I have the weirdest love-hate relationship with MMORPGs. It is always the same thing. Everything feels perfect, exciting at the start. Sure there are a few annoyances here and there but there are so many things to do!
Then the annoyances start to pile up, the new shiny game effect starts to wear off and the hatred starts to sink in. Why am I still playing this game? Why am I wasting time and money on something so unfun when those both could be spent on better single player games or other more fulfilling hobbies?
Some time off from the game or event makes me starting to appreciate the game again, the hatred starts to fade and it is back to business as usual. This is a cycle that keeps repeating itself with a game many times until I am so worn out of this that it is time to actually quit.
Of all the MMORPGs I played so far the one I got the most extreme version of these feelings was certainly Lineage 2. Without going on a rant about everything that was wrong while I played it, I will just say it was the game where I experienced first-hand the worst parts of MMORPGs. By that I mean rampant botting and scamming, bullies PKing people who couldn't defend themselves, illegal RMT basically destroying a game economy and some of the most illogical, idiotic, game mechanics that would make sense only in the twisted mind of some crazy game developer.
Keep in mind this was years ago, in a different time altogether. To give some perspective this was when "The Burning Crusade" was still the latest expansion for World of Warcraft, any Aion information you could get would be in fan sites who would translate stuff from korean sources and before the Kamael race was introduce to Lineage 2. As any MMORPG goes, it changed vastly since then.
Still, you might be asking. If the game was that horrible back then why did I keep playing it? Well, there were a few reasons. First I still find that it has some interesting mechanic concepts. Mainly in terms of classes as each race has their own unique classes that fit with the race's lore. For instance, Dark Elf classes are all geared towards offense/dark arts, Light Elf classes goes more for defense/light magic, Orc classes more towards physical prowess/mysticism, Dwarven classes being the only ones who could craft anything/better at resource gathering and of course humans having the usual jack-off all trades/middle of the road classes that due to that end up ruling the world.
It is as pretty cool concept though nowadays I am not sure it works so well for a MMORPG. It is already hard enough to balance a MMORPG with the traditional holy trinity of tank/damage dealer/healer. Making some of those classes biased towards certain things based on their race makes it even more trickier. For a single player game it might actually be something fun for the player that adds replay value.
There is also the fact that the game was top of the line in terms of MMORPG graphics back then. It still looks pretty good considering all the time since its release.
Lastly, but not least important, I was lucky to get into a clan with a bunch of good people. The kind of people that would stick with you no matter how tough things were, always willing to help out in any way they could. In a game as brutal as Lineage 2 was back then, this was a blessing.
These factors often made me nostalgic about the game from time to time. Occasionally I would even take their offer to check the game again when they offered some game play days for former subscribers. For the most part though I was pretty much done with the game. The bad parts had scarred me for life. So much that even when the game converted to a free to play model I still ignored it.
For some reason though I decided to give it another look now. I don't know exactly why. My best guess would be the latest "Choose My Adventure" series at Massively that covered Lineage 2. In a way it felt like the guy was talking about a completely different game. Another reason is probably because I seem to be in the mood to try new game experiences since I am downloading DC Universe Online right now, a game I pretty much ignored so far. Yes, I already played Lineage 2 so it doesn't count as exactly new but so many things changed since I quit the game that it can just count as that. It is also has enough of its own unique stuff to set it apart from all the World of Warcraft clones that has been plaguing the MMORPG landscape for some years now. So that is another plus on Lineage 2's favor.
With all that said, is Lineage 2 worth playing now that it is free to play? Or should people just run away for their lives? Honestly, I can't give an in-depth analysis of the game right now. I wasn't able to play much so far and due to certain circumstances (which I will be getting at by the end of the post) it will take me another week before I can give a more informed opinion. By then I might even not bother with the game again. So just consider this a first impression of Lineage 2 post free-to-play conversion. If I keep playing the game and find some interesting stuff to talk about I might make further posts. For now this will be the only one about it.
Another caveat is that this is all from the point of view of a carebear player, i.e. someone who avoids PvP like the plague. For those who enjoy PvP, specially open PvP in the style of Lineage 2 then I am sorry but there isn't anything I can tell about that side of the game.
One of the things Lineage 2 has been touting about is that it is true free to play. What that means? Well, it means exactly what it sounds like. It is free to play, no subscription options at all, nor a need to buy for the game box or anything else to access certain content. All the classes, races, zones, gear and character slots that existed before the conversion are still available just like always. With the exception of fluffy gear it is unlike that any of that will change in the future either.
Of course, it doesn't mean they aren't trying to make money in some way. But they haven't changed the game to force people to spend their money on the cash shop either. Any obnoxious design the game still has are left-overs from the time where the game was far more brutal. What their cash shop offers is mostly the usual optional stuff. More inventory space, vitality potions, buff drinks, rented mounts, fluffy gear, etc. Yes, there are some gear who do give bonuses to the user, but they have restrictions on how long you can use it at a time plus they only last for 7 days. And to be honest the only case where I think people might feel "forced" to buy those would be in the case of PvP, due to its hyper-competitive nature. Even then it seems unlike given their use restrictions.
