Lineage II: The Kamael First Impressions Review
Massively multiplayer online games are something of an oddity in the video game marketplace. Unlike their single player brethren, an MMOG persist through the years, often keeping a large contingent of fans even while the game continues to age and the graphics grow continually outdated. Although the popularity of the game may wane, it's fairly common for developers to continue to produce content for the title and tweak any nagging performance issues that existed within the original client. Games like EverQuest, Dark Age of Camelot, Anarchy Online, and Final Fantasy XI still hold enough subscribers to pay for full time staffers, and they even continue to win over new fans every day.
Even though it's close to four years old, fans still play Lineage II.
Upon entering the game, new players were forced to navigate through cities without proper directions and hints on where to go next were few and far between. Unlike some of the games that were released around the same time - EverQuest II, World of Warcraft, and City of Heroes - Lineage II was more of a throwback to the play of older games, where figuring out the game was part of the challenge. Modern gamers, however, did not take kindly to being thrown into a world with little or no direction.
Over the years, NCsoft has attempted to alleviate this issue, by implementing small and subtle improvements, but nothing really brought players back into the new player starting areas other than a desire to make an alternate character. However, the developers at NCsoft understood this issue and seriously considered that fact when they were developing their latest expansion for L2, The Kamael.
Exploring the new world in L2 has become much more straightforward for the new player.
In this expansion - the largest of NCsoft's additions to the game - the players have received a brand new race with to tinker with and a newly discovered land to explore. Also named the Kamael, this new race begins their adventures on the Isle of Souls, a grim and desolate place that was thought lost for hundreds (if not thousands) of years. Originally created by the Giants, the Kamael are a war-like people that originally participated in nothing but bloodshed. Now that they've reentered the world, the Kamael have taken a lighter tone in regards to the other races and generally get along fine with the different species of playable characters.
Old and new players alike have access to this new race and most are desperately attempting to advance these characters as quickly as they can. As I jumped into the world, I immediately noticed something I hadn't experienced before in Lineage II: a tutorial screen. It was certainly a welcome sight as my skills with the click-movement style of L2 had gotten rusty since the last time I had played the game. By following the tutorial and a few of the introductory quests that were presented to me, I learned that the developers had introduced several new enhancements to the new player experience (NPE).
Along with a general hastening of the initial levels, the devs have also included a new "Soulshot" power in the new player’s arsenal that greatly increases the amount of damage that a beginning player deals to an enemy. By activating this power (which has a limited number of "shots"), new players can tear through beginning mobs that once would have swiftly taken them down. Other new features include random "health pots" that increase your hit points, power, mana, attack speed, or critical hit frequency. As a side note, I personally thought the health pots were particularly useful, as every time I was getting close to dying, I would kill a monster that would spawn an HP pot and therefore get my hit points up to a bearable level.
Combat still runs on the "auto-attack and wait" system.
For those of you that haven't played Lineage II in the past, the game's combat system is very similar to that of common MMOGs: Hit a button and your character will auto-attack until the creature is dead. You can use different skills to attack the creature, but Lineage II initially relies almost solely on auto-attack especially if you're a non-magic character.
Along with the general enhancements, the developers have also realized that rampant griefing and player killing is not acceptable to the very bottom tier of their player base. Players at the lowest levels are the most likely to give up on the game if they're not having a good time, and the developers have taken this into account. Now, instead of getting accosted upon stepping out of the "newbie zone," players will still have a number of levels of freedom before they're tossed to the sharks.
Better Does Not Equal Easier
But it's important to point out that while these particular improvements to the new player experience have made the beginning parts of the game more enjoyable, it doesn't mean that Lineage II has gotten any easier. On the contrary, L2 is still a game that requires a player to be totally aware of every aspect of the gameplay. Although the initial tutorial quests have been added into the game, a player must actually read through the tutorial and quest text to understand what needs to occur. Thankfully, even this aspect has been eased onto the players rather than forced upon them. A new player helper stands at the entrance to the Kamael starting grounds and helps players by pointing out quest NPCs, good areas to hunt, and so on. It's not a sure-fire way to understand where you need to go, but it is helpful if you get totally befuddle on what comes next.
The developers have thoroughly improved the new player experience in the Kamael expansion, but the game is still considered "hard" to many people.
At the end of my initial play session - a two hour long stint - I had reached a very comfortable level eight and was just beginning to encounter some more challenging monsters. As is typical for MMOGs, it takes a few levels before the monsters actually begin to actively take notice of you as you're wandering around. It's going to be an interesting progression, and I will hopefully encounter a few more talkative members of the community before I finish up my play session with Lineage II's Kamael expansion.
Many of the technical elements of Lineage II remain unchanged with the update; old players won't notice any particularly noticable general upgrades to the sound or the graphics engine. However, many of the new environments look to be quite impressive in scope, especially those that might eventually draw a larger crowd of higher level characters. Generally, it's fairly evident that the developers focused most of their time any energy on the new content, rather than dealing with fortfying the graphics or upgrading the sound.
To me, the improvements that the developers have made to Lineage II are quite remarkable from what I remember experiencing in my early beta days. Although the leveling treadmill still exists - it is considered a "hard" game after all - the initial incline has been lessened and new players are now eased into the game rather than simply being pushed into the deep end of the swimming pool. However, those of you that simply didn't enjoy Lineage II may not find many new elements that catch your fancy. Combat hasn't changed and the "grind factor" still remains. The graphics and sound are still very similar to what you would have seen years ago. Many components of the Lineage II equation simply weren't modified.
But for new players to the game and those old players who simply got lost at every opportunity, the improvements to the game have been specifically directed at you and it shows. From the beginning, the game leads you on a particular path, although it still allows for some degree of exploration, combining the quest driven advancement of WoW with its own tendency to focus on monster killing. By being careful, you can truly enjoy the beginning of Lineage II.
If you've been itching to give Lineage II a try, there's no better time than now. Download it now, fire up a new character, and head to the Isle of Souls. I'll see you there.
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