Just to clear up any confusion that a lot of people are experiencing, there are actually TWO English language versions of Maestia in operation: the European version (where IP addresses outside Europe are blocked) and the US version at http://www.playmaestia.com which is what I'm going to be reviewing below.
Now that that's out of the way...
Aesthetics – 7.0 / 10
In terms of graphical quality, Maestia looks suitably impressive. Player characters, monsters and game environments all look nice and sport an appropriate amount of detail in their textures. Outdoor environments are filled with an abundance of plant life and the scenery is pleasing to the eye. Character designs are a bit on the generic side though so you won't find much here that's particularly memorable in terms of visual flair. That said, for a free-to-play game (where expectations are understandably lowered), I'm pleasantly surprised at how good everything looks. The game engine itself is also resource friendly and didn't make my PC roar when I set everything to max.
Character creation options in Maestia are somewhat lacking and all we get are a limited selection of faces and hairstyles. There are also no facial attributes to adjust and no character voices to choose from. The choices here are definitely a lot skimpier than what you get in the big name MMORPGs like Rift or Tera. However, as if to make up for these shortcomings, the game lets you pick any colour you want for your character's skin and hair. And when I say any colour, it really is ANY colour. Feel like rolling a blue-skinned Pandoran who looks like he/she just escaped from Avatar? Go right ahead.
The game's user interface is similar to that of many other MMORPGs out there and doesn't stray too far from the formula. There are, however, two special slots exclusively for HP and MP potions but otherwise everything is mostly the standard stuff. Ability icons and the experience bar occupy the lower edge of the screen, the active quest list occupies the right side of the screen and the chat window takes up the spot at the lower left corner. The UI's panels and bars can be repositioned and the chat window's size & font-size can also be adjusted as well. Like I said, standard stuff.
At lower resolutions (e.g. 1280 x 720) the UI won't exhibit any problems, but if you're like me and get your game on in full HD (1920x1080), a few things are probably going to bother you. For starters, the game will (for some bizarre reason) resize the icons and fonts to microscopic proportions. The font is rendered almost unreadable and I was having flashbacks of EVE Online's teeny-tiny size 9 font at this point.
Fortunately, there are options in the game's settings (listed curiously under 'Others') to help keep the UI 'proportional' to the current resolution. Unfortunately, they don't really work as advertised. Hopefuly, the upcoming patch in September (which mentions UI tweaks by the way) will take care of this inconvenience. But for now, if you're a PvPer, I'd highly recommend switching to 1280 x 720 before getting into a fight just so that you can actually read the remaining time for your buffs from the indicator icons at the top of the screen.
Gameplay – 4.0 / 10
I don't think it's a revelation if I tell you that most of Maestia's gameplay involves the dreaded grind. Experience point rewards from most quests do help to make the leveling process a bit faster, but you and I know that there's no escaping the inevitable tedium of killing monster after monster after monster just to level up. Drop rates for quest items are abnormally high (or at least they felt that way) so the good news is you won't be wasting too much time during those get-x-items quests.
Many of the quests in the game are obtained via 'praying' (no, I'm not kidding) where the player simply hits the 'Z' key to commune with some unearthly apparition on the spot and undertake whatever new ones are available at your current level. It's a great idea actually, as it reduces the need for you to constantly return to the city or to certain NPCs to get quests/rewards.
What isn't so great though is the quality of the mind-numbingly stupid conversations your character holds with the ghost/shaft of light/NPC/floating rock that gives you your objectives. While I truly commend the localization staff for the typo-free translations, the dialogue in the game is so incredibly unnatural and stiff that it had the unintentional result of making me laugh every time I decided not to skip it. One particularly memorable conversation went something like this:
“Hero! I'm so sorry that I have to keep giving you such difficult tasks!”
“It's ok, this is part of my journey to becoming a true hero.”
“Hero! I have another task for you!”
To which my character replies “Yes, out with it.”
I tell ya, this is pure comedy gold.
If you're looking for a great story with lots of game lore, you're not going to find any of that here. The story in Maestia is as generic as it gets and a lot of the things in this game don't really make sense too (e.g. both rival factions starting out from the same city and zone, multiple varieties of monster all defying nature's rules co-existing happily, 'giant' versions of monsters that look the same size as normal ones, etc). Unless you want to give yourself a headache, I'd recommend that you try not to think too much about these things while playing.
Unimpressive PvE aside, players looking forward to participating in PvP will be pleased to know that all of the classes in the game have large skill trees. Perfect for those of you looking to shoehorn your character to a certain build. Other customization options include Weapons and Armour that can also be upgraded, as well as Magic stones (similar to Aion's Stigma stones) that can be equipped to grant special abilities. There are also plenty of ways to get into a fight with someone else (e.g. PvP arenas, Guild vs Guild, dueling, etc) and there's even a certain high level zone which comes with a day-night cycle that alternates gameplay in the zone between PvE and PvP.
