Mabinogi is more talked about, is on Steam now, and is even taking part in popularity contests with other MMOs. For these and other reasons, I've seen a number of people who used to play it coming back (both in-game and on forums like these). Since Mabinogi is an MMO and gets a number of updates each time, there's a lot to catch up on.
I'm only listing the updates that have a lasting result on the game (so they're still relevant), this guide is intended to summarize what's made a big impact on what players do and can accomplish in Mabinogi starting with G8 (because if you left before G7, you might as well be re-learning the game by now).
The updates will be listed in the order of the approximate time they came out, so you can use the dates and generation numbers to try to see where you left off and catch up from there. If you want to see the full update log, it's right here on the wiki.
2009, October: G8 (Dragon)
- Hardmode dungeons. A few dungeons have altars behind the main ones that are harder versions (accepting the main passes while ignoring the party limit on the passes). These give unique things that the normal versions don't drop.
- Mana Shield skill added, letting you use your MP pool as HP to tank a bit.
2010, Feb: G9 (Alchemist)
- Taillteann (Town) added, with connecting areas.
- Alchemy (skillset) added. It's like magic, but more royal steampunk style, with more life/practical uses too.
- Shadow Missions added. They're like dungeons (in that you'll be doing them for the forseeable future), but take place in shadow versions of existing overworld places instead of randomly-generated mazes. They also give a fixed gold+EXP reward at the end (much more than dungeons) and you can select up to 4 difficulties without any passes needed (which ones you can get into are limited by how developed/strong your character is).
2010, June: G10 (Goddess of Light)
- Tara (capital city) added.
- Demigod added. It's a second trans skill that every race can use, and yes you can Pally/DK/Falcon/Beast and Demigod at the same time. It has similarities and differences with the race-based transes so read the article for the lowdown.
- NPC-run Auctions added. Most of what they auction off is crap nobody cares about, but they sometimes do auction off rare book pages or skill books.
- Spirit weapon level caps raised to 50.
2010, August: G11 (Sword of the Gods)
- Kitchen Dungeon added for cooking progression.
- The ability to be a Royal Alchemist was added.
- Family system added (separate from marriage).
2011, Jan: G13 (Hamlet)
- Avon (special area) added, with theater missions (same premise as, but not nearly as impacting as, shadow missions).
- Weapon and elemental mastery skills added, along with combat changes like a visible stun/knockdown gauge.
- Hailstorm (first advanced magic) added. Fireball/Ice Spear/Thunder reclassified as "intermediate" magic.
- Lucky Gather is now possible (the life skill version of a lucky finish, with up to 20 material drops at once).
- Artisan and Special Upgrade systems added, you can make your weapons even more powerful now.
- Fusion Bolt skill added, the ability to perform magic fusion solo.
- Rafting revamp completed, now stars get turned into inventory items that last for three days so you can save them up and purchase specific items you want from the natives (and there's a lot of rewards). Sadly still no ballooning update.
- Newbie system added/updated. Accounts with characters under total level 300 (now) can rebirth every 24 hours and Duncan can reset their skills on request. Once a character on an account passes total level 300, the benefits end for that account forever, regardless of new characters.
- Eiry removed :(
2011, April: G14 (Romeo & Juliet)
- Port Cobh (town) was added to the east of Dunbarton. It's the new Uladh port, Port Ceann's ship was shut down.
- Homestead system added. It's like your own little private farm/hideout/sim-city. You can built a limited selection of life skill and gather stations (anvil, loom, some herb patches, etc.) and it's a good place to meet up with friends for a trade or something when you happen to be very far away in the normal overworld.
- Lances added. They're very strong and can pierce enemy defense and protection, but have their own skills and downsides too. They use STR just like normal melee.
- You don't gain weight from eating food unless you're already full.
- A second row of hotkeys was added, so now you have 1 to = along with F1 to F12.
- The first of many aoe-stun-on-summon pets was added. Nowadays tons of pets do this.
2011, October: G15 (Merchant of Venice)
- Belvast (island) added.
- A new inventory tab that holds bound and quest items, finally.
- Ancient Monsters released, with their own drop table (see the bottom of the list).
- At this point in the timeline, humans and fomors are at peace (both realizing that The Gods Are Dicks™).
- Commerce added. A sort-of-minigame where you transport loads of goods from one town to another to earn ducats, a new type of currency. Ducats can be used to buy all sorts of items only available through the commerce system.
- Mana Evaporation removed, various things changed to account for this.
- Now you can punch Ferghus.
- Overworld minimap shows monsters and NPCs.
- Reforge ("metalware") added. Can use a reforge toolkit on an item to make that item grant you some sort of skill bonus when it's equipped.
