A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
Players have to learn and master a host of complex in-game systems by establishing an orderly and efficient routine with end-game content to maximize their characters' levels. Skills in management, number crunching, and economics can be explored with fantastical markets and currencies, but responsibility should be encouraged where real money is concerned with other items. Players can also learn important aspects of communication and teamwork since cooperative play is the best way to experience the game.
Players engage in countless activities designed to help people ranging from the mundane to the grand. Whether it's moving crates and collecting supplies, or usurping a despot king and stopping a plague's spread, players contribute to relief for people of all ages and kinds. Lessons of mercy, courage, trust, and reconciliation between family members are lightly explored across the main story.
Positive Role Models
There are lots of characters to interact with. A handful are mischievous or rude, but the majority are friendly and good hearted. The highlighted side characters are in differing yet great positions of leadership, exhibiting inspiring attitudes and equitable responsibility with their power.
What separates Lost Ark from other MMOs is how some character classes are split by gender to offer slight differences in abilities between the male and female options. But others are locked to specific genders. Players can customize their skin tone, as well as select hair styles befitting of corresponding ethnicities. The primary side characters are white in the main story, but all others equally range in ethnicity across regions. If choosing a female, dialogue slips from characters will assume the player is male on rare occasions.
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Ease of Play
Lost Ark's action is straightforward, as well as its core leveling systems for improving skills and adding attributes to them. But players will need to take time understanding how the game's advanced and numerous systems work for end-game content. There are dozens of materials, currencies, and menus that have to be mastered to efficiently progress beyond the main campaign, but Lost Ark steadily introduces its more advanced elements with helpful tutorials and recurring hints that walk players through the long learning process.
Violence & Scariness
Players constantly fight hordes of enemies, human and monster alike. Enemies will fall fully intact half of the time, but powerful attacks will instantly turn them the rest into ambiguously shaped meat chunks with showers of blood. Bones are visible in the carnage as well, but beyond this, there's no detailed gore or dismemberment. Players will come across innocent civilians being imprisoned or tortured, but it's not graphic.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Players can earn or purchase outfits with most of the male garbs being fully decked out, but a much larger portion of female clothing is scant. Outfits are reduced—at their most extreme—to bras and bikinis. Articles like short skirts and low-cut shirts are the norm. Female characters have some comically suggestive gaits and emotes.
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What language is present is subject to change with a constant stream of new content, but language is rare with only a couple occurrences like "hell," "damn," or "bastard" every few hours.
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Products & Purchases
Cosmetics from outfits to pets can be purchased with real money in a separate store menu. Items are also available that speed up certain mechanics or processes for convenience, and others can simplify the acquisition of items and gear. But there are no "pay-to-win" schemes present since competitive modes equalize players' levels. In addition, there's an "Auction House" where players can deposit items and sell them to contesting bidders for currency either earned in game or bought with real money. There's a casino in one area, but players can't engage in gambling at the time.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Players can enter taverns and acquire alcoholic beverages like beer and wine. Neither cause drunken effects, but there are drunk characters who have slurred speech.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Lost Ark is a downloadable free-to-play, action-adventure MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) available on Windows PCs. Players are "The Chosen One" who will bring balance to a medieval fantasy world by collecting ancient, powerful pieces of the Ark. But the demon Kazeros seeks this out as well by leading his evil hordes and spreading evil across Arkesia's continents, which players must travel through by completing fetch quests, raiding dungeons, and accumulating better items and gear to increase their power. Players need to invest a lot of time into learning and mastering the game's systems by creating routines to complete a host of activities and challenges. There's an elaborate in-game economy where players acquire many materials and currencies to level up their gear and collectibles, but real money can be spent on cosmetics (outfits, pets, furniture, etc.) and items to speed up timed processes or simplify upgrading. During combat, enemies will often explode into ambiguous chunks of flesh with showers of blood, sometimes leaving skeletons behind, but there's no detailed or exaggerated gore. Language is rare with words like "hell," "damn," or "bastard" appearing every few hours. Female characters, especially with players, have outfits that generously show off legs and cleavage, along with suggestively animated stances, walking, and emotes.
Is It Any Good?
MMOs (massively multiplayer online games) often scale down their presentation for sprawling worlds to explore and intricate systems to master, but that's not the case here. Lost Ark has graphics that blend photorealism and anime to create a lot of beautiful fantasy settings, ranging from Gothic castle grounds to crystalline salt planes. The game's cinematic and larger than life with action-packed cutscenes and flashy, satisfying animation for dozens of combat moves. Scale is the game's defining trait, but underneath the veneer, Lost Ark is still a competent MMO with its gameplay. But some players may be quickly put off by the first 20-30 hours with a stream of boring busywork with shallow fetch quests and errands. The main story is incredibly linear with lots of handholding, but the latter is intentional because—if players stick with the decent challenges that bosses and dungeons pose, along with the fun of the simple yet smooth combat—Lost Ark is largely about preparation for end-game content.
The core mechanics are simple to get used to, such as the excellent Combat Skills. Players gain new moves and improve them with points that can be freely reallocated without penalty to try out others, which can be improved with stat boosts and elemental attributes. Depending on the player's class, moves can require charging or timing, so they don't all feel like mindless button mashing. Managing inventories, traversing the world, and navigating menus is made as smooth as possible with plenty of tutorials and in-game reminders that will help MMO newcomers. Players will need to construct complex routines and strategies for the end-game content, since there are various dungeons to complete, which can provide waves of increasingly harder enemies or a single yet difficult boss where certain mechanics are limited. This turns Lost Ark into an experience of completing daily and weekly challenges, and managing things like "Rapport" points with key characters, stat boosts, Guild quests, and more. All of this is much more fun with friends, and whether that entails a casual playthrough or buckling in for the long haul, Lost Ark has a lot to offer on a scale and with a polish that's uncommon with its competition.
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