Here I am, back into the MMO trenches, this time with MMOARPG, Lost Ark. This is a game from Smilegate and Amazon Game Studio that was originally released in Korea a few years ago, and it is now making its way here with North America and European servers on February 11, 2022. I’m no stranger to diving into a game that is already well established somewhere else, much like I did with Swords of Legends Online. There is so much content to take in all at once, so let’s jump into it.
Lost Ark is a beautiful, quarter-view angle experience that will leave you wanting for very little in terms of style. Before you even get started with gameplay, you’re treated to a preview of each class. Here you will see the Warrior (male), Mage (female), Martial Artist (male and female). Gunner (male and female) and Assassin (female) classes. There is both a story for each class, and an Advance Class Preview. This was a really helpful resource when choosing a class for the first time, allowing the player to see what the class is like later in the game, even including a peek at the subclasses as well.
This is where it gets a little confusing for me though. Limiting different classes to male or female seems, well, limiting. Not only that, but even the subclasses are defined this way. Male Gunners can choose Sharpshooter, Deadeye, or Artillerist, whereas Female Gunners can only choose the Gunslinger specialty. Male Martial Artists can only choose Striker, and Female Martial Artists can choose Wardancer, Scrapper or Soulfist. Though they “even it out”, so to speak, I’m always for the option of letting players choose what they want to play when creating characters is an option.
To that effect, Warriors can branch into the Berserker, Gunlancer or Paladin class. Mages can choose to go the route of a Bard or Sorceress and Assassins can be Deathblades or Shadowhunters. That brings us to me, a Female, Deathblade Assassin, and it’s been a wild ride. Character creation is great, though some may long for more fine-tuning options. Lost Ark provides plenty of physical options to choose from, and the detail is gorgeous. The display outfits in character creation are very impressive, and who doesn’t love playing dress-up in an MMO? World of Warcraft Transmog anyone?
Because Lost Ark has already been around for a while, there is plenty of story to pull from. The game begins with you being tasked with hunting down the Lost Ark (ha, get it?). It’s an item that has long been forgotten but must be found in order to save everyone from the coming war. Cue your standard MMO line of quests to save the world, as well as friendly favours in every town, and you will have plenty to do! The grind to level 60 is on.
Make no mistake, levelling in Lost Ark is going to be a grind, just like in any other MMO. Getting from level one to 60 will take some time. Though the run-here-kill-those quests can be tedious, they are important for learning the ropes of the combat system, menus, maps and more.
“Make no mistake, levelling in Lost Ark is going to be a grind, just like in any other MMO.”
I’m always thankful for the levelling process during a first playthrough and insist you don’t rush it, especially with Powerpasses available. Jumping into Lost Ark at level 60 is overwhelming at minimum. You’ll be missing Triports, important quests to open new areas, including dungeons and raids, how to get and use pets properly, tips on building rapport, and good luck figuring out how to sail a ship. So many significant lessons are learned through levelling, so make sure to give it a real shot.
Also, make sure to keep in mind that there are certain rewards and quests that can only be done by one character in your Lost Ark roster (your collection of characters). Usually this would be your ‘main’. Throughout the game, you will come upon training quests, rewards in your inventory, and more that can only be completed or received once, so be sure you do this on the character you want to keep!
Each level gains you skill points that you can spend between your talents. Each tier will cost a different number of points, costing more as you gain levels. At three different intervals for each skill, level 4, 20 and 48, you can choose an additional ability. These usually change the type of attack or add bonuses to crit etc. What I love though, is that they aren’t permanent choices. You can just change your choice at any time, unlike in World of Warcraft, where you need to purchase tomes, or like in Elder Scrolls Online, where you need to pay to reset your skills. The flexibility is great.
“I’m always thankful for the levelling process during a first playthrough…”
The game moves with your left mouse button, so it took some getting used to, as I’m more of a WASD girl myself. In this case, those are your attack buttons, and thankfully, you can’t attack NPCs, because most of the townspeople would be really mad at me. Because of the way you control your character, I had some difficulty during battle.
A lot of the skills (especially when you play a Gunner) require perfectly lined up shots. In Lost Ark, the chaos of the fight makes it really easy to get turned around and buried by mobs. When this happens, you have to reorient yourself, aim, and fire, which is a little bit of a learning curve. Not like playing a Beast Mastery Hunter in World of Warcraft, just set your pet to tank, and you’re golden.
A lot of the quests are standard fetch quests, with most being completed by just running around in new areas. Everything is clearly marked, and even a little too easy at times. Each different type of quest has its own unique marker, like main quests or regular quests. I enjoyed the use of scenarios, which I usually dread in MMOs, but I felt like Lost Ark lets the player have more control over their character during each one. Dungeons are also solo-able during the levelling process, which is a lifesaver if there isn’t anyone around when you’re ready to dungeon dive.
“I enjoyed the use of scenarios, which I usually dread in MMOs, but I felt like Lost Ark lets the player have more control over their character during each one.”
Levelling is also where you begin to be introduced to your menus and collections, of which there are plenty. If anyone can remember the quick launch keys for each, I’d be very impressed. There are five main menus, with at least five submenus for each. They range from the usual Character, Skills, and Inventory windows to your Adventure’s Tome (a run down of where you’ve been, what you’ve done and rewards), Collectibles and Sheet Music. A deep dive here could be an article all on its own, so my best advice is to learn on the go, all at once will be too much.
