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Page 1 of 2If you haven't yet experienced the ass-numbing addiction of the Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game genre, it's a good time to start shopping around for one. After a couple of years of learning what players want, expect, and will put up with for $15 a month, several of the companies who originated the online gaming craze are ready to unveil the next generation of MMORPGs. Everquest 2, World of Warcraft, and Ultima X: Odyssey are all expected to be released later this year, each hoping to draw its share of brand-loyal gamers. Before they get their shot, though, resident world-wide sales king NCSoft will play its hand with Lineage II: The Chaotic Chronicle, which is scheduled to go retail next Wednesday, May 28th.
Lineage II is, of course, the sequel to NCSoft's Lineage: the Blood Pledge, which at one point claimed the most subscribers of any MMORPG with over a million. Despite this lofty achievement, Lineage received a lack-luster reception in the United States, where players prefered the better graphics and variety of role-playing experiences found in Everquest. This time around, NCSoft has attempted to recitfy the situation by using a version of the Unreal engine and offer a wider range of characters to play.
I've played the open beta version of Lineage II for the past few weeks and I'm ready to let you know what you can expect should you decide to spend some time hunting monsters in the world of Aden. Of course, it should be noted that my experience has been with the beta version, so anything that I gripe about may be changed once the retail game ships and NCSoft gets a chance to see what the paying customers want.
I can tell you that the game looks great. It's not as cartoony as the shots I've seen of World of Warcraft, though some of the characters have an anime vibe about them. The female dwarfs, especially, look like extras from a Sailor Moon adventure, running around with short skirts and red ponytails. The human males, on the other hand, look like boy-band members and the range of character customization only lets you take their hair from very light brown to Billy Idol blond. The monsters look very ferocious, though, and the landscapes are so good that you may while away any downtime from resting by admiring the beauty of of your surroundings, especially if you have a high-end rig.
I don't have one, so I found that I had to turn all the graphical bells and whistles off to avoid lag. Much of the lag came was due to overcrowding issues with the server I was playing on, though, and those issues should be dealt with when the game goes retail. Other than lag and problems with getting onto the servers (also related to overcrowding), I really didn't find any technical issues that inhibited gameplay. Many veteran MMOG gamers spoke out on the forums indicating that Lineage II was one of the most stable games they'd played, even in the beta test phase, an I tend to agree with their assessment.
After all, gameplay is the most important factor in deciding whether to continue paying for a game month after month and few things disrupt your gameplay more than stability issues. And Lineage II definitely has some addictive gameplay, although it's pretty traditional. Translation: if you've never played an MMORPG, you'll quickly find out why they are popular, but if you are a veteran, you may become bored before you get to the good stuff.
Lower level characters are subjected to the level grind found in most MMORPGs and will spend hour upon hour of hunting monsters to build up enough experience to level up and enough gold to get better weapons and armor. The combat system keeps things from dragging to an extent. You still pretty much fight enemies on auto-pilot unless you are a mage, but fighters do get some special attacks that can add a bit of finesse to your melee strategy. Using Power Strike, for instance, is most effective when used as a killing blow and rewards your character with more experience points than normal.
Getting to level 10 or so is exciting as your goals are fairly quickly attainable. Getting to level 20, though, can become tedious if you aren't hunting in a group. NCSoft is pretty squarely pinning its success on the relationships it expects players to form with one another within the game. Many of the changes that are expected to come with the retail version encourage players to group up when hunting and form clans when they're ready to start fighting other players. Want to fly around on a dragon like you've seen in screenshots? Not only will you have to take the time to raise one, you'll also have to form a clan and lead it to victory in a castle siege.
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