Just a week ago debuted, lost ark has shot to the top of the Steam charts, racking up over 1 million concurrent players, making it the most played game on Steam of all time (based on the number of concurrent players). Developed by Smilegate RPG, lost ark is a Korean MMO that debuted there in 2018 before being localized to English and brought to the west through a partnership with Amazon Games. Although it has only been around for a short time in the US and Europe, it now has more than 200,000 viewers on Twitch and has games like dota 2† CS:GOand PUBG in the all-time number of concurrent players on Steam.
So what the hell is a lost ark anyway? I’ve spent a week researching this new game hotness, wondering if it has what it takes to become my latest obsession or something I’m content with letting others obsess over. lost ark is a free to play MMO that plays as diablo† It’s an isometric action RPG that has all the cultural hallmarks of a free-to-play MMO, including wildly underdressed female models and a game chat full of spam from gold ranchers. lost ark is mindless fun that won’t punish you for not taking it too seriously.
I’m especially pleased with the character creator. A rainbow color wheel allows you to be more than just a few shades of black, and there are tons of sliders to play with to make your character look exactly the way you want. lost ark also understands well that there are more types of ethnic hairstyles than dreadlocks and afros; however, it doesn’t have more than a few styles for those with kinky hair like me. When you start the game, you choose your class before going into the character customization, and I find it very strange that some classes in lost ark are gender locked. If I want to play as a warrior, I have to play as a man, or if I want to play a mage, I’m locked in a female avatar. Each class has a number of specialized subclasses that you must choose immediately after choosing your primary class. Wanting to play as a lady, I chose the sorceress subclass of the mage job, but I wasn’t really fond of her abilities. They felt weak and lacked an interesting ‘oomph’, so I created a new character, chose a berserker warrior and haven’t looked back since.
Combat feels decent. You are given a number of skills in the beginning that you can link together to unleash some powerful combos, which are needed in dungeons when there are more enemies than 20 against 1. It’s satisfying to hit a tightly packed group of trolls with a devastating sword strike and knock them all down in one fell swoop. It’s just as much fun spinning in a circle and pulverizing the enemies dumb enough to approach my whirlwind of death. The most challenging aspect of lost arkThe battle is simply making sure your skills hit your enemies as intended. Using a mouse to move often ends up in the wrong direction, causing your attacks to bounce harmlessly into space (and, thankfully, if click-to-move doesn’t work for you, lost ark has controller support). If there are any mechanics involved in detecting an enemy’s weakness, and then using that to your advantage to win, I haven’t found it. Bosses aren’t much of a challenge. From what I’ve seen, they’re just damaged sponges with multiple health bars to chew through. Although graphically flashy and powerful feeling, fight in lost ark doesn’t get more complicated than point, click, win.
The game throws an overwhelming number of systems and bars at you to keep track of, but most of them are easily ignored. There is a standard experience bar and a roster bar that monitors all your characters on a given server and grants slight health and strength bonuses when it levels up. During your travels, you can earn a staggering amount of items. In addition to the normal loot like armor, weapons, and potions, there are also story items you can pick up that serve no purpose other than right-clicking them to add them to your journal.
Sometimes I don’t understand what lost ark tells me. It’s a bit too much information to absorb, and the game doesn’t make it seem like you’re missing out on too much by not reading tooltips too closely. Skip-the-line mechanics galore. There is an interesting reporting system that allows you to increase the number of NPCs you like by giving them gifts or simply responding to them. I was initially excited by the prospect of entering into a romantic relationship with an NPC, but it seems that rapport is another meter to maximize to gain loot. Too bad.
The story seems as simple as the battle. You are an adventurer who has come to a new land to find the titular lost ark object d’ power to ward off an army of demons. There’s more to it, I’m sure, but I’ll be honest – I don’t care. You probably don’t care either – lost ark doesn’t feel like a game one plays for the story. It’s a click party where the numbers go up and your enemies explode in all sorts of brain-friendly ways. And that’s okay! Sometimes the body just has something to do, a game to go through the movements. lost ark serves that fine. I really tried to take it all in and understand what the game took me through, but after the fourth quest of “talk to this person, then click this thing next to him, then talk to him again and then click again the thing”, I gave up. I had a much more pleasant experience when I stopped trying. Instead, I thoughtlessly clicked my way through dungeons and quests during the third season of Downton Abbey played on my second monitor.
lost ark‘s sudden and abrupt rise may be because it is the Diablo IVshaped hole in the hearts of those still waiting for that game’s release date. I’d be surprised if it can maintain its popularity after the first few weeks of “newness”, but again, New world (another Amazon-published game) is still going pretty well despite the post-launch hiccups.
If you’re looking for a rich world to get lost in or challenging battles that make good use of your gray matter, maybe skip lost ark† But if you have something to do for an hour or two and nothing else seems interesting enough, give it a try.