It’s sort of an insane proposition to try and review an MMO. After all, these typically aren’t the sort of games that you’re going to pour a normal amount of time into. Even 200-hour RPGs typically pale in comparison to the time spent in your standard MMO. Hell, at least in those triple-digit-hours story games, you have a definitive endpoint in mind. With an MMO you basically keep going until all your friends stop playing and that can take years. So when a Lost Ark review passed across the desk I had a brief moment of insanity and decided to take ac rack at it. So here we go, time to take a head-first dive into the latest MMO craze from South Korea and see how it shapes up to western MMO experiences.
Lost Ark is a fantasy MMO from Smilegate, a developer and publisher more well-known for publishing the huge FPS title Crossfire. While this isn’t the first game they’ve developed, it’s certainly the one with the highest profile in the west, partially thanks to an ever-growing cult following, and partially because when Amazon Games say they’re going to try and publish another MMO, people take notice.
The story takes place in a land with an epic history of war between humans and demons. As a powerful hero yourself, you are tasked with stopping the demons from re-emerging by finding the titular ark before the leader of the demons can. On the way, you’ll have to do a lot of random fetch quests and kill a surprisingly large number of animals who were pretty content with just letting you ride by on your horse.
The gameplay in Lost Ark is pretty akin to dungeon-crawling games like Diablo. You move your character around with the mouse, and QWER and ASDF control your different attacks. The attacks in question are all incredibly well animated, and that makes most of them a joy to use. For the most part, that’s incredibly important for an MMO like this. You’re going to be repeating the same actions over and over again, after all, so they really need to be satisfying if you’re not going to be bored of them after the first 20 hours.
Another huge part of the game is the class system. Technically the game features 7 different classes, but each one has several advanced classes available and they all play incredibly different from each other. If you’re familiar with Asian MMOs you’ll probably not be too shocked to hear that most of the classes are gender-locked as well, which is a bit of a shame, but not exactly out of the ordinary for the genre at this stage.
The key fact about the classes is that each one feels like it has a distinct reason to exist. Some are more adept at solo play, while others basically cannot function without other players to back you up. Thanks to the top-down isometric nature of the gameplay, you have more options when it comes to skills that affect the battlefield around you, so the different classes can really present you with some insanely different styles of gameplay and available tactics.
That’s not to say that Lost Ark is completely without problems. For your first 10 levels, you gain experience and level up pretty quickly, but it turns into a slog pretty quickly. You can go from leveling up once every 20 minutes, to every 2 hours almost immediately and it can be a bit jarring. There are ways around this, such as gaining extra XP through party and guild features, but if you’re the sort of person who only starts using community features in the end-game then you’re going to struggle.
There are other systems in place that can help a bit. The ‘roster’ mechanic helps you in gaining more money and experience based on a secondary level that is shared amongst all the characters that you happen to have on a server. As such it could benefit you to speedrun the first 10 levels with various different character types and get your roster level up a bit. That way, you’ll also have the chance to try out the different classes before you get stuck in.
Visually, Lost Ark looks great. While the graphics aren’t the highest fidelity of any graphics in an MMO, they have a solid and consistent design that will be mostly unique to anyone who hasn’t played a Korean MMO before. It’s sort of hard to put into words, but there’s something very specific about the character design that you only really see from Korean sources like Manhwa and Korean video games. Maybe it’s the pastel colors or the specific facial features, but whatever the case is, it looks pretty good.
On top of that, the animations are all appealing. Sure, there are the attack animations that we talked about above, but there’s also just the design of the UI and other graphical elements. The particle effects on level up look great, the menus are simple to understand and navigate, and there’s something just satisfying about the way you manage your inventory and skills that prevent micro-management from feeling boring or annoying.
Overall, from the brief day trip we’ve taken into the game thus far, it’s easy to see why Lost Ark has such appeal to a large group of people. It has great UI design and graphics, satisfying combat, and enough content to keep you playing for years. Sure, there’s a fair amount of grind later into the game, but if you’re the sort of person who’s even considering getting involved here, then you’re probably okay with that. Just make sure you have a big group of friends waiting to play with you and you’ll have the optimal experience you deserve to have.
TechRaptor covered Lost Ark on PC via Steam with a code provided by the publisher.
- Great visuals and UI design
- Really satisfying combat
- So much content to enjoy
- Gets grindy after level 10th level-up
- Less enjoyable as a solo experience