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Years-old South Korean video game is 2022’s surprise big hit

Shannon Liao

THE WASHINGTON POST – After prevailing in my most recent boss battle in Lost Ark, the cutscene played – all the while displaying an error message that the servers were shutting down for their daily three-hour maintenance. Players around me in area chat said my character would likely be evicted from the dungeon the next time I booted up the game, erasing my progress. Unlucky.

Over a million people, like me, are playing Lost Ark at the time of writing, according to Steam Charts. The game broke records upon its February launch across North America and several other regions, becoming the game with the most concurrent players of all time on the PC games store/platform Steam after PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. Some servers for the game are still often so busy, they’re hard to join.

It’s hard not to be hooked. In the first few minutes of the game, you can try out several skills that look and feel incredibly powerful, and take down impressive-looking bosses with a few hits. Some of my friends commonly purchased platinum ‘Founder’s Packs’, and many are already nearing the endgame. It takes just over a dozen hours to get to level 50, the level at which many consider the game truly begins.

Amazon Games, which published Lost Ark in North America, Europe, Latin America, Australia and New Zealand, is counting on the bounty of content added to the game over the past two years by developers at Korea’s Smilegate studio to keep audiences engaged.

Amazon worked with the studio to localise the dialogue in English, French, Spanish and German. Lost Ark has silly quests that add levity. Like many multiplayer games, it has a quest introducing pets to players. The game has fun with it, asking you to pick up loot by hand until you acquire a pet that can pick up loot for you. Another quest entails obtaining carrots and herbs to woo a character who is a terrible cook. After you try her cooking, you must decide to lie to her or tell her the truth.

Lost Ark. PHOTO: AMAZON GAMES

Lost Ark also has good quality-of-life features. It’s a free game, yet there are so many perks. For starters, you can ride a mount across towns and there’s an auto-move function, so you don’t have to constantly move your cursor to reach places.

Fast travel is enabled as soon as you reach a new location, so you can go back and visit old NPCs or help out a lower-level friend. It usually costs silver, a form of in-game currency, to travel, but players who bought any tier of the Founder’s Pack get free trips. The minimap also takes a nod from mobile game design and marks quest objectives with massive icons so you can’t get lost, no matter how bad your sense of direction might be.

Lost Ark’s grind is pretty bearable. The game gives you so many skills upfront that it makes the early game super enticing but the teenage levels a bit more boring, at least until you unlock more of the kit. Players start off at level 10 (unless you play through the prologue, which is also skippable). What’s more, if you charge up your power gauge long enough by landing attacks, you can unleash a special combat mode and wreak havoc on the map.

People I spoke to said they are having fun but aren’t sure if they will make this their main game. So far, they’re entertained by the content, and there’s enough in store that excites them.

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