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I Played MahjongSoul and I Don't Like It

published on 2019-05-03 written by 0xReki
Games, Hobbies, Riichi Mahjong, Review

So MahjongSoul finally got its English release. Just like everyone else, I jumped on the hype. At first, it looked nice. Then, I start to dislike it. With each little thing, I like it less. Now, I don’t like it at all. I think I’m gonna stay with it until the hype dies down. And if I don’t come like at that time, I’ll discard it.

First, let get the basics down: you can log in with a standard account as well as with Google, Twitter and Facebook using OAuth. You might think that’s standard in this day and age, but it’s not a given. At your first login, your presented with a tutorial to Riichi Mahjong. If you’re good with the rules you can skip that. After the tutorial, you get directly to the main menu. The interface should be self-explanatory, so I’m not going to cover that. But at the top, we immediately see the 2 types of currency: Coppers and Jade.

A Quick Analysis of the Freemium

Over the last decade or so I got a habit when starting F2P games: I check premium stuff first. First, you shouldn’t be able to buy power, a. k. a. pay to win. Since we’re talking about a mahjong game here, that should be a non-issue. But I should be wary of it. Secondly, it should be reasonably possible to get everything you could pay premium currency for by playing the game. The hard thing here is consenting to what’s reasonable and what’s not reasonable. And sadly, MahjongSoul already lets me down here.

Well let’s go the for easy route first: no, you can’t buy Jade for Coppers. That’s not a minus per se, but that would have been the easiest way to clear this criterion. So we look at the thing everyone wants: summoning a new character. Do do that you need 200 Jade, which is about USD 3.40 (USD 1.20, if you factor in the first purchase bonus). Compared to that you need 50 Stardust, the freemium currency. How do you get that? By donating your items. Buying those of items costs you 15,000 Coppers in the in-game shop and you need 50 of those for a summon scroll. That makes 750,000 Coppers for a single summon attempt.

So how hard is it to get 750,000 Coppers? Let’s say we can consistently win hanchan in the Gold Room, the middle range room, with +30 post uma. That’d be 4,200 Coppers minus 1,400 Coppers entry fee, so it’s a net gain of 2,800 Coppers. So we’d “only” need to win 288 hanchan in Gold Room. If you’re saying you gain more coppers in the highest room, I ran the numbers there, too. Yes, it’s a smaller number of games you need to win there: you just need to win 750,000 ÷ (30 × 80 − 2800) = 134 hanchan in the Throne Room. Easy, isn’t it? Looking at these numbers I’d definitely say it’s not reasonably possible to get everything you could buy with a Jade by earning Copper. So the premium aspect of this game is a big minus. 0 stars, if we’re going for a rating here.

EDIT 2019-08-15: Starting in Silver Room you can get free items playing but even these did double the amount of items you get, it’s still too slow. Plus, your are limited to 5 scrolls; no indication when I can get more. So I have to assume 5 scrolls per account are the maximum. So if this wasn’t 0 stars already, this would make 0 stars.

The Rooms

But hey, those cosmetic things are not everything! Let’s look at the Mahjong experience itself. The ranked rooms are divided into 5 types: Bronze Room, Silver Room, Gold Room, Jade Room and Throne Room. You can only enter the rooms if you’re at the ranks specified at the rooms. And here I spot another money-related problem: If you run out of money, you might end up not being able to play. Bronze Room is free but doesn’t give you Coppers. Every other room costs Copper to play.

The Visual Experience at the Table

This game has nice animations. Doras have a glowing animation on them. Among the cosmetics, assuming you can afford them, you can have different table cloths, tile backs, riichi sticks, hands and animations. In the visual department, this game definitely has a 5-star rating.

The information you need is neatly in the center of the screen and below dora indicator which you can find at the top left. The wall is not displayed at all. The hand options are to the left: automatic sorting (A), auto win (R), disable non-winning calls (C), auto discard (D). The arrow would show what the letters mean.

If you aren’t proficient with the Chinese numerals you can enable the little numbers in the corner in the options of the main menu only. It’s not a real problem you can’t turn them on during a hand since they are enabled by default. And you have to actively turn them off.

When you hover above a tile in your hand the same tiles that are already on the table get highlighted. When you are tenpai the exclamation mark appears to the right. Clicking on it or hovering over the correct tile to discard reveals your waits and the number of tiles left. They even warn you if you’d be furiten or don’t have any yaku for that wait.

Oh yes before I forget, you can open the list of yaku anytime with the options at the top right of the screen.

EDIT 2019-08-15: There are more characters now. It took them damn way too long to add in some male characters. But they also have added more eye candy. People… if you wanna see porn, do watch porn. I just wanna play Mahjong…

Scoring of a Hand

Scoring is as you would expect. If you have levelled the bond with your character, the character reads the yaku — plus can unlock their alternate costume.

The Good

So in beginner friendliness, it’s 4 stars. I don’t have complains about the usability, so it’s 5 stars. That’s it with good things. Now to the bad things:

The Bad

So I have been playing a lot in the last few days. And if you’ve been seeing my stream you might have noticed I got very infuriated with disconnected players. So about every 3rd game so far someone disconnected. It does happen, yes, that’s just how it is with online games. But hell, in the few days it happened well too often. And I haven’t seen anything to either penalize people who disconnect because they have a bad run or the anything to make the game go on normally. I mean, today, I even got 2 people disconnecting in a hanchan. It was quite a farm for me. But if I was my toimen I’d have been swearing a lot in this game. Luckily for both of us we managed to tobi one of the players. Since this is not the game itself, I’m not gonna rate this. But it’s a big part of my frustration with the game.

The Audio Experience

Now, to the sounds and music. I wish I could say something nice about this. Oh, I can: the background music is calming at first. Then it just gets repetitive and annoying. Similarly for the cat girl. She is cute for the first few games. Her “nyaas” in the calls and yaku names are cute at first. But you tire of them very quickly. And it gets annoying very fast, too. The audio of this game gets 0 stars. The catgirls are plain too annoying.

EDIT 2019-08-15: Sure you can disable the sounds. But if I have to do that it’s just prove it’s terrible.

The Verdict

Freemium: 0
Beginner Friendliness: 4
Usability: 5
Visuals: 5
Audio: 0

Average Rating: 2.8

If you don’t mind the freemium, the cat girl, the repetitive background music and the fact players seem to be leaving games a lot this game is for you. If not, better look for something else.