Lost Ark on PC
There’s something weirdly comforting about being able to shut off your brain while playing a game, and just take in the little pleasures of watching small numbers turn into big numbers, bags of loot bursting out of your enemies’ dead bodies as you pummel them to death, and feeling like an absolute god as you rake in experience points and pump up your skills to make them even stronger. Lost Ark is exactly the kind of game I’ll play when I’m winding down after a long day, but want to feel like I’m still making progress in something.
When I played the closed network beta last year, I came away from Lost Ark thinking it was a pretty solid looter action RPG. The story was, for the most part, complete nonsense, but the combat felt solid and satisfying, and the loot flowed non-stop. I’m a simple person. I see big numbers and fancy loot, and you’ve got me hooked. Throw in a combat system that’s not half bad, and I’m all in.
My impressions from the beta remain largely the same; you’ll create a character and choose a class, then embark on an exciting journey to find the titular Lost Ark and keep it out of enemy hands so you can save the world. Or something like that.
What you’re really here for is the combat, and just how powerful it makes you feel. Lost Ark lets you choose from a variety of different classes, each with its own advanced variants that change up your play style even further. I started with the martial artist base class because I liked the idea of punching things, then went with the Soulfist advanced class, which allowed me to punch things, but with magic.
The Soulfist excels at creating distance between herself and her enemies, but she also has good mobility skills to help her get in close quickly if needed. There are other more traditional classes like the paladin and the mage, but even those come with enough advanced variants as well to help break up the monotony. The only downside is that once you pick a class, you’re locked in. You’ll need to create a new character if you want to experiment with other classes, but considering that Lost Ark does encourage players to create alts to take full advantage of the endgame structure, I’m fine with that. More on the endgame stuff later.
Everything will feel overwhelming at first, especially as you’re getting a hang of chaining your various class-specific skills together to create combos. That said, Lost Ark does a fantastic job of making you feel powerful regardless of what class you’ve chosen. Every skill feels weighty and punchy, and chaining them together to whack away at large groups of enemies is just really satisfying. The sound design carries the game here, as I constantly found myself relishing the little thunks and cracks of my foes’ bones breaking while I punched them to death.
As you level up, you’ll also earn skill points that can be used to make your existing skills even more powerful. You can even augment them to make them hit harder, but with slightly longer cast times, or increase the number of projectiles you can fire, but reduce their power slightly. There’s plenty to experiment with even in the skill trees, and the build possibilities in Lost Ark certainly feel endless with just the sheer amount of skills and variations you have for each individual class.
Grinding your way up to level 50 as you trudge through the story quests can be a bit of a slog, especially if you’re not invested in the narrative. That being said, I did appreciate the way the quests were structured in Lost Ark so that I never felt like I was constantly backtracking or spending too much time in a single zone. Both the main story quests and side quests keep the forward momentum going, as they all constantly propel you towards new areas and zones.
Because of this, there’s no reason not to pick up any side quests you see along the way. You’ll pick up a side quest at point A, then head to point B to turn it in, which is where you need to go to progress the main story anyways. No need to head to point B to complete a task, then backtrack all the way back to point A to turn it in for your reward. Lost Ark cuts out backtracking wherever possible, which made questing and leveling a largely painless and pleasant experience.
It definitely gets tedious after a while, especially since the quests are pretty much all just fetch quests, or variations of “kill X thing” or “collect Y thing.” I’ve accepted that this is par for the course for any MMO, but if you were hoping for more interesting quests in this game, you likely won’t find any here.
Lost Ark truly shines when you get to the dungeons and co-op content; the dungeons themselves are pretty well-designed, and while the early game ones are pretty simple in terms of mechanics, they do ramp up quickly as you approach the end of the story. Most of them can be done solo, but you’ll have a lot more fun running through them in a group, whether it’s with friends or through the in-game matchmaking.
Like any good MMO, Lost Ark encourages you to farm dungeons towards the end of the game for the chance of getting better loot, and with how fun some of the boss battles are, I didn’t have any qualms doing just that. I do wish the dungeons were just a little bit more challenging in terms of forcing players to learn mechanics, but I appreciate Smilegate keeping things friendly for newcomers and more casual players who may not have the time to sit down and learn the intricacies of every single boss fight.
Once you reach the endgame, a whole wealth of new daily and weekly content becomes available to you. All of sudden, you’re neck-deep in Guardian Raids, tower runs, and Abyss Raids to keep you busy all week long. This is where you’ll encounter some of the game’s most challenging content, and while I’m still a ways off from hitting the gear cap, Lost Ark has done a great job of doling out enough loot and gear to help me progress slowly as I inch my way towards the toughest bits of content there is.
Once you’ve fully geared up a character, you’re incentivized to create alts and try out new classes to get daily and weekly clears with them instead. With how fleshed out the combat classes are, it does feel like there’s an endless amount of things to do in this game if you enjoy that kind of MMO grind and repetition.
While I don’t necessarily see myself sticking with Lost Ark for the long term once I’ve gotten my main character properly geared up, it’s hard to deny the lizard brain appeal of this game. Similar to how content I was with simply mining rocks and chopping trees for 10 hours at a time in New World, I feel completely at peace when I’m just running down a hallway and hitting Q, W, E, R, A, and S in that order to group up a bunch of enemies and obliterate them in seconds.
Lost Ark might be one of the most banal games you’ll ever come across if you’re just looking at it from a narrative point of view, but it’s a prime example of how good gameplay and combat can carry the entire experience. Sometimes, all it takes is the appeal of watching your tiny numbers gradually grow into big numbers for you to get hooked on a game.
Quests will definitely get monotonous and repetitive quick.