Lost Ark is a massively multiplayer online (MMO) game from Korea, making its way west two years after its original launch. The game plays and looks a lot like the Diablo series and others like it, but its MMO features, such as group content and a large world, set it apart from those. The game has been a huge success, reaching over 1.3 million concurrent players on Steam. After creating a character and choosing a class, the player follows story quests until the endgame, where the most interesting content awaits.
The game’s main strength is its gameplay. Fighting monsters feels great thanks to polished visual and sound effects that make every hit feel special. Each of the varied classes has eight main skills available in combat, as well as some powerful special abilities. At the start, characters are provided with at least six abilities, with more unlocking as they progress in levels. This is a welcome improvement on most popular MMOs where a character starts with one or two abilities, which makes combat a slog. Here, battles are fun during the whole leveling process, and even more so once the max level is reached. I have been quite addicted to the game thanks to its satisfying combat, even if some problems with the camera and controls that come with the perspective can cause frustration.
There is a lot to do in the game. Most of it includes fighting, but there is a huge world map where players can sail their own ships, discovering islands with a variety of quests and activities. For example, my favorite find so far is the Panda Island where players transform into pandas and eat together to complete a quest objective. With surprisingly great rewards, exploration is encouraged, and there’s lots of it available.
The main content for progressing (getting stronger gear at the maximum level) is also quite fun. Chaos Dungeons are mindless monster-mashing parties, while Guardian Raids have players hunt a single boss that can have some threatening moves. Abyssal Dungeons contain some of the most challenging content in the game, with all four party members having to perform perfectly to get through an encounter. The dungeons themselves are fantastic, but doing the content with random people during the first weeks has been a frustrating experience. Many people are caught off guard by the sudden difficulty spike and are not prepared to learn complex mechanics.
Progression happens by honing one’s equipment, possible with materials that are obtained daily by the aforementioned content. The biggest problem of the game becomes apparent here: honing has a chance to fail, increasingly so the further in the endgame you get. This system that locks you out of content for a long time if you’re unlucky is mitigated by a shop where you can buy materials with real money. That’s an unfortunate design decision, but understandable as Lost Ark is free to play.
My 100 hours with the game have been very enjoyable, mainly thanks to the Deathblade Assassin, a fast-paced melee class that I’ve been playing the most, as well as having a friend to do content with. However, I haven’t seen even half of the endgame content, but I’m already facing a wall due to how honing works. Now I’m stuck repeating the same dungeons daily, hoping to make even the slightest amount of progress. I can easily understand those that pay real money to get more fun out of the game, but I’m not sure I want to support that kind of design. There’s a lot of fun to be had in Lost Ark, but players should be wary that experiencing the best content requires either a lot of time or a heavy wallet.
Publisher: Amazon Games
Developer: Smilegate RPG
Release Date: February 12, 2022
Genres: MMO, Action
Pictures: Screenshots from the game, taken by the author
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