My games list is ever-changing, filled right now with 3 closed beta's, about 8 F2P standards and even 2 subscription based games. There are some games that are always on there, and Mabinogi is one of them. Why? I don't know, being that when I tell people that have seen the game, they laugh. But I am telling you, as a blogger and gamer that has read more complaints about the lack of a "sandbox" game and the lack of originality in the MMO world, that Mabinogi has more to offer than most games.
Is it perfect? Of course not.
The biggest block is the look of the game. Nexon'x Min Kim talked about keeping the technological limits small, so that more people could play your game, and keeping your engine light is one way to do that. The engine looks nice, though, it has a real charm once you get used to it. The click-to-move is another. I have seen what click-to-move does to someone that has never given it a chance to grow on them. It creates confusion, then hatred, then mocking.
But give it time, and you see that not only does the game have more "sand-boxy-ness" than any game out there, but they are adding more sand-boxy-ness all the time. They are also expanding the game all the time, and all of it completely free without any velvet rope.
Archery is one of those systems that I am finally getting my grip on. I put it off for a while, instead raising my Smash skill ( a melee hit) and then trying out cooking/crafting and then obsessive pet collecting (100 bucks worth) but now that I am working on my archery, I am glad.
It's not "realistic" really, and I've yet to find a very "realistic" archery system (Darkfall comes close maybe?) but I am not even sure how you could make a realistic archery system. It's better to go for fun, I think. Here is a rough video that I found on YouTube showing some of the basic archery in battle. I will break it down for you after-wards:
1) You activate the ability. With basic abilities, like your basic archery attack, you just click on the mob while having a bow equipped. On fancier abilities you must click the ability button first, then target the animal.
2) Targeting can be tricky to get used to, but the best way to target something is to hold down CTRL. This will put a dotted, flexible line from you to your target. You can see in the video where the player gets the dotted line on the wrong target. You can also just click on the target, too.
3) You pull back the bow and it counts up in percentage. When it gets to 99 percent it will fire automatically, or you can let it go any point. More powerful abilities take longer to build up but can cause much more damage.
4) After you hit, the animal will react. Much of the time, the animal (or human in PVP!) will bend over in pain, fall back, or react the way many of us would react if we just had a piece of wood slammed into us. Then, though, the target will come after you.
5) When you get hit, you react as well. You can have your shots interrupted, you can be knocked back or can get knocked down. Again, Mabinogi represents combat better than most MMOs.
If you read a guide or follow some kind of walk-through, then you might find yourself just following some kind of boring path to higher levels. But, if you do like me and look for appropriate animals to attack through trial and error, you will have a lot of fun "hunting." The combat in Mabinogi is surprisingly deep, you don't just run up to mobs/click on them/hit buttons. You have to make sure that you are using decent abilities, you have to watch your reaction time, and have to consider where you are and what other mobs might pull.
I have heard the Mabinog combat as being described as "slow" or "boring." But it's actually a brilliant combination of speed, paper-rock-scissors, and strategy. The fight can last for a good while, sometimes, and sometimes you will find multiple tactics to work. I hate to say it, but it's a "thinking mans" combat.
I still hold firm in the belief that if Mabinogi looked different, like a LotRO or a Vanguard, that people would claim it was the second coming. But who knows? It's there, it's free, just waiting to be tried. Go for it.