Hello fellow strangers, in this article I will try to describe my personal experience with a Korean isometric MMORPG called Lost Ark. I will also show you in this review end-game progression, classes, monetization system, gameplay mechanics, and story.
I’ve played many isometric games before (Diablo, Torchlight, Titan Quest, Wolcen, Devillian, and many more…) and I could not resist trying out this game as well.
Originally, I played it back in 2019 with the initial Russian-restricted release by Mail.ru company and basically, I have seen most of the content before. Within 3 years, the game has drastically changed and was updated to the so-called Lost Ark 2.0. And this global update is going to be delivered to the western audience from Europe and North America on February 11, 2022.
The Adventure begins
Once you first launch the game, you meet the character creation screen which is pretty self-explanatory. Many characters just like in any other Asian MMO have oversized bodies, weapons, and stylish voiceovers, so if that doesn’t scare you, then read on.
Here you can find 5 different gender-fixed classes: Warrior (classic close-range fighter with brutal DPS abilities), Mage (Long-range caster), Monks (mid-range class that utilizes Mantras, Buffs, and damaging abilities), Hunters (long-range dexterity fighters who use steampunk guns) and recently released Assassin (another dexterity class that uses daggers and stealth approach).
More classes and subclasses will certainly come later, but will they be monetized or provided for free? Nobody knows yet.
Each class has its own story, and subclasses that can be tested inside the tutorial arena before starting the actual game. The choice is permanent though, so choose it wisely.
You can create up to 6 characters for free, the rest can be purchased inside an in-game shop for real money. But personally buying additional character slots for Twinks or Mules is not necessary because most of the features are account-wide anyway and are not tied to a specific character.
Unfortunately, the game also doesn’t feature Progression transfer to a different realm (Amazon Publisher might come with a solution later) so choosing the right server to play is also important if you plan to play with your friends.
First steps into Arkesia
Once you start playing Prologue missions, the game will politely show you leveling system, skills, combat mechanics, and social interactions with different NPCs.
You will also notice soon enough, that the game features 2 separate leveling systems – Your main Character combat level (blue experience bar) and Legacy/Roster level (purple experience bar).
Combat Progression and skills
Basically, this combat bar is tied to one character and you earn combat experience from finishing main and side quests and killing enemies, while Roster experience is Account-wide and can be leveled by completing world activities, dungeons, raids, daily quests, or PVP arenas.
Keep in mind that simply grinding enemies is not recommended as they grant a very small portion of XP. It is wised instead to complete quests to level faster and achieve new goals.
Each time you raise your combat level, you receive skill points, that can be spent to upgrade your abilities, unlock new runes and special effects. Skills can be upgraded up to rank 12, but you will need level 60 for that. For level 50 characters skills are capped at rank 10.
What’s more important is that you can spend these skill points wherever you want, because even if you decide to change your build completely or switch just one skill, you can respec your points for absolutely free. And you can do that at any time, so feel free to experiment with different abilities and build your own unique playstyle. After a certain time, you will also receive runes, which can additionally improve your favorite skill.
As for the Legacy progression, this extra leveling system is unlocked after your character reaches level 50. After that, you will be able to complete legacy quests, and run several mid and end-game activities to increase this “Purple” level.
Each time you earn a new level you receive a permanent account-wide bonus to all of your characters such as +5 to main stat (Strength/Dexterity/Intelligence), +5 HP, a Loot Chest, or consumables.
After reaching Legacy level 60, you can also receive one Bifrost key that unlocks a teleportation slot. These teleport features will come in handy after reaching the end of the storyline.
Apart from that, Legacy levels have no other use in Lost Ark. It is just a nice bonus to ease your leveling with different characters
Gear score is basically your level replacement. It is your direct access to high-tier activities like Heroic raids or Challenging towers. Every time you equip new armor, it may raise your gear score and this milestone will remain intact even if you remove all your armor. This means, that you cannot artificially reduce your Gear score to run lower activities for benefit.
Your score can be drastically increased by participating in World events, killing bosses, finishing dungeons, instances, completing quests with rewards, trading with other players for gear, or enchanting by using crafting materials.
In case you are not interested to play it as intended, you can purchase the Ascension feature for real currency to instantly raise your gear score to 1300 and skip an entire story.
Questing and leveling
The quest-line in Lost Ark is similar to other MMOs and there is nothing special about it. For 60% of your time, you fulfill different questionable tasks, talking to thousands of NPCs in town, collecting and interacting with different objects, and for the last 40% you fight enemies.
