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Two types of games garner attention: those that innovate and those that refine. Portal, for instance, is a good example of an innovative game. It wowed players with new ways to engage with the game world. Refined games are titles that are so well crafted and polished that they stand out. Blizzard, in its heyday, made their fortune on these types of games. Each one was polished and tested much longer than other companies products and it showed in the end results. Lost Ark falls comfortably into this category as well.

Development began in 2011 to see the games 2018 release in Korea. Betas in Russia and Japan followed, giving the design team a lot of extra time to work with a live player base. While that can be good or bad, depending on the desired timeline, it has had a pretty significant effect on the games release in the North American and European markets — it is polished.

There are thousands of little touches around the game world that make it feel somewhat more alive than it might otherwise. For instance, there are times when a character needs to move from one area of a map to another. In most other games, there would be an area to click and your character would start teleporting, with the assumption that they used the on-screen accoutrement to do the task. In this case, Lost Ark has animated these little sequences, adding just a bit more depth to the experience. The game is full of examples like this. The end result makes for a more memorable ride.

The Game

First off, Lost Ark has a lot going on. One part action RPG and one part MMO, the tutorial screens and helpful, little notes you’ll start to receive can feel a bit overwhelming. There are so many menus and options that trying to navigate them can be a bit confusing at first. Luckily, most of the concepts and ideas presented will be familiar to ARPG and MMO fans.

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You are given the choice of five base classes — Assassin, Gunner, Mage, Martial Artists, and Warrior. From there, you choose a subclass. There are several per class that fit different styles of play, but all are viable for leveling. So you make your character, pretty them up, and step out into the real world.

The first impression you’ll get is that this is a fairly straightforward ARPG. You go around frantically clicking the hell out of every monster and loot drop, occasionally stopping to put a point in something that makes you kick harder or have more lightning-y lightning. After you punch bad guys right in the head and ass until they explode with loot, you go turn in your progress and get another quest.

While wandering the countryside and clicking your way through the world, the game begins to fold in some MMO designs. You’ll start mining, logging, and fishing. You can join guilds and go on dungeon runs with your fellow members. By the time your character reaches level 50, you’ll feel as if you’re playing a completely different game.

The end is only the beginning

Though this is somewhat true of a number of games, specifically MMOs, it is of paramount importance here. Once the main story ends, the world isn’t magically a peaceful place. There are a lot of dungeons, islands, and all around bad guys out in the world for you to deal with. Each of these activities, in turn, gives the players valuable upgrade materials to improve their gear and take on the next level of challenges.

There are daily and weekly dungeon runs to tackle as well as straight up Monster Hunter style monster fights. There is a lot of content waiting to be explored. This is a good thing as nothing is worse than a complacent hero, but what if you want to be complacent? Then I have some great news for you!

The way Lost Ark takes on player housing is somewhat novel — you get an island. Welcome to your mostly empty hunk of land surrounded by the ocean! From here, players can, among other things, research upgrades, craft gear, and send your crew out on quests. While it might not be as exciting as killing demons, it’s nice to kick your feet up and enjoy a Mai Tai on occasion.

Not really lost at all

Lost Ark, at the end of the day, is a very good ARPG with MMO mechanics. The way the game funnels you through the initial content is like an amusement park ride with side quests. After that ride, though, you get dumped out at this giant, unexpected playground full of stuff to do. If sailing around the map, hunting giant monsters, and chasing upgrades sounds like a good time, then this might be the game for you.

As for me, I’ll be out on the seas with my crew, looking for the next great adventure.

Lost Ark is free-to-play on PC. The publisher gave GamesBeat a Founder’s code for the purpose of this review.

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