Lineage II: The Chaotic Throne - The Kamael
Lineage 2 has been a bit of a dark horse over the years. Quietly staying out of the limelight behind World of Warcraft and Everquest 2, its main rivals in terms of genre (medieval-style RPG rather than sci-fi), it has managed to innocuously achieve quite a lot of success. With reputedly 17 million players worldwide, Lineage 2 is not a game to ignore. However, just how compelling is it and its latest expansion pack, The Chaotic Throne - The Kamael, to a European market already saturated with more MMOs than I can count?
A as soon as I logged in for the first time, I realised just how different Lineage 2 is from the more 'mainstream' MMOs such as World of Warcraft. I'll already state here that I do apologise for continually mentioning the "W" word but these days, it's hard to not compare when Warcraft has achieved such a strong monopoly, at least in the West. However, Lineage 2 started out as a Korean enterprise and was never meant to appeal to the same people as Warcraft did. Instead it, and its predecessor Lineage, were aimed at a more hardcore market of MMO players: those who wanted to feel constantly challenged and to feel that they earned each level, and I can appreciate that to an extent. Back in the early part of this century, I had a long running addiction to Everquest. The original Everquest when I played it was pretty challenging. There would be 'hell' levels where it was even harder to level up and every level starting from 10 felt like quite an accomplishment. I distinctly remember the 30-40s being the hardest, or at least feeling like they were the worst. I never managed to get to the maximum level, they moved the level cap up to 70 just before I quit and I'd lost the urge. But compared to World of Warcraft, it was no walk in the park at all; you earned every single drop of experience. What has this got to do with Lineage 2 you ask? Well, Lineage 2 manages to be even more hardcore than that was, which is very much a double-edged sword.
All around Lineage 2, there is a distinctly 'old school' feeling to it. As you go to create your new character, you can't help but notice the relatively limited choices for customisation. There are now six different races to choose from: Human, Elf, Dark Elf, Orc, Dwarf, and the new race available with this expansion pack: The Kamael; a race of creatures that look like fallen angels with one wing and an evil appearance. However, there are then only two classes initially open to your character: fighter or mystic, with only fighter available to you if you choose Kamael or Dwarf. These do expand later on in the game but at first, the options are somewhat limited. There are also extremely limited options regarding appearance which although only a minor gripe, it would have been nice to see. Fortunately the options that are available are well animated and look relatively realistic, certainly for a MMO game.
Once you've got your online persona sorted out, it's time to delve into the grand world of Lineage 2, which can be pretty daunting at first for a newbie. Even those used to playing other MMOs may be a bit thrown by the control system. Rather than the typical and fairly intuitive control system of the 'wasd' set of keys, Lineage 2 concentrates on a mouse driven control system. It ends up being simpler to move by clicking on a location you want to walk to. However, at first, it all feels a bit unfamiliar and can take you out of your comfort zone a bit. Even keys such as pressing escape to go to the system menu to log out aren't available. Instead you have to use the mouse to select the appropriate menu. It's all something that takes a bit of adapting to, it's not necessarily a bad thing, just a different way of working; but in the early stages of the game when everything is unfamiliar, it can catch you out slightly. The game is also not overly welcome to newbies in terms of the early content. After the first simple quest, it can get a little overwhelming regarding where to go next in comparison to other MMOs that tend to hold your hand for much of the early levels. When you do find a quest, it can be quite tedious as well. I found a number of quests that seemed to revolve around killing 20 or more of one type of creature just to collect their teeth, when the teeth rarely dropped from the mob (when surely all animals have teeth anyhow?). Experience doesn't seem to flow as quickly as, for example; World of Warcraft which is no bad thing but can get infuriating when there's so much to see. So many non-player characters will simply refuse to offer you a quest because you're too low levelled even if you want to risk a much harder quest. Unfortunately the quests don't even seem to add much to the storyline so they just become another way to gain more experience, when often 'grinding' the experience by fighting creature after creature, works out better anyhow.
However, if you persevere and find friends to play alongside, the game becomes a lot more enjoyable. You can end up quite reliant on groups but that's no bad thing. Safety in numbers is always a good thing especially if the group you're with works well together as a team. Besides ensuring that you can all gain levels faster, it's also extremely wise when you consider that Lineage 2 is one of the few true PvP (player vs player) MMOs on the market. This means you can be attacked at any time by another player which gives a constant risk factor but highlights the importance of being in a close knit group. The PvP aspect of the game is both a good and bad thing. Some players will thrive in such an environment and find it much more thrilling as it is never quite safe. However for casual players it may be a bit off-putting when they have to take into account other players as well as the quest or grind expedition they are trying to complete. The best method to avoid any problems would be to join a clan, a feature available in many MMOs but somewhat more crucial for advancement in Lineage 2. Knowing that you have a group of like minded teammates able to aid you if you get into a spot of bother is always handy. There are also castle sieges available regularly within the game requiring a clan to work together with some often fairly complex tactics needed to get anywhere. It's a nice touch and an extremely interesting concept once you figure out the ins and outs of it all. Clans can also level up and form alliances enabling more features to be open to them, so the clan system on the whole is one of the more detailed systems I've seen in any MMO.
On the whole Lineage 2 is the type of game where you get back exactly what you put into it. It's not really geared towards casual players as it is not exactly welcoming. It's a slow and sometimes arduous task to reach level 80 but once achieved, it's a huge thing to accomplish. For a casual player I couldn't quite recommend it. They would be better off going to one of the more newbie-friendly MMOs such as World of Warcraft or Everquest 2 where they are guided gently into the realms of MMORPGs and are able to choose if they want to face PvP combat or not. However, if you are a hardened MMORPG player of days gone by, and you miss the days when a level up sound effect was really worth something and you want the camaraderie of requiring a group of people you have never met before in-game just to gain a bit of experience, then this might well be worth a punt. It manages to be strangely compelling yet equally punishing, not least of all because of some fairly weird bugs that can show up despite so many updates that should have fixed long ago. I wouldn't say that I was hooked on it but I can see why others may be, if you fancy a change from the more common MMOs, I'd probably recommend Eve: Online first but if you're adamant on a more medieval style setting, give this a try. Just don't expect to hit level 80 this year, at least not without a lot of missed sleep.