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‘Lineage II: Revolution’ Review – A Fascinating Exploration of What Actually Constitutes Gameplay in an MMORPG

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When it comes to massive mobile game launches, it seems like Lineage II: Revolution (Free) has rewritten expectations of what a “huge" launch can be. NetMarble has pulled out all the stops when it comes to promoting this game, doing everything from tapping celebrities like Conan O’Brien to advertising the upcoming launch of the game literally everywhere (except TouchArcade, it’d seem). The amount of awareness this has raised is unlike anything I’ve seen before, and this pre-launch hype was flawlessly quantified by the over 1.5 million people they got to sign up for the game before it was available to download. Even friends of mine who I know don’t care at all about mobile gaming knew about it. From a marketing perspective, Lineage II: Revolution is a flawless victory for NetMarble, but is the game any good? It turns out that’s a question with a surprisingly complicated answer.

Backing up a bit, if this is somehow the first time you’ve heard of Lineage II: Revolution, congratulations- You’re extra good at avoiding all forms of video game marketing. But, let’s say you’ve spent the last few months living off the grid at your bug out location, just caught a whiff of cellular service, and decided to check TouchArcade. Lineage II: Revolution is a shockingly well done mobile adaptation of the PC MMORPG Lineage II. This original game never really seemed to do that well in North America, with most folks who might be interested in a MMORPG just playing World of Warcraft instead, but the success Lineage II (as well as its predecessor, Lineage) saw in Asian territories like South Korea was completely off the chain- Particularly as it transitioned to free to play in 2011.

I fiddled around a bit with Lineage II when it was first released on PC, and found myself burning out quickly as the game was a fairly transparent treadmill of endless grinding wrapped around some pretty unbelievable graphics for an MMORPG. How I felt about the game was perfectly encapsulated in the Penny-Arcade comic titled “Time": Everything I was doing was for the sole purpose of getting the next slightly better thing, which then in turn would be used to get the next slightly better thing. The motions you went through while on that treadmill weren’t particularly captivating, leaving the only carrot on a stick to keep playing being the vague idea that you’re slowly progressing in some way.

Oddly enough, that (admittedly, negative sounding) elevator pitch for the classic Lineage II also describes what has become one of my favorite genres on mobile: The clicker. I’m not sure what has happened in my evolution as a gamer- if developers have figured out how to just cut all the bullsh*t and just flawlessly target my lizard brain, or it’s just a process of getting older and having more responsibility in life… but I can’t get enough of these things. My journey down the clicker path started with the browser game Candy Box, and eventually moved on to titles like Noodlecake’s Bitcoin Billionaire (Free). At some point these simple menu-driven games stopped doing it for me and I moved on to more elaborate idle games like Foursaken Media’s War Tortoise (Free). Through the lens of a progress-based idle game, Lineage II: Revolution is among the best games on the App Store.

This is where the record scratch and freeze frame comes in, because Lineage II: Revolution almost entirely plays itself. In fact, when you’ve got the game on full auto-pilot mode, it’s sort of incredible how little you actually have to do to “play" the game. Not only can you toggle on auto-battle and auto-equip, but the game also has auto-questing. I’ve got it going right now as I write this, in fact. It’s amazing, and has me really reevaluating what I even ever looked at as “gameplay" in an MMORPG- Particularly having several real-world cumulative months under my belt of playing games like World of Warcraft.

Playing most (all?) traditional MMORPG’s follows a curve where you invest loads of time as a player doing often menial tasks to get to the “good part" which can vary wildly depending on what you’re into. For some it’s PvP, for others it’s end-game raiding, or countless other things. Regardless of what your end goal is, the process of getting there is always the same, and involves the very transparent conversion of time and attention in to progress out. In WoW, what I enjoyed was the social component of end-game raiding, making all the junk I had to do to get to that goal totally secondary- So why not automate it?

That’s what Lineage II: Revolution does, and it’s brilliant. After a brief (and irritatingly limited in customization) character creation process, you’re tossed into the game world and when you tap the next step in your quest log, your character just does it. You might be asked to go kill 10 orcs, and after you accept the quest your character runs to where the orcs are, pops all your associated combat cooldowns, kills everything, completes the quest, then runs back to the quest giver (or whatever the next step is). You tap to complete the quest, collect your loot, potentially do some light inventory or skill management, then you tap to take the next quest and the whole process repeats again. The game world your character runs through is beautiful, and like most Asian MMORPG’s, even fighting innocuous creatures in the woods involves a flurry of particle effects and an explosion of numbers with each attack. Every now and again there’s a brief cut scene that tells the story of the game, which is always a pleasant surprise.

