There’s never ever been an isometric activity RPG fairly so extensive or daring as Lost Ark. This trendy, free-to-play MMO took South Korea by tornado in 2019, so it’s not a surprise it’s currently surprising Vapor graphes in the West. Its tale might be common dream, yet there’s a shocking level of deepness per of its stretching systems, and also the majority of its web content comes to play via on your own or with buddies. It’s the sort of video game that’s simple to shed hrs in also without investing any type of cash, particularly when you obtain your really own ship and also dived in to lead your very own course via its strange globe.
As soon as you end up Lost Ark’s tutorial with much less details than you possibly require, you go into the on-line globe where you’re pushed via a 10-hour direct collection of primary tale missions. It’s all really versatile in just how you come close to various other gamers: many tale development occurs in instanced occasions, yet often you’ll require to finish an instanced dungeon – which is an entirely different point, as Last Dream 14 followers are currently knowledgeable about – and also you can finish that alone or in a celebration of as much as 4, based upon your very own choices rather than definitely requiring to have fun with others. It’s additionally unusual that the several various other gamers running about will certainly enter your method, as a result of just how promptly adversaries and also pursuit purposes respawn in public areas. As a matter of fact, the only web content that definitely needs you to collaborate doesn’t show up up until after degree 50, which’s mainly component of Lost Ark’s flexible (albeit grindy) endgame where you’re totally free to decide on what you wish to do.
The tale of Lost Ark comes down to the currently exaggerated “Human beings and also Angels collaborate to combat Devils and also conserve the globe” framework, and also it experiences some appealing hamfisted writing and also voice acting that can make the tone and also pacing encounter awkwardly sometimes. Action-packed cutscenes commonly assist inform that tale, and also they often tend to be an aesthetic reward, yet it’s regrettable that personalities’ feelings are improperly communicated at generally perpetuity. A significant contributing element is that personality voices often tend to jump in between either wild overestimation or an unacceptable absence of focus in connection with the risks of the minute. Consequently, they usually encounter as prejudiced and also featureless as opposed to special or fascinating, and also psychological minutes battle to land.
What waits are the wonderful activity series, which are well scripted and also wonderfully innovative adequate to do all the hefty training for the tale. There’s an exceptional section where your personality goes through a king’s burial place while being gone after by a transcendent, fire-breathing dragon as the heavens collapse around you. You’re ultimately compelled to encounter it down in a critical last conflict, which is similarly challenging and also enjoyable, and also also looks wonderful by modern-day requirements – so great, as a matter of fact, that it was shocking to find out that Lost Ark is still utilizing Unreal Engine 3.
Each of Lost Ark’s 5 courses and also many subdivisions have unique capacities that specify their playstyles. As an example, the Assassin can select to subdivision as the very trendy demonic Shadowhunter, that definitely attracts attention among the remainder as one of the coolest melee courses in any type of activity RPG. It’s deeply pleasing to release the Shadowhunter’s souped-up devil kind (which you do after swiftly eating the blood of your adversaries, normally) and also hole and also tear your method via anything that enters your method. One more fave is the Demonstrator, that gradually develops a source that they can release in effective martial arts-inspired embellishments. Among these changes you right into a hurricane that raises whole groups of adversaries right into the air at the same time, which is both an efficient stun power and also a great deal of enjoyable to enjoy at work. On the other hand, you have actually varied courses like the Gunslinger that can discharge a battery of bullets, the Hags that can drizzle devastation upon her adversaries yet has little shield and also health and wellness, and also plenty much more. The only falling short below is that there’s no genuine factor for any one of these courses to be gender-locked. Why can’t you make a male Bard or a female Paladin?
