You know? Actually, I'm sort of impressed with this game.
But let's get the usual suspects out of the way. MU Legend (Global) is an eastern import game published by Webzen, they of the seriously dubious track record in the western market and distributor of the somewhat offensive Game Guard™ software that accompanies all their installs, bloating your hard drive and doing who the fuck knows in the background under the guise of "game protection". The splash graphics feature big breasted women wearing next to nothing which pretty much tells you what you need to know right up front. For the record and posterity, I played up til level 25 in the Whisperer (archer) class and leveled all the other choices to about Level 10 or so.
WHAT I EXPECTED AND GOT:
As with most eastern-import games, MU Legend is a grinder. You collect quests (of which the quest text itself is quite skippable although some of it is pretty funny), slay everything in sight on your way to the objective, slay the things you need to slay upon arrival, and then slay some more on the way back to turn in. Rinse and repeat, nothing new here.
The game world itself in on serious rails - there a single path to follow in the zone that breadcumbs you from one area to the next in a funnel with no deviation. Open world this is not.
Classes are gender locked which another standard eastern thing and the two female-only classes are, of course, clad in panty armor because gender equality doesn't exist in Korea (China? Where did this game originate anyways?) so you just gotta roll with it. There is thankfully no "little girl" class so we are spared the loli factor.
During this beta there are four classes available with a fifth that will be unlocked after launch I assume - for the males there's a heavily armored tank, a slightly less heavily armored warrior and a rail thin mage. For the females, a pretty archer and... Xena, warrior princess? I'm not sure actually since the fifth class has pointed fan knives or a chakram weapon and when I see steel edged frisbees, I immediately think of Xena. Although, in this case, Xena fights in veils.
There is click to move and auto-move, where you can select directly on the map and your character will run there without your input. MU however also has WASD controls if you prefer to do your own navigating which is a nice touch since sometimes these games don't have that. There is also a decent key re-map screen to adjust things to your personal keyboard preference.
Also, this is more of a subjective annoyance but as with most of these games, upgrades to equipment is pretty much getting a different colored version of the thing you were just wearing. I've swapped out everything probably five or six times and so far its all the same except for the occasional color difference and (on this latest one at least) the introduction of a pattern - in the case of my archer, my gloves and bow are now sporting a leopard print. The actual design hasn't changed though so I don't feel visually different from when I first started at level 1 which is a bummer.
WHAT I DIDN'T EXPECT BUT LIKED:
While the classes are gender locked, each class actually comes with two racial options (War Mages can be human or vampire, for example) as well as two different weapon types. For archers, you can play with a long range two handed bow or a medium range "wing gun" which are cute little death instruments that strap to your wrists. Some skills seems to be shared across the class but others are tied to the weapons so you have some customization there depending on how you like to play.
There's a hotbar of seven active skills and a passive bar which contain your consumables (health potions, calling your mount, town teleport, what have you). Looking at the skill tree that unlocks over time, it seems that you'll be making decisions along the way as to which skills to keep on the bar and in what combinations so there's some mix and matching as you go, which is again not usual in these kinds of games.
Even better, each skill levels individually as you use it. As each experience tier unlocks (up to three) you can add "crests" to the skill which lets you add things like +crit chance, +cooldown, +base dmg etc to the base skill. Some of my powers seemed to only have four or five buff options, but some had as many as eight. They appear to be reassignable as well so you're not locked in forever if your method changes at some point.
While your character levels and gets more powerful in its base stats, there are also soul levels which rise a little more slowly. Each soul level you get a point to spend in four categories (attack, defense, support and miscellaneous) with each category having four options (attack, for example, includes physical dmg, magical dmg, crit chance and crit damage). With only get a single point per level, it feels like a serious choice on where to invest which is both cool and nerve wracking. I am not sure if you can refund these choices later in the game if you change your mind/build but I suspect that if you can, it's going to be pricey. Choose wisely, padawan!
Leveling itself has a decent clip to it - it feels like it comes a little quick perhaps but not stupidly so and seems to be mostly earned from completing quests and not from sitting and shooting mobs in the face for an hour which is often the preferred method for grinding out levels in these sorts of games.
The backtracking is minimal so far, there hasn't been a lot of busywork back-and-forth which is refreshing. Zones are small enough that even on foot it doesn't take more than a minute or so to get where you need to be. The central city hub is arranged in a tight circle so again, there isn't any pointless dashing to and fro. In, do your thing, and get out and I really appreciate a game that is not trying to pad out time by putting the bank five minutes in one direction and the auction house five minutes in the other for no reason that makes sense.
