Lost Ark - Game Infinite Review
Lost Ark is a game that really really impressed me on many levels, despite doing some things that I don't usually like.
I don’t typically like MMO’s, and I also typically don’t care too much for top down perspective. I don’t hate those two types of games, but It is not my first choice. That being said, we have a top town perspective MMO that manages to do two things I usually don’t like, and it sucked me and apparently everyone else on steam into it.
To say that Lost Ark was a little bit of a phenomenon is an understatement. Lost Ark launched in the West for the first time this year, bringing an already popular MMO in the east to the US. It was breaking Steam records before even going live, in just pre-orders. So many people paid the get in early with founders edition, they were experiencing massive server shortages before the actual official launch. They did the right thing and post-poned the free to play full launch because they felt it was unfair to people who paid for early access if they weren’t really getting in. Other studios should take note that if your paid early access is struggling, then reward those who paid by extending the paid early access period (or issue refunds).
When I finally managed to get in myself, the first thing I was hit with was the vast number of class choices. This didn’t feel like a typical MMO with a few classes that felt rigid, limited, or few. Instead, I was greeted by a wide range of characters where multiple ones appealed to me. They even had subclasses available to start! They did a great job of making us feel like our individual experiences differ from others who chose other classes, while at the same time offering similar enough options that didn't feel pigeonholed into picking one. The fighting styles and abilities look and feel different.
Another difference from other MMO’s that I notices is in outfits. I feel like in MMO’s the character creator screen shows you these elaborate and beautiful outfits, but then you start the game and you start with this ugly plain outfit. In Lost Ark, I actually liked my characters starter outfit for a change. It looked nice?
One thing that blew me away is just how beautiful this game is for its age. We are in an age where we are seeing more and more Unreal Engine 5 games, and when I learned that this game was actually made with Unreal Engine 3, I was shocked. It looks really good for being a 2019 MMO on an old outdated engine. MMO’s due to their size and scope often look a generation behind anyways in my opinion, so a three year old game with an outdated engine looking good enough to compete with games releasing today is enough to warrant compliment. I've seen AAA games running on UE4 made today with less impressive character models.
This is all why I am baffled by the creator’s decision to go with the top down perspective in the first place. I realize I might be biased against top down perspectives, but traditionally its used to ease development or budget. When the camera is so much farther away from the characters and world, you need less detail. It is used to help games run on older or less powerful hardware, or reduce the time it takes to develop a game. However, that isn’t the case here. The game has all the detail assets and worlds of a game where the camera is right on the character. I know this because frequently during conversations, cutscenes, (and even really at *almost* any time you want) the camera zooms in to see things closer. It is obvious the detail in the world is there, and they just made the curious decision to place the camera far away. This game should have been a third person MMOARPG, with the camera fixed on the player, in my option.
(Game Infinite Screenshots)
While I find it odd, it really still doesn’t take away from the experience. While the narrative is about as repetitive as you’d expect from a fantasy MMO with so many side quests, the game really excels in it’s combat. I played as a Death Blade Assassin, and the game never stops coming up with more ways for my character to swing a sword at enemies. Where so many games rely on two-three attacks with maybe a few combos or abilities, Lost Ark starts with around 9 different attack buttons that can be leveled and changed. It is “almost” too much, but really makes the combat feel varied just with in ONE class! Lost Ark’s sword play really sets the bar for how many attack animations a character should have in any fantasy setting. It will make other games where the protagonist swings the sword the same three ways the whole game feel very very limited. I think it is the fun, stylistic, 1vEverybody combat that really lifts this game to new heights. It has an almost "Warriors" style game level of enemies that really makes you feel powerful.
I will say that the ability to zoom in outside of combat and take some great photos does really help with the those of us in the photo mode enthusiast category. I do wish the photo mode was better in this game though: partly because the “selfie mode” has a pretty limited set of poses, but mostly because (at least for me) the photo mode is bugged where the UI absolutely will not hide. I’ve searched forums and googled to high heaven, and I am just convinced it is a bug. This has resulted in me having to carefully crop or photoshop my game screenshots.
Another thing I really like about Lost Ark is it does the best job to date in my option at the MMO game UI. One of the things I dislike about MMO’s the most, is how often they have some of the most cluttered UI’s in gaming. So much of the screen is just always filled with text and buttons and persistent chat. Lost Ark lets you minimize or remove more of the very busy MMO-UI than any other MMO I’ve ever played. It’s still not the minimal HUD I want…but it is much closer.
Lastly, the game just contains an X fun factor. While it wins in the graphics and combat/gamplay categories, it is somewhat average in the story and characters side. I almost put it at a 9/10, but this fun factor really helps bring in that rare 10/10. I just kept wanting to come back to it. It just has a solid level of replayability and fun factor that brings it up to the level that it delivers on. I could see Lost Ark being an easy Top 10 entry on many outlet’s lists, and even possible GOTY nominations for some.