There’s a slickness to the flow of Lost Ark’s combat that feels more in line with Diablo 3 than games like Diablo 2, Path of Exile, or Grim Dawn. Your hotbar has a set number of skills and special attacks that each have their own cooldowns, but there’s no enforced “type” of skill that needs to go in any one slot. Instead, Lost Ark allows you to mix and match to your heart’s content, which lets you get creative with your character builds. For example, the Striker’s arsenal is mashed up between skills that build its Esoteric Bubble resource and skills that expend that resource to deal incredible bursts of damage. You could theoretically ignore the Esoteric Bubble resource altogether and kit yourself out with more low-stakes DPS skills with shorter cooldowns, making you a more rapid damage-dealer. Inversely, you can do the opposite of that and give yourself more skills that take a long time to power up but carry a higher payoff.
Despite all that customization, classes adhere to specific mechanical roles no matter what. The Bard is always a support class, the Striker is always a DPS class, and the Gunlancer is always a tank. However, it’s nice to be able to swap out or respecialize your skills on the fly, and if you’d like to make your fighting style even more dynamic, you can always store grenades and other useful items on your hotbar to supplement your skill loadout even further.
Lost Ark Screenshots
You’ll generally need to fight many enemies at once, and some of your skills require you to hold their respective key down in order to power them up or keep them rolling in a combo, which usually feels good to do since those moves often have the most explosive effects. Another nod to Diablo 3 (the console version, specifically) is that Lost Ark lets you use a limited rolling dodge ability to quickly get out of harm’s way every few seconds, and some battles absolutely require you to make good use of that ability. Most bosses telegraph their attacks as shown by red areas (cones, circles, etc) on the floor, giving you a short window of time to get the heck out of there.
However, fights begin to stagnate once you’ve bashed your way through swarms of enemies for a few hours because you can not adjust the difficulty manually. Most enemies rush you in groups that you can easily dispatch by spamming your hotkeys in a steady rotation, and it’s easy to tune out unless you’re specifically fighting a boss with unique mechanics, such as Rekiel of Despair (who’s protected by a special shield that makes his attacks hit harder and make him impervious to being Staggered until you break it by using a Destruction Bomb) or Jagan, the giant dragon demon guarding King Luterra’s Tomb that you need to kill several times as you venture through that dungeon.
What makes Jagan especially interesting is that he rips apart the walls and staircases as you move through the environment, which is impressive, but spectacle like that makes normal fights feel like you’re just bashing apart the same identical exploding sacks of gore. Not to mention, when you wander through the open world enemies tend to respawn before you get a moment to step away from where you defeated them seconds prior. This would be far more rewarding if they actually dropped a significant amount of experience points or better loot, but they never do. The best you can hope for is a piece of gear that offers a slight stat point upgrade, but no visual variation from what you were already using.
That first 10 hours or so are entirely linear, but once you unlock your first ship and head out to the open seas you can theoretically go in any direction you’d like to (but, pro tip: you may want to stick to the upper-right side of the map until you reach level 50 because things can get rough out there). Sailing is simpler yet more enjoyable than Pillars of Eternity 2’s, which is my closest point of comparison for what Lost Ark is trying to accomplish as an open-world isometric RPG. Both games give you a ship and say “you can do anything you want as long as you don’t crash it,” but Lost Ark cuts everything that made sailing a boring or trifling experience in Pillars. You can run headfirst into various nautical hazards, such as sandstorms and ghost ships, which adds tension and risk to your travels. You can also find treasure, go fishing, and hang out with whales. Your ship needs regular maintenance, compelling you to dock and, since you’re limited to teleportation across the continent you’re currently on, you’re provided a real motivation to explore your immediate surroundings whenever you go on shore leave. It’s already great fun to chart a course across the high seas, but I’m extremely excited to see how that system evolves over time.
