Game Mobalytics

The Fascination of Lost Ark

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To hear me talk about it, you’d think I despise Lost Ark. But let me be clear, if that were true, I’d have to be some kind of masochist. I installed the game on Friday morning and by Tuesday afternoon, I had already spent over fourteen hours playing it. There have been MMORPGs that I’ve extolled in the past, but none have consumed me as much as Lost Ark has.

Since I first played it, Lost Ark has taken up the majority of my gaming time. I’ve dived into my daily missions in Guild Wars 2, briefly logged into EverQuest II to participate in the Erolisi Day festivities, and explored Chimeraland, but apart from those moments, it has been all about Lost Ark.

Clearly, my experience cannot be as terrible as I may have initially portrayed. So what exactly has kept me so engaged? I think it’s about time I compile a list of the aspects I genuinely enjoy about this game. There must be something noteworthy about it.

And indeed, there is. But I must warn you, my pick may be controversial. I actually enjoy the questing in Lost Ark, and not just the Main Story Quest; I find the side quests equally enjoyable.

The general consensus among players seems to be that Lost Ark does not prioritize narrative. Kaylriene even went as far as describing the story as “pretty dreadful.” He also criticized the voice acting, calling it “abysmally bad.” Wilhelm’s perspective was slightly more lenient, labeling the story as “kind of goofy,” something I can accept on some level. However, like Kaylriene, Wilhelm also found fault with the voice acting, characterizing it as “stilted and awkward.”

Even Naithin, who is arguably one of Lost Ark‘s most ardent supporters in the blogosphere, couldn’t muster much praise for the game’s storytelling, settling for a rather neutral observation: “It exists. It’s… there. Doing vaguely story-like things from time to time.”

But there have been a few voices defending Lost Ark‘s quest content. Aywren, for instance, dedicates a significant portion of her First Impressions post to the topic of “Story,” and I find myself in agreement with almost everything she said, such as:

“Lost Ark is a good few steps above many translated games that I’ve played in terms of localization.”

“Lost Ark’s localization is fairly well done.”

“The story has recurring characters that I remember when I see them.”

Similarly, Krikket shared positive thoughts about Lost Ark‘s side quests, stating:

I realize this constitutes rather faint and qualified praise, so let me elaborate a bit. First, let’s address the question of voice acting and whether it is any good or not.

Having played numerous localized and translated MMORPGs, I have often encountered discrepancies between the spoken words and the on-screen text. Sometimes, the words don’t even mean the same thing. It is not uncommon for the line readings to emphasize the wrong words, and at times, it feels like the actors don’t fully grasp the meaning of the words.

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In too many of these titles, it’s almost believable that the voice work was assigned to unpaid interns or developers with a little spare time on their hands, or practically anyone who happened to be passing by the sound studio that day. Fortunately, Lost Ark does not suffer from any of these shortcomings.

Voice Acting

I will say it outright: if there are dwarves in the game, why can’t I be one? Most of the performances in Lost Ark are quite understated. Even during momentous events, the characters tend to underact, and I consider that a strength. It is refreshing not having to endure actors who seemingly inhale helium balloons or gargle with broken glass before reciting every line. The absence of any attempt at a stereotypical “Scottish” accent, which is often associated with characters like Sean Connery or Sean Bean, is commendable, including the voice actor for the Dwarven blacksmith. Such a decision deserves recognition.

Now, it is true that only the first line of every dialogue receives a sound clip, which I find somewhat distracting. However, this seems to be the industry standard nowadays, considering the high cost of voice work. I would personally prefer either to hear the entire speech or none of it, but alas, my preferences are not solicited.

So much for the acting. How about the script?

I have pondered this question extensively. Naithin and I have engaged in a back-and-forth conversation on our blogs, debating whether Lost Ark exceeds the visual expectations of most games or merely meets the requirements of functional aesthetics. I previously stated, and I quote, “I think Lost Ark is graphically functional for what it needs to be, but it has the feel of an assembly-line construction, produced to a good standard following very specific, commercial directions.”

Quest Summaries

The quest summaries are worth reading; they often contain intriguing lore and scene-setting details.

I do recognize the irony here. While expressing my disappointment with Lost Ark‘s visual aspects, I find myself using similar language to describe its writing. The writing in Lost Ark strikes me as solid, professional, and commercially viable. It’s comparable to a well-crafted press release or a filler article in a magazine.

That’s not to say it’s unremarkable. Many games aspire to this level of writing. Admittedly, it lacks originality. The central plot bears an uncanny resemblance to that of several other MMORPGs I’ve played in recent years. It’s almost eerie how they all follow the same pattern. The only notable difference is that my character doesn’t wake up on a beach with amnesia, as Tyler pointed out in the comments on my previous post—a detail that might have fallen victim to the cutting room floor, much like the missing ten levels.