As for PvE the game is so much easier now compared to how brutal it used to be that it is also pretty unlikely. Perhaps some vitality potions at the later levels as the XP starts to slow down and the grind starts to feel painful. Again, conjecture as none of my characters are at that stage yet. Even that grind from what I hear is nothing compared to the old days of Lineage 2 from everything I hear.
So, yeah, their cash shop isn't some apocalyptic tool that completely destroys the game or some thinly disguise attempt to scam players of their money. It is not entirely perfect though. There are some ridiculous things like completely fluffy hats that you can rent for 7 days. I am all for making characters in a game cool. But really? Renting a virtual, appearance item, for 7 days? Even the permanent options of the fluffy gear, that you can find in the in-game store, they are limiting the sales. Once they are all "sold out" they won't be available anymore to buy from what I understand. At least they are letting people know how much of the item are still "left" for sale.
Another thing that boggles my mind is their Path of Awakening. This is pretty much a promotional thing that boils down to receiving a gift package as you reach certain level milestones. This isn't something new in free-to-play games, in fact it is pretty much standard practice. What I can't understand in this case is that to claim such gifts you have to log in the Lineage 2 site, go to the Path of Awakening page, select the server and character and then select the eligible gifts you want to claim. Then you go back to the game and find a specific NPC to get the gift box. It just seems needlessly complicated when the usual in other games is to just to automatically add the gift box to the character's inventory as they reach the level mark. I suppose it might be a technical limitation since if your inventory is full at the time you might end up losing the gift box. So they went with what seemed the least klunky way to deal with the situation. I will give them credit though that there is at least a neat map in the Path of Awakening page showing which places are recommended to you for leveling as you progress through the game.
There was also a content revamp of the whole game plus some additions. To begin with, all races now starting on Talking Island, which used to be the starting village for humans. There is a story reason for that as all the other racial villages have been pretty much destroyed as Shillen, the Goddess of Destruction, released a deadly fog over it . So they moved to Talking Island. You can still visit the old racial villages but they are now all empty of NPCs and have a creepy fog all over the place.
Now this is one of the biggest changes to the game. It is trying to be more story based. Before someone shouts "It is all because of Star Wars the Old Republic!", well, I don't think so. For starters, it is not nearly as story heavy as Star Wars the Old Republic. The way they do it reminds me more of how it looks like Aion does it. I can't say for certain because I never played Aion but I am getting the same vibe from the way they handle things as the way the story parts were shown in the Aion video previews back in the day. Plus since Aion is also developed by NCSoft, it is one of the developers most successful games, it would be natural to ape things from it.
How it works is basically this. At whatever point they thought was important they will give you an in-game cutscene. Then between cutscenes you follow along the quest lines that will flimsy explain what is going on. Before the closest to story you had was some story added to the site and some NPCs in-game to explain whatever new features were added to the game. There weren't a series of quests linking everything from the start of character creation to the level cap. In fact quests before were for the most part ignored as the rewards you would get for the effort were just abysmal. It was just easier to get XP and money by just finding a good spot to kill mobs and then doing it over and over until the gains just started to diminish.
One the most popular areas back then used to be the catacombs which were a sort of special open dungeon. The mobs there dropped some special coins that could then be traded with a certain merchant for some good stuff. It also helped that their were neatly divided into small rooms. So groups could easily grab all the mobs in one room (some times more) and kill them all. It was a very optimal way to get XP and loot. It also kinda of established that room as a group's "territory" as they would just camp the spot waiting for the mobs they just killed to respawn.
With the focus on story now the catacombs are gone. There is a story reason for that too that you can find in-game. The important thing is that now it seems to just be more efficient to follow the quest lines for XP. I might be wrong about it though as I just scratched the surface of the game's change. But it is definitely faster than before to level through quests. The rewards from questing aren't too shabby either.
Just how efficient it is? Well, my new character did about a dozen quests then before I knew it I was level 18 and eligible for my first class transfer quest. Along the way I got as reward some decent weapons, armor and jewelry. Also more healing potion, soul shots and spirit shots than I would ever know what to do with. By the end of my first class transfer quest I received a token thing called Proof of Courage that allowed me to buy some pretty decent D grade gear of my choice plus some D-grade soul shots.
Oh, the first class transfer quest is also tied to the on-going story. Unlike before where you just did some quest related to the class you were changing to. My guess is that the other class change quests will also be linked to the on-going storyline. I will probably write about it if I keep playing until then.