Once you earn your sails you can discover unique and interesting settings, such as a remote library filled with talking books, derelict ghost ships, and distant continents that were previously unreachable by foot. Each of the 13 substantial continents has its own theme, culture, and environment, and the impressive variety works well in Lost Ark’s favor. More importantly, the story actually uses these unique settings to show something interesting on screen. For instance, the technocratic society of Arthetine looks and feels like Final Fantasy 7 Remake’s rendition of Midgar, even though its story also pulls from a bucket list of Warhammer 40k tropes; even its guards look like space marines. But that’s just one location in the broader world of Arkesia, and no two places are similar. In stark contrast, the island-continent of Tortoyk is populated by Mokokos, faeries that live in a village that requires you to shrink yourself in order to visit. Once there, you ride lady bugs as mounts and even face off against a giant parrot. Yes, Lost Ark features a boss battle that’s just a giant parrot.
But if sailing isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other ways to spend your time. If you’d prefer to run off and try to impress every NPC through the conceptually interesting Rapport system, which allows you to use emotes or exchange gift items for rewards, you can do that. Or (after reaching level 26 and unlocking the Luterra Castle zone) you can focus on PvP, which are fun, short skirmishes that often come in the form of Team Deathmatch, Deathmatch, and Team Elimination with up to five other players. Or you can focus on building up your personal stronghold through the decent crafting and gathering systems, which are pretty standard if you’ve played other MMORPGs apart from a few twists of their own, like being able to team up with other players to gather large trees faster. It’s worth mentioning that Lost Ark also conveniently lets any character chop every log and mine every ore node as long as you’ve equipped the right gathering tools and have sufficiently leveled up your respective gathering skills.
Your stronghold essentially becomes your base of operations after you’ve reached a specific point in the story. Here, you can construct and upgrade buildings, assign missions, craft goods by placing requisition orders, and entertain luxury merchants who stop by to do business every so often. It’s a cool idea on paper, but I rarely felt a need to ever go back to after a certain point. The deterrent for me was that stronghold actions are timed and require a limited resource to speed up, and that resource is, of course, for sale for real money. It feels very much like a Farmville-style mobile game mechanic that shatters the otherwise-successful illusion that Lost Ark isn’t out to wring cash out of us. Granted, it’s not essential to engage with your stronghold in order to enjoy the rest of what Lost Ark offers, but it’s the one thing that I might have felt tempted to spend real-world currency on had I invested myself deeper into the crafting systems, which of course, I ended up choosing to avoid.
That said, it is quite cool that the gathering skills that fuel it are shared across characters on your account, as is the account-wide Roster level that raises the baseline for how powerful every character on your account starts out as. That means starting a new class doesn’t feel like going all the way back to square one. When I put aside my Striker main and started a Shadowhunter alt, the leveling process was far speedier than I’d remembered it, and I also achieved some extra progress for my Striker, who became more powerful simply because the Roster level went up a few notches in his absence. The only annoyance is that Lost Ark doesn’t apply Roster level rewards automatically, so if you aren’t paying attention you might just miss the menu where you need to claim the Roster level rewards for the individual character you’re currently playing as.
As I mentioned before, most of the meat of Lost Ark’s story unfolds in instanced events and dungeons, both of which feature tons of elaborate cutscenes that fit seamlessly with all the hacking and slashing you spend much of your time participating in. Some of these moments are definitely breathtaking, such as the aforementioned King’s Tomb or the battle of the Glorious Wall wherein you climb atop a siege tower and bang on a war drum, rallying your troops before landing on the battlements of the castle you and your NPC buds are sieging. It was a great feeling to be dropped directly into the thick of combat as the camera panned around the battlefield from above, and it sticks in my head as not just a standout moment of Lost Ark but one of the more memorable highlights of any type of video game I’ve ever played.
That said, you’re required to grind your way to a certain gear level before you can see the very end of the story, and that’s a drag. There’s a way to bypass some of the grind by unlocking and completing the northern continent, Shushire, but if you just want to stick to the much simpler fight-focused, wave-based Chaos Dungeons, you’re limited to only two runs per day. Since you’ll only find gear sporadically, that’s hardly enough to ensure a full set of endgame-suited equipment on your first run, or also your first a number of runs. It’s a big hill to climb up.