For FOMOs Sake: Dabbling in Lost Ark

I don’t know that I’ve ever gotten much out of a traditional MMO that was designed as a free-to-play experience, so my expectations for Lost Ark were pretty low. In fact, I hadn’t really given much though to even trying it out, but watching my fellow bloggers and my Twitter feed get excited for it, I figured I could at least install it. I probably wouldn’t get past the character creator. I definitely wouldn’t get past the whole “new player experience” section. I just couldn’t see myself getting invested in a Korean free-to-play MMO – I don’t love the aesthetic, and I’m not great at ARPG style combat, and besides, none of the folks I normally game with showed much interest.

So I decided to just poke at it a little, to satisfy my curiosity and confirm that it is Not For Me.

Well, thirteen hours later, my character is just past level 30, and I think I’m hooked.

I still don’t care too much for the character aesthetic – my kingdom for a pair of actual pants – but the rest of the game is gorgeous. I also still really don’t get it. I am doing just fine with my typical pattern of push buttons and things die, and I am guessing that is working primarily because leveling content in MMOs is basically the game’s easy mode. I love that the game isn’t forcing me to group with strangers to proceed through the quest lines, and there hasn’t been anything yet that I cannot just do on my own.

Playing on US servers, I have not run into a single login queue, and starting after the head start period expired, I’ve only had minor issues with character naming, although I feel like region-wide name exclusivity was certainly a choice they made. In fact, the things I’ve seen most people complain about (gender-locked classes, a completely on-rails leveling experience, and an uncompelling main story line) don’t bother me overly much. Obviously, this is all in “your mileage may vary” territory.

Where Lost Ark almost lost me is in the glut of systems that need figuring out at some point. For now, I put on a new gear when a little arrow shows up in my inventory indicating an upgrade. I interact with stuff that shows up near where I happen to be, and have managed to gather a handful of collectibles that way. I was easily 10 levels in before I realized I had skill points I should be spending (and alternate skills unlocking). There are a million menus, and I’m perfectly ok with just ignoring most of them until I can’t ignore them anymore.

I do think that, despite a not overly interesting main story line, that Lost Ark does have some pretty compelling zone stories. Not so much in quest design – those are very much in the go here, talk to this guy, kill some beasties, rinse repeat. But the reasons for doing the quests, mostly the cutscenes and instanced areas are holding my attention. I don’t find myself wishing that grinding was a viable leveling path. I’m content to ride the monorail until the solo-friendly content runs out, and then see if what, if any, of the other MMO side content appeals to me.

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