The original Mu Online was released in October of 2003. It had millions of players and became one of the most popular ARPGs in the world. Rumor of Mu2 began as early as 2004, but development of the next Mu title didn’t really begin until 2009. Mu Legend (MuL) was first showcased in 2011. It uses the Unreal 3 engine and entered Global Closed Beta Teast 1 (CBT1) on October 25, 2016.

I was fortunate to receive a key, providing early access to the game. I played multiple classes to end-game (Level 65) and experienced most of the content CBT1 had to offer. One reason I’m writing this review is due to the interest in the game and how many players are asking questions about the beta. Another reason is because the ARPG market is quite dry when it comes to new games. We really haven’t seen anything worthwhile since Grim Dawn, and Diablo 3/PoE dominate the current genre. Next year, we will see Mu Legend, Lineage: Eternal and Lost Ark. Be prepared! The ARPG market’s infusion of fresh blood is coming entirely from Asia. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because these games are all directly competing with each other, which means they are fighting for dominance as the top ARPG in the Asian market (and going for the global market). Let’s hope this means better quality and gameplay!

I was very surprised to find MuL to be quite polished for a product still in Closed Beta. It shows Webzen is doing things right; refining their game and making something that will compete with the current ARPG kings like Diablo 3 and Path of Exile. Why am I writing about a product in closed beta that’s not schedule for release until 2017? Because it’s that good.

Riches await you!

Riches await you!

Core Features

MuL doesn’t offer any revolutionary or ground breaking features. Instead, the game has refined and evolved many of the core features that make ARPGs enjoyable. The game feels like an evolved mix of Torchlight 2, Diablo 3 and Marvel Heroes 2016. This is a good thing. On top of that, MuL takes place in a shard-based mini-MMOG world. It is nice to run around and see other players on quests and forming parties in order to run dungeons on higher difficulties. This is something missing from the current kings like D3 and PoE.

CBT World Map

CBT World Map

The Story really is all about time, evil energy, demons, portals and alliances. But the reality is most players grind past it and don’t really pay attention to the story line. The cinematics are diablo-like and well-done, but the voice over for the introduction cinematic is terrible. I hope they replace it for launch.

The World consists of 7 continents (Evova, Duelden, Ohrdor, Litenberg | Noria, Lorencia, Alhard) with the last 3 being unavailable in CBT1. As with other ARPGs the zone types range from grassy plains to rocky mountains and snowy encampments. I liked the diversity of the different areas and the nasty creatures that inhabited them.

The game has a total of 5 playable Classes. First we have the Dark Lord, which is essentially a tank support class. The Blader is a barbarian-like class with the traditional “spin to win” cyclone skill. War Mages are fire and elemental ranged attackers. Whisperers are the rangers (bows or guns), and the Emphasizer is a telekinetic mind-controller (but was not playable in CBT1). For a Closed Beta, the classes were fairly well balanced. The top characters were a good mix of the classes, showing each class was capable of competing for the top rankings during CBT1.

Max Level in CBT1 was 65 (rumor has it launch will be 100). The game also has a Soul Level, which is nearly identical to the Paragon system of Diablo 3. 80% of your experience from combat goes to raise your Soul Level. During CBT1, the max soul level was 100, but rumor has it the soul level cap will be much higher at release. For each Soul Level you obtain, you get a point to spend in the Soul Box. The different categories are: Attack (Physical, Magic, Critical Rate, Increased Cooldown), Defense (Phys, Magic, Health, HP Recovery), Support (Movement, CDR, Mana, MP Recov), and Misc (Human, Money, EXP, Magic Sight). Human decreases Crowd Control (CC) and Magic Sight is Item Find %. Leveling your character is fun and the progression flows very well.

MuL endorses playing and leveling multiple characters through the Account Level bonuses (combined soul levels). All characters on an account gain +1 damage for every 5 levels, and +1 to all stats for every 30 levels.

The Character Stats Window

The Character Stats Window

The Stats in MuL are fairly standard; Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, Health, Max HP and Max MP. There is also Attack (physical, magic, speed, penetration, etc.) and Defense. The resistances are Physical, Magic, Fire, Cold, Lightning and Nature. There is also Movement Speed and Item Pickup Radius.

MuL has a core stat called Combat Power (CP) which is a numeric representation of your character’s overall combat prowess. Think of it as a derivative DPS value. I like the system because you truly see your character’s power growing as you progress, even when you’re at max level. CP is also used when looking for parties and trying to find others who are strong enough to handle the content you’re pursuing. In CBT1 a fresh level 65 had around 100k-120k, and the top players in the game had around 220k. The difference between 120k and 220k is staggering, so growing your CP just by 5k makes a difference you can really feel when playing the game.

