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MNOLG2 Review
Posted by Purple_Dave on June 1, 2003 at 09:40 PM CST:
The highly anticipated MATA NUI ONLINE GAME sequel showed up with a hushed whisper last week, not yet being linked through the official website, but only through fansites like MoD. There are a few additions that will be made in the coming days (like the hints section), but the game itself is up and running.

Fans of the first game will recognize the distinctive artwork of Templar Studios, but the MATORAN characters are all drawn in the new MoL style. While I've often voiced my opinion that I still prefer the original McToran style of construction, I do have to say that the new animated versions look a lot less awkward than their brick-built counterparts. This is a good thing, since they can't be rebuilt to suit personal tastes.

A very welcome change is load times. This game takes a while to load up the first screen, but once the game engine is loaded, the individual screens load fairly quickly. Additionally, if you've got an older computer that has a hard time handling the workload, you are offered the option of sacrificing a bit of image resolution to make your computer happier. I've played it both ways, and I'd sugget trying the Quality version first, and only going with the Speed version if you experience problems, as the graphics in the Quality version are considerably more appealing to look at.

Another major change from the first game is that you are playing HAHLI, who previously came across as a very minor character (well, maybe not in JALA's eyes), and you are playing out a mostly average day (well, a storm hit fairly recently, but that can't be too uncommon for a floating village). You don't go running around the island meeting new people, or solving major crisis after crisis. You just live your life and do your job. What's your job, you say? From what you can find out through conversations with other characters, and through reading the note in your hut (there's a lot of notes scattered throughout the village, and they're all written in the MATA NUI script, so you better start studying those translation keys), your regular job is to help make flax. More specifically, you're probably known as an Assistant Flax-Maker, since all you really do is collect the raw materials, and someone else makes the flax, after which you deliver it. This day is unusual, however, as you are given the additional task of basically running your own delivery service. How much work does that involve? Depends on how much you feel like doing.

Yes, unlike the first MNOLG, this game has a very open-ended play feature, beyond just being able to wander the island and look at things...for the umpteenth time. And that new feature has a name. It's called Capitalism. It seems a bit odd for the near-utopian land of MATA NUI, but apparently this island is driven by the almighty WIDGET. Sort of. The economics are a bit faulty, since you get a lot of services provided to you for free, but you get paid pretty well for all of your work.

There are a few things that you probably have to take care of before you're prepared to advance to the next level. The only really obvious one is that you need to fix one of the village extension bridges. However, you get paid 6 WIDGETS for the first bundle of flax that you can deliver to the local rope-maker (afterwards, you get supplied with string to use for other projects), and you get paid 100 WIDGETS for providing one specific character with a new KOHLII STICK. After you do those two things, you can't earn more WIDGETS by repeating those services, which suggests that if you don't do them, you won't be able to advance when the next update comes down the pipe.

You start out with a seaweed satchel, which is similar to TAKUA's backpack, but a bit more organized. It's divided into three main sections, with a fourth mini-section. The three big sections are divided up between TOOLS (finished products, like the KOHLII STICK, which are used to perform different tasks), SUPPLIES (materials, like seaweed, used to make other things), and ARTIFACTS (you don't find any in this installment, but I'm certain they will be objects of great mystical power). You can only carry one of each Tool, though once you've pawned off your first KOHLII STICK, there's nothing to keep you from making your own. You know, just in case. Supplies appear to have a limit of 999 units of each type. I'm not sure if there is a fixed cap at 999, or if you can wrap the number back through the lower digits again, but I'm sure someone will let us know before too long. The Artifacts section stays pretty empty for now. Each section has a clickable tab that changes which items you are viewing in a long scroll-bar on the left side of your screen. Below the inventory scroll-bar is your WIDGET tally, which is kept seperately from non-cash resources.

There are currently only two things that you can buy, and only one of them appears to be of any immediate use. You can buy a map of GA-KORO for 5 WIDGETS, and you can buy an air bladder, also for 5 WIDGETS. The map is self-explanatory, but I never did figure out what the air bladder is used for. I'd suspect it's intended to help you breath underwater, but I had HAHLI slaving away underwater for at least half an hour in real life without making her turn blue...er, well, no more than usual, at least. As for how you can earn WIDGETS, well, that involves a bit of work.

Other than the two one-time WIDGET rewards, there are three things you can sell for more. The only person who has a bottomless WIDGET supply is the boatbuilder (which if you've ever had the rare experience of working for one, you know to be completely untrue), and she'll pay you 1 WIDGET each for lengths of Rope or rolls of Sailcloth. She'll also pay you a whopping 30 WIDGETS for sets of Rigging. Needless to say, Rigging requires quite a bit more work than either Rope or Sailcloth. The only raw materials that you can just run around collecting are Seaweed, COWRIE Shells, HARAKEKE Plants, Bamboo Wood. The first two of those can be collected without any special tools, but you'll need a Sickle to cut the HARAKEKE, and a Hatchet to cut Bamboo. You'll waste your efforts selling Rope to the Boatbuilder, so just stick to Rigging and Sailcloth. The same amount of HARAKEKE can earn you 20 WIDGETS as plain rope, or, with a little more work and 20 Bamboo, you can earn 30 WIDGETS instead. Given how much work it takes to get 20 Rope, the extra work is easily worth the effort. As long as you're collecting Shells to help you on your way to a pile of Rigging, you might as well snatch up some Seaweed, since you get them in the same place (just grab a few handfuls while you're waiting for new Shells to pop up). You won't get rich off of Seaweed, but you'll be wasting a lot of time if you don't collect it.

As you run around the village earning mad WIDGETS, you'll run across the occassional slip of paper lying about (some more hidden than others). These slips detail the history of KOHLII. I've been having problems with them, however, as about half of the ones I've checked (along with both maps) do not have a Close button, so reading them temporarily locks up your game. You can fix it by refreshing the screen (hit F5), but you might find that some of your work has been undone by the reset.

The good news is that kids who are always eager to keep playing will (probably) never run out of things to do, but the bad news is that kids who get bored easily might realize that what they're doing is, technically speaking, work. From a cultural standpoint, however, it's quite exciting to actually see the world get fleshed out to this extent, where every single villager has a unique and clearly defined task to perform, rather than being just a bunch of random villagers standing around and holding the walls up.



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