As your character slowly grows in power, both through leveling up and acquiring gear, you get more special moves, more passive skills, and access to far more interesting things. For instance, I’m finding the PvP stuff in game to be really fun. You basically do 1v1 battles with other characters that are of similar gear level to you, and while you can totally also do this on auto-pilot, it seems like you do way better by doing everything yourself (which isn’t that surprising). (There’s also larger 30v30 battles “coming soon.") If PvP isn’t your bag, there’s also a ton of PvE content with multiple difficulty levels- The first of which being a ultra-rad fight against a huge dragon. Also, the game has a shockingly complex system of equipment upgrading where you level up items, combine them, and do all sorts of other things to make your character stronger.

As you work your way through various chapters in the main quest line, you get access to a seemingly endless amount of different things you can do in the menus of Lineage II: Revolution. I’ve been playing since the game first became available on the US App Store, and I feel like I’ve yet to even come close to scratching the surface of the level of depth this game has. It’s also in the menus where you’ll quickly realize what a ultra-free to play game Lineage II: Revolution is. There’s three types of currency, login rewards, events, achievements, and a virtually limitless amount of mini goals to work towards- Most of which reward experience as well as items and some of the game’s currencies.

The only limitation I’ve come across is a cap on the amount of times you can enter the PvP arena which has a sort of lightweight energy system attached to it- But everything else you can just go wild on. Without spending, I doubt you’ll ever have the best equipment (based on how these games usually work), but it’s not clear how much of a problem this will be in the end game. Like every other progress game, it seems like you can jump over any obstacle the game throws at you by spending. However, this seems super unnecessary as all you ever need to do is just wait for your character to level itself up.

If you’re the kind of person who hates all this auto-play stuff, Lineage II: Revolution can be played totally manually if you turn it all off. Based on my experience with turning off auto-pilot in PvP battles, it seems reasonable to assume that you’d do more damage, kill more things quicker, and generally level up faster if you take complete control of the game. In this case, you use a virtual joystick to move around along with a series of buttons to use your abilities. When you need to interact with things in the game world, context-sensitive buttons pop up to manage everything else.

Reviewing Lineage II: Revolution is a bit of an odd thing, as while I’ve chosen to approach it as a beautiful 3D idle clicker style game, I feel like it’s equally valid to look at it as a full-blown MMORPG experience where you’re exploring the 3D game world and doing everything yourself. What’s fascinating about all the auto-play stuff is that without it, I’m not sure I’d be that interested in Lineage II: Revolution at all. Going through the motions of all the MMORPG grinding is something I’ve done countless times before, and like the “Time" comic I mentioned earlier, I know exactly what I’m getting into. It’s amazing how they managed to bridge the gap between providing something for people like me who love the idea of an MMORPG but am burnt out on all the time requirements, and people who actively want to kill every single one of the ten orcs their active quest requires.

Regardless of how you choose to play Lineage II: Revolution, you should at least give it a shot. It’s an absolutely beautiful game, and thanks to Unreal Engine and a surprising amount of graphical options you can turn on and off is on a short list of games that feel like they can actually tax a modern iOS device. Experiencing the epiphany of, “Wow, so I can play something that feels like a ‘real’ MMO without it taking over my life?" via the auto-play mechanics was totally unexpected, and really has me re-evaluating what the actual gameplay of an MMORPG even is if I feel like I’m not missing anything by having my character just manage questing themselves with minor encouragement from me. Also, how often is it that you can play a mobile game for a week solid and still not feel like you’re even coming close to what it has to offer?

In fact, how utterly fantastic this mobile re-imagination of Lineage II is has the wheels turning in my head of what other awesome MMORPGs are there out there that enterprising developers could re-release as a auto-play mobile progress game that wouldn’t also be just as awesome? If nothing else, NetMarble significantly upped the ante on what we can expect in games like this, and I really hope both Nexon and Square Enix are paying attention when it comes to the upcoming mobile port of Final Fantasy XI. NetMarble has really outdone themselves, and it’s going to be hard for other developers to catch up.

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