MMORPGs have been around for over a decade and are huge in the competitive scene. Running raids, PVP arenas, and even world events make the community and provide endless content for players around the world. The most recent MMO rising to the spotlight has been Lost Ark, which has received very mixed opinions. The game deviates from the norm in terms of gameplay and follows a more point and click dungeon crawler style. If anything, Lost Ark feels like it found its roots from our long beloved series, Diablo. Unfortunately, this title seems to offer very little for competitive players and seems more geared towards casual. While that is not necessarily a bad thing, this genre in gaming is usually built around competitive players due to raids, trials, dungeons, and PVP arenas. I am five hours into the game, and honestly mixed about how I feel due to being a more competitive and experienced MMO player.
Character Classes are Limited
Classes feel a bit more underwhelming from an MMORPG perspective. There are only five classes each with different paths you can take at the beginning of the game. For example, Warrior comes with three paths, which are Beserker, Paladin, and Gunlancer while the Mage can choose between the Bard and Sorcerer. The issue I find with the structure is that there are no dedicated roles, and every class focuses on damage, aside from Bard as an example which has a heavier focus for support. While the structure is not a bad one for your standard dungeon crawler like Diablo 3, it leaves less room for competitive play when it comes to dungeons and raids. This also means less accountability for players when they mostly have the same focus which is damage and utilizing your skills appropriately (timing your cool downs).
Another odd feature is that certain classes are gender locked, which is not a huge deal per say but it is nice to have the option of choice. Warriors are only male, and Mages and Assassins are only female oddly enough. It feels like the developers were more focused on visuals than gameplay. Character customization at the very least does feature a variety of options as far as picking hairstyles, and facial features, but feels heavily biased towards gender roles.
Unorganized Skill Trees
Each class comes with a bunch of unlockable skills, and mini skill trees as the upgrades for each skill. From a competitive standpoint it will look like a hot mess and from an inexperienced player it will feel overwhelming. My big issue with this is the fact that for one, depending on the class there is not a variation of skill types, and due to the ability structures there are no active rotations to follow. Prime example, the Sorceress has a ton of abilities based on elemental damage. Fire is meant to break through armor, lightning abilities are meant to stun, and ice abilities are meant to slow enemies. However, there are sixteen total abilities that all seem to have one focus, which is damage. Some abilities will have a status affect that lasts an extremely short period of time, but most of them just cause knock back. Blaze will “paralyze foes” (not really and most of them die instantly due to how overpowered you are early game and late game), and will “burn” the enemies for five seconds. Even Assassins and Gunners have similar abilities that mostly cause knock back effects with little to no status effects or DOTs in general. While the playstyle is pretty much acting as a dungeon crawler, a lot of dungeon crawlers will have an additional buff due to the shortened status effect time. A great example is in Diablo 3 abilities will have skill runes. Spike Trap can utilize Echoing Blast or Long Fuse to increase the damage and add an additional effect like Freezing the target for three seconds and amplifying frozen damage by twenty percent. My point overall is that abilities feel a bit more basic and all have a similar focus.
Another huge issue I have with the game is that every attack is basically an AOE for classes like the Assassin and even the Paladin which is supposed to be the best “tank” class. While its ok for a game that is supposedly to be more of a dungeon crawler, it’s not effect from an MMO standpoint. No ability can directly target an enemy or all, basically meaning every character is a DPS class and some can support more than others, and meaning that there are no definitive roles. Then again, who needs support classes when you can steam roll through the campaign solo and use health potions with little to no cool down time?
A Sub Par Campaign with Poor Side Content
The story for Lost Ark is a simple one with awkward voice acting and writing in general. While the game is visually stunning, it clashes with the poor narrative written by what seems like questionable game script writers. A God known as Regulus creates worlds known as Arkesia and Petrania, and Petrania embraces chaos while Arkesia flourishes with the power of the Ark. Kazeros establishes a dark order in Petrania and creates the Red Moon that acts as a sun and forms a Demon army to invade Arkesia. Basically, Humans are teaming up with Angels and we get to fight Demons to save Arkesia.
The campaign would be a bit more redeeming if it actually had good narrative and more in depth quest lines. Each quest feels very brief, not only due to the fact that you slaughter everything in your wake with a few hits, but also because even the fetch quests are extremely limited. Gathering quests require a few of an item or two, and killing monsters generally caps around killing eight to ten of them. Exploration is also short due to the small area maps, and are tiny for even a dungeon crawler. Each area is filled with some lore that consists of clicking on the item and watching a small cinematic of the area (basically hey look the game is pretty). There are multiple fast travel points and you can get a horse off the bat, but each area is so small that it feels unnecessary to use. There are some random world challenges that would seem appealing if they were not so basic. I had one pop up that said hey cross this bridge within the time limit, and the time limit was two minutes with the bridge right nearby. Another wanted me to kill five enemies in two minutes that I could one shot off the bat. It kind of feels useless and half baked in design.
Dungeons also feel extremely short on both sides of the coin. Diablo set dungeons average around five minutes where as traditional MMO dungeons average anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour. Dungeons in this game last around a couple minutes, and show no difficulty in bosses let alone puzzles or traps. Even raids only last around twenty minutes and feature only one boss.
Dungeon Crawler Controls in an MMO
I must admit when I launched the game, I was at least expecting to learn the game as I go with the basics. WASD would be movement and I can customize my key bindings for spells right? This game felt so backwards that I thought I was playing Dungeon Siege or Diablo again. WASD keys are purely for ability commands oddly enough, and there is no lock on in the game. This does not necessarily mean the game is bad, but due to the mechanics it does not feel like a true or competitive MMORPG whatsoever. Though there is a debate on what truly makes an MMO, most will agree upon the staple of certain characteristics. While the game has a few characteristics, the dungeon crawler/ARPG mechanics stick out the most.
The game also features a very poor tutorial system, and introduces your subclasses right away to choose from by throwing you in an area where you can test out the playstyle and see which you like more. I personally like what traditional MMOs like WoW, FFXIV, Guild Wars 2, and even ESO where you can try out different skill trees as you go and can change whenever you want or pick up other classes on the same character.
Why the Game is not Competitive
While there are custom builds for each class, the game is far more casual than any other MMO. Abilities are too basic and mostly comprised of AOEs, there are no definitive roles to track and rank players based on skill (example: DPS tracking, healing count, and pulling aggro), and if players were to engage in PVP, there are no single target spells really. Cool downs are nearly the same time as well, and one can use and abuse spells in any order. Passive skills seem to be non existent oddly enough, and overall character progression seems to be a bit basic and lackluster. Late game shows an engraving system which seems to be end building, but overall the game feels underwhelming and lacking in many areas that and MMORPG should shine in.
The Birds and the Bees
Lost Ark is not a bad game by any means, but it is not a great game either. Maybe in a different light this gameplay can be introduced to MMO games, but in this instance I feel like the game would have been better if they focused on just the dungeon crawling aspect of the game. Polishing up on the abilities would go a long way, and adding more status effects would increase skill tier overall. I also think they should focus on adding character roles, and shortening the overall skill list and adding specific skill trees per sub class. There is plenty of room for improvement, but as for now there are way better FTP MMORPG games out there for players. That being said, I can see the appeal for casual and inexperienced players. The game is not highly demanding and is visually gorgeous. Also, who doesn’t like a good waifu?
Veteran gamer, tech nerd, comic addict, anime lover, and just your average introverted weeb.