What you need to know about hit MMO Lost Ark

Here's why MMO Lost Ark has experienced such a major surge in popularity lately.
lost ark game

Lost Ark, the hit online multiplayer adventure game, first launched back in 2019 – but only in South Korea. While the game picked up a bunch of local awards, it wasn’t until 2022 that it finally landed in Western countries, thanks to a publishing deal with Amazon Games. Nearly as soon as it hit the scene, the game went viral, becoming the second most played game of all-time on Steam, with a peak of 1.325 million players.

Here’s everything you need to know about Lost Ark, and why it’s become so popular.

What is Lost Ark?

Lost Ark is a two-year-old, free-to-play Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) set in a high fantasy world filled with knights, dragons and epic quests. The primary focus of the game is exploration, with players tasked with crafting, hunting and completing quest lines in order to level up characters and discover more of the game’s world.

It’s an isometric, top-down game with real-time combat, dungeon battles and solo or team fights. You create your character, head off into a magical land, and fight against hordes of raging enemies through advancing quest lines.

It’s reportedly been in development for over a decade, with its soft launch in Korea and betas in Russia and Japan allowing the team to polish any issues and release a fully-formed, bug-free game for latecomers in the West.

Its sprawling world is packed with multiple explorable areas, and plenty of existing content that’ll keep players questing for weeks and months. There’s several classes to choose from, frequent raids for players of all levels, and a ‘complete’ main quest that means you can actually ‘end’ the game if you choose.

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When you consider you get all that for free, it’s not hard to understand why Lost Ark has blown up since it launched in Western countries on 11 February, 2022.

What is Lost Ark about?

lost ark mmo
Image: Tripod Studio / Smilegate RPG

Described as a ‘saga of light’ Lost Ark‘s story follows deep lore about a war between gods, and a rising evil threat that comes to the land of Arkesia. Players embody mythical heroes who enter a world at war as the volcano imprisoning the Lord of the Abyss, Kazeros, erupts.

The game takes place in Arkesia, the land that embodies order and light. Its opposite, Petrania, is filled with darkness and chaos, and these worlds come into constant conflict. The only thing beating back the darkness is an order of light powered by a magical Ark, which splits its power between seven gods.

In the ‘modern’ times Lost Ark is set (500 years after Kazeros was imprisoned), these Ark pieces are spread across seven different continents, and must be united to restore peace as Petrania threatens Arkesia once more.

What are the classes in Lost Ark?

You can choose between five classes in Lost Ark: Warrior, Martial Artist, Gunner, Mage and Assassin.

Warriors are powerhouses who prioritise devastating melee attacks. They’re not particularly fast, but they can take a lot of damage. Sub-classes include Berseker (rage ‘burst’ mode), Paladin (holy powers) and Gunlancer (defensive stance, lance jab).

Martial Artists are quick-footed melee fighters, and move at high speeds. Sub-classes include Striker (quick physical hits and elemental skills), Wardancer (lightning-fast capoeira), Scrapper (heavy gauntlets) and Soulfist (melee and explosive ranged attacks).

Image: Tripod Studio / Smilegate RPG

Gunners are the outlaws of Lost Ark. They wield high-tech weapons including bows, arrows and guns, and have eagle-eyed sharpshooting skills. Sub-classes include Gunslinger (catlike reflexes and light guns), Artillerist (heavy firepower and huge guns), Deadeye (triple-wields handgun, shotgun, rifle) and Sharpshooter (stealthy, ranged bow attacks).

Mages are sorcerer types that wield ancient Arkesian magic to cast spells or heal allies. Sub-classes include Bard (music-based healers) and Sorceress (high impact, element-based magic).

Image: Tripod Studio / Smilegate RPG

Assassins are melee fighters with demonic, dark powers that perform high-speed melee attacks. Sub-classes include Shadowhunter (shapeshifters with chaos magic) and Deathblade (three swords, fast-paced combos).

Each has their own merit, but you’ll need to choose carefully. Once you’ve selected a class for your character, you won’t be able to change it.

Are there microtransactions in Lost Ark?

lost ark game
Image: Tripod Studio / Smilegate RPG

Yes, Lost Ark is filled with microtransactions. This is, after all, a free-to-play game – and the studio needs to keep the lights on somehow. That said, these microtransactions are very optional and players don’t need to spend real world money to advance in the game.

Players can fork out cash for Crystalline Aura, which gives players monthly buffs, free fast travel, extra loot slots and reduced cooldown times for crafting, or they can deal with minor pain and grinding for these buffs without paying.

There’s also a number of skins, pets and cosmetics that are available for purchase in the game’s store – but as many have noted, the game has been adjusted for a Western audience, with extraneous microtransactions mostly removed from the game.

Sure, some players will want to spend money to reduce some of the game’s grind or buff their character – but even if you don’t buy anything, you’ll still get by just fine.

How to play Lost Ark for free

To play Lost Ark for free, all you need is a Steam account.

Head to the game’s store page, and you can hit the ‘Play Game’ button to download the 72.8 GB game file and kick off your adventures.

If you want to start on the right foot with plenty of helpful accessories, you can grab game starter packs from AU $27.35, otherwise you’re free to download the game and get started.

Lost Ark is now available for Steam players globally. If you’re curious, now’s the time to find out why Lost Ark has made such an impact on the gaming scene.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.