From Azeroth To Arkesia: Would You Like Lost Ark?

Volamel 2022-02-15 02:40:57

For those that are looking to scratch that MMO itch while their preferred fantasy home is cutting through a downswing or if you are just attempting to broaden your horizons, Lost Ark is the newest fish on the filet board. This series looks at Lost Ark through the lens of a former or current World Of Warcraft (WoW) player and attempts to answer questions for those on the fence about investing in such a new--and frankly different--style of game.
Coming from a strict western MMO and dabbling in something of a hybrid between genres could easily leave gaming fans with one ubiquitous question; “would I even like Lost Ark?” While Lost Ark is best defined by the typical classes of the action RPG (ARPG) genre, the elements of modern MMO design are felt throughout the game. The general mouthfeel is all there; the movement feels inspired while still maintaining its own quirks, the combat has that same visceral impact, the emphasis on loot and progression, it’s all there. Lost Ark is an ARPG through and through, but then you add in the dynamics of crafting and improving your gear and end game raids being specifical group content and you get a nice mix of the two. However, the two aspects that separate Lost Ark from its peers in the MMO space is how different it utilizes its roots in the ARPG genre. How dynamic the camera can be in the narrative storytelling and the increased involvement from the bosses serve to not only bring that true MMO feel but allow for a more engaging experience. This is what blends the two genres, both the ARPG and the MMO aspects together. Not only does Lost Ark improve on the foundation of games like Diablo and Path Of Exile, but it also takes attributes from popular MMORPG games and introduces them into pivotal boss battles and dungeons. Within minute one of the initial tutorial, Lost Ark’s dynamic camera enhances the experience in a massive way. A bridge feels longer when you can put into perspective how small your character is compared to the journey ahead. Being able to see the myriad steps to a winding staircase gives that same air of adventure or better ingesting the scope of the battlefield from the ramparts of a castle only emphasizes the world around you. That kind of scale is only unlocked with a fluid point of view--which can be jarring for someone coming from World Of Warcraft--or someone with a sensitivity to motion sickness.  Forget the logistics for a moment, imagine what a fight like Deathwing could be if your character were little ants on the back of a massive black dragon? What about being scaled properly to someone like Argus or Kil’Jaeden? If that entices you, think of the possible iterations made possible to some of your favorite bosses if the position of the camera could change. Lost Ark delivers in spades, so much so that it is easily one of its hallmarks. On the other hand, the bosses themselves mimic your typical MMO, with a myriad of telegraphed attacks, debuffs, and even unique phases. Without getting into spoiler territory, the game’s creativity and the difficulty scale linearly with its bosses--as it should. Much like modern WoW many of the quest chains result in you being tasked to clear a dungeon tucked away in the corner of a given zone, which are easily the highlight of the leveling experience, outside the fun and often over the top fight scenes between major characters. 
Also read: Lost Ark launch guide for dummies
What’s also nice is the fact that these dungeons are completely solo-able with two different difficulties. Even if we’d enjoy another notch on that difficulty slider, the end-of-zone dungeons are still a nice reprieve from the tens of quests done in each zone. On top of that, even just a quick glimpse at the end game raids should leave even the most cutting edge raider with something to sink their teeth into. You’ll find that plenty of the skills you’ve learned and honed in WoW’s group content, spanning the entire spectrum from Mythic Plus and even Raid Finder, are not only applicable but feel familiar and intuitive.  Combat-wise Lost Ark feels like your typical ARPG with scaling customization as you approach the end game. However, even the initial perk system leaves you wondering if that added stagger might have helped with that boss or if that 1% healing increase is really worth the effort. This still gives you that same individualist feel that WoW brings with its talent and covenant system. Now, let’s muscle through the rough bits. Lost Ark does suffer from some early woes that vanilla WoW’s questing experience brought, namely the “speak to my neighbor loop” or “deliver this letter to the person who stood to my right” style of quest. There is a Warlords Of Draenor garrison-esque system, it’s a lot and isn’t packed or formatted well. Expect a roughly five-minute packet style homework assignment partway through the early game that’s not skippable or avoidable in any intuitive way. The story, while far more straightforward and concise than Shadowlands--not that it is a big metric for success--can be a bit melodramatic. And the voice acting can feel flat and soulless, even downright tone-deaf at certain points, and the writing often feels cliche. Lost Ark won’t be for everyone--but it seems like it’s designed for that in mind. It knows what it's doing throughout the entire journey and leans into its strengths rather than attempting to spread itself thin. There are plenty of rough edges to Lost Ark, but at its core, it is the lack of manufactured engagement that keeps you coming back. Sure, there are systems to bring you back--things like daily login rewards--but it doesn’t feel cumbersome. You’re not, at least on the surface, punished in some backhanded way for not doing your dailies every day. You’re not at a loss of power because you didn’t grind enough artifact power. However, what takes the cake is the amount of content anyone can do at any time. It is this accessibility that gives Lost Ark a sense of freedom. Lost Ark feels like a game that’s incredibly easy to pick up but incredibly difficult to master. The accessibility that Lost Ark brings lulls you into an entertaining experience that leaves you exploring the many systems it carries with it less as a chore and more from genuine interest. Sure, you can just beeline the main story quest and blitz to the end like you might do on the release of the new expansion and jump straight into raiding, but that’s where Lost Ark differs.  This does not have to be a “rush to the end” type of game, you and your friends can go off and chip away at all sorts of innocuous content. It is because you’re having fun throughout the entire experience that you’re more likely to try and dabble with all the game has to offer. Tagging along with a friend while you hunt for collectables doesn’t feel like a chore because it isn’t one. Want to grind rapport to make your butler fall in love with you--go for it! These systems are not Battle For Azeroth’s island expeditions, a system bred to be a vehicle for progression, they’re more akin to (in a weird way) the introduction of battle pets. Most of these things are just harmless, horizontal content that can be experienced but does not intrude on your experience all that much. You’re not forced to play anime card games to progress the story or grind some odd bone ash for super epic cool gear so that you can progress through the part of the game you actually enjoy.  You can hunt for seeds or do puzzles or find hidden stashes of treasure whenever with whoever--which brings a breath of fresh air from WoWs chore heavy blueprint.  For a free-to-play game with such accessibility and a creative lens for how you experience the game, there truly is nothing to lose by diving in with the best of intentions. Tired of Torghast and need a palate cleanser that allows for a fun gameplay loop with some potential be it casual collectable hunting or genuinely interesting end game raids? Just looking for something to pass the time while you raid log and wait for 9.2? By far it isn’t the logical “next-step” in MMO design, but Lost Ark brings a fresh take and mountains of content to explore to the table--and who knows--it might be your next home. 
If you enjoyed this piece, follow the author on Twitter at @Volamel. Images via Lost Ark and Blizzard Entertainment

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