Lost Ark is an isometric action MMORPG that delivers action in abundance. It’s got addictive and engaging combat, an entertaining narrative full of curious personalities, plenty of player progression, and more than enough challenges to keep you coming back for more in both PvE and PvP. If you’re looking for a new MMORPG to fall in love with, you should definitely make a date with Lost Ark. It’s free to play, so the only thing it will cost you is time.
I’ve spent a considerable amount of time playing Lost Ark in the closed beta and, more recently, in a private Amazon server to bring you this review. I spent most of my time playing three classes, the Striker, the Berserker, and the Paladin. All of the progress I made on these characters is lost to the ether now that Lost Ark is live. However, I’m excited to dive straight back in and level another character. That should tell you a bit about how much fun it is to play this game.
At launch, Lost Ark has 15 classes for you to choose from, and each one has a unique playstyle and class mechanic. This variety means that there’s something for everyone. It also means you’ll struggle to stick with one class at first, as you look at others and wonder how fun they are to play. I loved all three of the classes I played, and I would happily create any one of them again. But I won’t just yet because I know loads more classes will be just as enjoyable — possibly even more so. Shadowhunter and Soulfist are number one and two on my list of classes to level.
An unstoppable force
Let’s start with Lost Ark’s combat, because it’s the best element of the game. Punching, kicking, slashing, smashing, and magicking enemies in Lost Ark feels amazing. You get immense satisfaction from flowing between your abilities and juggling foes until they ragdoll across the screen as they die. Plus, the ability animations are stunning. They look impressive and they feel impactful. Plus, each class has its own visual and gameplay style. Beating down enemies in Lost Ark is a straight shot of pleasure to your brain. It’s just fun.
Combat is an exercise in dealing damage. You have a dodge you can use to quickly reposition and avoid big hits, but there is no true healing or tanking role. Each class is a lethal weapon. Some people will love that, but others will miss the traditional trinity system from other MMORPGs. Having said that, some classes do lean more towards support, while others are more durable like a tank, and a bunch are glass cannons. The support classes are essential to clearing late-game content, though.
Only when you fight bosses and powerful enemies do you need to consider anything other than cleanly unloading your abilities. Boss fights require precise movement and constant repositioning while accurately landing your attacks. It’s Lost Ark combat at its finest. The all-out-attack approach might make it sound like Lost Ark’s endgame is too easy. It isn’t. You need to learn mechanics and timings, and know what your role is if you want to complete the toughest content Lost Ark has to offer. Despite not having the three traditional roles found in MMORPGs, your class is still required to perform certain tasks to fulfill its role in combat.
Your character’s power increases at a very satisfying rate as you progress through the campaign. You unlock new abilities every few levels, and they’re empowered by the skill points you earn as you level up. Plus, you get regular item drops that keep your item score climbing. The new abilities you unlock keep the leveling experience interesting, as you’re constantly learning about your class and figuring out which moves you enjoy the most. Changing skills is free, too. If anything, I would have liked for enemies to be more powerful. A little more of a challenge during leveling would have made it more of an engaging experience. However, it’s still fun, and there’s plenty to learn.
Your skills in Lost Ark are determined by how well you use your abilities as well as your knowledge of the dungeon or raid you’re playing. However, your ability to clear content is determined by your build. There is a mammoth amount of character progression in Lost Ark. It will see you increase the level of abilities, change the way abilities work, improve stats and abilities with gear, collect cards to provide additional bonuses, increase your account level to gain more stat boosts, and collect and refine items to improve your Engravings.
What are Engravings? They are a late-game feature that can fundamentally change the way your class plays and significantly increase its power. Think of it as more rewarding character progression. Each class gets two unique Engravings. Plus, they can all use a large pool of generic ones. It sounds like a lot, and it is, but don’t be intimidated because a lot is good. If you are planning to sink hundreds of hours into Lost Ark (like me), you want a lot to do.
PvP in Lost Ark
One of the wonderful things about Lost Ark is that none of the stuff I just mentioned has any impact on PvP matches. The hours you spend improving and developing your character in PvE will only make you more powerful in that content. For PvP, everyone is equal. Whether you win or lose is based on your build, skill, and tactics.
You will gain access to PvP at level 26, so you need to create a character and level it. You can’t just hop in with any of the classes. Reaching 25 isn’t a big investment, though. Plus, it has the added benefit of teaching you about the class before you try to go up against players.
PvP combat in Lost Ark is fast and requires finesse in movement and ability usage. At first, you (by “you” I mean me) will find yourself running headlong into your enemies and flailing around trying to unload all your abilities on them as fast as humanly possible. It might work a few times. But when you encounter more skilled players, they’ll evade your blundering attacks with ease, and have you face down in the dirt in a heartbeat. It’s thrilling. I’m terrible at PvP in Lost Ark, but seeing skillful players wield their classes with such grace fills me with excitement and a desire to improve.