- Windmill no longer damages you upon use, but lost the invincibility frames.
2012, May: G16 S1+Extra (Macbeth)
- Fighter (martial arts) skillset added (and knuckles unrestricted and updated). It's like if normal melee were to give up it's multi-aggro management in order to focus on insane single-target damage. They use Will instead of STR for damage, and some skills have had their Will gains adjusted to account for this. Also Elves don't have crippling penalties to this (unlike normal melee) and in fact their movement speed can be seen as a plus to this skillset.
- Bard (skillset) added. Now there's music buff skills that are, in general, much more easy to use and much more powerful than the normally-composed magic scrolls.
- Moon Gates now act like mana tunnels, in that you can choose where to go as long as you've tagged the destination Moon Gate before. Ceo is automatically learned for everybody.
- Pons added, a seemingly-useless midway currency between NX and fashion-related stuff in-game (used nowadays to change your hair/eyes on the fly without rebirthing and more).
2012, June: G16 S2 (Genesis)
- Combat system overhauled. Many skills, specifically magic and melee, got cooldown, loading time, and effect changes. Overall combat is easier, faster, and more fluid. Monsters still use the older, slower-loading versions of the skills. Sharp Mind rankable skill removed, everybody has 100% sharp mind for skills that are viewable at all.
- Generations 1+2+3 redone to an extent. Elves and giants now do G1-G3 just like humans, and they get their transformations from G2. The generations are made shorter by cutting out some of the redundant sections, RP dungeons that used to require more people can optionally be solod, etc.
- Partners added. Maids/butlers, basically your own NPC as a pet. They have a shop and a few helpful functions, such as gathering alongside you once you've made them happy enough.
- Elf and giant guards no longer attack players because, storyline-wise, the elves and giants are at peace now. I mean they're still racist but at least their guards don't kill you on sight for your political choices anymore.
2012, October: G17 (Grandmaster, Shamala, Nightmare)
- Talent system implemented. This is the closest thing Mabinogi has to player classes, but it's not restricting (you can rebirth into the magic talent and then go train lance skills if you feel like it). Your selected talent affects your stat gains as you level and gives you 2x training for the skills involved in that talent. Also ranking up a talent's related skills gives you permanent stat bonuses as that talent gets stronger (regardless of if it's your active one or not).
- Puppetry skillset added. It's like if Pinocchio hid deadly weapons in his body a-la Naruto and also had a bunch of fantastic crowd-control skills, being able to hit large swaths of enemies, knock them around, pin them down, pull them towards a location, stuff like that. Puppetry uses a combo of your STR and DEX (half of each) for damage.
- Transformation Mastery (skill) added. Now players can visually change into monsters and NPCs to put them in embarrassing poses or simply to look fabulous.
- Some older generation quests now give AP as a completion reward. If you've already beaten them beforehand you should get a congratulatory quest to give it to you.
- Some daily quests were added, specifically the daily shadow missions. You can get 3 AP each real-life day by completing all the dalies.
- Some life control skills were added, like Mining, Milking, Sheep Shearing, etc. These skills make your gathering faster and some let you gather multiple things at once.
- Now you can get Gay Married™, which is a totally different thing than Regular Married™ (no it's not).
- Inventory+ is free for everybody. Now everybody has full bank access, can use all their character bank tabs, can use item bags, and run shops for free.
- Style/fashion tab in the inventory. Stuff you wear in this tab visually overrides stuff in your actual equipment slots (so you can hide ugly armor with pretty-but-weak clothing), and stuff in this tab will never drop or lose durability. It does cost about $1.20 worth of pon per month to keep these slots activated.
2013, June: G18 (The Saga: Iria)
- The Saga: Iria added. Unlike the other mainstream quests, I'm mentioning this one because the rewards are fantastic (200 AP and a powerful free flying pet at the end), and it (now) has repeatable daily rewards (check the article for more info).
- Dual Gun (skillset) added. They're magical guns that fire concussive bursts of magic/air. It's like if normal ranged lost distance in order to speed up attacks. Gun skills can fire off lots of attacks quickly, but most guns don't have much base damage (instead focusing on the number of attacks possible) and normal gun attacks don't stun enemies unless they crit, so this skillset takes either a lot of power, tactics, or both to use effectively. Guns use a combination of your STR and INT (half of each) for their damage.
- Iria got a revamp. With Neamhain's seal broken, Iria is coming back to life and many areas (including Filia and Vales) got redesigns and map updates (along with some new locations).
- Raid boss system added, some Iria field bosses converted to raid bosses (some with a huge redesign).
- Exploration level cap is now 30, cap quests no longer needed.