I do have one complaint in particular regarding Maestia's PvP though. More specifically, my complaint is about the bland soccer pitch style design of one of the PvP arenas. In this particular arena, players spawn from camps on opposite sides and clobber each other in the middle. There are no alternate routes, there are no teleports, there are no AI creeps (like DOTA) and there are no gimmicky machines to assist you on the battlefield. Sooner or later, you'll have a situation where one faction's players are going to overpower the other one, and plant themselves right outside the competition's spawn area.
Not exactly my definition of fun.
And this is coming from someone who was on the winning side. I did shoot up from level 9 to level 12 after that match though so it wasn't all that bad. But still, you get the idea.
OK... if clobbering (or being clobbered by) other players in an arena is not really fun, how about beating up monsters in an instance dungeon or taking on daily quests? I'm then pleased to inform you that from level 10 to level 22, there's a grand total of ONE instance dungeon that you can enter. Granted, there are a few different modes (e.g. Normal, Hard, Time Attack, etc.) to choose from but seriously... only one? As if that wasn't exciting enough, the only daily quest for the first zone also takes place in this very same dungeon. Wow... now ain't that something.
Well, if instances and dailies aren't your thing also, there's always the more docile activities like harvesting and crafting. The harvesting ability is (strangely) a quest reward you acquire around level 16 after defeating a boss-like skeleton. As if that wasn't weird enough, you can only choose to harvest ONE out of the three elements in the game. Let's say, for example, that you picked Water. Your character is then going to be stuck with this choice for the rest of the game. While it's always possible that you can create other characters to harvest the other elements or head to the Auction House to grab what else you need, I found this 'one element only' thing kind of idiotic and backwards compared to what other MMOs have been doing for years.
The crafting in this game takes a similarly unconventional approach too. In this game, you don't get a big book to store all the crafting recipes you've learnt. Nope. The recipe scrolls in this game aren't even supposed to teach you how to craft a certain item. Instead, these fellas are used to open up the crafting window for that item itself. I'm sure a lot of players (like myself) are recipe hoarders who buy first, learn now and craft later. Unfortunately, that mentality ain't gonna work here. Maestia's implementation means that you either go back to the city to craft or let the scroll take up valuable inventory space as you head out into the field to craft outdoors.
Innovation – 6.5 / 10
Despite all the trash I heaped on Maestia's gameplay, there are a few innovative things about the game that doesn't make it feel like it came from 8 years ago.
The first, and probably most noticeable, are the slider bars underneath your HP and MP bars. Once your HP or MP goes past either one, your character will automatically use a corresponding potion from the 2 special slots on your UI. It's a great idea, and it let me focus more on fighting the enemy than having to constantly monitor my remaining HP/MP during combat. I still ended up getting hammered a few times though but that's another story.
Aside from the auto-potion, there's also an auto-looting ability. New players will get a scroll for this ability at the start of the game. The effect lasts 24 hours and as the name obviously suggests, it makes characters pick up their loot automatically. While it may not sound like much at first, the auto-looting was helpful enough that I honestly felt inconvenienced at having to pick up my own loot after the effect wore off. Call it a hunch, but I'm pretty sure that these babies will be making a special guest appearance in the item shop sooner or later.
Next, we got auto-leveling. Well OK, it's not really auto-leveling but it's certainly close enough. Maestia lets you sign your character up for mercenary duty (while you're offline) so that others can hire you as an AI henchman. You'll get to earn 20% of the exp taken in by whoever hires you, provided someone pays your asking price and hires you of course. It's an interesting take on the AI henchman system popularized by Guild Wars and benefits both the hirer and the hired. In case you're wondering, there are generic AI henchmen that can be purchased from vendors as well.
PvE conveniences aside, Maestia happens to feature one of the strangest in-game features I have ever encountered: an in-game commenting system. Doesn't sound like much really, until you realize you can just Ctrl-Alt-click and comment on anything in the game. Be it a NPC, monster, patch of ground, item or player character, a comment box will appear for you type something inside. The original idea (as described by a NPC who breaks the fourth wall) was to let players leave comments behind so that future players would benefit from the experiences of those who came before. Well, at least it sounds great in theory, the actual thing is more of a minor disaster though. Most of the comment boxes I looked through contained juvenile stuff like “Squishy”, “Hard to kill”, “W00t!” and everyone's favourite “It's over 9000!”. You can't delete comments, so those typos you made are going to be there till the end of time, for everyone to see and make fun of. Then there's also that other question you have to ask: if you're playing an online game, how hard is it going to be for you to Alt-Tab/window-mode out of the game and look up a wiki/guide? Not really hard actually. And that's why, to me, this system just falls flat on its face and comes across as a waste of resources.
Polish – 7.0 /10
As I've already mentioned, Maestia really is a decent looking game except that the UI resizing is a little whacked at higher resolutions. Stiff localization job aside, I've also been trying hard to look for typos and have come up empty-handed so far. The game is bug-free and, despite some rather annoying game design decisions, plays rather well. The PvP experience can get a bit unbalanced at times if one faction has a lot of long range attackers but that's more in the realm of balance than an actual issue with the game itself. That said, I have encountered a bit of lag sometimes (even with very few players around) and characters/monsters will sometimes teleport short distances while moving forward. It's distracting, but nothing that's particularly game breaking. All in all, the game is mostly a well-polished experience.
