full array of abilities and are looking all badass in your Ultimate Armor of Kickassed-ness. After a few small battles in the tutorial, you find out Mr. Evil is about to prevail. In a last-ditch effort, that one wizard (you know, the one that every fantasy story has) transports you back in time to destroy Mr. Evil before he ever grows in power. You arrive in the past but have forgotten who you are, and all your gear and powers are gone. What will you do?
Yeah, it’s a pretty old storyline for MMOs. I would fill in some of the details as it pertains to MU Legend, but I honestly don’t know them. I usually take the time to read/listen to the story my first pass through a game, but not this time. The game’s writing is bland, and what little voice acting there is was very flat, so after about an hour or so I started clicking through all the dialogue. I can’t say I was surprised to see such little effort put into the story, as this is becoming the norm in free to play games.
This is a hack ‘n slash game after all, so having a story a bit on the light side is forgivable as long as the combat is worth it. And it is. The pace is frantic, whether on an open world map or in an instanced dungeon, with wave after wave of mobs at the ready to be cut down by your weapon of choice. Your special abilities come to life with fluid animations. Effects on weapon skills and spells are bright and flashy, and battles have more explosions than a Fourth of July fireworks show. When solo, bodies will be flying all over the place, and grouping only multiplies the chaos and fun.
But MMOs are not built on combat alone; players must build a connection to their character if a developer expects them to stick around. Unfortunately, like many ARPGs, your choices during character creation are limited. To start, there are only four gender locked classes (with one more in development) and four races (each class has human and one other race available) to choose from. Each class/race option will have a handful of facial and hairstyle options to pick from, supplemented with a slightly larger choice of hair and skin color. You can also toss on a couple of tattoos, but the anemic variety of choices means your character is going to look very similar to the thousands of other avatars out there.
That doesn’t mean that every character will be the same. Though your appearance will be similar to others of the same class, MUL gives plenty of options to create a character to fit your unique playstyle. As you begin your time in the world each class has two weapon styles to choose from, both with three weapon skills to unlock as you advance. While leveling your character, you will also unlock fourteen class skills comprised of a variety of attack, defense, buff, and crowd control abilities. Continued use of each individual skill will lead to the unlocking of three crest slots, giving you the chance to further specialize each skill with minor buffs such as increased attack power or cooldown reduction.
As you progress through the story you will also gain access to six expert skills, each one sporting a passive ability paired with a powerful action ability. At max level, you will be able to choose three of these skills, with their passive abilities ‘always on’ whether you slot the action ability to your skill bar or not.
Speaking of the skill bar, you have a total of seven skill slots (along with five consumable slots) at your disposal. One slot must be used for a weapon skill, but you are free to fill the other six spots with any class or expert skills you have available. With a total of 26 skills for each class, there is plenty of flexibility in selecting the skills you want, giving you the power to sculpt your character however you choose.
Character growth isn’t limited just to skills. Along with gaining experience points to increase your character level, MUL also has a separate leveling path called the Soul Level. While character levels go hand in hand with skill progression, your soul level is tied to improving your character’s attributes. You accumulate soul XP in the same manner as you gain character XP – through killing mobs and completing quests, though at a slightly slower rate. As you gain a new Soul level, you will gain a point to add to your Soul Box.
The Soul Box is broken up into four categories – Attack, Defense, Support, and Miscellaneous. Each category has several options to spec into, with each point used giving a minor buff to a particular stat. At key points, you will also unlock other, more substantial, buffs. While somewhat simplistic, this approach is more accessible to a casual player than more complex systems found in other ARPGs (I’m looking at you Path of Exile), but still gives a wide range of options to tweak your character. With the Soul Level currently maxing out at 500, character progression will continue long after you reach max character level. This will keep that carrot out in front of the hardcore players for quite some time, while casual players will find comfort in knowing that almost all endgame content is open for entry upon reaching max character level.
Beyond character progression, players also want to grow their power through gear. Throughout leveling, gear is pretty much a non-concern as there will be plenty of loot shooting out of dead mobs (not quite to the extreme you will find in Diablo 3 or PoE). You also have the option to craft your gear while leveling, but it is better to save the materials for crafting at end game.
Like character appearance, there isn’t a ton of variety in gear appearance at end game, but don’t think this means there isn’t a gear treadmill. Completing a “perfect” set of enchanted weapons, armor, and wings, then farming crests, gems, and imprints to upgrade them even further will give you a multitude of options for individualization. Past that, you will also create and then level up artifacts giving you the ability to squeeze out every ounce of power.
While some will eagerly attack this challenge, not everyone revels in the hours upon hours needed to tweak their gear to such an extreme level. Like all progression in MUL, the casual player need not fret, as they will be able to consistently make small improvements to their gear in the limited time they have to play. A functional set of gear can be obtained with minimal effort at level cap, or no additional effort at all if you saved enough gold during leveling to purchase your first set of gear off the auction house.
Many a debate has risen over the years about the race to max level. Some prefer to stop and smell the roses, taking in every ounce of the story available, while others believe leveling is just an inconvenience you must endure to get to the end game content. Let me be clear about this – Webzen has obviously decided the latter is the path to take in MUL.
The world maps are rather linear, but they constantly feed you with quick and painless quests. The quest mobs are terribly weak, and whole areas can be gathered up and dispatched without fear of death. Auto-movement is alive and well, and you get a mount very early in the game, making traversing large distances as easy as a single click of the mouse. There are also teleporters scattered across the maps, so once you locate them, travel is pretty much instantaneous. All of this means levels will fly by at a rapid pace, and most players can expect to reach max character level and end game content in 10-15 hours.