The thing that made me grin the widest however was something the game calls "Interdimensional Rifts". Scattered along the linear trail as you quest are portals leading into random dungeon crawls on a variety of themes - old buildings, demon spawn lairs, dusty catacombs. They can be entered ten times per day with occasional times where the quota is lifted and entry is unlimited until a timer runs out in something called "Overddrive". This seems to be some sort of world-thing where some thing somewhere else triggers the Overdrive buff that opens the rifts to everyone. Inside the rifts are tougher, more tightly packed mobs to mow down and have lieutenant class bosses that will drop better gear and a small amount rift currency. Most rifts seem to have between two and four of these guys which is good, because you can gear up a bit sometimes before hitting the final boss at the end of the crawl.
So far, none of the final bosses have been pushovers although I've gone through a few fights that were objectively easier, either because the boss was somewhat stationary/dodgeable or the fighting space was larger. One guy in particular absolutely spams slowdown fields and then mows over you when you try to run. In a cramped area, it's no joke so there's a real pressure to clear those fields to give yourself breathing (and run!) room.
You will be tested to survive these fights (which is awesome!) but if you can prevail, more and better loot are yours, larger amounts of regular and rift currency drop and a random pick of four cards appears which can give you a lucky draw on a piece of gear.
It's obviously intended that you run your dailies in the rifts as they scale to your level and the mobs get harder for every additional person in the party (with correspondingly better chances to score big at the end) so there's incentive to party. I found running the rifts solo to be do-able at Normal difficulty and of course as you upgrade gear it gets a little easier - but as you level, so do the monsters so there's a built-in check on how much power you can actually bring to the table, possibly all the way up to max level where the mobs may not scale any more.
As a fan of tough fights that give good rewards, I was very surprised and pleased to find this rift mechanic which scratches my slaughter itch nicely and (at least in the beta) drops cool upgrades on a frequent enough basis that you really feel like you're progressing.
Inventory is generous enough at the start considering what I was picking up. With instant teleport to the city hub from anywhere, it was really easy to fill up and then port back to down to dump on the crafter to break down the unneeded gear into components for later crafting purposes. I never had a moment where I had to start chucking things out of inventory to make room for more things.
And at the last: wings. And not only wings, but Dragoon wings.
I don't know if anybody else remembers the game from a billion years ago called Legend of the Dragoon on the Playstation, but that was the first game I ever played obsessively. I beat it a couple of times with near perfect scores, but more relevant to this discussion that the characters got wings at one point in the game as they "ascended" or whatever the word was. And I LOVED those wings. They were all sorts of amazing and fantastic and made of cool metal and shiny hologram bits and I don't know what else, but at the time they were a killer design.
And MU Legend has them. At level 25 you go through a level dungeon and get the choice of four different wing types as a reward - white feathers, bat/dragon, fairy and tech metal - and the tech metal looks EXACTLY like I remember the dragoon wings being. I snapped them up in a heartbeat. Apparently they evolve into bigger and badder forms but I didn't get anywhere close to that (if RNG and real money is going to show up at some point, this is where I expect it to start, in wing evolution needs).
WHAT I DIDN'T EXPECT BUT HATED:
Actually, nothing so far. MU Legend is not breaking any new ground here but the combat is fluid, fun and splashy on my chosen class of archer and there seems to be reasonable options for tweaking your choices both at the character and skill level. It's not a wide open feast of options such as, say, The Secret World, but its not a completely locked in series of static choices either, something that is depressingly common. I didn't see the cash shop pushed once, everything I looked at didn't seem to be gated or locked and I didn't run into anything mechanically that completely wrecked my experience.
RANDOM OTHER MENTIONABLES:
While you can re-map your skill keys to your preference, I noticed that a skill that on the default button launches a constant attack on keypress does NOT do the same on a remapped key - it fires once and then stops, which isn't the expected behavior. I can only assume that's a bug but since these kinds of things can linger forever before being patched out, be aware those press-and-hold skills will need to remain on a default key which can be awkward.
Also a note that the Rift currency you earn so far only seems to be used to purchase bling - new costumes, mounts, wings and potion buffs. Didn't see anywhere else that required it so hopefully that's all there is. I like dungeon crawling as much as the next girl, but being forced into them in order to earn enough to buy the Whatzit +5 that you need to progress can get old, fast.
I liked it, and seeing that I go into these eastern games with incredibly low expectations maybe doesn't mean that much but I'm going to say it anyways. It was fun and I enjoyed myself quite a bit. I even wished I had a friend with me to tackle a higher dungeon difficulty for shizz and giggles and I don't often want to drag a friend into these things.
Even though I know my character is going to get wiped when the beta closes next week, I've still been logging in to go a little further, test myself against those rift bosses and see what new skills might open next. You really can't ask for better than that as a first impression when you just want to play a little longer.