For those who never played Lineage 2 perhaps it is better to explain what I just said. Lineage 2 is one of those games that you start as a basic class. Then as at certain level points you can then do a quest to change to a more specialized class. For example, a human can start either as a fighter or a mystic. If they start as a fighter, then they can later choose to become a knight, which is a tankish class, or a rogue, which is a DPS class that can use either dagger or bow. If they choose to be a rogue they can then later decide to change their class to Treasure Hunter, a dagger-wielding DPS class, or a Hawkeye, an archer-type DPS class. This specialization works the same way for all other classes.
As for gear, the different tiers of gear are ranked in terms of letter grades. You start with No-Grade gear. Then after your first class transfer you can start using effectively D-Grade Gear. Then on level 40, after your second class transfer, it is C grade gear and so on and so forth, with each grade being obviously better than the previous one. Granted you can use a higher grade gear if you want to. But then you get a massive debuff for using gear from a grade you don't have the skill for.
Same thing for items that aren't typical for your class. A mage could use heavy armor for instance but he wouldn't be casting very fast....
Now let's see... What other changes there are worth mentioning... Using the Gatekeepers teleporting services are free now, so there isn't that money sink anymore. Skills aren't learned through a NPC anymore either. Now there is a new tab in the skill window where you can just spend your skill points in any skill you seem fit. You can also see at which levels you will get your new skills too. I don't know if mages/healers still need to buy/get to drop their spell books anymore or if you can just spend the skill points for it like the other classes.
There is also an auction house now that works pretty much like every the auction house in most MMORPGs. You can still have your character sitting in a town selling your stuff if you wish to. That has the advantage of avoiding paying any auction house fees. The drawback is that only people in the area will be able to buy from you unlike the auction house where people can buy it from anywhere there is an auction house NPC.
You can also ask the Newbie Helper to add a buff that makes you non-attackable to Chaotic (read: PKers) players with a 10 level difference from you. You can ask tha buff until level 39, before you complete your second class transfer. The old, usual buffs, are still around.
I think those are the major changes I got to see/experience by myself. There is a lot of other stuff that changed that I am not sure are stuff that were added after I left but before it became free-to-play or if it was after. There is just a lot for me to digest right now. So for those interested in checking the rest of the changes, I will just suggest to visit the Lineage 2 official site.
Now back in the beginning of this post I wouldn't be able to test the waters of the game further until another week has passed. Here is why. When I first logged in, on the server listing screen there was no server showing up how many characters I had in any of them. I just assumed they just deleted my old characters. It wouldn't surprise me as it has been years since I last played and the servers they were on have been long gone too. Overall I wasn't too upset about it. I was never able to get any of my characters even close to high level. My highest character being level 56. That was when the game level cap was already 80. At that period reaching that level cap seemed nothing but like a dream. Even my clan mates who were more dedicated and overall better at the game weren't able to reach that. Nowadays it looks to be actually possible.
Anyway, I was also dirty poor. I will be the first to say that I suck at making money in MMORPGs. It is just something I am never too worried about until I actually need it. In Lineage 2 this was even worse because if you weren't actively trying to making money, chances are you just wouldn't be able to buy the gear you needed to progress. Things would just stop to a halt until you could afford the new gear. And each new grade was way more expensive than the previous one. It got to such a point I was just using borrowed gear that clan mates offered to me. All gear that I gave back before leaving the game. So again, not a big loss in that area.
The only things that really annoyed me were more for sentimental reasons and that my dwarf had some hard to get recipes. I just don't know how much the game has changed that if I made a new dwarf how easy it would be to get the new recipes.
In any case it looked like the characters were gone from good so I might as well start a new character from scratch, experience everything from the beginning, try to be more careful as I progressed through the game, etc. I did that, played until about level 24 with the new character. However the lag was so unbearable, all the time, that I decided to check the other servers to see if it was a server specific issue. As you might have guessed, I end up founding my old characters that way. I have no idea why they weren't listed during the server selection screen when I first logged in. But once I got in-game with one of the old characters they were listed normally in the server selection.
Now here is the thing. Before I left I dabbled a bit in another server, an unofficial roleplaying server, to see if roleplaying could compensate for the rest of the game's boring parts. That didn't work out and I never got any character very far either. The problem is that considering the economic situation of my old characters it might just better to start a new character on the same server. Once I get far enough with that character to have enough of a grasp on the how the game works, I can start thinking on how to raise money to gear up the rest of the crew. Unfortunately due to all the mergers that happened between the time I left and the game went free to play, all my characters now on the same server, taking up all the character slots available. I already decided to delete some of them as I have no reason to play them anymore. But on Lineage 2 characters are deleted only after 7 days. This is a measure that in case you regret your decision you can cancel it.
So before I can create my new character, on the server of my choice, I need to wait 7 days for those characters to be deleted. Until then I guess I will just try to consolidate what little resources I have and do some reading on how the game works now. Depending on my mood in a week for now I might just not bother playing Lineage 2 again. After all, the scars from my bad times with it are still there to remind me of all the bad experiences I had with it.