Lost Ark review: The rare MMO that gets the right endgame content

In 2019, publisher Smilegate published lost ark, an action MMO that quickly climbed to the top of Twitch lists and captured the attention of gamers around the world. It was a real phenomenon.

However, access to the MMO was generally limited – it was only available in Korea and Japan, and several months later, through an open beta in Russia. However, the latter was the entry ticket for many players: I myself first played lost ark via VPN, supporting the raw translations automatically generated by the beta as I delved into the endless complexities of a game I would come to know intimately. Now the action-RPG is available in its full form in Europe and North America. I’ve played it for over 90 hours and haven’t looked back. I’m enthralled and excited for future content on the way.

lost ark is an action-RPG nestled within the framework of an isometric MMO. And while it looks and feels like a Diablo clone on the surface, it’s a much more complex game, requiring patience and dedication to figure out its ultimately rewarding systems.

Take his Character Classes: lost ark has five in total, several of which branch off into more advanced variants once you’ve progressed significantly. The Warrior, for example, has three subclasses to choose from, including the damage-focused Berserker, the support hybrid Paladin, and the tanky Gunlancer. There are no dedicated tanks or healers in lost ark, and it makes the game better for it. Each subclass has an entirely unique style of play, which makes endgame content even more exciting.

A character from Lost Ark fights a giant robot

Picture: Smilegate RPG

Unfortunately, character classes are now gender locked, which is a shame, as I would have loved to play as a male mage. The Korean version of the game has slowly started to implement other versions of gender-locked classes, with the female Berserker somewhere on the horizon. It helps that the character designer, although not as impressive as those in Korean MMORPGs like aion Where blade and soul, is more inclusive, especially in terms of skin colors, which are managed by a hex code or a color wheel instead of pre-selected palettes. But with a game that encourages a variety of playstyles, it’s a shame that the character creator and gendered classes place restrictions on its player base.

Each of these classes comes with an origin story that largely takes precedence over the overarching narrative, which is a useful, but ultimately generic, narrative of good versus evil. Unfortunately, the story is also slowed down by poor voice direction and inconsistent localization. Subtitles often don’t match what the characters are saying in voice lines, and quest objectives are sometimes explained in a weirdly obtuse way. The story Is gains more momentum once it starts digging into the backgrounds of demon-priest Armen, valiant Prince Thrain, and otherworldly Beatrice, but ultimately less concerned with vivid storytelling and more by facilitating the fantastic action of the game.

Speaking of: you spend most of your time kicking waves of demons into the dirt or roaming the terrain Devil May Cry-style. Like most RPGs, leveling up unlocks devastating new ways to juggle, counter, or combine your enemies. However, lost ark takes this kinetic a step further and allows players to assign unique passive abilities to individual skills. While playing paladin, for example, I granted an attack buff to the Wrath of God ability. The result is a huge blast of lightning that also deals increased damage to my allies. You can also slap element buffs, extended combos, modifiers, and reduced charge timers on your attacks. In all, lost ark gives you various avenues to tailor your characters to your sensibilities.

Many quality of life features are also associated with character classes. You can change passives and swap skills at any time, and save your favorite presets to switch between them seamlessly in the field or in dungeons. I found myself constantly switching between elemental effects on my sniper, balancing lightning and explosive damage depending on the situation. On the other hand, I’ve stuck to a build that’s mostly focused on supporting my paladin, swapping shields and healing for paralysis immunity when the occasion calls for it.

A character charges towards a monster in Lost Ark

Picture: Smilegate RPG

lost arkThe character mechanics and combat play out at a steady pace – leveling up to level 50 teaches the basics – but the endgame is the real challenge. It can be a bit gritty at times, but it never ceases to feel rewarding, especially as combat-focused content feels more implied than most games of its ilk. New bosses appear, whose intricate attack patterns require precise timing and a deep understanding of specific combat mechanics to defeat. Chaos Dungeons unleash waves of enemies, offering valuable break-in gear and materials after each level. And the Raid content, which I find most exciting, emulates a smaller, more contained Monster Hunter-like experience. Players locate their choice mark through the use of flares and can only use a limited amount of potions to recover their health. This makes these encounters all the more difficult, but all the more interesting. Which is to say, while many RPGs struggle to deliver meaningful endgame content, it’s in this particular area that lost ark prosperous.

What else, lost ark is not a game where you constantly have to play to reap rewards – the “Rest” experience bonus kicks in once you’ve been away from the game for a while. The more experience you have rested, the more likely you are to get rare loot from endgame events. As someone with very little free time, I love this system – I never feel left out, even when my friends are playing without me. It’s another welcome layer to lost arkendgame nuances.

And I haven’t even mentioned naval voyages, field bosses, or timed battles. Within the scope of its content, lost ark is gargantuan, and learning its intricate systems means being rewarded every step of the way, for a very long time. As it stands, after 90 hours I’ve completed about 40% of each region and have several characters well into the second tier of endgame content.

Unfortunately, with so much content comes a sickening number of currencies. You can get cash and gold just by playing the game, but earning royal crystals requires real money. And crystals are the most convenient path to Pheons, another type of valuable currency. Analyzing these currencies is a chore in itself, and lost ark would greatly benefit from reducing them.

But still: with all its endless complexities, variety of endgame content, and of course, stylish action, lost ark it looks like he’s destined to remain a phenomenon for quite some time. Reaching the end of the game can sometimes feel like a chore, and the in-game economy can be a headache in itself, but the rewards upon arrival are worth the trip many times over. Smilegate and Amazon managed to keep interest in the title going with its full release. However, the real test is maintaining that momentum.

lost ark was released on February 11 on Windows PC. The game has been reviewed on PC. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased through affiliate links. You can find additional information on Polygon’s ethics policy here.