Once you reach level 60, much like any other MMO, Lost Ark opens up in a whole new way. Travel, Raids, Dungeons, PvP, and more await your newly levelled character, and how you handle that is really up to you. You can play with others to find the best gear you can through raids and dungeons or continue on solo and complete any collectibles you are missing (there will be lots!).
Trade Skills come into play when you’re gearing your character, so farming is definitely another valuable use of time. Foraging, Logging, Mining, Hunting, Fishing, and Excavating are all there to be mastered. You’ll learn about faceting ability stones through a short questline, and then you’re ready to go.
“Once you reach level 60, much like any other MMO, Lost Ark opens up in a whole new way.”
The most interesting thing I found about Lost Ark was the way raids are laid out. You head to your Guardian Raid bulletin board, from here you can Find Party, join the matchmaker or enter the raid solo. Though later raids require multi-person mechanics, I really enjoyed that we could jump in solo, and not have to wait around for more people to beat the bosses.
The boss’s HP scales, so you’re safe to head in alone! I didn’t love that the bosses don’t have a health bar. I like to know how close or far off I am from defeating it. But I imagine after making the bosses a regular part of your game routine you’ll know how the mechanics change based on how close you are to beating it.
The biggest change for me compared to the MMOs I’ve played in the past, is that each boss has a separate entrance/queue. Usually, you head in and fight your way from boss to boss until you complete the raid. In Lost Ark, once you load in for a raid boss, you have a set time limit (and number of revives) to find and defeat the enemy—they don’t stay in one spot. There is also surprisingly less trash in each area when compared to other MMOs. If you’re looking to clear a number of bosses per night, I can see leaving and jumping back in becoming a bit tedious, but overall, I like the way it is laid out. It’s a welcome change.
“The biggest change for me compared to the MMOs I’ve played in the past, is that each boss has a separate entrance/queue.”
There are Chaos Dungeons which unlock after a questline in Bern, which can be played as a group or soloed. Abyssal and Void Dungeons unlock at certain item levels, so when you get to them is really up to you. In the top right of the dungeon (and raid) menu, there is a small ‘guide’ button. This was a welcome touch, as they give you a quick rundown on how the instances work.
Each dungeon has a player requirement, both item level and number of players. For instance, Ancient Elveria requires a 340 ilvl with 4 players, Gate of Paradise needs a 960 ilvl and 8 people, and Oreha’s Well needs a 1325 ilvl and 4 people. The raids clearly state a player range, but the dungeons seem more strict.
Of course, like in every game nowadays, there are ways to spend real money in Lost Ark. Royal Crystals are purchased with real currency to buy in-game items and other currencies. In the shop you can find mounts, pets and even decorations. There are also opportunities to reskin your character here, allowing you to change your appearance.
“Of course, like in every game nowadays, there are ways to spend real money in Lost Ark.”
Pets are a fun addition to the game. Firstly, they pick up all your loot and add it to your inventory. That alone is worth its weight in gold. To use the pet for much else, unfortunately, you need to pay to do so. Certain pets can increase your character’s stats, and when you pay, plenty of benefits are unlocked, like you can use your pets to access your storage instead of going to a town.
I’m disappointed that Lost Ark has used pay features to ease gameplay outside of quality of life and cosmetic purposes (IE research time and daily rapport action tries equal getting ahead faster), as it gives paying players a leg-up on the other, non-paying players. I suppose with a free game, Amazon Game Studios need to make money where they can, but I had hoped it wouldn’t affect actual gameplay.
Sailing should really be touched on, and it’s by far my least favourite part of the game. This is a personal issue, so I don’t fault Lost Ark in any way. Travel outside of mounts and fast travel is just not of interest to me, so I won’t pretend to be an expert here. In the game, you’re outfitted with a ship, and some questlines teach you how to gain crew members and upgrades.
“I’m looking forward to diving into the live servers and playing Lost Ark with the rest of the world.”
In theory, it sounds simple, but again, this is not my forte. I often found myself dead in the water, floating a ghost ship to the nearest dock to repair. You can also set paths and let the game guide itself, but dangerous conditions can take you out. I much prefer using the Riff (pay to sail to another continent) method of travel but understand that it isn’t a financially stable method. Your ship is as good as its crew, so as you improve, the stronger your vessel will be.
The style of Lost Ark is beautiful. Even though the camera angle sits at a distance during battle, the colours and movement are fluid and vibrant. It’s a sharp game to look at, and the creatures and characters are all very unique. Cities are large and very detailed, and the forests and deserts are vast and colourful. There is some voice acting, but a good chunk of the game is through text. I would have loved more, but with the sheer size of the MMO, this was expected.
There is so much more that could be touched on, but that is a much longer review. Songs, menus, the Adventurer’s Tome, Cards, specific skills, professions, and collections all add something different to make Lost Ark the game that it is. However, the game that it is, is massive.
Lost Ark is an excellent MMO all around and being free-to-play (though you can purchase Founder’s Packs) at launch is going to set it apart from its competitors. Some small paywalls, gender-locked characters, and tricky keybinds didn’t thrill me, but the game brings so much to the table that they are miniscule in the grand scheme of things. I’m looking forward to diving into the live servers and playing Lost Ark with the rest of the world.