Many quests are extremely trivial and do not even ask you to kill anyone. Sometimes it can be frustrating to listen to all the speeches for minutes and hours + most of these side quests require you to travel to distant places for no apparent reason (just to make you spend some time).
As for the other quests, well they are typical for MMO. No big surprises here (did you expect something different?) – collect a few items, kill several boars, destroy cages to save NPCs, and many other entertaining MMO objectives.
It is also important to know that in Lost Ark you can complete all quests alone and without any help. So if you’re struggling to find a group or just want to play Solo, then there is more than enough content for you.
The main story is absolutely linear, just like in any other MMO, and most of the main quests will guide you through the core game mechanics such as sailing, crafting, economy, activities, and social features.
In short, the story begins not far from the world collapse, when the Arkesia’s balance is about to be shaken by the Demon army. Heroes will attempt to unite different clans and factions together against this evil and must find the Ark which appears to be lost somewhere in Arkesia.
For now, the players can find up to 6 pieces of Ark. The final 7th ark is not yet available in the game, so The main Ark quest cannot be completed.
After progressing through the story, you will encounter ports and ships that will help you cross vast oceans, unlock new continents, teleportation points and discover new activities around the world of Arkesia.
While sailing, you can also use ship abilities to scan the surroundings, farm some fish, gather materials, and drop anchor at specific islands, ghost ships, or in ports.
To sail like a pro, you can also upgrade your ship to higher tiers with certain materials, customize its skin, and find a crew that will make it easier to survive in storms, dark fogs, and other dangerous areas. In case you destroy your ship in the process – drop down to 0 HP, nothing bad will happen. You simply won’t be able to use your ship abilities and burst to move faster.
Customizing and upgrading your ship is purely optional and not required to complete the story.
To skip the boring parts of the ocean, the game allows you to turn on the auto-pilot feature at any time. Just open your map, navigate to any spot and draw a route.
In Lost Ark 2.0, just as in many other MMOs you can utilize different professions to achieve your goals. Each profession is leveled the same way by harvesting specific materials with your tools and raising your specialization level up to 60.
After achieving a certain level, you unlock life skills that improve your harvesting speed, a chance for extra rare materials, and abilities to harvest high-leveled ores, trees, or plants.
Each time you harvest something or involve in crafting, you spend work points that are automatically restored every 10 minutes. Once you deplete this bar, you will not be able to harvest new items for a while.
There are 6 professions in total: Herbalism, Lumbering, Mining, Hunting, Fishing, and Archeology. Each profession has its own unique life skills and all these crafting specializations can really help you to improve your gear, stronghold, or simply gain some profit by trading with other players for gold.
Music is another game mechanic which allows players to play certain types of music to teleport, leave dungeons or instances, inspire some NPCs, buff allies or return to your personal house (stronghold which can be obtained later).
Learning new notes is not required to progress the story, but it may certainly help in finishing some side quests for extra experience and rewards.
Some of the new notes can only be unlocked by participating in certain events, purchasing with Pirate coins, completing Adventure book, or finishing special assignments around the world of Arkesia.
Enchanting and Stonecutting
Enchanting or Upgrading will be your primary activity to raise your gear score with different types of resources. Basically, this feature will be super useful to pass certain gear score requirements and squeeze your top-tier gear from Raids for the maximum possible Score.
Items can be upgraded to level 20 with different resources. These materials can be found from many different sources – Raids, dungeons, auction house, loot chests, or dismantling.
As for the Stonecutting, (reforging ability stones) it is a mini-game where you can cut stones for additional bonus stats and it purely depends on your luck. The more cuts you do, the lower is the chance it to be successful. These stones can grant 2 positive effects and 1 negative effect which must be cut too.
After the cut, engraved stones can be either equipped on your character or salvaged into dust, which can be exchanged later for unidentified stones of different quality from Stonesmith NPC.
If you successfully cut several positive effects (from 6 and higher) you may receive a permanent bonus, but these cutting bonuses usually don’t have much of an impact on your character anyway and will slightly buff your output damage or defense.
Pets have been introduced recently in the Lost Ark 2.0 update. To unlock pets, you will need to complete a guide (tutorial) quest from your Guide Log. You will be able to find more pets around the world of Arkesia from finishing quests or purchasing inside a shop.
