Mailvaltar recently reminded me that Lost Ark was a thing. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s a Korean made MMOARPG. Wait- no, don’t run! This one actually looks pretty good. The scope of the game is mindblowing and it has a solid core set of gameplay mechanics backing it all up.
If you can imagine your Final Fantasy XIV, or WoW, flipped around to an isometric perspective. Then given something between an ARPG and a brawler’s combat system. Put in just a splash of Monster Hunter. And also a very anime-esque story over the top of the whole thing, you’ll be partway there.
If you’re anything like Mailvaltar and I, this will have you chomping at the bit to get in right now. For others almost every element of that will be a turn off. If you’re in the ‘right now’ camp and you don’t happen to live in Korea, I probably owe you a bit of an apology. You can’t. And the western release while confirmed now, doesn’t really have an attached timeline.
But Wait, Where’s the ‘Sneak Peek’ then?
OK, perhaps “can’t” was a bit strong. Because you certainly can. But it’s not exactly low effort. Or risk. To even embark on the journey of getting in you have to be aware you could lose access again at any time and be OK with that. This makes me somewhat wary of investing a lot of time at endgame right now, but to test it out and get an early look at how it’s shaping up?
I’m happy to share how if anyone is interested!
Every base class (currently there are four, with two more on the way) has its own introductory story. The Warrior gets a pretty rough deal starting out as a fighting pit slave with no weapons or armor and everyone expecting him to be dead ere too long.
Fortunately, it isn’t too long before you stop needing to punch things and get to wield an excessively large sword. Already by this point I’m extremely impressed with the mix of weighty impact and fluidity the combat has. Your skills are hotkey based, and are targeted in the direction of your mouse cursor (for the most part).
Chaining from one skill to the next, juggling your opponents simply didn’t get old. And learning how best to weave in new skills as they were learned to best extend the stun effect out. Working out their wind-up times and when to dash through an enemy before attacking again… Just so very satisfying.
And this was all before level 10 and selection of your actual class.
You see, every base class has three or four sub-classes which are what you will actually play as from the end of introductory sequence on.
What I really appreciated is that the game gives you the opportunity to test the three sub-classes out before you are asked to commit. You can spawn in normal or boss monsters and then have fairly free reign over testing a decent number of skills to get a feel for things.
Because once you commit, that is it. These aren’t specialisations that you jump between at will, this defines who your character is.
I kept wanting to test out other classes, but not being able to tear myself away. At 10 I thought. Then 15. Surely at 20. I’ve at last managed to convince myself to log out at around level 23. Level 50 is the cap but there is a ridiculous amount of stuff to do beyond that.
I was thankful in the extreme that the first mount is given fairly early on, I was level 14 when I got to pick my horse. Thankful because the world is huge. HUGE. And actually I should say the continent I’m on is huge. Eventually you will get a boat and access to entire new continents and island adventures.
I think (but don’t quote me yet) that you level to 50 entirely on the first continent and then unlock your boat.
Already I have seen quite an array of terrain though. Frosty wastelands (although that was in my Warrior’s backstory), verdant farmland, swampy marshes, dingy caves, ancient ruins, salt flats. And I’m barely into the second major region of the first continent.
None of this would matter though if the gameplay wasn’t fun, and as I think I’ve alluded to — it is. There is skill in execution of your combos for sure, but the build diversity also seems fairly strong.
When you level past 10 you are awarded skill points. Generally 5, but some levels seem to award more, and some quests can also award them.
You can rank your skills up and each rank does the basics of increasing damage, knockback, stun or other base effects sure. But at certain thresholds it unlocks a new tier of the ‘tripod’ system. So called because there are three tiers of three options for each skill, that can layer on top of one another to create fairly dramatic differences in how the skills execute.
Your selection within the tripod system can be changed on the fly, unlike your overall specialisation. So you do get the ability to adapt your build to the content you happen to be doing.
I haven’t been able to unlock the third tier of anything yet, but I have added extra duration to how long I can hold Whirlwind (vanilla tier 1 option) and then at Tier 2 added 40% additional range which also acts as a higher crit and damage zone. If I can keep enemies in that new outer reach of Whirlwind they take significantly more damage.
Pretty much every zone you run through winds up with a dungeon. You can go in on Normal or Hard mode, alone or as a party of up to four. You can solo Hard if you wish to, and in fact I would recommend it over Normal.
There was nothing… wrong with these dungeons. But they weren’t anything to write home about either. I had heard much fuss made about the cinematic dungeons of Lost Ark so was expecting a fair bit more.
Turns out those end of area dungeons are not the cinematic ones. The first of those comes around level 20-ish and they live up to the hype. Well. So far, with a sample of one they do.
I had almost given up on attempting to queue for dungeons too before this one. The end of area ones are being only infrequently run at the moment (should be a different story with a fresh Western release). But this one the queue pop was instant, and the run ever more enjoyable for having people along.
As is fairly standard fare for ARPGs, the dungeon difficulty scales for each person you include. There is no holy trinity to worry about (although Tanks (Warlords) and Healers (Bards) do exist if you’re that way inclined) so the queue times are never going to be waiting around for a specific type to decide to join.
Our run was in fact three Berserkers and a Warlord. xD
And this is pretty much where I left things off to come put this post together! When I jump back in I kind of want to try out a caster class (Summoner or Bard, most likely). But I may end up just jumping back on Berserker and rolling further into the game. :)