Lost Ark is down right now. It went down for a 4-hour maintenance window to prepare for general availability about 9-hours ago. So I suppose now is as good a time as any to come up for a breath of fresh air and share some thoughts.

First thought? Let me back iiiinnnnn. *rattles the gates*

It’s probably worth calling out before getting to any further impressions that I was already all-in before Lost Ark even launched in the West. So without a doubt, I’m more inclined to write off minor inconveniences or negatives as ‘just fine’ which may irk others more than they do me. To my mind, the merging of the ARPG and MMORPG styles, layered with a rather in-depth and skilful array of almost brawler-like abilities is worth a great deal.

But I also managed to give the game a bit of a shake back in 2019 in the Korean open beta.

If you’re looking for something for someone from fresh eyes to balance my perspective out a bit, then take a look over at:

To start with something that came up in both of these posts…

Gender Locked Classes

Yep. There are gender-locked classes. Kaylriene noted how this would’ve been odd even for a 2018 release when this first launched in Korea. I’m uncertain whether that is true or not (for its initial target audience in the East, at least) but either way — it’s important to note the SmileGate team is in the midst of updating classes to include their gender-flipped counterparts.

We’re seeing a similar piece of work underway with Kakao Games — developers of Black Desert Online — but they will still happily launch a new class in a single gender.

The other common aspect between these two developers is that when they do create the opposite gender’s version of a class — they are not identical.

To take Gunner as an example, and the Gunslinger (female) vs. Deadeye (male) specifically — they both share the central mechanic of switching their weapons (and so skill bars) between pistol, shotgun and rifle. A large part of the skill-ceiling these classes offer is managing a much broader arrange of skills than other classes do at any one time, the long cooldowns (and high power) of the rifle vs. the much shorter range but rapid-fire pistol abilities.

Some overlap in specific skills does exist too, e.g., both Gunslinger and Deadeye have the ‘Perfect Shot’ rifle ability, where you hold the ability key until the charge is in a narrow window of opportunity, then let it go for high damage.

But many more are entirely different and leads to changes in play style. e.g., Deadeye is a lot more shotgun focused (mid-range damage) whereas Gunslinger has more powerful Rifle attacks and is more comfortable at longer range.

For all this, I acknowledge it doesn’t help you if you specifically want to play a male Bard or a female Berserker (rumoured to be one of the next flips to arrive) right now.

Where I’m Up To

In the Mokoko village of Tortoyk Island

I thought I’d have raced through to level 50 now. Level 50 being the old level cap and where the endgame is considered to truly take off. Level 60 is the new level cap, but that final 10 level run is a marathon, rather than a sprint. Almost more of a soft-cap level system. So who knows when I’ll get to 60.

Instead though, I’ve been jumping around a few characters which to be very clear is not the ‘optimal’ way to play.

If you want to be efficient to the maximum, your first character will be a high DPS, high mobility class — even if you already know you don’t want to main them — and then use the 2x level boosts you get for the first level 50 / base-game main story completion you get to raise up the characters you actually want, particularly if they’re the slower characters to move around.

Efficiency isn’t everything to me though. If it was, I certainly wouldn’t have started with a Gunlancer. Absolute dead last — yes, even behind Bard — on most ‘speed run’ tier lists. Add to this, I’ve played multiple characters already to try keep vaguely in range of some other people I’m playing with and to say the least, my main hasn’t quite gone as far as I’d like him to.

My Gunlancer is level 45 now, and, I have a boat! :D

I’ve not upgraded said boat at all, and have only been on a very short sail journey with it to the nearby island of the Mokoko people, but I’m in love with it already. Depending on whether you’ve been doing all the side quests as well (like I have, also a very inefficient thing to do if max level is your goal) you’ll unlock your very own ship somewhere around level 40-42ish.

I also have a Stronghold, this is an early shot before I developed much of anything on it.

The Stronghold came earlier, around level 30-ish. You can consider it to be very similar to the Garrison mechanic of Warlords of Draenor, including a mission-table style mechanic reminiscent of this. I liked WoD’s Garrison system at the time, it was only really in retrospect that I came to like it… less.

So it’ll be interesting what long term views I end up forming around Lost Ark’s systems in this space. So far though? I quite enjoy it. I think one of the simultaneously small but impactful reasons for this being that the materials used to progress your island research, expand out to the additional islets and whatnot are the same materials you get just normally for other uses. There is no additional farming required for ‘War Supplies’ or whatever the current flavour of WoW’s resource is.