Longevity – 5.0 / 10
After playing for a while, most people will realize that there really isn't a lot of content to keep you entertained in this game. I have this saying of mine regarding MMORPGs: if it doesn't grab your attention within the first hour, it probably never will. Lots of games keep this rule in mind, and will throw a tonne of magic tricks in your direction during the opening hours to keep you playing. In Maestia's case, I didn't feel quite a lot of magic at all.
After creating a new character, you're immediately tossed into a hub city and thrust into a conversation with someone who looks like he's a fugitive from the north. The city itself was basically a boring hub with a lot of vendors plus 4 portals leading to the major game zones.
The starting zone is, despite its beauty, similarly uninteresting. The place really made an impression on me too, seeing as I couldn't move on to the next zone till I dinged 14. All 10+ different types of monsters for the various quests up until level 16 are located here and they're really packed in like sardines.
There's a fair bit of competition for monsters, especially when more than one player has the same quest targets as you. And because each group of monsters is so small, there aren't a whole lot of them for the players to fight over. Respawn timers aren't exactly fast too, so this just makes things even worse.
Of course, aside from PvE there's always the various PvP options as well as high level endgame content. For starters, there's a very enthusiastic PvP community and there are also lots of new players joining the game due to its relative 'freshness'. Competition between the guilds is actually encouraged (and rewarded by the game) so PvPers do have something to look forward to. Just bear in mind that to hit the level cap and fully spec out your character, you'll need to put up with all nonsense I've mentioned previously.
Social – 7.0 / 10
In terms of social options, there's not much in Maestia that differs from the other MMOs out there. You got standard chat window options that let you send people private messages, add them as friends, follow them, trade with them, duel with them or block them. Nothing out of the ordinary... except for that one called 'View Equipment'. I'm not really sure whether any other game has done this before, but Maestia gives you an option to view another player's gear through the chat window. You don't even need him to be standing near you: just right click on their name and select the aforementioned option to check em out.
At level 20, players can set up their own guilds for the (somewhat high but manageable) price of 50,000 gold. The game has a ranking board of sorts that grades the various guilds on their accomplishments in PvP and Highly ranked ones can claim prizes from the NPC in the city. If you're like me and content to just be a participant, there's a menu that lets you check out the descriptions of guilds that are recruiting as well as and submit membership applications.
Value – 3.0 / 10
For what it's worth, Maestia does look good. But we all know that looks alone won't help much if the underlying gameplay and systems are a mess. The PvE in this game is what I've been focusing most of my complaints on so far, and rightfully so. What's the point of having an awesome endgame when the first 75% of the game is not fun at all?
The story is laughable and doesn't make much sense, the developers didn't even bother to give each faction their own unique city/zones/quests, the harvesting and crafting systems are more inconvenient than most MMOs I've played before, monster placement in the zones are not optimal, and, to top it off, all the zones have level restrictions. Yup, that's right. No tourism for you. And even then, just by looking at the world map, it's kind of obvious that there aren't even a lot of them for you to run around in right now.
Like I mentioned previously, the zones in this game are packed with so many varieties of monsters that all my quest targets were practically within spitting distance of each other. Now, I'm all for convenience and making player's lives easier but this is completely ridiculous. You have a situation where a bunch skeletons, in all their undead glory, are pacing about on top of a tiny hillock while there are a group of spiders just a few steps away. Next to the spiders are goblins and golems, and next to the golems you have mantises. The whole zone is like a freaking zoo! When's the last time you've played a MMORPG that's done something as crazy as this? There's no sense of believability in the game world and everything just feels like a shooting gallery with a flimsy story.
I think it's pretty obvious that I'm disappointed with Maestia. Despite the beautiful graphics, there's not nearly enough content and variety to make this a meaningful investment of your time. It's unfortunate, but for most of the time I spent playing, I couldn't shake the feeling that the developers were doing just the bare minimum to get the game out the door.
Maestia's story, as previously mentioned, is nonsensical and unintentionally hilarious. There's no sense of attachment to the game world and the only memorable thing I took away was that I was always talking to a ghost and obeying him like a mindless nitwit. For all I know, this fella was probably teaching me how to destroy the universe, what with all the magical seal stones he had me wreck.
The gameplay is passable and not anything I'd really shout about. If you're planning to focus on harvesting/crafting, please read what I said earlier and think about whether its worth your time/patience/energy to put up with the way these systems are implemented in this game.
If you're intent on playing Maestia just for the PvE and story content, I'd seriously suggest you look for your fix elsewhere. But if you're planning to get in on some of the endgame PvP action, bear in mind that there'll be plenty of shortcomings to put up with while you grind your way to the end.