If you wish to slow things down a little, there are dungeons sprinkled across the maps. Dungeons can be completed solo or in a group, with grouping increasing difficulty and rewards. This would be a great way to meet some people if only there was anyone to group up with at lower levels. I started playing a few weeks after launch, and due to the short time frame to level, I rarely saw anyone else on a map during my adventures. The only time I did see anyone it was maxed level characters at dungeon entrances, making the trip to max level a solo experience.
Unlike the quick pace of leveling, there is a fair amount of content to experience at end game. There are several dungeons to run, each focused on awarding anything from Zen or magic gems (currencies needed to fund just about everything at endgame), crafting mats, and gear from low tier legendary items all the way up to set items and artifacts. Dedicated players will run all of these each day, while players with limited time will be able to focus on dungeons that address their specific needs.
While MU Legend is focused primarily on these PVE dungeons, there is a smidge of PVP in-game at the moment. Currently, your only options are 3v3 matches or the AI Arena. 3v3 is exactly what you would expect, with 2 sides squaring off in a gladiator-style fight, while the AI Arena is a 1v1 duel. Most players won’t consider the AI Arena a true PVP battle, as your opponent is controlled by the computer, but it is a nice way to see what skill combinations other players are using.
I don’t partake in much PVP (I don’t like things I am not good at), but I still find it strange Webzen artificially limits access to both forms of PVP. The 3v3 matches are only available for 60 minutes out of every two-hour cycle, and you are only allowed two trips into the AI Arena each day. While the game currently has a minimalist approach to PVP (3v3 wasn’t even added until a month after Open Beta started), there are plans to add more options, with Webzen already teasing additional PVP in the form of Guild Wars.
When you see Free to Play you have to expect a cash shop. Webzen happily gives you their take on this – the Legend Shop. Items can be purchased with Redzen (real money currency) or Bound Redzen (obtainable in-game), although only a few items can be purchased with Bound Redzen. The usual suspects are all here – 30-day subs, consumables, mounts, and cosmetic items are all
What about Pay to Win items, you ask? With every gamer having their own level of tolerance on what is and isn’t Pay to Win, this question isn’t always easy to answer. For MU Legend this is more cut and dry. Boosted items that cannot regularly be found in-game, such as cosmetic items with stat bonuses or pets with stat boosts you can’t gain elsewhere, are for sale. Even the Platinum level sub gives your character an attack bonus and additional daily login items.
All of this adds up to a big NO for many players, but wait a moment before you pick up your pitchforks and torches. With the game so heavily centered on PVE, is it really P2W if someone in your group has purchased stat items? What are they winning? You are getting the benefit of the items as well, so what did you lose? As long as the power gain isn’t too large (and currently it is fairly minimal) most PVE players will turn a blind eye knowing that a free to play game has to generate revenue somehow. As more PVP options are added, this balance may deteriorate, but currently there are larger obstacles that could derail the long-term success of MU Legend.
What I see as a bigger concern is how little there is in the Legend Shop. Cosmetic items and mounts, the staple of games like Guild Wars 2, are in limited supply. I would have expected to see a much wider selection of cosmetics that had been in development for so long, but like all other aspects of character appearance, variety just isn’t there. Cosmetic item sales can be a key revenue stream to fund future development, and we all know what happens when you don’t feed the player base’s hunger for new content. Items can always be added to the Legend Shop now that the game is in Open Beta, so maybe we should be happy Webzen didn’t take the Star Citizen approach to development and spend more time on creating cash shop assets?
Another major issue facing the game has needed more immediate attention – at launch, the game was with rife with bots and gold sellers. It was so staggering to the game’s economy that Webzen had to completely close the auction house and disable player to player trading. Webzen has made attempts to address the issue, and claim there are now fewer bots in-game, and gold sellers are currently no more annoying than in any other F2P game (good luck removing them completely). The auction house has been re-opened for Zen auctions, but Redzen auctions and player to player trades are still on lockdown.
Pay to Win and bots destroying the game economy may turn some players away from MUL, but the third issue at launch may be the one that ends up causing a mass exodus – server stability. Many people can happily exist in an MMO without ever taking notice of botting or P2W elements, but everyone is negatively affected by constant disconnects kicking them out of the game. Right from the get-go players complained about lag or disconnects destroying their gameplay.
Nothing is worse than being kicked out of a dungeon while fighting the last boss, especially if that dungeon is limited to just one or two entries per day. There were multiple times where I quit from the frustration of experiencing multiple disconnects within 15 or 20 minutes of starting a play session. I do have to say that I have noticed a marked improvement in stability over the last couple of weeks. It is possible Webzen has ironed out some of the kinks, slowing the bleeding before too much damage is done to the player base.
Despite the glaring obstacles facing MU Legend, Webzen has created a game that is fun to play. It looks nice and combat is fast paced and very hectic, with little story getting in the way of the hack ‘n slash. Getting to level cap is quick and painless, and once there you currently have enough content to keep you busy while more content is created. PVE is king, with PVP bolted on in an attempt to appease that crowd. I for one am perfectly happy with this recipe, and although it will not be the only MMO I play in 2018, I will be throwing it into the mix for the foreseeable future.
COMPARE TO: Devillian, Path of Exile, Diablo 3
FINAL MU LEGEND SCORE : 7/10
- Enjoyable, fast paced hack ‘n slash combat
- Approachable by both hardcore and casual players
- Sizable end game content already in place
- Possible Pay to Win cash shop
- Frequent server disconnects (possibly corrected now)
- Rampant botting