Lineage II Free to play/Goddess
Lineage II has finally gone free to play with the release of the Goddess of Destruction. With the coming of the Goddess, the game world has changed and leveling has been made easier (Not grindless though) with a smaller leveling curve and World of Warcraft derived quests. Early on, quests will almost always give you a complete level up, but these quests only last until around level 40, where they are replaced with daily quests for all the level ranges and the grinding begins.
The F2P release saw a huge surge of players who mostly are crammed into two out of the three servers, with the Naia Euro server only having light loads. Shilen is the new server which does not allow character transfers from people who have already been playing, while Chronos was the old US server after the merge. Because of the lack of more servers and the design of the quests, if you play during the server rush expect to see HORDES of people bottlenecked into areas because there aren’t enough quest monsters for everyone to kill (Much like in Aion’s launch). Though they have just added the Magmeld server a day after launch to assist with the load.
The level cap of the game has been increased from 85 to 99 and there is now a vitality system which is similar to the “Rested” bonus in WoW, except it gives 2x exp/sp while you have points (Which are reset every weekly maintainance). Your weapons and armor will not be as hard to obtain as the “Path to awakening” system gives you rewards at certain levels and the early quests give you your equipment. Unfortunately, the grind still exists in the game and the quests are simply WoW quests that you will rarely see after level 40.
Lineage II’s only saving grace is that it had PvP that actually accomplished something. Castle sieges, territory wars, clan halls, the Olympiad and Arenas still remain for the new wave of players to wage war over and you can still kill anyone almost anywhere. The new awakening classes only pile on more complexity to the combat system with more modern, action-based skills. Outside of PvP, there are also boss raids in the game. Sadly, to actually contribute to these things, you will need to grind as your level and weapons are what matter. Your skill will not negate a level or gear difference.
When I first played Lineage II in 2004, the game felt so alive with player interaction and drama. Even though the main problem with Lineage was the grind, it actually forced the players to interact with each other. Lineage II was THE original game to copy for Korean developers and you can still see games inspired by it today, but it also was the originator for the stigma attached to Korean games. In 2004, it may have been OK to grind for an hour to fill 10% of your exp bar when you were nowhere near max level, but I think our games have come too far for us to accept mindlessly killing monsters for hours as gameplay any longer.