Pioneer Spirit

A magazine advertisement for Pioneers of Iria, the expansion to Nexon’s Mabinogi, might focus on the addition of the new races, Elves and Giants. A banner ad on a website might boast that...

A magazine advertisement for Pioneers of Iria, the expansion to NexonÂ’s Mabinogi, might focus on the addition of the new races, Elves and Giants. A banner ad on a website might boast that Iria, the new continent, is three times larger than the original game. A news blurb on a forum might tout the new skills, items, and features. An email to former players might try to entice them to patch up and play again with information about changes to the Rebirth system and the inclusion of the Quest Board. All of that fancy marketing language is impressive (and accurate), but there is one reason above all others I think players should try Pioneers of Iria: you get to explore the unknown.

Exploring is fun, but maybe you don't want to bump into this guy. Or do you?

Before Pioneers of Iria, the last expansion for any game I seriously played was Rise of Kunark for EverQuest II. I remember the love affair every player had with the Sarnak race. They were cool looking, they were evil, and they had the best balance of stats and racial abilities in the game. And that last bit was the problem. I enjoyed my time learning the lore while running quests in Gorowyn with a million other Land of the Lost rejects (thanks, Coyote). My problem with Rise of Kunark wasnÂ’t a lack of new quests, new skills, or new races; instead my issue was that fifteen levels in, I felt like I was doing the same things all over again with a different character model. I felt compelled to try the new race because it was statistically superior to my choice before the Sarnak became available. Sadly, the lore of the Sarnak around Timorous Deep did not disguise the fact I was only starting over to min/max, or metagame (which kills the fun for me too often).

That I do not experience metagaming déjà vu with Pioneers of Iria is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the massive amounts of fun I have had so far. When a game has been out as long as Mabinogi has, the temptation to play one of the two new races is great. Certainly, Elves and Giants have their advantages: nimbleness and brute strength, respectively. Even so, these two new races are most fun to play when you do so to experience their lore. Embroiled in tribal warfare, the Elves and Giants have long spilled each other’s blood in vast expanses of Iria, and the plot thickens now that humans have discovered their continent. Some humans will side with the Elves, but some will aid the Giants.

Forget the political intrigue for a bit. Sony Online Entertainment rightfully could argue that EQ2 provided the same thing with the Sarnak. The inhabitants of Iria live a vastly different life. Their continent contains plains, deserts, and snowy regions. They ride different mounts, command unique technologies, and keep atypical customs. Iria feels like a new land instead of just another land tacked onto an existing game. Returning players feel this sense of exploration doubly, but even new players can get an impression of how different the continents are with only a few hours of play time.

Lastly, IÂ’ll plug the shape shifting abilities of the new races as a gameplay element that heightens the experience of novelty in Pioneers of Iria. The first time your Giant enters Beast mode, youÂ’ll know what I mean. Neither the mechanic nor the concept is revolutionary, but the result (the most important part) is near to flawless.

Pioneers of Iria fills players with a sense of adventure.

Parting Thoughts

Those who have appreciated the focus on adventure in Mabinogi before should check it out again. Meanwhile, IÂ’ll do my best to find out if players outside of Korea and North America will be able to play it soon. The fact that gamers have to work around the region blocking indicates interest is high. IÂ’m sure Nexon wants your patronage.

Players who did not enjoy Mabinogi prior to Pioneers of Iria probably wonÂ’t change their minds just because of the expansion. The core gameplay is not altered enough to tell you itÂ’s a different game. Still, many features implemented with the expansion make the game better (Quest Boards, Mana Tunnels, free Rebirth at character age twenty, and more). At the very least, the content found in Iria is not merely more of the same.

Have you tried Mabinogi since the expansion? Email your thoughts or post them in our forums!

My game time this week has been spent on MLB Dugout Heroes and an obscure browser-based game called Civony. The former is a fun arcade-style baseball game. Plenty of modes allow players to get the experience they want. IÂ’m not sure I am sold on the digital controls of a keyboard for the precise sport of baseball, though. Read more about this game here. Meanwhile, Civony emulates the city-building theme of Sid MeierÂ’s Civilization. The great thing about it is that I can have it running while I work and check in on my budding city whenever I get a free moment. Buildings take place in real time minutes, so itÂ’s easy to play this game as a background activity. In three days of play, I have two cities but am still a newbie.

I appreciate the lively discussion in our forums about what makes an MMO free. IÂ’d love to make a dozen lists covering different variations of free (and IÂ’d love love LOVE to be able to include a game like Diablo III), but I couldnÂ’t do that and have any time left to actually play anything. For that reason, I encourage readers to keep sharing with one another. IÂ’ll latch onto my favorite games and feature them, but I canÂ’t play them all! So keep talking about free games and IÂ’ll keep my ear to the ground about any upcoming big titles.

