Lineage II: The Kamael First Impressions Review

by Cody "Micajah" Bye, Managing Editor

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outdated.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 style="font-style: italic;">Final Fantasy XI
still hold enough subscribers to pay for full time staffers, and they
even continue to win over new fans every day.

style="margin: 10px; border-collapse: collapse; float: right; width: 136px; height: 100px;"

title="Going Through the Tutorial"> src="/image/view/15916/preview"

style="font-style: italic;">Even though it's
close to four years old, fans still play style="font-style: italic;">Lineage II.

Although its hardly fair to consider style="font-style: italic;">Lineage II (L2) in
the same "old game" category as the previously mentioned games, the
title is far from a young product. In fact, L2 is going to be
celebrating its four year anniversary in just a few months, and like
the others games mentioned, age hasn't stopped style="font-style: italic;">Lineage II from
collecting a full contingent of die hard fans who are more than willing
to tell you exactly how they feel about the game. Truth be told,
it’s easy to be tempted to play L2. With its smooth graphics
and anime-inspired art style, the game quickly became one of the most
popular games released in 2004. Yet when many players tried the game
after its original release, they found a player base that had already
moved on to higher level content and an initial experience that was
anything but new player friendly.

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 style="font-style: italic;">City of Heroes - style="font-style: italic;">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.

style="margin: 10px; border-collapse: collapse; float: left; width: 136px; height: 100px;"

href="" title="On the Run"> src="/image/view/15914/preview"

style="font-style: italic;">Exploring the new
world in L2 has become much more straightforward for the new player.

After seeing a preview of the game in early autumn, I knew
that there wouldn't be a better opportunity for me to jump back into
the world and find some players to engage with. Although I haven't had
sufficient time to give the Kamael expansion a full-blown review, I
have had a fair amount of time to play through the first few levels of
the game and give a basic overview of the initial state of the new
areas. Expect a full-blow review of Lineage II in a few weeks, but read on if you don't want to miss the first few weeks of Kamael content!

The Basics

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
: 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.

style="margin: 10px; border-collapse: collapse; float: right; width: 136px; height: 100px;"

title="Moutain Werewolves"> src="/image/view/15915/preview"

style="font-style: italic;">Combat still runs
on the "auto-attack and wait" system.

Stepping outside of the beginning "safe zone," I was greeted with
hordes of new Kamael plowing through fields of starting monsters. It
was a fairly impressive sight to behold; due to style="font-style: italic;">Lineage II's focus
on killing monsters rather than completing quests, the developers
obviously made sure the areas around the new player starting gates were
overflowing with creatures to kill. Hundreds of Grey Kerrits (coyotes)
and Elpys (rabbits) were loping across the landscape, and characters
were wading through them with their swords swinging. It may have looked
a bit unreal, but the developers obviously had the players in mind when
they plopped all those creatures in place.

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

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

Better Does Not Equal

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 style="font-style: italic;">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.

style="margin: 10px; border-collapse: collapse; float: left; width: 136px; height: 100px;"

title="Die Muestos!"> src="/image/view/15917/preview"

style="font-style: italic;">The developers have
thoroughly improved the new player experience in the Kamael expansion,
but the game is still considered "hard" to many people.

All in all, there was only one occasion where I felt like the initial
stages of the game had led me astray. When I hit level five with my
initial character, my tutorial helper popped up an informed me that I
could now purchase skills from the "Masters" in the Kamael Village.
Making my way there, I followed the arrow above my head to the Masters,
but I accidentally skipped by them and found a quest NPC instead.
Curious, I clicked on the quest, which inevitably gave me a "Scroll of
Recall to [Blank] City". If you're a new player, do NOT use this
scroll. I became so unbearably lost that I just restarted my character
and began all over again. Thankfully, I was only level five at the
time, so it wasn't a particularly bad loss.  

Final Thoughts

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 style="font-style: italic;"> 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 style="font-style: italic;">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
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.

Does the new player race
in Lineage II
intrigue you? Have you played through the new Kamael areas? href="">Let
us know on the forums!

Ten Ton Hammer is your unofficial source for style="font-style: italic;"> Lineage II href="">news
and articles!

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