Four Winds: The good, the bad, and the weird of Lost Ark’s endgame


So here I am, at the top of the mountain of Lost Ark, but then another rise greets me. I’ve been moving at a pretty leisurely pace since the game launched, slowly unlocking skill points, forming a build for my Sorceress main, reveling in the cheesy story, and generally enjoying myself quite a bit. So color me surprised that I hit level cap well ahead of time – even before I completed the primary story that was still before me – and slowly made my way to the oft-referenced endgame.

If you’ve been following much of the early discussion when this game made its western launch, you probably have seen plenty of assumptions about what is waiting at cap in Lost Ark. Now, after roughly a month’s worth of time at this point, I feel I can comfortably report in on my own personal experiences. There is the asterisk of the fact that I haven’t hit the absolute tippy-top of item level, but regardless, I feel like I generally have experienced the full picture and wanted to add my impressions to the conversation.

We’ll start with the good stuff, and in my opinion, there is a lot of good stuff going on here. The breadth of things one can do at max level is pretty impressive and also quite fun. The vast majority of my enjoyment has been in slowly working my way up Chaos Dungeons, Guardian Raids, and Abyssal Dungeons.

Chaos Dungeons are less like a dungeon and definitely heavy on the chaos. These are four-person instances where the objective is to blow up huge clumps of monsters as fast as possible, moving through three stages until a bar on the top left fills. This is ARPG mindlesness par excellence, as I can mostly just turn off my brain for a few minutes, use my biggest AoE skills possible, and just shower myself in bloody pulpy explosions and glorious loot and materials.

Guardian Raids are basically boss fights, and the comparison to a fight in Monster Hunter is definitely appropriate in that there’s a time limit, only three total revives that are shared across the whole party, and lots of big beasties to slay. These encounters can very often represent a step up in difficulty and mechanics, with the tiers of fights scaling ever upwards. Again, this is all for some loot and materials.

At the top of the heap sits the Abyssal Dungeon, which are basically four-person dungeon encounters from the game’s main story with new boss fights and fight mechanics. These can hit what I would consider to be my personal “raid tier” in terms of mechanic complexity, challenge level, and reward structure. In fact, some of the better gear is stuffed inside of Abyssals.

Divested from these endgame tiers are islands, which dot the entire landscape of the game’s world. These provide some of the best variety and the greatest sense of “adventure” in Lost Ark, with quests, objectives, stories, and sometimes mechanics and gameplay elements that are completely unique to one another; some tell insular stories, some are simply resource locales, some have boss monsters, and some have open world PvP. Many of these islands are constantly available, but some only surface at certain times of the day and night.

There are other open world things that can be found in the ocean at certain times as well, such as co-op sailing events, ghost ship fights, or dimensional gates that open at certain maps. All of these don’t really fit into the overall structure of Lost Ark’s endgame beats, but they feed into the core focus of feeding materials to the main.

This is the point where things can get a bit weird when it comes to Lost Ark’s endgame. A lot of the open world stuff isn’t as freely available as I would like, and since there’s so many things that run on so many different timers, some of the first hour I spent was setting up in-game timers to alert me when things I’d want to do (or had the item level for) would appear. There’s also a Procyon’s Compass feature that can offer a rundown of what adventure islands have spawned, what boss monsters are up, or what other things are happening. The game offers you the tools to know what’s going on, but the fact that this is a thing one should do is very odd, and might otherwise feel daunting.

Another bit of oddness is the way alting feeds into the whole system. As it stands right now, my main has been granted reams of upgrade materials for my equipment through side quests, guide quests, main quests, and login rewards, but the whole game’s deal is designating in-game through a specific flag what character is a main and which ones are alts. You can swap characters easily from a simple menu without having to go to login or character selection (much like one would do in BDO), there’s a section of storage that is shared across the account where upgrade materials and other things can be accessed by every character, and all of the currencies in the game are account-bound and not character-bound.