Top Ten Free MMOs
April 13, 2009
Rank Game


Last week: 1
Atlantica Online - (

Atlantica is a squad-based fantasy strategy game that breaks the mold. Players can control up to nine characters at once in fast-paced turn-based combat. A lot of the systems in Atlantica are different from the standard fare on the market.


Last week: 2
Mabinogi - (

Mabinogi provides so many things to do that it earns its self-appointed moniker of “A Fantasy Life.” Players can farm, play music, hunt, craft, go to school and more in this fantasy land. In Mabinogi, combat is not the only way to advance.


Last week: 3
Runes of Magic - (

Runes of Magic is a traditional fantasy game that uses a Dual Class system to inject a little strategy into character planning and a lot of flexibility into grouping. RoM has all of the features gamers want in a subscription-based game, but theyÂ’ll enjoy them for free here.


Last week: 4
Dungeon Runners - ( NCSoft

Dungeon Runners is a hack and slash fantasy game that infuses every aspect of gameplay with humor. DR makes fun of other games, the genre, and even itself. This is the perfect game for a player looking to blow off steam after a rough day at work.


Last week: 5
Requiem: Bloodymare - (
Gravity Interactive

Requiem: Bloodymare is a horror-themed game that blends the traditional elements of MMOGs with the visceral feel of a gore film. Requiem is worth a look because of its fresh take on setting in MMOGs.


Last week: 6
Dream of Mirror Online - (
Aeria Games & Entertainment

Dream of Mirror Online puts the player in the starring role of a classic Chinese myth. The eastern-based lore provides a refreshing twist on MMOGs, and the multi-class system makes character development in this fantasy game fun.


Last week: 7
Shin Megami Tensei: Imagine - (
Aeria Games & Entertainment

Shin Megami Tensei: Imagine Online brings the popular RPG to life in the MMOG sphere. Players can use friendly persuasion or aggressive coercion to get demons to fight by their side. The dark subject matter and modern setting of the game is a welcome contrast to the enchanted glens filled with pixies we often find in MMOGs.


Last week: 8
Rohan: Blood Feud - ( YNK Interactive

Rohan is a traidtional fantasy MMOG with deep lore and nice graphics. The world features intense PvP, gambling, and a few creative systems for managing gear. The level curve steepens midway through the game while the story diminishes.


Last week: 9
Exteel - ( NCsoft

Exteel is a visceral PvP-centric game featuring mechs and beautifully designed levels. Exteel uses a lobby system to connect players, and people can upgrade their mechs with resources found in game or purchased from the item mall.


Last week: N/A
Florensia - ( Florensia Western Global

The peace in Florensia is fragile and you need your friends as well as strong allies to fight against sinister monsters on shore and at sea. Train your skills, experience thrilling trips through the countryside, load the cannons and hire a skilful crew to explore the ocean. Get ready for Florensia!

Ralsu's Watch List
Free Realms - ( Sony Online Entertainment

Free Realms is a a 3D fantasy world designed to encourage exploration and support casual play. With graphics similar to WoW and all the gameplay of a standard MMOG, Free Realms could appeal to adults. Its many minigames and events are designed to please teens.
MLB Dugout Heroes - ( GamesCampus

MLB Dugout Heroes brings arcade-like baseball action to the realm of massively-multiplayer. Controls are simplified to make a smooth experience on the PC. The official MLB licenses allows gamers to play with real teams, players, and stadiums.
Neo Steam - ( Atlus Online

Neo Steam is a steampunk game set in a world where warring factions compete for a limited supply of the resource Neo Steam. It was above average in most categories during closed beta for the US, but it had multiple translation problems. Atlus Online should iron out the kinks.
Warrior Epic - ( Possibility Space

Warrior Epic is ready to begin the next round of closed beta soon. It provides a fantasy hack and slash dungeon crawler experience with some very innovative features, including the ability to choose different character classes for each dungeon and a Warrior Hall that grows with the player.
Wizard101 - (
KingsIsle Entertainment, Inc.

Wizard101 is an online, wizard school adventure with collectible card magic, and wizard duels! The game allows players to create a student wizard in an attempt to save Wizard City and explore many different worlds. In Wizard101, cards are magic spells. There are Fire spells, Ice spells, spells of Myth, and much more. The game is free to download. To access all of the areas, gamers will need to subscribe.

About This List

Please refer to the Top Ten Free MMOs Portal to find out how to get a game you make or like on this list.

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