These unique followers will auto-pick items for you and buff your character with specific effects, which can be rolled at Pet Manager NPC. Auto-pick feature can also be edited with a loot filter inside the Pet collection menu.
Trading with other players is what makes this game alive. There are plenty of different sources to farm valuable items, resources, and sell them for gold. For that case, you can conveniently use an Auction House and basically sell anything you wish for coins, but I’d suggest you do so only after you reach level 50 or in case you are stuck with your gear score.
This Auction house menu features everything you need: bids, transaction history, average market prices, item-quality filter, class filter, and search bar.
You may also trade with other players directly by using the Trade menu if needed, but Auction house is probably the best option to find your buyer fast. Unfortunately, there is no mobile companion at this moment to buy/sell your items remotely, so you always have to log into the game and check your bids manually.
Collectibles and Adventure Book
Some completionists may find this stuff very entertaining and useful in the late game. In Lost Ark you can accidentally find unique collectibles which can be exchanged for some valuable rewards from different NPCs.
All collectibles are trackable and account-wide, so there is no need to collect them all with different characters. There are 8 notable collectible types in this game: Island Hearts (hidden souls that are located on remote islands), Orpheus Stars (found from different world activities), Giant Hearts (obtained from World bosses), Masterpieces (rewarded from completing special assignments), Mokoko Seeds (usually found in some hidden distant corners of the world), Sea Adventures, Seeker Marks (obtained only after completing Zone to 100%), and World Tree leaves.
These collectibles are purely optional, but you may want to find at least some of them to trade for valuables. For example, if you collect at least 9 Seeker Marks, you can purchase the key to unlock the final slot in Bifrost Book to create your custom TP waypoints.
Adventure Book is also another trackable window. Basically, you can find everything the zone has to offer – story quests, dungeons with different modes, World Bosses, hidden stories, lore books, artifacts, viewpoints, and many more.
Each percentage completed in a certain zone will reward you with an item from that Adventure Book. Once you reach 100% zone completion, you will be rewarded with one unique Seeker Mark.
NPC Affinity (Reputation)
Another optional activity in this game is NPC interaction. You will encounter this activity many times throughout your main story.
Basically, each NPC has their own interests, and to make them happy, you can give them specific gifts, play songs or use emotes. Although you can do that only a few times a day.
You can give up to 99 gifts to one NPC, play 5 songs and use 5 suitable emotes per day. Gifts can be obtained from finishing quests, trading, or exchanging from NPC in town.
Each time you level up your NPC reputation, he will give you Rank rewards – Coins, decks, seal books, and recipes. Some of the key NPCs can even give you additional Romance quests. Completing this type of quest can increase your reputation with a certain NPC, grand some experience, and silver.
Housing (aka. Stronghold)
Stronghold is your personal Estate where you will be able to develop new projects, upgrade structures, learn new recipes and participate in sea adventures. To unlock your personal stronghold, you will need to finish a special Guide (legacy) quest in your Log.
Stronghold is your optional zone and it is not required to complete the story.
Here you will unlock your first workbench to produce new items from resources you gathered with crafting specs, learn now schematics in the Lab, send your ships to missions, and upgrade your mansion.
Don’t forget to decorate your land and to invite your friends there, but keep in mind that with each action performed inside your stronghold, you spend production stamina.
Guide and Daily Quests
Guide quests are some minor quests in Lost Ark that are usually given to new or returning players to unlock certain types of activities like strongholds, pets, guilds, crafting or ship upgrades. All these Purple quests usually offer some rewards and special features so better not to ignore it completely (especially pets and stronghold).
Daily quests on the other hand are repeatable missions that can be taken from Epona journal. These quests reward you with silver, legacy experience and valuables like crystals or ability stones.
The more daily quests you complete, the more points you receive, which can be converted into Epona badges. These badges can be later exchanged for Gold to trade on the Auction house
Now it is time for some heavy artillery – End-game activities for all kinds of players in this game.
Every activity has its own purpose, rewards, and Gear score entry requirements. If your gear score is below the requirement, you will not be able to enter an activity. Usually, guide (legacy) quests will help you, so read them carefully or consult the in-game encyclopedia for additional details.
Chaos dungeon will be your first available activity and to access this dungeon it is recommended to have at least 250 Gear score and have certain continents completed before launching the dungeon.
There are 6 different chaos dungeons in Lost Ark. Each one is divided into 4 different Difficulty Tiers for higher quality rewards. Depending on how much gear score you have and what quests you completed you can enter these dungeons and test your strength alone or in the 4-man group.