Literally everything is designed around the idea that endgame instances and experiences are meant to be played by multiple characters in an effort to ensure that mats and currencies needed to beef up the main character. It’s both nice to have a reason to feed my altoholism and a little weird at the same time, as I can’t say I’ve ever experienced an MMO in this way.

Finally, in terms of weird things, there’s the Stronghold, which… sort of has a benefit to it all? Kind of? It feels both a bit superfluous to the whole endgame loop as well as something to do to break things up. Or I’m just not doing it right. There are ship missions that can net extra rewards, currencies to rake in, and random shop NPCs to patronize, but the Stronghold mechanic just feels like an afterthought. A robust afterthought, but still an afterthought.

While these weird things are just that – weird and not deal-breaking – there are some things about Lost Ark endgame that are less than savory. For one thing, Chaos Dungeons, Guardian Raids, and Abyssals all tier into one another from lowest challenge to highest (comparatively), and are structured in such a way that one sort of leads towards another in a rather linear path. That’s not unique to most PvE endgame, but it also leaves out much of the option for freedom, and since later story quests are gated behind item level, someone like me who wants to see the next questline is forced down this tunnel.

Another much bigger issue with these main endgame experiences is that they are all time-gated. You can only do these things a set number of times a day, on top of daily quests and weekly quests for extra materials. Again, not wholly unique to most MMORPG PvE endgame systems, and using alts to play Chaos, Raids, and Abyssals multiple times to power the main is ultimately the point, but it doesn’t mean I particularly like it. Incidentally, some of the most rewarding dailies and weeklies are basically the same damn thing every time, and while some run parallel to what’s already being done, it can still get droll.

Of course, I can’t touch on the bad without noting the RNG inherent in upgrading the character. In true Korean MMOARPG fashion, upgrading your equipment to increase item level has a chance of failure, meaning there’s the potential for hard-won and long-chased materials to simply disappear into the ether. I haven’t really experienced too much pain in this regard, and there are bad luck mitigation systems in place, but the fact that I know that sort of thing is possible and I’m effectively pressured into making sure I keep the number of currencies and mats I have at very high levels isn’t really fun.

Some of the biggest pain I’ve felt is in stone faceting. Stones provide some truly significant passives and are all but required for experiencing anything endgame-related, and once again the ugly force of RNG makes failure sting exceptionally hard. I have felt the exhilaration of getting a stone with desired passives to drop followed by the agony of not having enough faceting successes to get the wanted benefit, even though I’m at maximum success chance, which is still only 75%. It sucks.

The worst burn I’ve felt in Lost Ark’s endgame, however, is the community. This game has been out in South Korea for a while now, which means there are not many surprises in terms of how endgame encounters work as there are guides to read and watch all over the place. That said, guides existing is no substitute for experience, and it’s only been out in the west for a few months. Regardless, most of the endgame instances I’ve been with in PUGs are filled with people who are incapable of understanding these facts, as wipes lead to complaints, accusations, text-based bile, or ragequitting. I’ve even had one PUG disband immediately after I admitted in chat that I was new to an Abyssal.

Granted, this might be unique to the Avesta server, and I have the benefit of being in a guild of friends who have the mental maturity to eat failures and allow time for everyone to learn mechanics, but it still is a severe black mark on my whole Lost Ark endgame experience.

Even so, I can’t really quit this game. The bad stuff is bad, and the weird stuff is truly weird, but the good stuff feels really good. I genuinely enjoy my class, I really like learning some of the more challenging fights and overcoming them, and I truly want to slowly let myself climb the ladder, nibble these content leaves, and experience all I can. The cocktail is perhaps a bit diluted by some cold water, but all in all I still want to keep sipping.

The four wind tiles in Mahjong open all sorts of winning combinations for players of this ancient game – and the “Asian” MMO subgenre is just as varied as the many rulesets in Mahjong. Join MassivelyOP here in our Four Winds column as we cover the diverse assembly of MMOs imported from the East!
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