I’m far enough (?) now to have unlocked most systems, and have a few more thoughts on the game. By now I have:
- Level 50
- Item Level 460
The game has multiple phases to it. The period from start until you unlock the ship, it’s borderline Diablo. You have a ton of action skills, combat is explosive, the bosses are engaging, and there’s tons of voice acted content. A few systems are explained up til this point, but it primarily focuses on harvesting and stronghold upgrades. The stronghold is a time-gated construction bit, and still seems to serve no real purpose. Maybe for battle potions later.
When you unlock the ship, the game opens like floodgates. The rather linear map turns into a real world that you actually need to navigate. The sailing mechanics are relatively simple, and ship upgrades are meaningless (and I think impossible) until a much later point. There’s just tons of content to be had here… it’s really quite astounding. The open world areas are thematic, and while some may seem repetitive, there are others that are really well done. It’s not terribly challenging, at least for anyone with ARPG experience, so it feels a bit like fast food. Then you hit the first real content gate.
Lost Ark has item levels for the gear. By the final quest you will have a set of ilvl 302 gear, which is more than ample for all the content you just did. To access the next bit, you need to get it to ilvl460. Now, the thing about this is that increasing your level only comes from honing, or rather using material to increase your current gear. Each piece needs to be upgraded 8 times. Getting that material comes from 2 main activities – island quests or chaos dungeons. It’ll take a day or two to get it all sorted out.
I disliked this part, tremendously. Mostly because it was so jarring. While you do get your ship a lot earlier, exploring any of the islands at that time feels very disconnected from the rest of the game. Chaos dungeons are OK I guess, just a set of waves of enemies you need to clear within a timeframe. You get extra rewards twice a day, which can accumulate over time. Plus, there’s an RNG mechanic when upgrading gear – it’s possible for it to fail, moreso the higher the ilvl. This would be the long tail of the game…which seems, from Steam at least, to be less than 2% of the playerbase.
I haven’t gotten into any of the other systems or currencies in the game yet. The card decks, engravings, and stones give some flexibility or min/maxing for combat – very obtuse RNG systems that are akin to legendary farming in Diablo. There appears to be something like 100 currencies in-game, most of which are island specific. This is closer to reputation farming from MMOs, but super confusing because you’ll see a vendor and have no idea how to get any of the currency. It in turn means that over 90% of the currency is meaningless. This isn’t a complaint as much as a statement… look at WoW… how much content prior to Shadowlands is even remotely relevant today? Seems a similar thing here.
I do have 1 particular peeve with this game, and it relates to the approach to instancing and death. When you die, you can either resurrect on the spot (a plume, which are super limited, or bought in the store) or revive in town. The latter is obviously preferred. The former is an interesting decision point depending on the instance you are in… if you die, you need to restart the entire instance. It’s not like 2 minutes to get back to a corpse either, odds are it’s a major boss fight after trekking the entire instance once again. It feels a bit like raiding in an MMO where the trash instantly respawns after a death. It’s an annoyance more than much else.
I’ve got more stuff to do here no doubt. Finishing this content will give me access to the final bit of Tier 1 dungeons to get to ilvl600. Getting to ilvl 802 apparently means using the auction house…odd that bit. ilvl 960 to get to the final bit of Tier 2. Tier 3 starts at ilvl1100 and currently ends just after ilvl 1415. the moment to moment gameplay is really quite amazing. Not so sure the west is actually in the mindset for the RNG grind required for tail end progress… certainly not when my game library is overflowing. I’ll have another post up in a month to see how this plays out.