[Part 1 is here]
The first thing I noticed as I puttered around the Elf starting area, is that the translation is very awkward. The descriptions of the NPCs make no sense at all, for instance. I suppose though, since 'nobody reads the text' anyway it's not a big deal. =P Some things are not very clearly explained because of this, so I made sure to have the Wiki for the game bookmarked to look basic stuff up, which helped a lot.
As you talk to NPCs, you can mention specific keywords. These can unlock quests or further dialogues with others. Apparently, NPCs have a 'relationship' value that can be raised by regularly doing their daily quests or giving them gifts. This can lead to extra items being sold to you, as well as offering special titles. Keywords are used in the overarching storyline quests, too.
Daily quests in Mabinogi are called 'Part Time Jobs' and are timed. Each NPC in a town has a specific starting time they hand out quests, and a specific time limit. Knowing in which order to do all the quests in town, and managing to fit them all in a daily routine, is a key way to make some steady money and exp. There is also a daily changing 'Quest Bulletin Board' that sells various random quests for a small fee, and other NPC-given quests that you receive over time. All quests give money/exp or items. Often you have a choice of rewards.
After a few days in the Elf starting town, I realized I can freely warp once an (ingame) day to the Human starting zone on the other continent. I was surprised by how much better of a newbie experience the Human zone is -- Elves have a huge, barren desert which can be tedious without a mount, and it's hard to gather some crafting materials as a result. There are a few Elf-specific quests worth doing, however, so I started switching back and forth as I felt like it. Even though I am notoriously bad at making money, it is clear that earning plenty of gold is not a problem in this game if you know what you're doing.
Exploring is key to effective gathering and questing, because quest directions are not specific. For folks who hate 'travel times', this may be an issue. All over the Elf desert, though, are solar-powered teleporter stones that quickly move you to various points once you've discovered them. On the Human continent, moon-powered teleporters that change destinations depending on the day of the week are also available. One thing I really liked about the game, is that there is no real feeling that you HAVE to be doing one specific thing -- I spent some time learning to craft my own arrows and fishing, died a few times in newbie dungeons (which can be soloed), did some crafting quests, and bought some new clothing pieces. Crafting is one of the high points of the game, I think. There are little timed mini-games that affect the quality of the finished product depending on how well you do. For example, with blacksmithing you hit hotspots on the metal with a little hammer, and in tailoring you have to manually sew finishing stitches. Fishing also has a little game, which adds some interest to an otherwise 'one click' type of activity. You can also catch items and quest-giving scrolls.
The common kill quests are very old school. You have randomly placed crowds of mobs, and you mow through them. Nothing too exciting. However, because of the type of combat Mabinogi uses, you can easily be killed by some mobs if you fail to counter your opponent's attacks properly. The key to combat success is to NOT GET HIT. You can buy armor and elemental enchants that can raise your protection against certain magic, but even with that, you can't simply stand still getting bashed and expect to win. Even though the combat system is basically a more complicated version of 'rock paper scissors', it's not entirely brainless either. I actually don't mind a bit of grind, either, as long as I feel like I'm progressing somehow. The fact that you gain combat skill-ups with every attack (when fighting equal or superior level enemies) also helps. =)
[Go to Part 3]