Inside Chaos dungeons, your goal is to kill as fast as possible as time is limited and to proceed to the next floor. Once you fill the bar to 100% the chaos dungeon will be completed, and you will receive random rewards from the drop-table.
This activity can be repeated as many times as you want, but there will be fewer rewards if you play it with a depleted Bonus bar.
These are story-driven dungeons with action-packed scenes and special bosses inside. Void dungeons can be started only with the 4-man group and with at least 340 gear score. Some of the latest void dungeons will require at least 1300 gear score, level 50, and quest completions.
Basically, Void dungeons are like classic instances from World of Warcraft or The Elder Scrolls Online where you kill enemies, smash bosses into pieces, and receive rewards. This activity is not time-limited, so you can take as much time as you need to clear one dungeon with your group members.
Raids in Lost Ark have a slightly different approach. Instead of a large MMO dungeon with many strong bosses inside, it usually features one area with one or two bosses that cast different large-spread and strong abilities. Some of the bosses will require you to read boss patterns and know when and how to avoid each attack.
By killing the Raid boss inside a Raid activity you receive Valuable Stars of Mystaria which can be traded for resources and materials for enchanting. You can kill up to 2 bosses for each day and play Guardian raids solo or in the 4-man group.
If you die too many times inside raid, or the time expires, you will fail the activity, so before you enter, it is advised to raise your gear score, take enough potions with you and call some allies.
The minimal gear score to enter Guardian raids is 302. For Heroic raids, your character must have at least 460 gear score and level 50.
Towers is a solo activity for one player. The name speaks for itself – you conquer towers with rising difficulty for rewards. Each floor can have different requirements, so apart from killing monsters, be ready to check your objectives and do the right thing within a given time.
There are 2 towers at this moment – Tower of Shadow for beginners (340-540 Gear score) and Tower of Doom for advanced players (802-1040 Gear score). To reach the highest floor, you will have to complete all 50 floors straight in one sitting.
So, if you are not ready to spend your time on 50 floors, or if you lack a certain gear score, then you can visit this activity later after you pass 1000+ Gear score.
Cube (Dungeon modifiers)
Cube is another dungeon-type activity for solo or 4-man group, but this time with special modifiers such as surviving for a certain time or killing monsters.
To play this activity, you will need to obtain an Entrance Ticket, complete a Guide quest, finish at least 10 tower floors, and have at least 302 gear score.
After completion of each stage, you will receive cube points that in the end may improve your final reward. You can also get more cube points if you complete this activity with no Deaths. If you fail to finish this activity, you will receive the reward chest from the previous successful stage.
Cards have been introduced recently with the Lost Ark 2.0 update. These card decks can be obtained from loot chests, quest rewards, dungeon completions, or purchased with an in-game shop for real currency.
There are 5 tiers of cards – normal, unusual, rare, epic, and legendary. Each card can also be upgraded in the workshop tab for silver or dismantled for additional experience.
Each deck has unique bonuses and it can be equipped on your character. To activate the Card Deck effect, you need to equip at least 2 cards from one deck. Try to experiment with different cards and mix them together to create a unique list of active effects for your character.
PVP and Territory control
PVP is basically limited to certain arenas, where you will be given a build-locked (balanced) character just like other players to fight against each other. This means that you will not be able to play arena with your fully-geared character.
There are 3 PVP arena modes you can choose from – Team Deathmatch, Free-for-All, and Last team Standing. After completing arenas, you will receive loot chests that contain a unique title or skin.
As for the Guild wars (Battle of Silmael), Guilds can choose to fight another guild for territory, and if there are not enough players to participate in this event, any guild can hire mercenaries (real players outside a guild) to fight for one side and receive special rewards.
This activity is pretty self-explanatory. There are plenty of different bosses for different gear scores. You can track all these bosses and their loot-table in advance with your calendar and track them on your map.
Killing these bosses will reward you with Giant hearts, gear, Legacy experience, Achievements, loot chests, skill books, armor crystals for upgrading your gear, and ability stones.
Every time you log in, Lost Ark rewards you with different items which will ease your progression. These include silver, resurrection feathers, starter decks, crystals, and other consumables.
There is also a separate window for returning players. These giveaway events are time-limited and usually occur during certain types of holidays, major updates, or big announcements. The list of rewards may vary, but most of the time you can receive legendary cards, tokens, pets, consumables, and crafting resources.
