Raise your hands if you’ve been eagerly waiting for Lost Ark. Now give me a high five because as announced earlier today, it’s finally coming to the west under Amazon’s guiding hand!
Let me let you in on a little secret: I’ve been playing Lost Ark via a fan translation and a VPN the last few months. Usually, I don’t play MMOs in that manner, but I just couldn’t wait. Our readers always hyping it up in the comments got me curious, so I just had to try it. That means I’m extra excited for the announcement today.
So what exactly is Lost Ark? Well, does anyone remember Devilian? It was an MMOARPG, an isometric MMO action RPG, run by Trion for a few years. It didn’t too well. Lost Ark follows in that same vein as an isometric action MMO, but it’s much bigger. And I’m not kidding how big it is. There’s so many places to visit; players can even explore the high seas and discover various islands and there’s a lot of content we’ll enjoy. Something I personally really like about the game is the controls. It feels like a MOBA with the right click moving the character around, left click as an auto attack, and a limited set of skills to fight with.
The western release will feature 14 classes. Starting from the Warrior, Gunner, Martial Artist, and the Mage, players will grow their characters towards many different character types. And there’s going to be plenty of other classes coming in the pipeline. In the Russian version, I was a Spearmaster, an offshoot of the Martial Artist. That class won’t be available on our release, but there’s going to be a lot of classes to look forward to!
Originally developed by Smilegate RPG, Lost Ark has already gone live in Korea, Japan, and Russis. Amazon Games picked up publishing rights for English-speaking countries last year, and I was ready for it. But here we are a year later, and we’re still waiting, but the wait is almost over; in addition to the technical alpha this weekend, we’re expecting the closed beta this summer summer, followed by open beta ahead of the launch this fall.
I had the chance to chat with Matthew Huston and Jake Smith from Amazon Games to talk about the various features of the games, the challenges of getting the game ready for the west, and what to expect when the game drops later this year.
What took so long?
My first question for the two was what took so darn long!? When I first heard of the announcement last year, I was expecting the game to be out in six months or so – and this is a game that was originally announced in 2014. Well, making games is hard, and there’s a lot of moving parts, even if it’s “just” porting an MMO to the west, as Matthew Huston and Jake Smith explained it. Smith provided live support for MMOs such as EverQuest, Free Realms, and PlanetSide 2 during his time with Sony Online Entertainment, while Huston worked on World of Warcraft and Heroes of the Storm in his time with Blizzard. They clearly don’t want to rush the project when they can get it out in the best shape they can.
On gender locking and content cadence
My second question focused on the genderlocking. Smilegate actually launched the game in Korea with genderlocking, then took it out. But at least for the initial western launch, the classes will be genderlocked. It’s a little disappointing to hear that; Smilegate earned a lot of player goodwill when it made the decision to remove the genderlocking in Korea, and I suspect that players will be disappointed that this inclusion won’t be available right off the bat.
On the other hand, Smilegate and Amazon have taken steps to include better representation and skin tones for their NPCs. (I’m not sure whether those will be available in the character creation.) It’s all tied to the content cadence, so it seems likely that they’ll eventually add the opposite genders for all their classes, following the same release cadence that the Russian and Korean servers have been on. However, while the team said it will share a roadmap in the near future, but that’s all we’ve got to go on in terms of content rollout.
The in-game shop and Twitch integration
Considering how the game’s being published by Amazon Games, I hoped it could share any details on how it plans on integrating the game into their platform. I hoped that the game would be an opportunity for the team to add a unique feature to both Twitch and Lost Ark as an incentive to use both platforms. But aside from typical developer support and Twitch drops, the developers didn’t have much to share on their plans with Twitch integration either.
The bigger question that popped up was the in-game shop. Overseas, Lost Ark has items players can purchase for power. As I understand it, there won’t be many changes to the in-game shop, so we can expect to see those items in the game, but we were assured that those items can also be found from regular play. Whether or not this means that it’ll be a rare drop, daily login reward, or just enough to make the player feel powerful but not too powerful is up for speculation for now, but Amazon’s recent brush with the pay-to-win scenario in New World will hopefully be enough to keep Lost Ark clean.
PvP and endgame content
PvP unlocks at level 50. According to the developers, that’s about 40-50 hours’ worth of gameplay. I’m always a little iffy about PvP unlocking at level 50; some players just play MMOs to PvP, and the PvE content might just be a content barrier for them. The PvP will also be gear dependent, so even when the content is unlocked, players will need to do some grinding to get powerful enough to win. Since I didn’t get a chance to really try this, this will certainly be the thing I’d like to look into once the beta releases.
Lost Ark will of course feature a variety of dungeons, with normal and hard difficulty, and both types will be soloable. In terms of endgame group content, players will gain access to the chaos versions of the dungeons, which are basically the more difficult versions for players to grind on.
Aside from these dungeons, sailing will be a major part of playing the game going forward – sailing as in boats. Not only will this be the player’s way of discovering new content, but it’s apparently going to feature some randomized content too. Players can find randomized islands and even randomized dungeons as they explore the high seas between the content. I’m personally curious about this feature myself. Will it be fully randomized dungeons and tilesets? Or will it be a hand-made dungeon with random mobs?
Will Amazon keep this game around?
One concern during the press event was Amazon Games’ track record. The company has closed and canceled a few games already and has yet to fully launch anything, so some players would be a little nervous about jumping into a game that might be in danger of a similar shutdown. We were assured that the dev team is passionate about the game and will maintain the game. But let’s be realistic here: We’re all a little nervous. We’ll wait and see.
On the bright side, Lost Ark is already a solid game, already proven to be a success in other regions. There’s no clear reason to think it won’t do at least as well here.