There is a lot to love about Smilegate's vibrant MMORPG Lost Ark. The characters are undeniably fresh and feel naturally immersed in the Korean-developed epic fantasy aesthetic. NA / EU players are already missing closed beta access, but that passion has resulted in an outpour of feedback and reasonable criticism from the gaming community.
As an official 2022 release date keeps the buzz alive, here are my final thoughts on the highs and lows of Lost Ark and what you should know during your MMORPG considerations.
For starters, the game feels great to play. A lot of the media surrounding Lost Ark's closed beta compared its gameplay to Diablo, but the reality proved different. The deliberate control and weighty feel of Lost Ark is leagues away from Diablo's arcade shooter feel. The stark difference allows Lost Ark to attract a different type of RPG enthusiast that might normally be bored by Diablo's spray-and-pray sensibilities.
A common prediction is for League of Legends fans to embrace Lost Ark for its timing/spacing-dependent PvP. As the most popular competitive genre streamers flocked to Lost Ark during the closed beta, this mechanical heavy PvP was commonly attributed to the game's "good" feel. Compliments should be directed towards Smilegate and the high standards that nurtured Lost Ark over the past 3 years. Created with the KR MMORPG community's need for highly challenging content, Lost Ark surprised Western gamers who did not expect such a highly polished gaming experience.
A taste of end-game solo content. Group content adds an additional layer of needed coordination.
The deliberate nature of movement and using abilities makes high-end PvP and PvE seriously intense. As you might expect, NA / EU gaming communities have a tendency to embrace punishing gameplay as long as the game quality is superb and the balance is fair. As many MMORPG community figures have been quick to note, Lost Ark's normalized character stats during PvP arenas is a welcome surprise.
Balance decisions like this are important to attract NA / EU gamers who may already be approaching Lost Ark with skepticism. The scarlet letter "P2W" that gamers seem to universally loath sometimes feels present in casual Lost Ark player circles, but the brand never really sticks when thinking about Lost Ark. PvP is immune to this label and even the most difficult PVE content is, at the end of the day, impossible to defeat if you are not playing to your full classes potential.
Lost Ark does many things right, but it also just does many, many things. There is so much content that a decent chunk of end game options and leveling quests can feel hit-or-miss. In fact, the inconsistent quality between different types of content is game's most apparent flaw. PvE experiences can oscillate widely between visually mesmerizing boss fights (See Ying Ying Boss fight below), too boring forced story sections where players act as delivery messengers or have to talk to multiple NPCs.
High-quality PvE is when Lost Ark hits a confident stride
There is also the issue of collectibles which, depending on the type of gamer you are, may matter to you or not. There are a truly dense amount of items, side quests, and collectible things to do in Lost Ark. If you are someone who feels compelled to complete in-game collections, be wary of the time sink Lost Ark is perfectly willing to encourage.
The 1-50 leveling experienced is to be praised, however. Lost Ark knows when to be linear and Smilegate wisely made completing the main quests also the most efficient way to level. It is also a wise decision to award players with a free max level character boost once they manually hit level 50, as it encourages players to embrace Lost Ark's most undeniable cool feature – the different classes.
Make no mistake, the classes are the core draw to Lost Ark. Each class has a distinct feel and identity, which is especially impressive considering how vulnerable martial arts and gun-wielding classes' identities are to ability homogenization. On the contrary, the advanced classes Lost Ark uses to explore different flavors of the same classic RPG archetype gives players plenty of incentives to make alts and explore different roles.
The final word
Western gamers and KR RPGs have traditionally had a mixed relationship. The stigma of long grinds and brutal in-game economies have long dissuaded casual gamers from diving into unexplored KR IP, no matter how beautiful and intense the end-game looked.
Lost Ark, however, is not a traditional KR MMORPG. It has had years to work out fatal gameplay flaws and this extra polish is forcing Western gamers to take notice. There are so many high-quality aspects of Lost ark (PvE aesthetic, class diversity, PvP intensity, etc) that the lows aren't strong enough to discourage MMORPG heads.
However, perhaps most true about Lost Ark is that is the first MMORPG of its kind released in the past two years that seems to earnestly live up to the hype. That alone is worth celebrating.
Warcraft 3 is my one true love and I will challenge anyone to a game of Super Smash Brothers Melee.