Lineage 2: The Chaotic Throne – The Kamael PC Review

Welcome to Lineage II: The Chaotic Throne, the prequel to the successful and popular MMORPG Lineage, and latest update in the series. Another jaunt into a medieval fantasy world filled with swords, spells, orcs, elves and stuff.

Chaotic Throne‘s latest update, The Kamael, boasts a whole plethora of added extras to the already established gaming world. New skills for mid-level characters, slightly less skills for high-level characters, and newly-added quests for all. Perhaps the most interesting feature, though, is the recent introduction of the Kamael themselves. A new playable race, they’re essentially soul-sucking vampire wannabes, with a penchant for the Final Fantasy design style. They also get a brand-spanking new island all of their own, allowing newbies of any race to teleport in, and take part in the new content.

Unfortunately, animal reproduction on this new island seems to be out of control (something in the water, I guess), and you’re left facing off against five times the amount of enemies seen in the other starter areas. This seems to have been put in place to ensure that there would always be enough prey to go around, even during the busy period just after an update, when every man and his starved-for-attention kids scramble to sample the new content. As it stands, the whole area smacks of a bad restaurant renovation, and a manager over-preparing for customers who never came. But you commend him for the effort… and eat your spaghetti.

So, for a while you’re all too happy to wade through the dogs, wolves and… baby dogs and baby wolves, as their family members stand around, eagerly waiting for their chance to become a percentage in your progress bar. Slowly you move onto tougher game; werewolves, goblins and, um, foghorn leghorns. It’s at this point that the overly-dense population you justified to yourself 30 minutes ago comes back to haunt you – densely-packed groups of enemies mean every attack on one of them leads to several of his chums chasing you down. You lack the skills or items to contend with that many enemies at these levels, so you run.

Run… eat your spaghetti.

At this point you’re probably saying to yourself, “well yeah, that’s standard MMORPG procedure – being weak is what makes you pick your fights, know your skills, plan your inventory and essentially learn the game”. Usually I’d be inclined to agree with you, but it’s the overall lack of interest in new players that astonishes me with this game. Most games of a similar nature know that the customer is what’s most important. They bombard you in the early levels with choices, skills and quests all to get you excited about the world that lies before you, and to get you hooked. Lineage II greeted me with “go away until you’re level eight!”, “go and collect 40 wolf pelts!”, and the final mission to be recognised as a ‘True Warrior’, involved me running between two non-player characters six times. The true horror of that statement can’t be understood until you have sampled Lineage‘s click-heavy interface – click to move, click to attack, click to look around, click to activate skills, and so on. No doubt implemented to keep effort of play to a minimum, making it less physically jarring on the dedicated player, who’ll have to spend entire days of playtime to make it to the high levels.

Collect 40 wolf pelts… eat your spaghetti.

Ten hours into my own experience I realise that I’m fighting to level up, and I’m levelling up to be better at fighting. An entirely pointless circle that assured that the only thing I was actually killing successfully, was my own free time. I was making the proud claim that some numbers had gone up slightly, on a planet somewhere. And I had done nothing for 10 hours but RUN *click* – FIGHT *click* – LEVEL *click* – SELL *click* – REPEAT.

Although I guess if nothing else I have to praise this game’s honesty. Not to suggest that the decision is intentional or profound, but everything else on the MMO market hides behind smoke and mirrors, suggesting that they’re anything other than mindless grindathons, and that they’ll fulfill all your needs for action and friendship. At least this game delivers in the beginning what it will deliver throughout, and you’ll know within the first few hours whether you’ll want to stick with it.

This isn’t to say there aren’t some nice features – a narrator will inform you of all you need to know at the start of the game. He even at one point informed me to “Kill kill kill the gremlins”, which is the kind of up-beat character I need to keep my spirits up in these dark days. MSN Messenger is a built-in feature of the game, although it does take note of everything you or your contacts say, and stores it on the NCsoft servers. Which makes you feel like you’re planning stuff for Al Qaeda. Especially if you actually are.

Reliability of the software itself is fine – being able to tab out of it may seem like a pointless luxury, but you’ll miss it if you have to play an MMORPG that doesn’t make it easy. Especially with how time-intensive these games are, you’ll definitely need other things to occupy your mind, be it your own music playing in the background or surfing the ‘net while your character rests.

You are Al Qaeda… eat your spaghetti.

MMORPGs in general are a strange beast; it’s impossible to approve or disapprove of something that requires so much of your own personal input. Although Lineage II itself seems to favour high-level characters, leaving low-levels in the dust, struggling to be where the supposed fun is (fortress raids, clan matches, inter-server PvP, and so on). Skills themselves are bought using ‘skill points’ you get from every kill. So, PvP victories become less a case of player strategy, and more a case of who has been out spam-killing the most – made extra-easy by players programming their characters to hunt while they’re away.

It’s by no means a bad MMORPG – it delivers varied enemies and landscapes and all, but it just seems dated and clumsy in places. But with constant updates, these are issues that could be ironed out in time. It’s certainly the type of game years ago I would have loved to play, or would be the perfect way to kill four bored hours before you go out and do something. Or, if you’re like me, kill ten hours and not go out at all.

If you’ve played Lineage or Lineage II, enjoyed them and know what you’re in for, then there is more fun to be had here. If you have a mid-/high-level character and are searching for a reason to go back, then now is the time. But if you are new to MMORPGs and you are wondering where to spend your money, you can do a lot better anywhere else.

Despite my own personal dislike for World of Warcraft, I can’t help but recommend it over Lineage II. For the most part it works either as a co-operative or solo experience, it’s dripping in content if you’re willing to let it soak up your life, and it’s got enough funding and a big enough following to keep it going for years to come. You can take from it what you want, because it’s got a little of everything.

If, on the other hand, you’re sick to death of medieval/fantasy MMOs, City of Heroes (also from NCSoft) might tickle your fancy. Its comic book style will give you a superheroic facefull of fun that no other MMO comes close to matching. The character customisation, the huge fights, the fun superpowers, the arch villains… and did I mention the fights? Although it’s repetitive and shallow in areas, experience-grinding fights are a big part of every MMO, so why not play the game that does it best – or at least, much better than Lineage II?

6 out of 10
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