Lost Ark review – The blood-soaked return of the ARPG

. 5 months ago
lost ark soulfist arden look at stone tablet in cathedral
Smilegate RPG, Dexerto

Bringing the majesty of Arkesia to Western audiences, Lost Ark fills the Diablo 4-shaped void in the dungeon crawler genre with its flashy combat, beautiful universe, and glorious hack and slash gore. 

If you’re someone that likes to keep up with my work, you’ll know that Diablo is my favorite franchise of all time. In the lull state between Diablo 2 Resurrected and Diablo 4, I’ve found myself desperately craving some dungeon crawling action to lure me out of my cave, and Smilegate RPG’s Lost Ark has done just that.

Set amid the spectacular vistas of Arkesia, a medieval-inspired universe imbued with magic and mystery, your character is tasked with locating the Lost Ark in a spine-tingling, heart-racing adventure that would make Indiana Jones proud.

Boasting a whole collection of innovative classes to choose from, each of whom brings their own unique flavor to the game’s hack and slash style combat, Lost Ark rises as a beacon from the East representing just how the MMOARPG should be done.

Lost Ark: Key details

  • Price: Free to play
  • Developer: Smilegate RPG
  • Release Date: February 11, 2022
  • Platforms: PC

Lost Ark Trailer

The fantasy genre never looked so good

If there’s one thing that sets Lost Ark leaps and bounds ahead of the competition, it’s the stunning universe of Arkesia. From the traditional emerald pastures of Prideholme to hardened salt plains of Eudia that glisten in the sunlight, the expansive world that Smilegate has created blends some of the real-life’s most spectacular vistas with pure magic to create a place you can’t help but want to dive into.

For every serene landscape, there’s a dreary, Diablo-esque graveyard or Cathedral thrown into the mix as a reminder of the horrors that lurk beneath the surface. Teeming with swirling mist and fearsome foes, these macabre religious sites emanate sanctity and corruption in equal measure, making them my personal favorite zones to farm in.

Dungeons aren’t just linear spaces, either. These 3-dimensional zones feel as though you’re not just traveling in a straight line, and use puzzles and empty space to make you feel as though you’re delving down into the abyss, or scaling mountains. They successfully immerse you in the game, making Arkesia feel much more immersive than the isometric camera would have you believe.

Not only is Lost Ark’s universe beautiful in itself, but the flashy combat mechanics and masterfully crafted characters also help the game truly come alive. Tearing through the hordes has never looked so good, with creatures from the depths of your nightmares served up as fodder for your lethal weapons and abilities.

Each of your extensive lists of attacks blends seamlessly into the next, creating a silky smooth experience while maintaining the ARPG tropes of gore, gore, and well, more gore. Amid the pools of blood and guts are treasure troves fit for a king, spilling out loot that is just enough to help you along your way without forcing you to grind over and over again for one decent item.

The balance of eastern, anime-inspired trappings meets classical western fantasy is absolutely perfect in Lost Ark, and you’ll find yourself hoping to get lost in this spectacular place to uncover all of its subtleties. When I say Arkesia has become my home away from home, I truly mean it.

lost ark morai ruins dungeon
Smilegate RPG
Lost Ark’s dungeons break away from linear hack and slash battlefields to create a truly immersive experience.

Classes that are just built differently

Not only has Arkesia become a safe haven for me, but my character has also become the embodiment of how I imagine I would be if I were a video game character. Not only are there extensive customization options (although unfortunately, a class gender lock does apply), the Advanced Class system allows you to tailor each class umbrella to your own personal playstyle.

Divided into the general Assassin, Gunner, Mage, Martial Artist, and Warrior classes, there are fifteen completely unique specializations for you to choose from. While the Western-inspired Gunslinger was my first port of call, trying out Shadowhunter and Soulfist has left me asking myself one question: is there a single class I don’t want to play?

The answer is no.

Despite being someone who steers away from tanky characters I find myself drawn to the likes of the Paladin and Artillerist – something no game has compelled me to do before. Learning the characters and chaining their abilities together is sheer bliss, especially as you start to rise up the ranks and see just how devastating your hero can become.

Put simply, Lost Ark’s characters simply outclass (pun entirely intended) the competition. They cater to a vast array of different playstyles, as well as inspire you to try out characters you never would have dreamed of playing before. Games that push the boundaries are always great, but a game that pushes your boundaries is as elusive as the Ark itself. Lost Ark is one of those games.

lost ark female gunner gunslinger shoots dual pistols at screen
Smilegate RPG
While I did the body of my adventure as the Soulfist, the Gunslinger remains one of my favorite classes.

There’s just so much to do

So you’ve reached the endgame, and you’ve got your raids and your dungeons – what else is there to do? Well, there’s a lot to sink your teeth into.

From PvP in the grand Colosseum to exploring far-off islands; there’s a whole collection of side quests with your name written all over them. My personal favorites, though, as the Rapport quests, which allow you to build relationships with the game’s various NPCs in order to not only earn their favor but swathes of bespoke rewards.

Take Neria, for example. The proprietress of Prideholme’s local watering hole may be a pretty shoddy cook, but you can’t help but admire her for trying. Saving up Providence Stones unlocks Rapport missions, allowing you to purchase the queen of all things culinary cookbooks and ingredients to help her hone her craft (or poison your character as the case may be). There are a whole collection of romanceable NPCs, meaning that there are a lot of quests for you to start working on.

Of course, if romance isn’t your thing you can spend your time collecting Mokoko Seeds and other premium currencies or exploring Arkesia’s vast expanses in search of Hidden Stories.

And, may I add, all of this is free content. Not a single penny needs to go into leveling up your character. While boosts, mounts, and other items will be available in-store, you can complete the whole experience without dropping swathes of cash on boosts and other items. Bear in mind, though, that I didn’t have access to the store while reviewing.

Lost Ark is your oyster – go out there and live it.

lost ark neria rapport quest

The grass is much greener in Lost Ark – but there’s a catch

I’ve done nothing but sing the praises of Lost Ark so far, and that’s because there’s only one real pitfall for me: the story.

For many, the narrative is simply second to the plot in dungeon crawlers and MMOs in equal measure, and Lost Ark’s story feels very much like it was built to frame the combat rather than dictate it. While I’m enjoying learning more about Father Arman and my traveling companions, I wish these characters had a little more backstory.

Of course, Lost Ark doesn’t have the years that the likes of Final Fantasy XIV or World of Warcraft have, so I truly believe that as the game progresses we’ll start to uncover the secrets of this mysterious world and its inhabitants. Until then, though, we’ll need to make do with the details we have.

lost ark demon walks away from father arman
Smilegate RPG
While characters such as Father Arnam capture the imagination, their backstories lack the same punch.

Rating: 9/10

Diablo laid the foundations for what the ARPG should look like, but Lost Ark innovates on these and brings them into 2022 in style.

Aside from the narrative caveats, Lost Ark rises from the ashes of Diablo 2 Resurrected and New World with the power to topple titans. An immersive, beautifully crafted universe defined by its dynamic vistas and fast-paced combat, Lost Ark is the rebirth that the hack and slash genre needs.

I can freely admit that there’s no doubt in my mind that Lost Ark will become one of my favorite titles, and as future releases add new classes and zones into the game, I know that I’ll be on the edge of my seat just waiting to dive back in all over again – and boy, I can’t wait.

Reviewed on PC.

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