My Alts

So far, I have two — and as I scan through my screenshots, I recognise I’ve not taken a single one of either. D’oh.

In any case, I have a Paladin who will be my ‘main’ alt, and a Gunslinger I made to literally race my way through up to the point where some friends behind my main were at.

The Gunslinger was interesting as it gave me some insight into how the other half live, given that Gunslinger as the direct polar opposite to my Gunlancer tends to top most speed-run tier lists, with two mobility skills and a forward dash vs. Gunlancer’s backwards hop in place of a dash and one skill that might, if you squint and look at it funny, be considered a mobility skill. I mean… It is useful for repositioning in combat to be sure… But for general moving around… Not so much.

With my Gunslinger I’ve broken from my norm of doing every quest presented and beelined the main quest only until I caught up. And you know what?

I was super sceptical at first that skipping the secondary quests would save much time at all. SmileGate devs might be cruel and unusual in their hidden placement of Mokoko seeds (a collectable in the game), but the quest flow is for the most part very good. You’ll only rarely have to deviate from the main path to do a secondary.

But now that I’ve tried it — especially powered along by Gunslinger speed as I was — hoo boy. Yeah. It really does get you moving at a good clip. I made it from creation to the end of Morai Ruins dungeon/level 20 in under 2 hours. I’m not sure how much under, but definitely under. I wasn’t going to make any world records at the pace I was going, but it was still eye-opening, to say the least.

General Impressions

Still one of my favourite dungeon experiences so far.

The main story is incredibly on rails. And as Kaylriene noted, the story… Well, it exists. It’s… there. Doing vaguely story-like things from time to time. The rule of cool is often put into effect and to be fair, some of the cutscene animations are incredibly well done.

Where I’m up to now, with having my boat, the world has started to feel much more open to me. And I know that once I get through to 50, this opens up to an almost overwhelming degree.

This is the furthest I’ve ever been. I never quite wanted to get invested in the endgame of another region version of Lost Ark. Particularly for Korea’s release, there was the constant fear of being banned at any moment. But even in Russia where things were… a bit more ‘lax’ shall we say, it didn’t feel like something I wanted to spend a bunch of time in, knowing that eventually, eventually, I’d need to do it again for our own release.

So I cannot yet say how I’ll feel about everything once I reach that part of the game myself. But everything I’ve seen has me hopeful. Sure; there is a heavy weighting toward vertical progression and making the numbers go up. (To some pretty insane degrees, from what I’ve seen!)

But there is also such a vast array of more horizontal progression or just simply ‘fun’ things to go out and explore that I think even someone who prefers to play as Bhagpuss typically does could have a ball here. Although the strong linear nature of the early parts of the game would certainly be a detriment.

It’s sounding like the servers are at last coming back up (properly, this time) so I’m going to head back to it. I’m sure you’ll hear more from me on this in the coming days. :)


Naithin

Gamer, reader, writer, husband and father of two boys. Former WoW and Gaming blogger, making a return to the fold to share my love of all things looty.

3 Comments

bhagpuss · February 13, 2022 at 3:32 am

Since it’s free and on Steam I probably will end up trying Lost Ark eventually. If I do I will very definitely not be following that optimal levelling plan I’ve been hearing about.

All the talk of gender-locked classes has been making me thingk, though. Everyone mentions it. No-one likes it. Eastern developers keep having to do extra work to add extra genders to appease Western audiences. I’m starting to wonder if that’s the right response. After all, the West is currently making quite a big deal about moving past the bipolar gender construct to something more fluid. Why lock classes into either one or two genders at all?

Maybe it would be better to make all classes ungendered. Just have a single form and not specify. Leave it up to the players to decide what gender the character they’re playing is. Let everyone have facial hair, breasts, whatever they want. It’s just some sliders at character creation. Make all gear and costumes fit everyone (Still going to have problems with non-human races but that’s another issue.) That would be far cheaper to develop and ought to suit everyone.

    Naithin · February 13, 2022 at 9:54 am

    I think ungendered characters that can be what you decide despite features/proportions is precisely where we’ll end up.

    I’m not sure there will be much in the way of development savings. At least not where fitting armor sets and animations and whatnot are concerned.

    Perhaps, at least for the Asian subset of games, they may reduce design and ongoing balancing efforts from having multiple (but similar) classes to work with?

    Will be interested what you end up thinking of this. The on-rails part of the early game may well be its bane for you. But then, I’ve seen the freedom you make for yourself in the likes of FFXIV and wonder if you might not find something similar here even before the game opens up more naturally.

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