Lost Ark, an immensely popular MMOARPG that’s currently only available in Japan, South Korea, and Russia, is coming to Europe and North America later this year. That’s because of a collaboration between its developer Smilegate RPG and Amazon Games, which will be publishing it for western audiences. You’re also getting the chance to try it soon, as there’ll be a beta this summer to give you your first taste of the game.
For those who haven’t yet heard about it, Lost Ark is a free-to-play MMO action-RPG created by South Korea-based studio Smilegate. It’s been out in the wild there since 2018, and it’s racked up millions of active players. It’s an isometric fantasy game that takes players to a mysterious land, Arkesia, to chase down a fabled treasure called – yep, you guessed it – the Lost Ark, and prevent a demonic threat engulfing the region. At face value, it’s a little reminiscent of action-RPGs like Diablo, and monster-filled MMOs like World of Warcraft or Guild Wars 2, but under the bonnet it’s a pretty different beast.
Lost Ark has a distinct take on combat, with five base classes and 14 advanced classes to branch into through specialist skills. The five core classes are Warrior, Martial Artist, Gunner, Mage, and Assassin, which Amazon Games producers Matthew Huston and Jake Smith walk us through in a presentation.
To give you an idea of the advanced options on offer, the Warrior class offers a path into becoming a Berserker (a tanky, action-heavy build with a berserk mode and two-handed sword), Gunlancer (who boasts an enormous shield and even more enormous single-handed rifle), and a Paladin, – a melee combat and magic- user combo. Gunners, meanwhile, have options including savvy, quick-on-the-draw Gunslingers, while Mages have melodious, magic-wielding Bards and powerful Summoners. Martial Artists have punchy Scrappers and laser-focussed Wardancers in the mix, and Assassins have masteries like shape-shifting Shadowhunters – and there are plenty more.
A distinctive aspect of Lost Ark is also its evolving, ARPG-style combat mechanics – what’s called a ‘Tripod System’ in-game. This essentially lets you mix and match skills to build up nifty and varied combat styles. You’ll kick things off with a base skill then level it up through upgrades, which evolve the skill, modifying its functions and appearance. The more upgrades you get, the deeper into the Tripod system you’ll get, which in turn opens up the chance to branch into more powerful builds.
There’s a real emphasis on adapting to what the game throws at you across its content, too. The upgrades are unlocked in tiers, and it doesn’t cost extra skill points to mix and match at those tiers, so you can freely chop and change as needed when the situation demands a slightly different approach.
Speaking of which, Lost Ark features a pretty wide range of different modes and playable content. There are the dungeons and raids you’d expect from an action-focussed MMO like WoW, and these break down into both normal and hard variations that scale in difficulty according to your party size, whether you’ve got a full team or you’re going it solo. These include Cinematic, Chaos, Treasure Map, and Life Skill dungeons, each of which throw something different the player’s way. The former is full of beasts to best (including one that looked like a massive, Lord of the Rings-esque Balrog) and the latter two are far less PvE combat-focussed, and more about building up your skills in other things, like excavating, mining, and harvesting, and chasing down objectives to uncover rare treasures.
Additionally, Lost Ark has PvP combat in its Colosseum battle modes. These unlock at level 50 and include both team and solo modes – for example, there are 3v3 Team Deathmatch, six-player, timed Free-For-All, and Last Team Standing offerings, with the latter seeing three players form a team and fight 1v1 battles sequentially.
Outside of combat, there are a bunch of other aspects to devote your time to. Alongside the main story campaign, which will also thread side-quests and minigames into gameplay, there are things like housing – or strongholds, as Lost Ark has it. These are all about island ownership, so you’ll mark out your patch of Arkesian soil and build a settlement there, crafting decor and expanding it as you progress.
You can invite up to 50 players and NPCs to your pad at a time (yes, you can really have 50 people traipsing through your gaff), and they can show their appreciation for it if you’ve done a great job, increasing the chance of it being recommended to other players to visit. Oh, and you can play dress-up, too, by bedecking NPCs in outfits and sending them out on errands for rewards – which we’re sure they’ll find great fun and not at all presumptuous.
Additionally, there will be sailing in the game – a really nifty feature that lets you glide around Arkesia in your own ark, building a crew that’ll come with bonuses, discovering unique and secret areas (and maybe some treasures) along the way. You can explore the game’s open world in a customisable craft, and salvage some goods found on your journeys.
Overall, it looks like Lost Ark will offer something fresh and exciting to the MMO scene, which will likely appeal both to existing MMO fans and newbies alike when it arrives later this year. While it’s got strong ARPG elements at its core, and its own distinctive spin on combat, it sounds like it’ll be a lot of fun both for hardcore players and those who perhaps have a more casual approach or little less time to dedicate to it, but still want to make good progress and get a lot out of the game, with plenty to do outside of battling.
Roleplay away: The best MMOs and MMORPGs on PC
There’s no Lost Ark release date to jot down in your calendars just yet, but Amazon has announced that it’s due to drop sometime in autumn 2021. Before then, there’ll be a beta coming later this summer, which you can find out more about by signing up for information on the game’s site. There will be full spoken and written localisation and translation in English, French, German, and Spanish.