Having just celebrated its second year anniversary, NCSoft's Lineage 2 has come a long way since the game's launch. With three massive updates since release, the game has more than doubled in size, with dozens of new dungeons and hunting areas, a half dozen new towns, several massive changes to the progression system, a fully redone tutorial, and much much more. All in all, Lineage 2 is a different game than it was at release, with a friendlier environment at the start and much, much more to do in the higher levels.
The graphics of Lineage 2 can only be described as gorgeous. Despite being two years old, there are few other MMOs that can stand up to Lineage 2's quality. The game's only graphical weakness is the lack of diversity, which I will touch on later.
The art style is stunning and unique, with an expectably Asian flavor - characters and NPCs look like they could have stepped right out of a manga and into the world of Lineage 2. Landscapes are equally impressive, with a large amount of variance between regions. The Dark Elven region is swampy and dark, and the city is encased in stone. The Elven starting area, on the other hand, is bright and clean, with sparkling lakes and rivers. Even the trees and terrain changes as you travel the world; the south has more deciduous trees and rolling hills, while the northern areas have towering evergreens and sheer cliffs. Some areas are simply breathtaking, such as Cruma Tower or the Fairy Valley.
Lineage 2's animations are just as impressive as the graphics. While the animation quality in general is smooth and flowing, the real deal-sealer is the level of convincing detail. Long hair will stream behind your character while running, or flutter in the wind while standing still. Cloth robes moves with the body, and rotating the camera will create a shimmer over metallic armor. Enchanted weapons will pulse with glowing blue or red light. New to the game with Chronicle 4, watching your character's face you can see the eyes blink.
As said before, the only downside to the game's graphics is the lack of diversity. Players only have a few choices of hair and face styles, and there is absolutely no customization from the neck down. NPCs are often re-skinned or re-sized and used in several locations. This weakness is somewhat necessary, though, to prevent lag when players gather en masse for sieges or raids.
While I'm usually not the type to leave in-game music on, Lineage 2 has done a wonderful job with the in-game score. Music is not constant - it kicks in at key moments such as when your character enters a new area, and then fades away when finished. This is an extremely important feature in my opinion; when one plays a game for a large amount of time, it is very easy to tire of the same repeating score. Lineage 2 does a wonderful job by varying the music and limiting the time it is on.
Sound effects for battle and spells are well done and match actions very well, though are nothing overly special or spectacular. One new and extremely helpful addition with Chronicle 4, though, is the complete voiceover of tutorials, helping newer players get acclimated to the game.
There are several barriers against roleplaying in Lineage 2. The first one you run into is at the character customization screen: with extremely limited face, hair, and hairstyle choices, most characters are absolutely identical. There have been a few small steps toward fixing this, such as the addition of new hair colors/styles and various cosmetic items in the game such as eye patches, monocles, hair barrettes, and party masks.
The Lineage 2 grind also hinders roleplayability. Quests are rare in Lineage 2, and while many of them are repeatable, there is very little story fed to you during gameplay. Players can find some backstory by speaking to NPCs or reading flavor text on the website, but it has very little effect on gameplay and seems to be a last minute addition to updates instead of the center of attention.
Lastly, the largest bar against roleplay in Lineage 2 is the community itself. The game naturally attracts griefers, PvPers, and hardcore gamers, and the roleplayers who do make it to Aden receive an unfriendly and often taunting welcome. There is, however, an active roleplay community in Lineage 2 - click here (http://www.l2rpa.org/ ) for their website.
NCSoft does a wonderful job of continuing to provide new content to keep their games interesting. As said before, the three Chronicles added since the game launched, Lineage 2 has more than doubled in size - Chronicle 4 alone almost achieves that, with 800 megs of content added.
At the same time, there is no denying that Lineage 2 is not for everyone. NCSoft advertises the game as a hardcore game which requires a lot of effort and skill, and this is no joke. There is no hitting max level in a month - the grind in Lineage 2 is tougher than most MMOs out there, and you will put in hundreds of hours in the same hunting location before you reap reward.
Lineage 2 is not an easy game. Lineage 2 requires players to earn the fun. This can be considered a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your personality; would you rather earn constant little rewards or infrequent large ones?
The difficulty of the game makes for a lot of boring moments. You are pretty much required to spend many, many hours in the same room of the same dungeon killing the same type of monsters for experience, skill points, and money. This constant boredom is sometimes interrupted by frustration or anger as griefers attempt to PK (player kill) you or train a large group of monsters onto your party, and suddenly three hours of experience is taken away in a death penalty. Yet playing smart (and being lucky) will earn you pride as you buy that new expensive item or finally gain that level that took forever.