Each class has 14 class-specific Skills. This includes 6 weapon skills (3 for 1h weapons and 3 for 2h weapons) and 14 class skills. There are also 9 expert skills (which can be put into 3 unlocked slots) that provide strong passive bonuses and include devastating skill attacks. When a character is created, the player is presented with one of two “Class Tactics” they can choose from; this can be confusing as a player may think this is a static choice that will provide a different outcome of skills. It does not. It just determines what weapon your new character will start with (1h vs 2h) and you can switch weapon types at any time. As skills are used, Crest Sockets unlock. Players can then equip crests within the skill sockets for benefits such as cooldown time -5% or extra physical damage +3%. Players can also find and use custom crest drops that can provide additional enhancements beyond the normal crests, such as physical damage +6%. This is a very good design because it allows the game to augment and enhance core skills beyond their standard template.

Quests in MuL lead the player through the storyline and world content while also serving as the core method of leveling up. They come in three flavors: Gold (story), Blue (side) and Pink (timed for the zone). There really isn’t anything special or different about the quests in MuL compared to other ARPGs; most are “Go here” and “Kill 12 of X” or “Pick up # Urns”. But, the quest markers, flow, rewards, and overall questing experience feels solid, fun and smooth.

Items follow the norm for other ARPGs. Each character has 3 inventory tabs with 24 slots on each tab (for a total of 72). Each item takes up 1 slot. I like how much space is given at the start so a character doesn’t have to worry about an overflowing inventory until later. Items come in six flavors: Common (white), Uncommon (green), Rare (blue), Heroic (yellow), Legendary (orange), and Set (purple). The game allows the player to socket items, place gems in those sockets, and enchant items to a + stage (e.g. +7 chest armor). Character equipment follows the traditional Helmet, Chest, Pants, 1H, 2H, Earring, Necklace, Ring, etc. There is also a slot for wings (discussed below) and a costume (which provides visual aesthetics and bonuses). Equipped items have durability and cost Zen to repair once the durability gets low.

Each town/city has a Storage container the player can use and pay Zen to expand in size. Items in storage are shared between all characters on an account, but players cannot put currency into storage; only items. This means currency is not shared between characters.

There are four types of Currency. Zen (Gold), Rift Fragments, Magic Gems and Guild Contribution points. Zen is the core currency used across the board. Rift Fragments come only from the Inter-dimensional Rifts (of which only 10 can be run a day) and can be used to purchase pet boxes, item boxes and enter places like the Labyrinth (which is where you level up your Artifacts, which I cover below). Magic gems are used to purchase Mounts, Costumes, Consumables, Resurrection Stones, Jewels of Bless (used for Enchanting), Wings and other core items.

The Wisperer Skill Window

The Wisperer Skill Window

The Crafting system is very similar to Diablo 3 and it is critically important to the end-game. Characters automatically receive access to crafting recipes as they level up, but recipes can also drop (and be traded). Items are dismantled (salvaged) to obtain materials such as Ore, Crystals and Newk Ore. Many recipes also require Gems and unique crafting materials only dropped by bosses. Players can craft two types of items: Equipment and Consumables. There are limitations that need to be fixed though; only being able to craft one type of item a day is a bad design (e.g. Seal of Power). End-game gear requires unique crafting drops from the epic dungeons. I found the crafting system to work well while leveling up and was able to craft a number of legendary items at 65 that were quite helpful.

There are costumes in the game, but only a limited number. My guess is the online store is going to focus on making money through not only costumes, but item cosmetics. There was a NPC that allowed the player to assign a new look to each item, but I never saw or found any cosmetic items.

Artifacts are similar to skill gems from Diablo 3. It’s hard to tell how extensive the artifacts are due to CBT but there are three core categories: Round, Pentagonal and Shield. There are 10 of each, and only one of each type can be equipped. The character must run Lupa’s Labyrinth (covered below) in order to level an artifact up. Equipped Artifacts enhance your characters through bonuses such as increased attack speed per level (stacking), increased defense, auras and more. Players can swap artifacts at any time.

Wings are a big part of the game. They provide bonuses to the character, visually change how the character looks, and also give an indication of how powerful the character is. Wings are evolved through the enchanter and require stones that can be found in the Endless Tower (discussed below).

