Lost Ark is a free-to-play action RPG-inspired MMO that won acclaim in Korea in 2018. Now Amazon Games is bringing its flashy Diablo-like combat to the west in the form of a closed beta later today, and we had a first glimpse. Of course, with Amazon’s MMO New World now settling into its third month, not to mention Final Fantasy 14’s Endwalker expansion looming on the horizon, Lost Ark comes at a busy time for enthusiasts. EXP grinders. The big question, then, is whether Lost Ark’s Diablo-y formula can do enough to compete with the already well-established MMO behemoths. Judging from my few hours of work, I think so, but only if you’re able to embrace its slow burn.
In my brief five hours with Lost Ark, I got a taste of some classes, some quests, some dungeons, and some co-op, and I can only describe it as a Diablo-like MMO crossover without all the sadness that engulfs it. accompanied. But rest assured he has familiar attributes of both genders. From top to bottom, you click on the environment to advance your character and cleave through enemies by the dozens. Quests allow you to collect items in exchange for EXP and you will meet other players running around your world. There is a universe to save, and you are the chosen one. The two pieces fit together quite well, but it remains to be seen whether “good enough” is enough to stand out against fierce competition in the long run.
Lost Ark makes a good first impression, however. You can choose from a number of classes, each with their own playstyles and stylish specializations. And let me tell you, this game does a fantastic job of letting you know what you’re getting into before you commit to a role. When browsing through everything from the burly warrior to the sleek mage, you can dive into a preview window that will show you which “advanced class” opens up at level 10.
Thanks to these adorable pop-ups, I settled on the Gunner (Female) in hopes of being able to channel my inner Dante from Devil May Cry. My decision, fortunately, was good, if ambitious. You see, the class was hard to play for a beginner like me. You had to switch between three guns: two pistols, a rifle, and a shotgun to keep the damage flowing, each with their own hotbars and combos. A League of Legends veteran or Diablo fan will appreciate the combos on offer here, but for me it was too finicky.
So instead I went with the Paladin, an offshoot of the Warrior class. Much easier to handle, but just as cool. In fact, all of the classes in Lost Ark are just plain cool. Whether you’re slicing with a holy sword or firing bullets, it’s gloriously punchy and stylish. My favorite combo involved this slash, followed by some magic hits, then a big laser beam. And I think I would have taken my gunner back if I had had more time with it. There’s clearly a place for everyone here, even if you’re inexperienced with ARPGs and their frenetic combat.
That said, it was hard to tell in my hands on session just how much customization will be offered when it comes to in-game abilities. Earn EXP through quests and you’ll earn new moves as well as skill points which improve and increase them. I imagine it will get a lot more exciting later on, but most of my points went to stat increases or rather less exciting things like cooldown reductions. A higher level affected my slash so it took longer to come back up but hit much harder, and another went from an orbital strike to a ground pound type affair.
The game is clearly moving at a slow pace when it comes to upgrades, then. It sometimes teases you with variety at first, but a lot of that good stuff seems locked behind later levels. And god, I sure hope the variety of quests improves later on as well to make it all worthwhile, because the first few quests I got stuck in were all pretty typical MMO fare. You collect 10 skins for Barry Bastard Sword, interact with a bucket to put out a fire, that sort of thing. Once you’ve checked them all off, you move on to another area and repeat the process. Again, maybe that changes later down the line, but it certainly didn’t do anything special to really sink its claws into me in those early hours.
Still, Lost Ark is a happier time with a friend in tow. Teaming up is as simple as choosing from certain menus and sending out a party invite. Once you’re in a party, you can see each other’s icons on the map, as well as the quest together. You won’t be able to see everyone’s to-do list, but that’s fine. What matters is being able to follow each other and beat the bad guys together, which works a treat.
One thing that bugged us a bit, however, was the inability to continue the camaraderie in story quests. While regular dungeons allow you to team up easily, or at least team up to fill gaps, story-heavy quests temporarily sever the ties between you and your allies, so there’s no choice but to go it alone. Maybe these types of missions end later, but for an MMO it’s kind of weird not being able to experiment all with your friends. Of course, from a lore perspective, that might not fit, but that’s nothing a cutscene with your friends cut out of the picture can’t solve.
Elsewhere, I wonder how Lost Ark stands out from the crowd, and honestly? These moments of nuance are likely hidden behind hours and hours of quests. Over my brief time with the game, I gradually unlocked things like Rapport, which allowed me to do basic love interest quests, but the kind of things I would receive for building a relationship with those people didn’t wasn’t clear. I also had a pet bunny, which automatically picked up items off the ground for me, which was fine, but there are a lot of Diablo-likes with very similar magnetic loot powers. I know there are customizable player-owned crafting, islands, and raids to get stuck in – at some point – but I’m planning a lot of hard stuff to clear a clipboard of quests before. get there.
Still, what I played of Lost Ark was undeniably fun, with powerful combat in a wonderfully presented world. Those first few hours are packed like a traditional MMO, though, and it’s clear this game is going to be a big sink for those willing to persevere. It’s an MMO that will likely pay dividends for those gamers, but whether it’ll hold your interest long enough to make it happen is another matter altogether. It’s worth a shot for ARPG fans, but I don’t see it converting those who are already averse to button mashing up and down.
Still, if you want to give it a shot, the closed beta kicks off today on Steam (November 4 from 9am PT / 4pm GMT) and ends on November 11. The full game is not expected to launch until March 31, 2022.