I love this trend of MMOs making you feel really powerful from the beginning. It’s so refreshing, and joyful. There’s none of this power austerity, none of this ‘yes you can be powerful but you’ll have to earn it, young one’. Games like Black Desert Online and now Lost Ark just want to be fun right away, and it’s great.
In fact, playing Lost Ark feels more like playing late-game Diablo 3 than an MMO – and I mean immediately. You immediately get several dazzling skills you can pulverise hordes of enemies with – and you do. You smash them up in the air, you crackle and fizz with lightning, and they pop like gory balloons around you. It’s brilliant fun.
And all the time, I’m waiting for reality to set in. I’m waiting for this Prologue to end and the game to go, “Aha! Now, let’s start again,” that ultimate opening comedown. But it doesn’t – at least from what I’ve seen. Sure, the Prologue is an instanced thing only for you, but even when you’re out of it, you have the same power. And the game seems to just want to give you more.
There are loads of lovely touches in the game as well. I love how the game lets you test ride your class before you commit to it, giving you a special arena where you can spawn in bosses and enemies to see how combat will feel. I’ve never seen that before! And while I say it’s like Diablo, in that it has the same diagonal-down camera and flow to how it plays, with lots of clicking and whacking, it’s no way near as dour or sullen, or slow, at least initially. Lost Ark is all pace and enthusiasm, and hammy drama and cringey bulging cleavages. It’s bright and it’s cheerful, and it’s hard not to like.
Plus, there’s depth – there’s maybe even more combat depth than in Diablo. Positioning seems to be a key part of this, which is presumably why you can so easily flip and dash around. I’m a martial artist (a monk, effectively) and at least half my starting attacks are considered ‘back attacks’, which I think means they do more damage from there – it’s not as though they’re useless from other positions. So I need to actively think about where I am in a melee rumble.
I’ve got other attacks like a giant Hadouken special (which I need to charge up a gauge to access) that staggers enemies from the front, temporarily stunning them, and others that do things like kick enemies into the air and then let me pound them down from it. Some attacks contain several attacks in their own right. It’s a hefty arsenal. And in all of it, there’s oodles of combo potential – this is the sophistication behind the pyrotechnics, if you like.
There’s also huge scope for customising what you can do. Every level, you get skill points to pump into your abilities, and when you reach milestones in those abilities, you get a choice of a rune to bolster them with. What you can do depends on the ability but there are options like different kinds of damage (fire, dark, lightning), or modifying things like special-gain, crit chance, and mana cost. There are all kinds of things. And when you consider how many attacks there seem to be – dozens – and how much customisation each one potentially offers: that’s a dizzying amount of variety on offer.
But I’m trying not to get too bogged down in it yet. I don’t want choice paralysis to ruin my fun while I’m so breezily romping around. If I want to sober up and take things seriously, re-specs seem to be available.
How long this romping will continue, as the hulking MMO heart of the game comes into view, I don’t know. But I’ve seen a bit of it and it hasn’t dampened my enthusiasm yet. I’m still powerful, I’m still smashing the lights out of anything that comes before me. So, I’m still impressed. Lost Ark is blowing up and I can totally see why.