MuL has Pets and they come in two flavors: Summoned and Comrade. Summoned pets won’t fight for you, but they visually follow you around and provide bonuses (depending on the level and pet type). Comrade pets act like Summoned pets except they aren’t visually available, but the player can register up to 4 of them (the slots are unlocked with Zen). In CBT1 pets have a max level of 5. The pet system is very confusing to new players because the only way to receive points (used to level up a pet) is to release other pets (get rid of them). This is a counter-intuitive and poorly designed system. Additionally, one doesn’t start finding additional pets until end-game (when one can run Fabrice’s Garden, discussed below). So don’t worry about leveling your pet(s) until you can run the garden.

Inter-Dimensional Rifts are random dungeons similar to rifts from D3. They can contain pylons (augmenting attack, defense, lightning bolts, etc.), treasure goblins/pixies (that can drop awesome loot), and random elite/boss mobs. They are also the only place where a character can gather Rift Fragments. A rift always matches the level of the character (or highest level in a party), so as a player progresses through the world, they enter the rifts they stumble across to get extra experience, currency, and items. The limiting factor is a character can only enter rifts a total of 10 times each day. As players complete rifts on the different continents, the rifts can go into ‘Overdrive’ for 10 minutes. When rifts are in overdrive on a continent, players can enter those rifts without their 10 a day counter decreasing (e.g. they become free rifts) and the player that triggers the overdrive receives double attack and defense for the 10-minute window. At the end of a rift, characters get to roll on one of four cards that provide item rewards that can include legendary gear. I like this system because if the boss doesn’t drop anything good, the character still has a chance to get something really good depending on their card of choice and final rift clearing score (based on speed, etc).

Transportation between cities, towns and continents is easy. The player has a town portal device which allows instant transportation to the main town on the current continent or the central town for the game world (Ohrdor). There are also a number of Mounts in the game including wolves, horses and full-scale dragons. Players are awarded their first mount through the quest line, providing a 50% movement bonus. The most expensive mounts in CBT1 cost 120,000 magic gems and have a 100% movement bonus. You cannot fight while on a mount, and if you attack while on a mount, it simply disappears. Monsters can also dismount the character by doing damage.

The Combat of MuL is fluid and fun. Damage numbers (with crits), flying bodies (with physics) and telegraphed boss attacks make for an interactive experience. There is a big problem with the boss attack “telegraphs” inaccurately representing the area of attack, often resulting in hard hits to the character when they should not. This issue was probably one of the most serious mechanic bugs in the game, but I’m confident it will be fixed prior to release. Ultimately, it is a lot of fun to gather dozens of targets together and destroy them with hard-hitting attacks only to send bodies flying through the air. The combat is quite satisfying.

Look at that handsome devil!

Look at that handsome devil!

Death causes items to lose durability, but there is no experience loss (which I think is a very good thing). There are Resurrection Stones of Life that allow one to resurrect on the spot at full health; my guess is these will be purchased through the Webzen Marketplace. If you die to a boss and don’t have a Stone, you have to respawn outside of the boss area and start the fight again. Some dungeons (such as the Labyrinth) will completely eject the character if you die while in them.

Monsters come in three flavors: Normal, Elite and Boss. Rumor has it there will be Open World Bosses. Mob density is very good and there is no limit to the number of mobs you can gather up or hit at once. Monsters that are “pulled” too far from their spawn point will return to their point of origin, but only in the open world – monsters in dungeons will follow you nonstop. Monsters can also have affixes (which are very visually apparent) such as Fiery Crash (fireballs from the sky) or Mana Burn (drains your MP). These affixes make a big difference in strategy for group combat. I really like the way these affixes are shown.

Treasure drops felt balanced, especially for a closed beta. Zen (gold) mixed with items for dismantling and progression along with unique drops and Jewels of Bless (the core enchantment currency) make for good loot. I didn’t feel the drops were too little or too much; they were just right. I also had a few legendary weapons drop from trash mobs, which was quite useful and surprising; but I only saw set items drop from dungeon bosses. As far as I’m aware, the only farmable (static) items are the unique crafting materials dropped by specific bosses. Other than that, you can get set and legendary drops from most any boss. My guess is the official release version will have more specific loot tables for world and dungeon bosses, so if a player wants to pursue a specific set of gear, they might have to kill specific bosses over and over.