The low barrier to entry, but high skill ceiling of Lost Ark’s PvP combat makes it a winner for me. And Smilegate RPG is already exploring additional game modes like a battle royale and multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA).
To the point
The endgame PvE and PvP content are where you will spend most of your time in Lost Ark. However, before you get there, you need to play through the game’s campaign. You can breeze through the early parts of the game. Other MMOs sometimes have you running around a bit too much performing trivial tasks. Lost Ark strays a little too far in the other direction and makes questing very direct.
You rarely need to go out of your way in the early beginning zones. I enjoy losing myself in a zone and discovering its place in the world. So, I would say the leveling aspect of the game is a little too linear for my liking. However, some people might love this because it allows them to beeline for the endgame content. And in Lost Ark, that’s the good stuff. Once you unlock your ship, the world really opens up.
My major issue with the Lost Ark narrative is the inane dialogue you listen to in parts of the game. Rapport quests and side quests are big culprits of this. Another gripe I had was with the simplicity of some quests. You’re often asked to move something from A to B. I would look at the thing, barely 10 meters away from the NPC asking me to do the quest, and look towards where it needed to be, maybe 20 meters away, and wonder why the person trying to save the world from demons is being tasked to do this. Surely, any of the people standing around in the village could have done it. These copout quests unnecessarily break the immersion and should just be removed. In contrast to these mundane tasks, Lost Ark delivers plenty of epic cinematic battles and boss fights.
An age-old battle
I enjoyed the story and the various lands you explore in your search for the Arks. As I mentioned in my Lost Ark closed beta preview, the story is a classic good-versus-evil setup, with humans versus demons. However, there is a good amount of nuance that is weaved into the story through the characters.
Armen is a superb supporting character. His internal turmoil serves as a solid foundation for the broader good-versus-evil narrative of Lost Ark. Armen is a renowned priest idolized by many. However, what people don’t know is that he’s half-human, half-demon, and his inner demon weighs on him. Armen’s counterpart is a demon by the name of Kharmine. He is cunning, ruthless, and his machinations are at the heart of a lot of your struggles in Lost Ark. I thought he was an excellent villain.
If you aren’t interested in endgame challenges, grinding to loot up, or PvP, then you can still get an enjoyable 20 to 30 hours of gameplay out of Lost Ark as you play through the story. For free.
In the end
The endgame. This is what makes or breaks MMORPGs. If there’s nothing to keep you engaged, challenged, or entertained, then you’ll stop logging in. The endgame of Lost Ark is vast. As you become more powerful, you’ll be able to tackle new and more challenging content. You begin with dungeons that you can run solo or with a group. But soon you’ll move on to more challenging group dungeons, Monster Hunter-like raids, and a tower that increases with difficulty each floor you climb. And that’s just the start.
If you look at what Lost Ark has in Korea, you can see a wealth of additional content that will come to the West. What I particularly liked about this variety of content is that one build doesn’t suit it all. Chaos Dungeons require you to focus on your area of effect abilities, whereas hunting down a single powerful monster will be easier if you focus on single target damage. Thankfully, you get plenty of presets for gear and abilities in Lost Ark. So, it’s simple to change between builds.
On top of that, your ship gives you access to continents of content. You’ll be able to hop aboard and head to islands to explore, complete quests, and work on your collections. Collections and side quests aren’t just extra things on your Lost Ark to-do list. They have benefits like potions that increase your stats and cards that will add to your decks to increase your stats. There are also plenty of cosmetic rewards to collect.
Building a life in Arkesia
Each area also has an Adventure Journal which you can complete for some solid rewards. As you’re roaming these areas you may also encounter world events (like powerful boss monsters), which can net you some more rewards. I think it’s safe to say Lost Ark is a rewarding game.
Another aspect of Lost Ark you will constantly be working on is your Stronghold. It’s your own little slice of Arkesia. Once you reach a certain point in the campaign (no spoilers), you’ll be gifted an island. You can upgrade your different production facilities, send your boats on missions, and create essential endgame items like potions. You can also build structures on your island to make it suit your style. It’s a lengthy undertaking, but if you enjoy a little bit of city building with your MMORPGs, you’ll love it. I certainly did.
Here you have it
If you want an MMORPG that respects the time of casual players, while also giving hardcore players plenty of content to keep them busy, then Lost Ark is worth considering. It’s not perfect. What game on this scale is? But it does all the important stuff right, and the combat is spectacular. Lost Ark is a prime example of what a modern MMO should be — convenient to play, rewarding to improve, and fun.
Smilegate has put a lot of thought into how to minimize inconveniences and allow you to concentrate on developing your character. And you will need to concentrate, because it’s a complicated process to fine-tune you character’s power. There is grinding that needs to be done and content can get repetitive , but you’ll enjoy a lot of it. Plus, there are so many different endgame activities for you to switch between to keep from getting bored. Lost Ark has a lot in it with all its currencies, upgrade items, and content types. It may seem overwhelming at first, so do yourself a favor. Don’t focus on the end when you’re still at the beginning. And no, it’s not pay to win.