Lost Ark launches this week to a Western audience, with a three-day early access event starting today. Amazon Games, the publisher that brings Tripod Studios and Smilegate’s RPG to the west, has kindly let some of the press play on a private server a little earlier, so I’ve got the action-RPG MMO for now. couple of weeks. Much of the game was there when I played it, although I missed a very big aspect of it: the broader social component. Due to the small sample size of players, all my time in the world of Arkesia was lonely. So for now, I don’t feel comfortable dropping my final review on Lost Ark. Instead, here are some of my thoughts on this impressive free-to-play title after playing the pre-release.
At launch, Lost Ark features five broader class archetypes (Warrior, Martial Artist, Gunner, Mage, and Assassin) with a total of 15 subclasses to choose from, some of which are only accessible depending on whether you’re using the male or female version of the game. selected a class. I spent my time between the Berserker and the Sorceress. Both make a great first impression, decked out with a handful of skills that show the taste of that class. The Berserker is a hulking warrior who carries a huge great sword into battle to destroy everything in sight. This class offers many close-range personal attacks such as a shoulder strike, leaping sword strikes, whirlwind spins, and a ground-exploding AOE.
My Sorceress, a Mage subclass, uses the elements of water, fire, and ice, among other things, to flush out torrents of enemies in bloody mounds. Instead of having an evasive role like the Warrior, the Mage flashes a few yards in the desired direction, adding a nice touch to the class fantasy. Even after hours of playing a lesson, it’s surprising and fun to watch a mob of thieves or monsters explode into gory gibs using what should be an early game attack. It’s always exciting to unlock more skills for both of my characters, and I can’t wait to check out even more classes when I start fresh with the upcoming launch.
Classes have a lot of customization in their skill sets. The most basic is the configuration of your eight hotkey options. These are selected from a range of attacks and skills that you learn as your character levels up. On top of that, skill points are stacked and awarded on level-ups you can enter into each skill, unlocking perks that can modify that particular skill. These perks can deal additional fire damage to a fire-based attack, change a skill’s mana cost, or significantly reduce cooldown times. You can really make each character your own and highly adapt these moves to your favorite playstyle. The system is super flexible and I loved playing around with different builds to see how efficiently and stylishly I can destroy my enemies. Of course, you’ll also swap sets of armor and weapons as you loot numerous items throughout the adventure, adding another layer to your character building.
Movement and combat feels heavy and satisfying even when I’m on the receiving end of a strong enemy attack and tumble to the ground. It is necessary to be proactive about positioning and to know where to approach from, which is not present in other ARPGs. You need to avoid attacks from stronger mobs to stay on your feet, and it’s essential to know what tools you have at your disposal. It is critical to pay attention to enemy signals and use a dodge roll to escape an AOE attack or crippling blow. It’s nice to know that my character, while super deadly, is also venerable when I’m not paying attention to my surroundings.
Now let’s get the cat out of the bag. Lost Ark is a free-to-play game mainly supported by a microtransaction model. Things you can buy with real money include extra character slots, pets, mounts and cosmetics. Some of these items have bonuses, such as the 30-day Crystalline Aura, which doesn’t increase character stats, but decreases cooldowns for certain tasks and non-combat skills. Store-bought pets give a very small chance of boosting the rewards you’d get for specific types of quests. Does it pay to win? not exdecisive. I probably won’t spend money on things that speed up my progress, but it won’t affect me if other people do. Still, it’s good to remember that these itemss exist and are for sale in the MTX shop.
I’m not captivated by the story of Lost Ark, which early on has me traveling from region to region through the land of Arkesia, battling demonic forces and more to retrieve a magical item, an Ark. My relatively short time in search of this Ark has taken me to quaint towns, plague-filled encampments and barren salt flats. Most characters have been relegated to quest givers, but some people have relational side quests. You can bond with them by completing tasks, giving gifts, or playing music for them. I haven’t seen any real rewards for this yet, but I’m glad I found a way to bond with the locals I’ve encountered.
Each map is unique and fun to search and explore. My favorite parts are tracking down hidden dungeons with treasure maps and elite monsters to score more powerful loot. Diving into larger dungeons presents the greatest challenge, allowing for matchmaking with other adventurers and multiple difficulty options. Since I could never party with anyone, I took on these challenges solo. I’m happy to report that even on a dungeon’s harder difficulty (which yields sweeter rewards) I could complete them on my own, though it requires more tact and skill. The dungeons are also where you’ll find the most dynamic moments in Lost Ark. Events can cause the typically isometric camera to pan and swipe cinematically, allowing you to see more of the wondrous environments.
I was blown away by The Submerged Ruins, the first real dungeon with multiple bosses that felt like a real adventure. As I descended into the depths and faced the challenges within, I had to clear the flooded floors below to continue. Each encounter was a major challenge (I was on hard mode, so your mileage may vary), and the rattling tension kept me on the edge of my seat until I beat the final boss. If more of the instanced encounters work this way, I’ll be in for a good time.
Lost Ark has many collectibles to find and tons of boxes to check in on every continent around the world. Each area has monsters to defeat, dungeons to find and world bosses to confront. Searching every nook and cranny is full of precious Mokoko Seeds, Giant’s Hearts, or parts of a stolen masterpiece. Progress has been made in these various collections and lists of reward items such as health potions, cosmetics or cards. Those cards are also found by completing missions or dropping monsters into the wild, and they can be equipped in a deck of up to six cards that add stat buffs and elemental resistances to your character. Fortunately, as far as I know, all of these collectibles, of which there are over 1000, are shared account-wide, making collecting a team effort with your other characters.
Like collectibles, your roster level is shared by characters, increasing stats such as intelligence, strength, and agility for all of your characters. Little touches like these make me feel good about having multiple alts in Lost Ark. While I have to follow the same main story for each new class, at least I have immediate benefits from the work I’ve done elsewhere. It’s a small way of showing that the game and the developers respect my time, and I appreciate that I don’t have to scour the land for every Mokoko Seed every time I want to roll again.
I’m excited to see what Lost Ark has to offer when the servers are live, and I can jump in and go on an adventure with my friends. There’s a lot of promise in this MMO, but playing in a private setting felt like I was missing an important part of the experience. Although, from what I’ve played, I’d recommend checking out Lost Ark if you like action-heavy dungeon crawlers like Diablo. It definitely scratches that particular itch for me, and there’s a ton of content in it that can be accessed without dropping any money. Lost Ark comes out in full on PC on February 11, but can be played starting today for those who purchase the $15 or higher Founders Pack.