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    Lost Ark review



    Need to know

    What is it? A huge fantasy MMO with spectacular combat

    Expect to pay Free-to-play

    Release date February 11

    Developer Smilegate RPG

    Publisher Amazon Studios

    Reviewed on AMD Ryzen 5 3600, Nvidia GeForce 2080 Super, 32 GB RAM

    Multiplayer Massively

    Link Official site (opens in new tab)

    Check Amazon (opens in new tab)

    Lost Ark is a game with zero chill. A Korean hybrid of ARPG and MMO, it embodies the best and the worst traits of both genres. Ambitious to a fault, it offers a vast and spectacular fantasy adventure elevated by a stunning combat system and an astonishing sense of scale, but its grand plans are hindered by hackneyed storytelling and a repetitive quest structure. It’s a ridiculous, bombastic, often trite and occasionally inspired slab of game design, an especially tricky customer to condense into a review. But to briefly summarise: I kinda dig it.

    The broad strokes plot sees your character on a globetrotting MacGuffin hunt searching for the eponymous Arks, seven artefacts of immense power that are crucial in turning the tide of the mortal realms’ battle against invading demonic hordes. You create a character from one of five classes: Warrior, Gunner, Mage, Martial Artist and Assassin. Several of them are then divided into more refined sub-classes. Mages are split into musical Bards and elemental Sorceresses, for example, while Warriors get to pick from damage-dealing Berserkers, melee/ranged Gunlancers, and Paladins, who balance swordplay with holy magic.

    Lost Ark

    (Image credit: Smilegate RPG)

    Lost Ark tips (opens in new tab): What you should know
    Lost Ark classes (opens in new tab): Which to choose
    Lost Ark servers (opens in new tab): A complete list
    Lost Ark controls (opens in new tab): How to change them 

    Lost Ark can be a captivating adventure, which makes it a shame that the main story is simply not that compelling. The central cast of characters are a largely one-dimensional carousel of exhaustingly noble heroes and villains who look like they stumbled through the local S&M club on the way to battle. The only character with any real nuance is the priest Armen, who is quite literally two-dimensional—half-human, half-demon. The way the game cherishes this idea of duality like a baby faun gives you some clue as to the level the story functions at.

    I have one further gripe with Lost Ark, which is that the loot sucks. It’s nearly all geared toward incremental stat-upgrades, with precious little that is unique or distinctive, at least along the main story path. This is partly because the game’s upgrade systems go way beyond loot, with a whole suite of arcane mechanics dedicated toward activities like faceting gems and collecting cards, all contributing to your character stats. More MMO-oriented players may get a buzz out of crafting their own upgrades, but to me, none of Lost Ark’s metagame scaffolding is as fun as finding a big ol’ sword that shoots lightning, and it’s a shame the game so dilutes the core pleasure of collecting cool gear vomited at high-velocity out of oversized treasure chests.

    Yet every time I started to brush against Lost Ark’s shallower edges, the game would throw some wild scenario at me to reel me back into its depths. It’s hard to be mad at a game where one of the bosses is a pirate’s parrot who you fight on a tabletop, after having shrunk yourself with a magic potion. The combat alone is reason enough to give Lost Ark a go, and its ridiculous scale and many weird tangents succeed in overcoming its flat storytelling and by-the-numbers quests. It’s not quite a classic, but I’ve had a lot of fun watching it try to be one.

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