Sunday, May 22, 2022

May 22, 2022

Released on the 11th of February 2022 to the "western world". Meaning USA and EU. The game was already available in the Asian regions some time before that.

The Grand Lines

Lost Ark is a curious mix of Diablo (or Path of Exile), Diablo, Guild Wars, Final Fantasy and then stuck into an Asian coat with some MMO craziness. It's an isometric game much like Diablo, but you're in an MMO-like world with channels much like Guild Wars (2). There's open world bosses, dungeons and ever SO many items and things to do that you'll wonder where your spare time went before long.

There are, simply put, a lot of good things to say about the game.

That said however, I quit after less than 3 months.

The Pretty Simple Story

The story is, all considered pretty generic and forgettable. The world is in trouble, you are the legendary hero who has to save the world. Find the 7 fragments of the "Ark", battle demons, etc. You can pretty much skip most of the dialogue and not really worry about missing anything important. Even multiple choice options all lead to the same result.


It honestly needs saying, and just to give you an idea I'll list some stuff. Since the game was already released, we (Europe / USA) the players basically get dumped into a MMO that's already been somewhat "progressed". As with most MMOs they tend to enjoy keeping their players "busy". Lost Ark is no different in that regard, as it has literal tons of content to keep you busy. That in itself can be good, but it can also be pretty overwhelming to suddenly go from 4 buttons to 50 buttons to choose from after your initial tutorial quest.

- Single player / quests / character progression up to level 50 (60)
- Base gear, Tier 1, 2 and 3
- Gear refining (15 or more), use materials you farm in dungeons to hone your gear for more dmg, health, etc.
- Auction house for player trades.
- Pets, with pet inventory and player perks.
- Various player classes, each with +- 20 skills (8 active at a time)
- Character personalization and customization. Skins, and virtue system.
- Gem system (reduce skill cooldown, improve skill damage) - Tier 2+
- Jewel system. (bonus skills to improve damage, reduce cooldowns, add armor, a chunk of health, etc). Which also has success/failure rates.
- Personal hideout - be the lord of your own island which you can decorate, use as a base, add decorations to and use to farm materials, craft potions and send out ships to raid dungeons.
- Card collection, packs and inventory space.
- Roster level (a whole extra XP bar)

And that's just the loot and character progression side of things.


Meta gaming to the next level

Obviously a game like this has achievements. Challenge a player to a duel to get an instant 100 XP for your roster. Yes the roster. You can level up one character to level 50, and then you are "done" and get to work on tier gear and honing. However, you can still reach level 60 for extra skill points and health. Sure the total XP requirement jumps from 1 million to 40 million, but the tier 3 quests do give a good chunk of extra XP.

Why stop at one character though? This game pushes you to 50 pretty fast, and once you are there you get a "power pass". A ticket which you can use to instantly boost an extra character to level 50. But it doesn't stop there - once you use the power pass, you get ANOTHER one! So, you're suddenly looking at 3x level 50 characters.

A few quests, and one continent later - your first character probably still level 50, and you get ANOTHER one. Yes they don't mess around in Lost Ark, they want you to work those alternate characters and aren't being shy about it either. Obviously you have a limit of 6 characters per server, so if you want to make more you'll have to pay for it - but those servers need to be paid for somehow right?

Your roster is "all your characters". Completing achievements, doing quests, dungeons and miscellaneous in-game activities all award roster XP. Every roster level awards all your characters (global/shared) either with +5 Str/Dex/Int, or +5 Vit. So after 20 levels you'll have +50 of each. It doesn't stop there obviously, because a few hundred roster levels to earn.

It's a good thing there's a few thousand different achievements to earn, from "kill 300.000 monsters" to "play each individual song 100+ times" or even "use the in-game selfie mode to take a picture of yourself on several islands". Or dumb ones like "invite 50 friends".

Islands - to the wide ocean and beyond

The first continent is just a warm-up for the rest of the game. Once you get yourself your first boat, the world is your oyster. There are several dozen islands to visit. (Almost) each and every island has a "soul" that you can earn to consider that island completed. Every 5 souls collected you get an additional reward. A tool that improves your movement speed on islands, some bonus stats, or items for another collection.

Yes, island souls are just one collection among near a dozen.
- Island souls, as above.
- Mokoko seeds - hidden easter eggs to find across the entire world (there's over 1000!), and some are very well hidden even in dungeons.
- Omnium stars - there aren't a lot, but they give big rewards. Some may be obtained through long quests, dropped by a tier 3 world boss, or an expensive drop from a seafaring merchant.
- Masterpieces - Collect paintings from various artists around the world, dungeons and other meta sources. Once you collect a lot of these you'll be rewarded with a lot of gold and other things.
- Ignea tokens - These are basically  "zone completed to 100%" tokens. A lot of work, many days of farming and being nice to several NPCs to the point of madness.
- World Tree leaves - The most painfully random and slow to get item because you need to do every single gathering profession, all 6 of them. (Fishing, Mining, Logging, Herbalism, Archaeology (Excavating), and Hunting. Since you're limited to about 10K "work energy" that slowly regenerates, you're in for the long haul on this.

