If you’re a reasonably dedicated fan of ARPGs in the vein of Diablo, or you’re into story-driven MMORPGs like Final Fantasy 14 or Elder Scrolls Online, you may have already had your eye on the upcoming western release of Lost Ark, the MMO-slash-ARPG hybrid which (by no coincidence at all) has taken South Korea by storm over the last three years. Good news: we’ve already played our very own Striker — one of 15 playable advanced classes — all the way up to level 20 in Lost Ark’s closed beta. During which we cleared the very first continent, delved into Lost Ark’s epic storyline and several of its dungeons, including the visually gorgeous Morai Ruins, and also got a solid taste of this surprisingly deep character customization system. With all that exposition out of the way, here’s what we learned in Lost Ark’s first 20 levels — and why eager anticipation is building for the upcoming 2022 westernization of this seemingly stellar action-MMORPG hybrid.
Before we dive into anything else, we need to address Lost Ark’s combat straight away: it’s very, very good, combining the best elements of MMOs and ARPGs, and somehow reaching a height that exceeds the best of both genres. Where many other MMORPGs stick to simple tab-targeting combat and repetitive loot treadmills, Lost Ark greatly ups the ante with an action combat system that looks and feels incredibly cool at all levels — at times facing you against tens or potentially hundreds of enemies in a single fight — but it stays balanced, never making you feel totally overwhelmed or, inversely, like you have to turn off your brain for long periods of time to get through it. During the first 20 levels, you don’t feel over or underpowered at any point, which was often the case during a complete playthrough of Diablo 3.
Back on topic: Lost Ark’s great combat is due in part to how smooth it all feels when you’re powering your way through each of these meaty opponents in a spectacle of blood and effects, but it’s also due to the sheer number of class skills you can mix and match between, both when assigning up to eight skills on the hotbar itself and when unleashing them in various combos that often elicit a sense of creativity and freshness when executed in different orders or when responding to different enemy types. And it’s flexible — even letting you respec your loadout on the fly, or completely change how each skill behaves.
It’s also fantastic that each advanced class seems to have its own fighting style, special moves, combos, and class dynamics that would potentially make it a vastly different experience to play as a Monk-esque Striker vs, say, a sword and shield-wielding Paladin. We tried both classes and enjoyed the fact that both had their own unique take on Lost Ark’s bombastic combat system, both handling these massive fights with their own signature flair. It’s also fantastic that Lost Ark has a dodge roll button and a full arsenal of special “combat items” like bombs, single-use trinkets, or potions that quickly grant you buffs, and these are all often necessary to use in conjunction in order to push through some of the tougher boss fights — which can be as unrelentingly difficult and mechanically clever as any “Dark Souls”-style boss.
It’s possible to camp specific zones for loot and XP, but it’s never really worth doing so, since the rewards are always so meager. This seems like it’s by design, since Lost Ark did its darndest to keep us moving forward in its storyline, corralling us from one quest to the next as it rewarded us with perfectly adequate XP and loot along with the next cutscene or access to the next zone or dungeon — much like Final Fantasy 14 does, which also similarly encourages you to engage with its storyline, dungeons, and NPCs for their own sake rather than sit and grind the same content over and over. The story itself, despite playing on the overly familiar fantasy RPG notes of “good angels vs evil demons”, seems like it’ll be captivating enough through its likealikableble characters to keep things rolling. Its cinematics and consistent voice acting certainly make this all more engaging than other MMORPG and ARPG campaigns, which share in common the fact that both genres normally force you to grind out each level through combat and fetch quests alone.
Lost Ark’s world and scope already seems so much bigger than what has been experienced so far. There are plenty of systems that were toyed with or witnessed in menus but simply did not get far enough to meaningfully engage with, like the pet system, mounts, and the NPC-focused Rapport system that seemed to even let you potentially romance certain NPCs — or at least become very friendly with them. It sounds like there’s even a point where you get your own ship to sail the seas with, as well as a settlement system that lets you place a stake on your very own land. Whether or not any of that turns out to be any good, there’s still such a sense of wonder surrounding this game that has us greatly excited for its proposed 2022 launch window in the west.
Source: IGN Video Games All