- New life skills, Hillwen Engineering makes guns, Magic Craft makes new, very powerful wands and accessories.
2013, September: G18 (Enlightenment "Zero")
- Stat rebalance. STR adds to defense, def/prot split into physical and magical, the balance formula changed, and more. This is, overall, a buff for melee, but also mages in particular since magic defense and protection are harder to get. Read this part of the patch notes for the major changes.
- Alchemy revamp. Most skills now use a combination of the basic elemental crystals instead of requiring you to spend time making the skill-specific crystals. Most alchemy skills changed to simply work better. Alchemy now gets damage bonuses from your HP/MP/SP (instead of your base stats), meaning alchemy now scales.
- Armor and shield mastery skills added.
- Fusion Bolt unrestricted. You can use it with staves and regardless of your wand's element or CC upgrades.
- Dunbarton's square got a little bit of a redesign to make the shop area bigger. A small note, but people who used to do nothing but AFK at that one lamp pole in Dunbarton have had their life shattered by this update when it was moved/removed. Seek counseling if needed.
2013, November: G18 (Aces: Merlin)
- Character card updates, including Hero and Elite Hero cards that allow you to start a new character that already has a 1K/2K total level and some skills ranked up (no you cannot rebirth with Hero/Elite-Hero to raise your total level, that's just silly, stop being silly).
- Meteor Strike, the second advanced magic skill, is finally released, and boy it's a doozy.
- Snap Cast and Spellwalk help alleviate some mage downsides, giving them tactical buffs in addition to their previous skill/damage buffs.
- Dressing Room added. It's like a portable bank that can hold one copy of almost any clothing item (hats/clothing/armor/gloves/shoes/robes, no hand-held items). Unlike the bank it charges upon withdrawl, not upon insertion.
2013, December: G18 (Aces: Starlet)
- Song (skill) added, and everybody's ears suddenly started hurting. However if you get your Song skill up to R5, you can sing without an instrument. This means that you can use musical buff skills in battle without having to equip an instrument, which is why it's notable.
- Microphones, Cello, Violin, Piano added.
- Moon Gates and Mana Tunnels learned how to procreate, so now there's a Metric Crapload™ of them everywhere. Also they switched their batteries over to Energizer™ so now they're open 24/7.
- A new game setting to make it so you can't hear anybody else's music playing. You know, in case you're the Ebenezer Scrooge of music.
2014, January: G18 (Aces: Professor J)
- Some new alchemy skills, Hydra Transmutation and Elemental Wave being the notable ones.
- Guard Cylinders added. Literally a cylinder-shield you wear in the shield slot. Potentially useful for hybrid skill sets, but also required to be worn alongside a normal cylinder for more powerful alchemy.
- Coill Abyss and Peaca Abyss dungeons added.
2014, April: G18 (Aces: Culinary Artist)
- Cooking has had the cap raised by one rank (goes to R5) and many recipes have been shuffled around (some re-named) along with which cooking methods are learned at which ranks. The cooking interface has been changed and gives hints at recipes. New recipes have been added for most methods which make use of new ingredients sold by existing food NPCs (which stack higher) and the below new skill.
- There's now a passive Ingredient Hunting skill that makes all monsters killed have a chance of dropping rare cooking ingredients or leather. This is the only source of the new rare cooking ingredients, and an additional bountiful source of leather if the skill is ranked up.
- The Catering skill was added which allows you to combine multiple finished meals into one item that can give a bunch of people the effects of the combined food. It's literally possible for a dedicated chef to make a single meal/picnic item that will give the entire party stat boosts of up to hundreds for 20 minutes at a time, making cooking a lot more usable for buffs.
2014, June: G18 (New Beginnings)
- Free weekly rebirths for everybody forever. No I'm not kidding. Ace talents are now obtained by paying a little pon when choosing them while doing a normal rebirth.
- Character creation and editing got a revamp and use a similar interface now. New styles and colors are available for eyes/hair/faces/mouths for all races. Yes, this includes giving elves black hair and humans blue hair. NPC eyes are also available, though hair does not seem to be so you'll still need NPC wigs.
- Beginner benefits got bigger. They now apply below 1000 instead of below 300, and they apply per character instead of per account. The benefits include daily Nao stones and shadow mission crystals too.
- Items no longer drop on death if they're already unblessed. They can still lose blessing.
- The "Revive Right Here" option now has a 3-minute cooldown.
2014, July: G18 (From The Shadows)
- The Ninja skillset was added as a newbie-friendly talent, using a combination of Strength and Will. This is like if melee had ranged attacks and a number of special skills for CC/AOE/Debuffing. The standard ranged attack stuns very little (like guns), but Ninja stuff can reach much higher ranges and is less dangerous as it meshes better with normal melee (can use smash and such normally). It has a variety of skills for other purposes, but even outside of the skill abilities, Ninja overall gives a large amount of Strength (and of course more Will).
