A Look at MahjongSoul

published on 2020-06-15, last updated on 2021-07-26 written by Thai “0xReki” Chung, checked with LanguageTool tagged with Games, Riichi Mahjong, Review
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MahjongSoul is still around and it’s big. Just like everyone else, I jumped on the hype. At first, it looked nice. Then, I started to dislike it. With each little thing, I liked it less. Now, I don’t like it at all. I’m still around, since everyone else is still on it… Just like with Facebook. That’s just how it is… But I can still try and be give you a neutral breakdown.  MahjongSoul Title Screen

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, you’re 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. MahjongSoul Main Menu

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 analysis. So let’s look at the thing everyone wants: summoning a new character. To 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 those? 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 single summoning scroll. That makes 750,000 Coppers for a single summon attempt. And don’t forget that’s just an attempt and not a guaranteed summon.

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.

Granted, 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, you are limited to 5 scrolls; no indication when I can get more. They get reset from time to time. And you tend to get free summons from time to time. But it’s still not enough if you’re not lucky. As I said, that’s just an attempt, there’s no guarantee you even get a character.

The Visual Experience at the Table

Mahjong Soul Table

This game has nice animations. Dora 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. This game definitely one of the nicest looking ones.

The information you need is neatly in the centre 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.

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.

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. The same goes for the cat girl Ichihime. 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.

Sure, you can disable the sounds. But if I have to do that, it just proves how terrible it is.

Scoring of a Hand

Mahjong Soul Scoring

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

It took them damn way too long to add in some male characters. But they also have added more fan service. People… if you want to see porn, do watch porn. I just want to play Mahjong without that… I digress.

Stuff for Beginners

As I said before, the game throws you into quite a decent tutorial.

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.

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

Disconnects

So I got very infuriated with disconnecting players. In low lobbies, in about one every third 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.

Aside from a message in the announcement, 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 that left. It’s a big part of my frustration with the game. It gets better the higher you get, but it’s still an issue.

And after seeing how Nintendo handles disconnects in Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics this feels just so… backwards. And people usually accuse Nintendo of being backwards.

In Short

Sum: 10

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 in this game is for you.

It is a solid client. But the characters are a problem. And don’t get me started with the oversexualization of underage characters.

If you do mind mentioned things, better look for something else.

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