Several months after its initial release, apart from being a good deal more attractive on the eye, the word on the street is that EverQuest II offers much the same sort of experience as the original game. Whatever the truth in these often-misinformed summations (I've barely played it myself), this may not be a bad thing. However, having played Lineage II, I can categorically state that apart from being a good deal more attractive, Lineage II probably has more of the original EverQuest about it than the official sequel, and not in a good way either.
Much like every fantasy online role-playing game that's ever existed, Lineage II offers up the usual mix of fantasy mannequins (humans, dwarves, orcs and elves), on which you must hang a soul and strive to make a name for yourself in a vast world populated by like-minded others. As befits the genre, the means without end requires you to earn coin and experience points until you can take no more and cancel your subscription, hopefully before which time you'll have met other like-minded individuals and forged a friendship that the developer hopes will stave off the inevitable.
If this sounds rather negative, then that was my intention. This is because Lineage II has clearly been designed to appeal to the hardcore online role-player, the 'power gamer' if you will, and being a rather sedate fellow who likes to amble through life (whether online or off), I find the whole process rather dull and transparent. I've been here before and should I wish to do it again, I'd rather return to old haunts. Even if Lineage was my first MMO, I'd much rather cut my teeth elsewhere.
Do The Grind
The problem with Lineage II is that it takes the process of grinding your way through the levels beyond what any reasonable human can take. Killing rodents, wolves, goblins and hybrids thereof is all very well, but at least make it interesting. I mean, clicking on an AI monster and then simply watching a series of blows play themselves out is not what I call exciting gameplay. To do this for two solid weeks in the hope of picking up some coin or special item along the way until some online guild will even look at you is just an exercise in tedium, the like of which I've rarely experienced before.
To make matters worse, loot drops are rare and the cost of equipment is way too expensive. After ten hours of incessant wolf-twatting, I was still mincing around in my n00b threads swinging the same piece of bulbous wood I was issued
with at the start. I tried alleviating the drudgery by trying to converse with those around me, but sadly half of them were incommunicado (afk, running bots and 'farming'). And of those who did respond to my hails, many would rather commit assault than commit to helping me. Not that I'm against unfettered PvP, but for the high-level player-killers, the rewards for unprovoked assault far outweigh the costs. Mind you, after reaching level 40, I'm not surprised half the player-base are mildly psychotic.
Graphically, Lineage II is an impressive game. The characters and animation are fluid and detailed, more so as you sheepishly move away from the villages haunted by the inexperienced to meet the more exclusive creatures that inhabit the rural locales. Weapon and spell effects are colourful and the landscape, though perhaps lacking in the kind of detail one might expect from Unreal technology, is vast and varied - certainly bigger than any MMO real estate I've seen. If you like exploring, Lineage II has many places worth visiting.
As Good As It Gets
Of course, much like any online game, Lineage II is only as good as the people that play it - and should you cross paths with an honourable troupe of mystics and warriors, you're sure to have the time of your life. Large guild structures are actively encouraged to the point where the game's latter rewards rotate solely around clan warfare with regular castle sieges, gifting the victor with the ability to set their own fiscal agenda. These battles, often featuring hundreds of players, clearly have appeal. However, the fact is that after witnessing a couple of them, I'd much rather load up UT2004 and play an Assault map - the objectives are essentially the same, at least some skill is required and you don't have to spend days of your life killing furry mammals to earn the right to take part.