Amazon Games and Smilegate's free-to-play ARPG Lost Ark has found its way to the western market. Free-2-play, Asian style, partly Diablo clone - can that work well in this combination? It can. And how! Lost Ark is a good, nay, excellent action RPG - not perfect, but close.
Lost Ark is not new, it has only been adapted and published for the western market. The action role-playing game took around three years of development work, and that's exactly what you can tell from the title. In any case, this will benefit the players in this country. And: the game may not be entirely new, but it comes at the right time.
Where Blizzard quarrels with itself and Diablo 4 or Diablo Immortal, delays and postpones, Lost Ark now occupies that niche from which the genre leader and midwife for the hack'n slash titles could hardly be ousted. Games like Path of Exile tried - and with quality, but didn't make it.
Lost Ark finds its place
After years of waiting for a real Diablo successor - no, the prepared one Diablo 2: Resurrected doesn't count - fans of the genre are now gratefully accepting what Amazon Games and Smilegate are offering them.
Lost Ark does not have to hide behind the competition, on the contrary. The combination of free-2-play and Asia-style threatens with a grind gameplay - and in fact the game is repetitive and hard work for long stretches, but at the same time it also brings a breath of fresh air to a dusty genre. The mixture of ARPG and MMORPG is symbolic of the middle ground that the developers are treading with Lost Ark. The title wants to be both and that too with the free argument "Free to play", which almost forces undecided players to at least try Lost Ark. Either way, they should be rewarded.
But Lost Ark is by no means perfect, even if some of the hyped ratings suggest otherwise. Tastes just differ. It is obvious: the game combines the strengths of two genres. At the same time, however, their weak points.
Getting started is easy: you choose your basic class, create the character, and off you go in fantasy adventure land. You quickly come across the first flaws: the quest system does not reflect those innovations that the game dictates through its thoroughly new genre approach. The quest texts are at best solid, partly hackneyed, the presentation of the tasks has already been seen in countless Asia grinders in this form - maybe loved, but probably hated.
You probably won't play Lost Ark for its grandiose story and task presentation, the Diablo titles have the edge - if you want to compare the two games at all. Seven artifacts to conquer them all to find. Drifting into the dark - and so on. In any case, you go on a search for the ancient before evil forces tear everything and everyone into ruin. You know that. It takes a hero or heroine - the choice is relevant in Lost Ark, as classes are gender-bound. For some, this is at best a visual difference, while others feel limited by it. Ultimately it doesn't matter in terms of gameplay, but you have to clear this hurdle when creating your character.
Class variety - from paladin to sniper
The choice of classes is plentiful: five basic classes are divided into a total of 15 specializations. The magicians include the classic elemental sorceresses, but also bards. The warriors have paladins or gunlancers. After character creation, a class tester lets players try out in-game which of the specializations they particularly like. A good idea to reduce the chance of making a wrong choice.
Speaking of gameplay: this is where Lost Ark finally comes into its own. And really. This is due to the combination of effective and visually impressive combat skills that you unleash on the enemy masses. Opponents crowd the player in hordes, so it's actually worth unleashing the skills.
Character and skills become more powerful with each level-up - this is progress that really motivates. By distributing points, the individual combat actions become more efficient, for example faster, stronger or enriched with elemental damage. The combat tactics are also adapted over and over again as you progress: Some skills prove to be particularly good “openers” at the beginning or later, in order to first throw yourself at the enemy hordes and then throw them “from the inside out” – like a knife through the warm Butter - to destroy.
Lost Ark is not stingy with light and shaking, which is why there is even a special mode that switches off the effect thunderstorm. If you don't have to do that for health reasons (by the way, even the mere option is great cinema!), you should watch the motley fights in the "original", because that's actually part of the fun. Incidentally, opponents en masse do not also mean a challenge, as there are only a few of them. Lost Ark's level of difficulty is moderate, and you won't find any real challenges - especially as a genre veteran. Occasionally bosses provide variety and the dungeons can also be tackled in difficult mode. Most of the time, however, the challenge is to position yourself correctly or to avoid an effect. Otherwise, stick tactics are the order of the day.
The game itself takes the hero or heroine by the hand at the beginning of their adventures. You are guided through different zones, the order is fixed. There are enough main and side quests to make meaningful progress. Somehow, however, the developers seem to have forgotten that exploration should also be part of the quest: if it is about eliminating a certain number of monsters, it is better to wait for the respawn at a hotspot than to search for other opponents. That is absurd.
