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Plenty of Large-Scale Combat in 'Lineage,' but Pace Really Drags

January 17, 2002|KENN GOLD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

"Lineage: The Blood Pledge" is one of the most popular online games in the world, although most people in the United States have never heard of it.

It was created in Korea three years ago and has a following in the Far East that towers over the worldwide role-playing populations of such behemoths as "Ultima Online" and "EverQuest."

Now, "Lineage" (www.lineage thebloodpledge.com) has come to these shores through a landmark deal with gaming god Richard Garriott, creator of the "Ultima" franchise.

All I can say is he shouldn't have wasted his time. Why Garriott, one of the most respected names in interactive entertainment, would attach his name to this game is unfathomable.

This teen-rated game for PCs is so slow, old and boring that you will wonder if you have entered some sort of gamer's twilight zone where everyone is role-playing people with 9,600-baud modems.

The chance of this game succeeding with U.S. gamers is even more remote given the game's $15-a-month subscription fee--a premium compared with the $10 a month most of its competitors charge.

The story behind "Lineage: The Blood Pledge" is something to do with kings and princes and killing other players to control castles and dominate the realm. The developers haven't put much effort into developing a coherent story.

To begin your life in "Lineage," you select one of four classes: knight, wizard, elf or prince/princess. The classes are rather stereotypical. The knight is a pure warrior, the wizard is your usual magic caster, the elf is primarily an archer and the prince/princess is sort of a hybrid warrior/magic user.

Once you have selected your character, you enter the newbie town to embark on your journey to fame and fortune. This seems to be accomplished by dying a lot.

At level one, you can barely kill anything. The solution is to find a training dummy, click and hold for 12 minutes. All of a sudden you are level four. I'm not sure why they even have levels one to three.

Once you are level four, you are ready to go out and kill some basic orcs and wolves. Despite your greater abilities, the game is still brutal to new players. Expect to die some more.

What is a real throwback is the slowness of the game. At first, I thought I had either some major lag, or a bad connection to the game servers. As I continued to play, I realized this game is just slow-paced. Moving your character through the world feels like you are walking though molasses.

The game interface is simple enough. Click on a spot and you start to move toward it; click on a monster and you attack it.

The rest of the interface is sometimes too simple. Many little things that are important to role players are missing, like the ability to click on a piece of equipment to see its statistics. To find out if the sword you just picked up from a dead Death Knight is any good, you have to go to the "Lineage" Web site.

From a graphics standpoint, "Lineage" seems almost older than it is. The colors are washed out and dull. In addition, there is a lack of individuality in the game. With only eight types of characters (a male and female version of each of the four classes), you often feel like you are part of a weirdly chaotic cattle drive.

The heart of this game is not playing against the environment, but fighting other players. In this area, the game delivers what it promises: large-scale combat.

Fights can get really big. It's not uncommon to have 100 players or more in a single battle. It can be confusing to have so many look-alike characters running around.

For many players, joining a "blood pledge" can make up for the game's shortcomings. Blood pledges are essentially guilds of players who agree to fight together.

The number of blood pledges in the game fosters a lot of bickering over the chat channels, and this often leads to mass warfare.

In addition to fighting for bragging rights, pledges can take control of castles, which bestow additional benefits to their owners. The only way to get a castle is through more mass warfare.

These grand battles are the one redeeming feature of "Lineage," and if you are looking for a pure player-versus-player combat game, it might be worth a try.

But if you are looking for a more interactive environment with cutting-edge graphics, fast-paced action and subtle combat strategies, you're better off with "EverQuest," "Ultima Online," "Asheron's Call" or "Dark Age of Camelot."

*

Kenn Gold is a freelance writer. He can be reached at kenngold@yahoo .com.

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