- Shurikens added, they're the ninja weapon. One is sold by NPCs, two are blacksmithed (manuals from Fleta), and the last type is from events.
2014, July: G18 (Aces: Treasure Hunter)
- The Exploration Mastery, Artifact Investigation, and Crisis Escape skills were added. Respectively they allow better gain from exploration and related quests, the ability to identify and restore your own artifacts without Voight, and can drop aggro from enemies.
- Treasure Dungeons were added that can give a lot of exploration EXP and potentially a rare exploration item.
- Iria dungeons drop artifacts, meaning they can give more exploration EXP than before.
- Exploration quests had their rewards increased and more of them have been added.
- Exploration levels uncapped to 50 and the EXP curve adjusted.
2014, October: G18 (The Saga: Iria II)
- Saga II storyline added.
2014, December: G19 (Divine Knights)
- Divine Knights storyline added. Crusader skills are learned from completing this, and are intended to be used in Raids.
- Raid system implemented. Repeatable bosses (just one so far) that you can fight with up to 32 players at once, with a new type of party.
2015, January: G19 (Rejuvinogi)
- New inventory functions, such as a "new" tag on items, a magnet button to (re-)stack stackables, item comparison, non-flashy dyes listing their color codes, and a CTRL+Click function to (un)equip.
- Various other minor additions, such as instant bank transfer (for a higher fee), Dressing Room updates, a Title search bar, a meditation status effect, and more.
2015, April: G19 (Renovation: Close Combat)
- "Close Combat" (swords, axes, blunts) in general received buffs, though most of these changes don't apply when using Lances, Knuckles or other types of weapons.
- Smash can now cause debuffs (such as bleeding) when using close combat weapons.
- Defense allows running (instead of just walking) when using a shield.
- Counterattack now allows movement when used with a sword, axe, or blunt weapon.
- Final Hit got a huge buff, you can't be knocked out of it and it comes with a large damage multiplier among other tweaks.
- Various other skills, such as Charge and Stomp got formula changes to be more damaging regardless of the weapon used.
- Bash (a close-quarters chain combo), Rage Impact (an AOE stun and debuff), and Dual Wield Mastery were added.
- A batch of new weapons were added (such as the Celtic Royal Knight Sword) that come from Blacksmithing, with materials dropping from shadow missions and dungeons.
2015, May: G19 (Renovation: Magic)
- Magic skills in general received buffs, some of the more notable are...
- Icebolt causes slowdown and some mana gain on attack.
- Fireball charges and hits the ground much faster at higher ranks.
- Enemies frozen by Ice Spear can now be attacked (for 50% damage).
- Meteor Strike's cooldown cut in half.
- Many other skills (such as Hailstorm and Fusion Bolt) got other types of buffs, check out the full changelog on the wiki for specifics.
- The first few Meditation books are easier to obtain, and the intermediate magic pages come from more sources now too.
- Lightning Rod (the advanced electric spell) and Inspiration (an active MP regen skill) were added.
- Some new weapons were added (such as the Celtic Tribolt Wand) that come from Magic Craft, with materials dropping from shadow missions and dungeons.
2015, June: G19 (Renovation: Archery)
- Ranged skills in general received buffs, the aiming system in general had the chances of hitting increased from what's shown. This means that the aim meter is no longer a direct measurement of your chance to hit (the actual chance is much higher past ~"70%"). Some of the more notable individual skill changes are...
- Mirage Missle's damage formula was changed for increased damage based on more Dexterity. The slowdown effect was increased, and the DoT can kill now.
- Final Shot no longer cancels when getting knocked back/down, doesn't stop item usage, and teleportation is free.
- Throwing attack got a cooldown decrease and Atlatls can be special upgraded.
- Many other skills (such as Arrow Revolver and Support Shot) got different types of buffs or improvements, check out the full changelog on the wiki for specifics.
- Crossbows no longer lock players into place with loaded skills, and some have an optional piercing (level 1) upgrade.
- Urgent Shot was added, an active skill that lets you push back an enemy and increase your next attack's aim speed after you miss a shot.
- The Celtic Royal Crossbow and a base versions were added, made via Carpentry with materials dropping from shadow missions and dungeons.
2015, July: G19 (Renovation: Extra)
- The Alban Knight Training Center was added. This is a "custom" dungeon with modifiable difficulty, including dungeon level, player buffs, enemy debuffs, or the other way around. You can only enter it three times each real day, but it's high-level content (even Basic can be challenging for lower-level players) and has a variety of useful rewards.