So you mostly rush from quest to quest, clicking through the sometimes stupid dialogues in the hope that the next big mass fight is coming up again - then the fun factor grows immeasurably again. Lost Ark is a constant change from tedious actions and grandiose brawls. It is the latter that can justify the hype surrounding Lost Ark. The combat animations are to the point, the effects are impressive, the skills are varied and can be combined in many meaningful ways. Outside of combat, the pixel heroes then walk or climb as if they had their joints blocked with sticks, or simply hover a few inches off the ground during the cutscenes – bye, immersion.
As unimaginative as the quests often are, they fit together perfectly. The developers have understood how to push the player forward. Luckily, backtracking is therefore rare. However, this sometimes leads to strange moments: When an NPC asks the player to talk to another NC who can be found five meters away, then one wonders why some computer males are so terribly lazy. Nevertheless, one likes to help, not out of pure charity, but for the loot. Because loot comes at regular intervals, making even the craziest task feel rewarding. And because that's the case, you think about it yourself.
In most game areas, you end up visiting a dungeon, where you can enter with up to three other players. The structure and look of the game environments are great, Smilegate offers players something to look at in Lost Ark. There is no sign of cheap free-to-play production. When it comes to the dungeons, action role-playing shows qualities that are sometimes missing in the other game zones: no constant respawn and the possibility of actually exploring an area are the two great strengths. So you can actually “win” a fight for a change.
The further you progress in the game, the more entertaining the quests become - and the story unfolds its appeal. At the latest when you have received your ship and the game lets the player off the leash, the MMO feeling comes up. Then places can be explored and zones can be savored in a playful way. Again and again you meet weird characters and what was silly at the beginning is sometimes funny.
However, a stale aftertaste remains: as epic as the Lost Ark experience may be, the main story often cannot keep up. The NPC characters also remain pale, are often one-dimensional, apart from Armel. And something else is terribly one-dimensional: the loot. While loot is plentiful, it often boils down to stat boosts—really cool stuff is scarce. This is due to the item system itself, because the developers rely on upgrade options through a mix of resources instead of legendary equipment. Somewhat typical of an F2P game and closer to an MMO than an ARPG à la Diablo.
Lost Ark always surprises with creativity that you don't expect in some situations. Just when you've resigned yourself to the averageness of individual elements, the game sucks you in with a twist: funny dialogue, a stunning game environment, a cool boss fight - there are many of these unique moments that point to why Lost Ark is more than one x-any asia f2p game is. And so you are regularly woken up in the course of the action role-playing game driven by the grandiose battles - to enjoy Lost Ark.
Number of players: multiplayer
Age: from 16 years
Long-term motivation: high
Genre: Action RPG / MMO
Developer: Smilegate / Tripod Studio
Publisher: Smilegate / Amazon Games
Official Website: Link
Release year: 2019 / 2022
Platforms (Test system): PC
Costs: from 14,99 euros / free of charge
When an action role-playing game gets top ratings across the board, there must be something to the hype: and indeed, Lost Ark unfolds a special appeal. One that was last felt when Diablo 3 came out. Finally beating monsters again in an uncomplicated way and for free too. As a free-2-play game, Lost Ark makes it easy for players to opt for a few hours of testing.
At the latest with the first fight it grabbed you. Skills and effects form the perfect symbiosis, the action-packed fights against monsters that appear en masse are more than the standard fare of the genre. Lost Ark sets standards.
The story alone, including weak character drawings, can't keep up with that. After all: There are also moments of light. Lost Ark is often silly, but sometimes charmingly funny. On the other hand, the game environments are often a hit - you then wish the developers could have elicited a little more from the background story. The action role-playing game is always varied and entertaining. Anyone who has thought that Lost Ark could only be used to bridge the time until the release of Diablo 4 is probably wrong: Smilegate and Amazon Games have sent a competitor into the ring with clearly unique selling points and high quality. You don't necessarily have to do the Diablo comparison despite the obvious similarities - you could easily play both titles at the same time. It is not certain that D4 will also be the better game in the end. Lost Ark is terrific.
Last updated on 26.01.2023/XNUMX/XNUMX / Affiliate Links / Images from the Amazon Product Advertising API. * = Affiliate links. Images from Amazon PA API