Lost Ark is a video game that lacks any kind of fun. Because of this, it’s an interesting mix of ARPG and MMO elements. With a magnificent combat system and an incredible feeling of scale, it provides a massive and dramatic fantasy adventure, but its lofty aspirations are hampered by a cliched storyline and a monotonous mission structure. An extremely difficult customer to review since it’s so ludicrous, bombastic, generally clichéd, and occasionally inspired. In a nutshell, though: I like it.
To summarize the plot in broad strokes, your character embarks on a world tour in pursuit of the eponymous Arks, a collection of seven enormously potent artifacts critical to the mortal realms’ ongoing conflict with demonic hordes. Warrior, Gunner, Mage, Martial Artist, and Assassin are just a few of the classes you can choose from while creating a character. Subclasses are subsequently created for a number of them. Mages are divided into Bards and Sorceresses, for example, while Warriors can choose between Berserkers, Melee/Ranged Gunlancers, and Paladins, who use holy magic to balance swordplay and swords.
However, I experimented with a variety of classes in the game’s built-in class-tester. At the very least, the visual and tactile quality of the battle in Lost Ark is excellent. ‘Why fight one enemy when you can fight twenty?’ is its guiding principle from the start, and it provides you with the combat skills necessary to do so. At the beginning of the game, you are level 10 and have five skills unlocked. There are a number of abilities available to the Paladin in this regard, including Spin Slash, a devastating two-punch move that wipes off a large portion of an enemy’s health, and Light of Judgement, which causes adversaries to flee in a way that never gets old.
At this time, you’ll utilize your regular attack mostly to finish out any remaining stragglers after the battle has already been won. As you level up, your abilities only get more remarkable. Combat skills are unlocked every few levels up to roughly 40, and each level grants you points that can be utilized to improve your current abilities, making assaults faster, more powerful, or lasting longer. Wrath of God, a devastating AOE assault sent by special delivery from the heavens, was my go-to opening attack once I obtained higher-level powers. My Paladin would then rush forward slowly, cutting through the air like an armored lawnmower to finish off any lingering enemies with the slightly strangely titled Flash Slash.
The fighting provides a solid framework for the game’s story, but those searching for a challenge may find the game’s difficulty curve somewhat flat. Even if you’re on the main route, you won’t have to worry about positioning or power usage very much, save for some of the more difficult enemies and dungeons.
An early impression is of a guided experience. The world is divided into continents, each of which is further subdivided into smaller regions. The zones in this game are organized so that you must complete them in a precise order if you want to complete the game’s main quests and optional side quests.
The design of Lost Ark’s questing is a spoof of MMOs. You’ll be tasked with killing monsters that respawn so quickly that it’s usually faster to just wait for them to show up again. It’s not just the lazy NPCs that fill zones; you’ll often be asked to interact with people you’re standing right next to or to move objects like boxes or barrels that are only 10 yards away. An emote to an NPC is one of the strangest tasks in the game. I’m not sure if passionately pumping my fist at him would dissuade an aspiring monarch from doubting his own legitimacy.
To say it’s basic would be an understatement. Due to two factors, Lost Ark manages to get away with this strategy. In the first place, the quests expedite the passage of time in each zone. Not only are the goals unambiguous, but they’re often completed with an NPC other than the one who assigned the task in the first place. Maintaining momentum and avoiding unnecessary retracing is made easier thanks to the steady flow of prizes like coins and new weapons and armor.
Second, these quick-fire objectives serve as stepping stones to more substantial plot points. A dungeon is an instanced location that can only be explored by a group of three players. They range from ancient ruins to pirate coves to decaying catacombs filled with heretic priests, all with their own unique characteristics. If you’re a fan of exploration and battle, you’ll enjoy these areas, which aren’t overrun by continually respawning foes.
However, Lost Ark’s greatest joys come from its most important story moments. It is in West Luterra that you begin your journey to aid the erroneous King Thirain, who has been overthrown by Lord Scherritt, in return to his throne. The tale progresses through several zones, culminating in a huge castle siege that appears more like a Total War scenario than an ARPG. I couldn’t stop laughing as I dashed through the castle’s defenses, slaying hordes of opponents while siege engines pounded the fortifications with boulders and chains. And in East Luterra, Lost Ark pulls the same stunt once more, leading to an even more massive and bizarre fight.
As soon as Lost Ark becomes huge, you can’t help but be swept up in the tremendous events taking place before you. And that’s just the beginning of what the game has to offer. Once you’ve completed East Luterra, you’ll receive a ship and be able to sail forth into the vastness of the globe of The Lost Ark. Many new locations await you, from weird small islands inhabited by talking animals and other anomalies to whole new regions where you can continue your search for the last remaining arks. It’s hard to believe some of these locations exist. Pixie-like creatures who cultivate ladybugs in the undergrowth populate the first island you reach from the mainland.
It’s a shame that the main tale of Lost Ark isn’t as interesting as the adventure itself. One-dimensional heroes and villains who seem like they wandered into the local S&M club on their way to battle make up the bulk of the main cast. Armen, the priest, is the only character with any actual depth, as he is a two-dimensional mix of human and demon. To get an indication of how deep the story goes, look at how the game treats the concept of duality as if it were a baby faun.
Another issue I have with Lost Ark is that the loot is abysmal. At least on the primary plot path, it’s all about incremental stat-upgrades, with little that is unique or different. This is in part due to the fact that the game’s upgrade systems go far beyond treasure, with an entire suite of arcane mechanisms dedicated to activities like faceting gems and collecting cards, all of which contribute to your character’s attributes and abilities. The crafting mechanics in Lost Ark may appeal to MMO gamers, but for me, finding a giant lightning sword is more fun than any metagame structure. It’s a shame the game compromises on the primary joy of looting massive treasure chests full of awesome weaponry.
Lost Ark, on the other hand, had a way of reeling me back into its depths whenever I started to become tired of it. To be fair, it is difficult to be upset with a game in which the final boss is a magic potion-shrunken pirate parrot that you must face on a tabletop. One need only look at the combat to see why Lost Ark is worth checking out, but the game’s absurd scale and several off-kilter side missions help it overcome its lackluster plot and formulaic gameplay. However, I have enjoyed seeing it try to be one even though it’s not quite a classic yet.