Guilds in MuL are called a Knight League. They cost $5M zen to form and allow the creation of emblems from a collection of merged templates. There is a built-in search feature where players can apply for guilds that are accepting applications. The interface is clean and easy to use (good design). When looking for members, guilds can present themselves as focused on one of four categories: Social, Monster Hunt, PvP and Character Growth. Players can have up to 10 applications “active” at any one time. Guilds grow in level through contribution and offer a number of enhancement features through Shrines. The Guild Master can build these shrine expansions with the right amount of materials and Zen, which can be deposited into guild storage. Members can also donate Zen to the guild to help build the shrine expansions. The guild system is simple, straightforward and provides a solid benefit to all members.

I really liked the Ranking system, which shows the top players in the game by the following categories: Character (Combat Power, Soul Level, Account Level, Zen, and Essence Runes), Normal Dungeon (Heath Mine, Sky Temple, and Pit of Nightmares), Epic Dungeons (Dragon’s Haven and Sanctum of Dragon Knights) and Mission Maps (Endless Tower, etc). During CBT1 the highest anyone got in the Endless Tower was around level 80 (at least when I last checked, it may have been higher in the final hours). The highest CP was around 220k. It’s nice to be able to easily look at those characters, their gear and skill setup; this helps new players get an idea what end-game setups look like.

The game had 180 Achievements available in CBT1 including categories for Character, Item, Monster, Adventure, Mission Map and Quests. Some of these achievements allowed for specific titles to be displayed over a character’s name. Others offered rewards delivered through mail. During CBT1 the rewards appeared to be incomplete.

The Chat System is fairly standard, allowing for guild, zone, trade, party and other generalized system chat including tab customization to control which channels are displayed.

The Party system is fairly standard, but functions well relative to zoning and waiting for other members. The biggest problem is the inability to kick party members, so if somebody goes AFK, the whole party needs to be disbanded and reformed. Webzen really needs to add a vote kick and/or party leader kick feature.

The Graphics of MuL are very good; WebZen did a great job with the textures, colors, environmentals and combination of region themes and inhabiting critters. Shadows, Water, Ice (with multiple layers), Reflections and Depth of region bring the world to life in a very well-balanced display of immersion. The only thing missing from this game is a day/night cycle, but the reason for omitting such a feature may be to ensure zones consistently have the same look and feel when players are in them. The ragdoll physics are solid as the broken bodies of your slain enemies fly through the air and even impact on world objects or fall off cliffs. Animations are smooth and fluid while particles are average.

I was very surprised to find I really liked the Music. While it’s not at the same level as the timeless pieces from Diablo, I would say MuL has the best ARPG music I’ve heard next to Diablo (and some pieces from Path of Exile). The Sound FX are standard and pretty much average.

Speed Hackers are already rampant, which is apparent by the top clear dungeon times. This shows the Guardian system isn’t working.

It is easy to manage your friends list, and it works well; you even get updates when you friends find legendary or set items (which I think is very cool). The only complaint is friends are not shared between characters. Webzen should really make friends lists account specific and not character specific. Nothing worse than starting a new character and finding you have to rebuild your friends list!

End Game

This is the most important part of any ARPG. When a player hits max level (65 in CBT1), the end-game experience begins, and it’s all about better gear, including wing upgrades and enchantments. Crafting is a big part of the end-game as well since players can craft set items once the designs are found. Players also farm Rift Fragments (to purchase the boxes, which have a chance of giving an ancient or set item), Magic Gems, and Jewels of Bless (used for enchanting). Once a character is strong enough, they can start running the epic dungeons (which requite a full group, unless you’re in the top 1% of CP) to get the ultra rare crafting drops.

This is where dungeon difficulty really comes into play as well (granted you can raise the difficulty prior to max level, it’s generally not worth the extra time). There are 5 different difficulty settings: Difficulty: Normal (100% all), Hard (HP 205%, Mob Attack 105%, Zen/Essence 120%, Rare Drop Rate 150%, Master, Terror, Calamity (HP 550%, Mob Attack 125%, Zen Gain 180%, Rare Drop 300%). Epic dungeons are the “raid” and most difficult dungeons; there were two of them in CBT1, and this is where players get the best drops used in crafting the most powerful items.

There are also Mission Maps. We have the Altar of Spirits (10 v 10 PvP) which was actually quite a bit of fun. There was also the Arena where you fight the AI of another character (not another player, which I find strange); admittedly that’s the one thing I didn’t get around to doing when I was playing, so I can’t really comment on it further.