All these rewards are free, and they do not require you to stay in the game for a long time – Once you log in you get your reward and it can be taken instantly from your Mailbox.
Many companies feature Battle Pass in their games and Lost Ark was no exception. With Battle Pass (known here as Ark Pass) you can complete missions to gain Pass experience and receive basic and premium rewards.
Ark Pass is a time-limited offer that can be purchased separately to receive additional rewards with Premium and Super Premium access. These paid offers usually include exclusive skins, pets, mounts, and resources.
Experience for Ark Pass can be also purchased to raise your levels faster, but you can reach the maximum level 30 Pass by just playing the game and finishing ArkPass Missions without spending a single real currency.
The pay-to-Win aspect of this game is what probably interests people to start or ignore Lost Ark completely. And here is the basic answer to this question – No, it is not quite right, for some of the players.
While in-game shop certainly features many paid aspects like paid resources, character boosting to skip campaign straight to 1300 gear score, there are no game-breaking points in this game. You can literally achieve everything the game has to offer for free and without spending a single penny.
Plus, the game never leaves you in front of Pay-to-win Wall and never hints you to visit the shop to buy some buffs, resources or experience.
Based on the Russian version of the in-game shop I can tell, that this game is not forcing you to buy anything, plus every time you log in you receive free rewards that can help you progress further. How the shop will look like for the Western audience is still a question, but Amazon publisher will probably not let it happen to break the balance for PVE economy and PVP players.
Visual Style and Optimization
Despite the fact that the game runs on a pretty outdated game engine – Unreal Engine 3, it is still quite an appealing adventure with smooth responding gameplay.
Even with average GPUs and CPUs the game has no issues whatsoever, and it easily runs on stable 60+FPS.
Not a single crash, nor freeze occurred during my playthroughs, but what can be noticed is that the initial launch of the game may take like a minute or so even with SSDs. Switching between zones, however, is barely noticeable.
The art style in Lost Ark can also leave many players impressed. There are plenty of different continents, each with its own unique style, monsters, and weather effects.
All classes also have quite impressive skill animations which can easily compete with such games like Diablo or Wolcen for example. Each ability is smooth, looks great, and feels impactful, and for this action RPG it is important.
Things that Players may Hate
All games have bugs and questionable features, so here are my personal observations after 2 years of playing this game:
- Story bosses and Raid bosses can have way too much HP. Usually, if all players are underpowered or stay at the required Gear score it may take like 10-30 minutes to kill one enemy.
- The game may be too complex for unprepared MMO players. There are way too many activities to take into account. Expert players may also find it irritating because, in order to keep up with others and be prepared for future content updates or economy rebalancing, you will probably have to constantly grind daily quests, repetitively playing Raids/dungeons for resources and Gold,
- Some raid bosses for some reason have HP bar, and some not, and you never know, when the boss is about to die.
- Although bosses have a lot of different attack patterns, it is not always clear what to do and how to react to certain attacks. This leads to annoying stun effects, deaths, or interrupting skills.
- PVP is restricted to certain types of zones and activities. There is no way to attack players in any other location to steal their loot or experience.
- The game is not actually an open-world. All zones, dungeons and continents are tied to loading screens. You can’t freely for example cross from North Bern to South Bern.
- The game has a very slow pace at the beginning. Some players may find it too stretched to finally get interested in the game.
- While the In-game shop provides mostly cosmetics, many players prefer to skip gearing step completely and this makes some PVE players feel powerless in high-tier activities.
- The game is not well optimized for average CPUs and HDDs. It doesn’t bottleneck but it causes long launch times, loading screens and some actions may not register properly in highly-dense areas. As for the GPUs, Lost Ark has no issues working on outdated graphic cards as the game itself runs on old Unreal Engine 3.
- Leveling from 50 to 60 can take a lot of your precious time.
Lost Ark is a very complex game. Any player can find something special inside this MMO. You can play around with crafting, theory crafting, fighting on arenas, clearing dungeons and raids, sailing, searching for collectibles and completing achievements, trade with other players, or just brutally slay demons on the battlefield.
If you played other MMOs before like World of Warcraft, Lineage 2, Devilian, Black Desert, Aion, you will definitely find something cool in Lost Ark too since there is plenty of content available for absolutely free.
Will this game continue to evolve? Time will tell, but for now, I can tell that since the 2018 release, the game has changed significantly for the better.