However, where Lost Ark outshines its counterparts is in its remarkable clarity of purpose. Other games may have more intriguing setups, gnarlier plot twists, and more surprising revelations, but few are as straightforward and easy to follow. Even at level twenty-eight, I can still remember all the significant characters, their aspirations, and motivations. I cannot often say the same at this stage in other games’ stories.

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End-of-Region Wrap-ups

The end-of-region wrap-ups are particularly enjoyable, bidding farewell to the characters you’ve assisted. It might even be an original idea.

But there’s more to the writing than just the storytelling. So far, at least, it strikes a chord with my own sensibilities, which is somewhat surprising considering my earlier observations about the game’s problematic gender politics.

There is considerably less heroic posturing than I would have expected, with the two main protagonists exhibiting more self-doubt than usual. It’s not mere adolescent angst either, even though they could easily pass for members of the latest KPop boy band.

Nuremberg Defence

The sequence where the prince refuses to accept the “I was only following orders” defense from the man who attempted to slaughter an entire village worked particularly well, especially when he insists on sending the culprit away for a proper trial amidst shouts of “Don’t let him live!” from the crowd.

In another instance, when the prince arrives too late to save the elderly knight who served as his surrogate grandfather, the emotional impact is remarkable. The absence of dialogue enhances the impact, as the prince gazes at the fallen knight, walks away, sits down, and buries his head in his hands. It’s a testament to the quality of the writing that it evokes such genuine emotion.

There are many other instances like these, not just in the main story but also in the side quests. As Krikket mentioned, these quests are straightforward in terms of mechanics—usually involving elements like “go here, talk to this guy, kill some beasties.” Nevertheless, these quests manage to convey a sense of the characters’ lives in just a few lines.

Quest Innovation

Not going to work here either, buster.

I have a strong aversion to fantasy blockbuster prose, which is one of the reasons why I always struggle to consider Elder Scrolls Online as an example of “good” writing, even within the genre. Lost Ark, on the other hand, is more concise, and that suits my taste. It adopts a more relatable tone for the minor characters, who sound like regular people rather than fantasy archetypes, even if they still occasionally fall into trope territory. While I wouldn’t claim that depth is its strong suit, there is a sense of verisimilitude in the writing.

Coming back to what I mentioned earlier, I did state that it is the questing I enjoy in Lost Ark, not just the quest writing. As a player, I generally prefer tasks over quests, so the “go here, talk to this guy, kill some beasties” formula Krikket outlined appeals to me. And what makes it even better in Lost Ark is that it is often a matter of talking to NPCs who are within fifty yards, or slaying a few creatures located just beyond the NPC you last interacted with. This level of convenience certainly suits my preferred gameplay style.

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Convenient World

That’s a rhetorical question, right?

When undertaking such quests, Lost Ark truly feels like an MMORPG to me. The fights are on a small scale, the enemies are tough enough to withstand a few blows, and I have the time to strategize my attacks instead of resorting to button-mashing. It allows me to play in the manner I most enjoy.

Similarly, when engaging with the various quests that aim to explain the game’s numerous systems, I find myself engrossed. I don’t necessarily want to master these systems—God forbid!—but I derive pleasure from going from one NPC to another, clicking on things, and reading through the dialogue.

Lost Ark‘s world is compact and safe. The zones are tiny, with no fog of war, and everything you need is clearly marked on the map, which even offers a semi-transparent version to serve as a visual navigational aid. Although most mobs are aggressive in theory, in practice, you can stand inches away from them without attracting any attention. Moreover, you can outrun them, even on foot. It’s incredibly easy to ride through the game, completing quests without any interruptions.

All of these elements contribute to an incredibly smooth and effortless gaming experience. The story segments hold just enough intrigue to keep me engaged, while the task-based gameplay gives me something to occupy my hands. If Lost Ark were a traditional 3D MMORPG, even one with action combat, I would be lauding its merits rather than simply nitpicking its flaws.

Unsettling Moment

For the sake of journalistic integrity, I must admit that I find Lost Ark less boring now than I once did. While it still fails to provide the excitement I crave, as long as I have quests to complete, it adequately fills the time.

Considering that questing appears to be the highlight of Lost Ark for me, I am curious about the supposed endgame. Every leveling guide I’ve come across advises players to complete as few quests as possible outside of the Main Story Quest and to progress through it as quickly as feasible. But why? What awaits at the end that is so extraordinary?

I suspect I may never find out. I might reach the end eventually, though it is not guaranteed. I am determined, at the very least, to acquire my own boat. Perhaps completing the story to see how it all concludes for the half-demon priest and the diffident prince will also pique my interest. And who knows, by that point, the rest of the game may have grown on me to the point where I no longer recall why I found it boring in the first place.

Regardless, I am adamant about getting that boat. After that, we shall see.

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