Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone









The battle for dominance over the lumbering beast known as Massive On-line Gaming has yet another shining entrant, one that is ready to shed the blood of its competitors while keeping the multiplayer gaming community enthralled with its own style of gameplay and interaction. Fresh from the continent of Asia , Lineage: The Blood Pledge brings to American players the same massive multiplayer experience that has captured the attention (as well as the market) of medieval/fantasy online gamers worldwide for the past several years. Though unremarkable when compared to other RPG games such as Ultima Online and Diablo, Lineage does warrant some of it own individual attention with its unique set of combat scenarios that allow for large and structured campaigns against other ‘factions’ within the game.  This feature coupled with a low subscription cost, the promise of free updates and additions to the in-game areas, and one of the largest on-line gaming communities in existence might be enough to sway the American multiplayer gamer to this new arena.

The online gaming community has grown leaps and bounds since its onset some 15 years ago.  Those who first jumped into the fray that the internet provided them probably never imagined that the games first developed would grow to become the large, graphic laden beasts that they are today. Multi-User-Dungeons (MUD’s), Multi-User-Simulated-Environments (MUSE’s), and other internet based text games paved the way for the modern Massive Online Games that would follow in its wake:  Ultima Online, Everquest, and Asheron’s Call are just a few of the most successful to date. Though it is true that these particular titles have achieved great success and popularity here in America , they have also done quite well in countries abroad even with stiff foreign competition. Now it seems that the tide has turned in this case, with foreign RPG’s making their move (and their mark) here onto American soil and PC’s. The latest game to find its way across the ocean is Lineage: The Blood Pledge, an extremely popular online RPG in Asia , and one that could possible give the American Massive Multiplayer RPG’s a real run for their (and your) money.

The concept behind the massive multiplayer format is simple: large amounts of people can log on together at the same time on an internet server and take part (or not take part, if they choose) in the on-going events surrounding them. Those events range from but are not limited to completing predetermined goals (or ‘quests’ as they’re known online), general exploration, attacking other players and computer controlled ‘non’ playing characters (NPC’s), or just partaking in general discussion or ‘chats’. Most of the popular online multiplayer RPG’s are based on the medieval/fantasy genre that was made famous by the Dungeons & Dragons line of non-computer roll playing games, and even incorporate the same set of character generation attributes. Lineage: The Blood Pledge is no different in this matter, utilizing character, creature, weapons, equipment, and magic designs that most fans of the medieval/fantasy genre will recognize instantly. The overall gameplay and command structure for the game is also reminiscent of other online and adventure titles from the past several years, resembling such notable 2-D releases as Diablo and the Ultima series of games.  

Lineage: The Blood Pledge is relatively easy to jump into from the initial load up and run on your PC’s hardrive. Initial character set up is a smooth and easy process, giving you tips on what appropriate attributes to select for each specific character class. As there are only 4 classes to choose from within the game, this process is even that much more simple. As with other similar games, each class has its own unique set of skills and attributes that can affect how your character plays within the game. The knight has the best overall skills for combat, the Mage has the best chance to learn and utilize spells and enchanted items, Elves have a blend of the magic and combat oriented skills, while the Princess/Prince character has the special ability of initiating a blood pledge (which we will go into more detail later on).  The only real complaint about setting up a character was the lack of choice in race and classes:  it would have been nice to see some of the other well known class and races that are well known and utilized in other Medieval/Fantasy RPG’s.

Once a character has been generated, you pick a realm (server) to enter and continue your adventures freely from there. Again, the choice of actions online are entirely up to the discretion of the player. Adventuring, battling the many different creatures within the game, or completing quests will generally allow the player to obtain experience points. In turn, these experience points can raise the level of your character (which allows for advanced combat prowess, longer and better magic use, overall stronger abilities, etc.). The ending result is the higher the level obtained by your character, the more he/she can achieve within the game. The maps and lands found within Lineage: The Blood Pledge are extensive and vast, which allow for large amounts of exploration and potential adventuring in order to build upon your character.

Though Lineage contains many of the same elements as other similar games within the same genre, it does have several notable attributes to it that make it stand out. The most important of these has to be the ability for characters online to form a ‘Blood Pledge’, effectively grouping characters into an alliance. Unified under a Prince or Princess character of 15th level or above, the ‘Blood Pledge’ allows for large groups of characters to achieve many goals, including accumulating large amounts of wealth quickly, finish quests in shorter periods of time, and even declare war on other ‘Blood Pledge groups (or clans). The war aspect of the pledge happens to be the most integral part of the game, giving clans the ability to attack and possibly overrun NPC castle’s and towns that are dotted along the Lineage playing world. Though run by NPC’s, the castles are actually presided over real life players and clans that have themselves gained control of the facilities. Once a castle is occupied, the players reap the benefits of the town including wealth, protection, and other economic situations.

Another notable element of Lineage: The Blood Pledge is free distribution of the core game via an Internet download at the games US home page (http://www.lineage-us.com). For those with an extra $2.99 in their pockets, Lineage can also be obtained at certain gaming retail outlets. The game comes with an initial 30 day free trial (45 if purchased by retail), with a $15 per month charge after that. Though the low cost of setting up the game initially should be enough to draw even the most frugal of online game players, the makers of the Lineage (NCSoft) have upped the ante by promising free expansion updates to their subscribers as they become available.

Overall, Lineage: The Blood Pledge is a well produced, Massive Online Multi-player game that stands up very well against its fierce competitors. The 2-D graphics are impressive, the worlds large enough to engage in hours of uninterrupted exploration and adventure, and the control simple to learn and use. Anyone with a reasonable amount of Medieval/Fantasy RPG experience should be able to jump into the game play with little prodding and obtain experience in no time. The numerous amounts of spells to cast, weapons and equipment to utilize, creatures to battle, and quests to complete only adds to the ease and excitement of playing the game.  The addition of the ‘Blood Pledge’ ability with Lineage: The Blood Pledge is quite interesting as well as unique, allowing for more diversity within the political spheres and actual roleplay of the game. Couple all of these facts with one of the largest subscription bases around (3 million subs and 250-thousand concurrent users at the last count) and players should find plenty of interaction and RPG to go around for quite some time.