The Hall of Duty becomes a second home to a max-level character. While there’s talk of open-world bosses in future releases, the Hall really is where all the end-game action is. First, we have Fabrice’s Garden, an instanced garden-like dungeon where pets drop. Next we have the Endless Tower, a rising platform that refills with monsters with each level of progression, getting harder and harder the higher it goes. This is where players get wing growth stones. The Blood Castle is where you get Jewels of Bless and Magic Gems by killing a nasty boss that rises from a coffin. The Warped Essence Rune Mine is full of Magic Gems, and Luery’s Secret Vault is packed full of Zen (gold). And finally, Lupa’s Labyrinth is where you level up Artifacts. If you’d like to watch a 200k CP War Mage running Lupa’s Labyrinth, you can find the video here.

Everyone! Into the Pandemonic Chamber!

Everyone! Into the Pandemonic Chamber!

Bugs

There were a number of bugs that I encountered during CBT1.

  1. Boss attack hitboxes are inaccurate.
  2. World quest items often needed to be clicked on multiple times to register properly.
  3. A few times I could not complete a storyline quest and had to restart the game.
  4. Some rifts/dungeons wouldn’t let me exit (had to leave the game).
  5. A few client freezes (only 2-3, not too bad).

But all these bugs were just temporary inconveniences – none of them prevented the game from being played. For a closed beta, the list is very short and I’m personally impressed those were the only actual bugs I encountered. Hats off to the developers!

What’s Missing?

The most important feature that’s missing from MuL is an Auction House. Using chat channels to trade within this game is ridiculous. Webzen should have known better than to plan a game like this without such a feature. I hope they add some form of in-game trading system (such as an auction house or personal store) before release. If they don’t, it’ll probably be the #1 complaint (and already is in the CBT forums). Items don’t auto-stack when you put them in storage. Needs to be added. The Pet system is very confusing to players since one cannot get points until max level when pets can be acquired from the garden and then released. The very design of having to release (lose) pets in order to get points to level pets is just a bad design that people won’t “get” at first. The voice acting and scripting for many of the quests is really, really bad. There is a 64 (or so) character limit when texting in any channel or sending whispers to other players. This limitation is frustrating and prevents good communication, especially through whispers. The game doesn’t share the friends list between characters. The game allows the players to skip quest/cutscene events that aren’t core storyline, but forces players to watch storyline events. Need to be able to skip everything. Pressing ENTER responds to the last whisper instead of sending a whisper to the last person sent to. This can be a big problem when you’re talking with a player and somebody else whispers you during the middle of the conversation. You can receive duel requests from other players while in combat, which can interfere with things. Storage containers are quite a distance from merchants that dismantle, requiring players to run all over town to deposit and manage their materials.

Given the scope and scale of this game, that’s really not a long or bad list. If Webzen addresses these and other issues players have brought up, I think the game will be very well received at launch.

Summary

Mu Legend is the most refined closed beta I’ve ever played, but if I were to use one word to describe my overall experience it would be: Fun. The overall feel of the game is very good; the graphics, combat, item drops, character progression, class skills, dailies, rifts and monsters — it all flows and comes together very well. The UI is smooth, the music is surprisingly good and the boss fights are interactive and fun but not overwhelming. Leveling is also enjoyable, and the ability to lay out different skill setups (with F1/F2 page swapping) is also a very good thing. Traveling throughout the world is easy, and interacting with other players brings a level of community to the game that D3 and PoE just don’t have. Growing and augmenting wings is pretty cool as well.

The core components for a rock solid ARPG are all here with the only really big mistake being the omission of some sort of Auction House/Trading system.

I greatly look forward to the next testing phase of Mu Legend and I will definitely be playing the game at launch.

Love the wings, Reaver!

Love the wings, Reaver!

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About The Author

Mr. Allen has an extensive background in technology spanning 20 years including software architecture, design and development, project management and leadership. He specializes in corporate planning, productivity and collaboration, and is the creator of the games Mordor, Demise, Horizons, and Alganon.

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2 Responses

  1. florin daniel

    i correct here 1 thing . muonline has ben online to other server on 2000 where server was dktech . country czech . everything was writen in chineze and bare we understand something . there where no exe by the way . first version was a beta . alpha was release on 2003 . when webzen buy the game and make it online . i remember as ef it is today ho server was and the owner whos nick name was ‘ Sonya’ .

    Reply
    • David Allen

      That’s very interesting historical information regarding Mu! I did some research and couldn’t seem to find the origins other than some relations to dktech. Any idea who the original creators of Mu were?

      Reply

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