Lost Ark review: The MMORPG we’ve been waiting for

Amazon Games
Amazon Games /

Title: Lost Ark
Developer: Smilegate, Tripodstudio
Publisher: Amazon Games
Platforms: PC
Release Date: February 10, 2022

I’ve been hopping around MMORPGs for years trying to find the one. I’ve tried or revisited them all recently — World of Warcraft, Elder Scrolls Online, Star Wars The Old Republic, Final Fantasy XIV… even Ultima Online. Like many of you, I was excited for the release of New World, only for that game quickly lose my interest after a couple of updates went live. So I approached Lost Ark, a game that released in Korea in 2019, with a healthy dose of pessimism, not wanting to be let down again. What I ended up with is a game that I can’t wait to return to night after night.

Lost Ark is a free-to-play action RPG (ARPG) mixed with an MMO with an isometric, diagonal, top-down camera view — similar to Diablo. While it doesn’t boast a better story than Diablo or rival MMO Final Fantasy XIVLost Ark is filled with smooth and calculated combat, lush and beautiful environments, amazing set pieces, some quirkiness and tons of content.

The story is the weakest part of Lost Ark, but it’s passable. The game follows the search for seven lost pieces of the Ark, which will be used to close a rift in which Chaos is pouring into Arkesia. It’s essentially Gods and light versus Chaos and demons. While the writing is pretty typical, what keeps the story from being average are the way in which it’s presented. Excellent set pieces, cutscenes, swelling musical scores, and a couple of fun story moments with cool characters keep it an entertaining ride.

lost ark
Amazon Games /

The same can’t be said the majority of Lost Ark’s quests where these things do not happen. While each of the main continents the story takes you through has unique gameplay mechanics/gimmicks, most of the quests are just to go out and kill a certain number of enemies in an area. And then there’s the quests that have you talking to two or three people within 10 feet of each other, so you’re just click running back and forth for five minutes in the same tiny space.

Luckily, those quests take you through some wonderfully designed environments. You’ll travel through all sorts of cultures and landscapes. One chapter you’ll be in a high fantasy kingdom, the next you’ll be in a technologically advanced city reminiscent of Midgar from Final Fantasy VII. And the dungeons you’ll go through, while not all are required through questing, have exciting set pieces for you to take in as you battle your way to the final boss.

Your character on this adventure will be chosen from one of 15 advanced classes across five class archetypes. There’s your more typical Paladin and Sorceress, and then there’s everything from the tanky Gunlancer and hard-hitting Soulfist, to the high DPS Gunslinger and Shadow Hunter. You may have heard that some of these classes are gender locked, but other than that, Lost Ark features nice customization options in the character creator.

Lost Ark
Amazon Games /

The classes in Lost Ark all play differently, and each give you a set of skills of which you choose eight to be on your hotbar. As you level up, you assign points into these skills to make them stronger and give them different Tripod traits. Two Paladins may have the same Holy Explosion skill, but through skill points assigned to get the skill to higher tier levels, one may have a Tripod trait that lets it cast instantly, while the other may make it a channeled cast that does more damage. There’s a ton of variety to how you want to build your class to play, and Lost Ark encourages you to try different things by giving you multiple loadouts for your skills and the ability to change them and reassign skill points whenever you please. So never hesitate to reassign points and try out new skills that you unlock.

The action in Lost Ark is smooth and lets you tackle the mass amounts of enemies it throws at you with ease, with harder bosses requiring a bit more finesse. The combat in Lost Ark is quite fulfilling and makes me feel like I’m playing as a powerful hero that has to try a bit more to take on the hardest enemies the game has to throw at you. Attacks range from mobile attacks and dodges and counterattacks to powerful channeled AOE attacks and buffs. It’s diverse and has you juggling cooldowns, but it allows you to get really creative with skills, effects and rotations.