Each island is it's own unique little biome. Some are simple quest hubs, others feature a dungeon or an hourly/weekly recurring event. Others a unique experience all on their own, and more are being added every so and then. It's a good way to add a little bit of extra content at a time, but since we're getting dumped into an existing game it'll feel pretty overwhelming - what island should I visit next?

Sadly, it's not all good

The first thing you'll notice upon completing your opening tutorial is - a suspicious number of similar looking "players" all following the exact same route. Oh, and it seems you now have area chat as well. BUY GOLD NOW, USE DISCOUNT CODE LAG,. oh... no. Let's try talking in Area chat... BUY GOLD NOW, USE DISCOUNT CODE LAG,.. straight as pink text whispered to you - three times in a row.

Yes, bots and spambots rule this game. Most notable the tier 1 content is absolutely infested with them. If you've every played WoW, Diablo or pretty much any multiplayer game that has trading - you'll be familiar with them. Lost Ark takes that notion and turns it up to eleven. I can guarantee you, you will feel sheltered and blessed to have never had to deal with a bot infestation like this.

There are bots for:
- Running early single player content, so they can spam you in different zones.
- Running islands and events - to earn gold.
- Standing in a single spot, and farming drops from special creatures that spawn there.
- Running chaos dungeons (swarm type dungeon) for trade materials.
- Buy/sell items on the auction house.

You would think "huh that IS a lot of bots", staff would do something about those right? I ask you "What staff?". Honestly, an untrained monkey could randomly smack buttons on the keyboard and get rid of more bots than the Lost Ark staff ever seems to have. They don't care, they do nothing. Players report bots, and after an X number of reports I guess the bots are muted or removed. But the bot owners don't care, they just make more bots - endless numbers of them. Players eventually give up, stop reporting the bots, or just stop playing.

Amazon/Smilegate have posted several "we are aware, we are working on it" messages - but so far nothing has improved. If anything they've removed more honest players than bots in their attempts. I could rant on about this, but the above picture speaks for itself. In broad daylight so to say. They don't have any staff, no Game Masters, nothing is being done, and nothing will improve. Meanwhile they are creating new content, recently added a new dungeon/raid/zone and giving more false promises.

If you're one of the few rare pearls who isn't bothered by a few bots - try this game. But keep your wallet closed.

Isn't a F2P game kind of P2W?

Yes, and no.
You "can" spend money to speed up research, add more work energy, buy gold, buy resources, buy gold, buy cards, buy gold, buy fashion, etc. You "can" buy a lot of things that speed things up and improve your power - so yes, it's kind of P2W (Pay to Win). As a paying customer you will always have a clear advantage over most unpaying customers. Some of those perks are fairly minor, some not so minor.

The main thing is when you add more character slots, or increase your gold hoard to buy out all the trade materials from the auction house. Stuff that could take most free customers weeks could be finished in a day or less. Are you really playing a game in such a case? Are you really enjoying yourself? Do you enjoy opening your wallet and being "stronger" than other players with little or no effort? Yep, this is a game like that.

Most people don't go to such excess, but if you open the wallet and clean out all the gems on the auction house - you're not really playing a game for fun but for status.

PvP is not really affected.
To start a PvP match, you need to pre-build a specific set of skills for your class. Everyone is given the same amount of skill points and stats. Previous achievements do not affect your PvP build. With one tiny exception - time. If you enjoy PvP and play it a lot, you'll get PvP ranks. Eventually you'll earn enough pvp "points" to buy a charm that reduces your damage taken, stun duration etc by 1-x%. Everyone is able to get it eventually - but it does take a lot of PvP matches to reach that level.

Given that everything (material farming, collectible farming, dungeons, alts) all costs time to "do". You may find you just lack the energy to do pvp as well. And since PvP is really all that is left for those who bought everything in the game with their credit card - the players you run into during your few hours of PvP time may be considerably challenging. Especially when you realize that PvP is sincerely unbalanced in terms of class skills.

Heavy armored single target DPS Berserkers will usually just - last longer than your generally squishy "love for AoE" sorceress.


Don't bother.

Unless you enjoy mindless grinding ad-infinitum for little reward, getting your retinas seared out by 30 players blasting AoE and super saturated graphics on a rare monster spawn/island location at the same time, aren't bothered by F2P/P2W mechanics, hundreds and even thousands of bots on your server forcing you to wait in queue for half an hour before you can even log on.

The bottom line is, it's a beautiful game. I wish it took longer to level up a character. I wish Amazon/Smilegate actually put any kind of effort into fighting the bot invasion. The game has/had so much potential, but falls so very much short of both expectations and shows a grim and very rotten reality that seems to take most people no more than a month or two to realize.

Just, stay away from it.
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