It's a shame Lost Ark won't let you play the original class prologues

Image for It's a shame Lost Ark won't let you play the original class prologues
(Image credit: Amazon Games)
Explore Arkesia with these Lost Ark guides

Lost Ark

(Image credit: Smilegate RPG)

Lost Ark tips: What you should know
Lost Ark classes: Which to choose
Lost Ark servers: A complete list
Lost Ark controls: How to change them 

Fun as Lost Ark is, the new player experience is terrible. You begin at level 10, choosing an advanced class that dumps about six skills on your hotbar—maybe a couple more on separate hotbars if you're a gunslinger—plus an identity skill. I hope you like reading tooltips and immediately understanding the implications of various niche mechanical terms. I also hope you can memorize them, because during your first boss fight Lost Ark's going to tell you to use a skill with the Stagger effect without telling you which of your skills has it. And it's not like you can pause in the middle of a fight with a giant monster to do some light reading.

The story isn't introduced any better. There's a slideshow of Photoshop-filtered images summarizing your backstory, then an angel delivers the same generic fantasy exposition about you having a special unique destined path that you know a million other players have heard. That's a lot of chosen ones. 

Then suddenly you're part of an expedition to a lost city led by a one-eyed captain whose bandage goes underneath his weird plastic-looking beard and hair for some reason, being told more world history that will only be relevant hours later.

It wasn't always like this. When Lost Ark launched in Korea in 2019, it had a completely different prologue for every class. Like the multiple beginnings of Dragon Age: Origins, these tailored introductions gave players a personal connection to their character before sending them off to save the world. The warrior was enslaved and forced to fight in a gladiatorial arena, while the assassin was part of a team infiltrating a gothic fortress. These prologues took you up to level 10, and only then did you choose an advanced class.

The individual prologues took hours, however, and were entirely solo. If you wanted to play Lost Ark with friends, you'd have to wait for everyone to finish their prologues first. They became skippable when you were making alts, but your first character had to play the whole thing. 

Class prologues were removed, turned into slideshows, and replaced by the current unified prologue long before Lost Ark was westernized. You can see why. Since they functioned as tutorials, the MMO's evolving mechanics required changes to each one. That took more time than updating a single, unified tutorial. Plus they made adding new classes more work. The assassin, for instance, wasn't a launch class. That whole castle questline and all its neat parts, like a room full of dead bodies who burst to life and attack while you're sneaking through them, had to be finished before the assassin could be released.

It was clearly a lot of work, and it shows. The assassin had one of the most well-regarded prologues, and you can get a sense of what it was like via an abbreviated playthrough on YouTube, though it comes with the shonky translation of an unofficial English patch.

While it made sense to do something about the prologues, what they were replaced by is pretty flawed. The slideshow summaries look cheap, and feel completely disconnected from what follows. The new prologue is quicker, but it's not nearly as atmospheric as the warrior getting to play Gladiator or the martial artist's kung fu revenge fantasy

Coming to Lost Ark by myself, in no rush to be shoved into an overworld full of other players, I'd have preferred the gentler introduction of a class prologue. Make them skippable for sure, and if they're too much work for new classes don't bother making more, but leave them in as an option. Live-service games are constantly removing old stuff to make room for the new—the way Destiny 2 continuously puts locations and activities into a vault killed off any desire I had to return to it—with no way to get it back. Let me tick a box, download a few extra GB, and play the game I want to play rather than a version that's been streamlined to death.

(Image credit: Amazon Games)

A lot of what Lost Ark launched with was streamlined specifically to help everyone get to level 50, when the difficulty goes up and a sweet endgame of the kind MMO players obsess over begins. The quests that get you there have had so much friction removed many of them slide by without leaving an impression. Objectives are often insultingly close at hand, making you wonder why questgivers don't walk five steps and do it themselves. When there's a set of things to complete, finishing one or two usually counts for the lot: "Defuse the explosives!" someone urges, so you rush over to the three bombs, defuse two, and then the quest autocompletes. It's fast, sure, but it's anticlimactic. Why some of this filler wasn't a candidate for removal instead is baffling.

Fortunately, Lost Ark gets good before level 50. Along the way there are highlight dungeons full of escalating peril like Morai Ruins and especially King's Tomb, as well as mass battles and strange locations including a demon circus and a shrunken settlement where pixie people farm ladybugs and fight pirates. I just wish I had the chance to make my character feel like part of the same world as all this neat stuff, with a history I got to experienced, rather than being a blank observer sliding past it all on a treadmill.

Jody Macgregor
Weekend/AU Editor

Jody's first computer was a Commodore 64, so he remembers having to use a code wheel to play Pool of Radiance. A former music journalist who interviewed everyone from Giorgio Moroder to Trent Reznor, Jody also co-hosted Australia's first radio show about videogames, Zed Games. He's written for Rock Paper Shotgun, The Big Issue, GamesRadar, Zam, Glixel, Five Out of Ten Magazine, and, whose cheques with the bunny logo made for fun conversations at the bank. Jody's first article for PC Gamer was about the audio of Alien Isolation, published in 2015, and since then he's written about why Silent Hill belongs on PC, why Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale is the best fantasy shopkeeper tycoon game, and how weird Lost Ark can get. Jody edited PC Gamer Indie from 2017 to 2018, and he eventually lived up to his promise to play every Warhammer videogame.