On your way to the endgame at level 50 (level cap is 60), Lost Ark introduces tons of gameplay mechanics — so much that it might feel overwhelming to players. They’ll teach you to facet stones to apply to your character, which is a heavy RNG system and frustrating at best. But they’ll also teach you how to raise your rapport with a wide variety of NPCs, collect materials for honing your gear and leveling it up, travel by boat to the game’s many islands and outfit it with a crew — and then there’s Strongholds.

lost ark
Amazon Games /

Strongholds feel like it was ripped out of the online multiplayer city-building game Evony, or out of a mobile game. The Stronghold is your private land that gets gifted to you by the king. In your Stronghold you’ll have your own dock, crew members, and will be able to decorate it, since it acts as your player housing. But it also serves a purpose and levels up with the more time and resources you put into it. Strongholds let you research new stronghold features and new items/potions to craft in the Lab, craft consumables in the Workshop, send crew members and boats on missions at the Station, assign bonuses for your Stronghold in the manor, but you can also level up alts there. Everything you do in your Stronghold costs energy, which replenishes over time or with items, but everything you do there also gives you Stronghold XP to level it up. Materials for your Stronghold come from gathering (logging, mining, foraging) out in the world, which also has an energy system that goes away after every gathering action. Strongholds might just seem like a tacked-on gameplay system, but it actually feeds into the core gameplay loop of everything you’ll be doing.

My biggest worry with Lost Ark was going to be content. After playing New World, that was a legitimate fear of mine considering how little there was to do at end game. Luckily, Lost Ark has tons to do at end game as you try to get higher level gear.

First off, there’s a list of dailies and weeklies that will directly connect to all of the content in the game that you can do. There’s a lot there, so pick and choose what you want to do… like the ability to sail to a ton of islands that offer unique challenges and rewards. While you explore islands, you’ll earn tokens that can be exchanged for rewards.

Other end game activities you can tackle are World Bosses or Chaos Gates (each have a limited number of times that you can claim rewards daily), Guardian Raids are essentially you hunting down and killing a giant monster like in Monster Hunter, the Tower where you go through multiple levels of increasing difficulty in a dungeon, the Cube is a timed challenge, Boss Rush pits you against waves of challenging bosses, and PvP.

lost ark
Amazon Games /

That’s right, I didn’t leave out the PvP section of the game. In Lost Ark there are a couple of PvP options, such as 1v1 duels. The variety comes in the Proving Grounds, which is an arena with different modes. You can do a match where six players fight for themselves to the death, or team-based modes where teams of three try to kill each other to score points, or Team Elimination where two teams of three have their members fight one-by-one and get eliminated.

If you want to take a break from those end game activities, you can always go back and do side quests you skipped on your way to 50, or roster quests to gain more gifts and level your rapport with NPCs.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t touch on the free-to-play aspect of Lost Ark and its microtransaction. Since Lost Ark is free-to-play, its source of revenue is an in-game item shop where you can buy pets, mounts, armor skins, and items that make life easier as you play throughout the leveling process and endgame. I don’t view the options in the shop as pay-to-win, but they’re definitely pay to make life easy and for you to progress faster. The most common item you’ll see people get is the Crystalline Aura that lasts 30 days, essentially becoming a monthly subscription if you want to keep its effect applied to your character. It gives you tons of perks, like free Triport traveling, half off Ocean Liner fees, and percentages off crafting and research times, to name a few. This is a normal practice in free-to-play MMOs, so I can forgive it since it’s not doing something egregious, like locking rare and powerful gear behind a microtransaction.

Lost Ark
Amazon Games /

As you can clearly see, Lost Ark is overflowing with content, substance, and most important of all, fun. It’s honestly overwhelming. There is such a thing as too much to do in a game, but if you take your time and tackle one area of the game at a time, you begin to understand everything that it has to offer. It immediately rushes to the top tier of MMORPGs on the market today, next to Final Fantasy XIV, and is only held back by the generic story that’s propped up by exciting set pieces, and the grindiness of so many of the game’s system. That said, I’ll keep playing every day, so you can call me a raider of the Lost Ark.

Lost Ark (PC) Score: 9.5/10

Lost Ark could feel like too much of a good thing and overwhelming with the amount of gameplay mechanics. But it all merges into an addicting gameplay loop filled with exciting set pieces, fun and customizable classes and attacks, and enough varying content to keep you happy for the foreseeable future.

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.