The big fantasy MMO Lost Ark is a hit, but it's not without problems, including the fact that its classes are gender-locked: Warriors are men, mages are women. It's an old-school approach, and one that doesn't really hold up anymore. Developer Smilegate is attempting to address the situation through the addition of "advanced classes," which are specializations that enable both male and female characters in individual classes.
Gunner advanced classes, for instance, include the artillerist, deadeye, and sharpshooter, which are male, and the gunslinger, a female. The Martial Artist class is balanced the other way: Three advanced classes—the scrapper, soulfist, and wardancer—are female, while only the striker is male.
It's far from a perfect solution, but Smilegate told Eurogamer that further advanced classes, with better gender balance, will continue to "roll out over time."
"Classes are tied pretty closely to their character models in terms of function and animation, so bringing opposite gender characters to a class takes more work than just making a differently gendered model available," Amazon Games' franchise lead Soomin Park told the site.
"However, Smilegate RPG is actively working on this; the female Berserker is the next class coming to Korea. While not every class in the game currently has a male and female counterpart available, we made an effort to include those that do in our launch class lineup. In the future, Smilegate RPG will be creating more counterparts for classes that are still gender locked, and we will bring these to Arkesia in time."
The explanation echoes that of Ubisoft's years-ago excuse for not including a playable female character in Assassin's Creed Unity, although at least it didn't end with a shrug and a "sorry," and then an awkward follow-up statement that doesn't really address the matter at hand.
Park also said that Smilegate is working to address complaints about Lost Ark's revealing female armor sets: Existing armor pieces won't be changed, but the game's marketing and character creation screen will be adjusted so "the more revealing options won't be front and center." New, less revealing outfits are on the way as well, but Park specified that they will be an addition to the game, not a replacement.
"As we are aware of the balance between hardcore fans who want a Lost Ark experience that is close to the original Korean version and new players who may not like the current armour and costume options, we are adding outfits and alternatives to the game instead of taking away options," Park said.
Lost Ark originally launched in South Korea in 2019, but didn't make its way to the West and Europe until February 2022. It was an immediate hit and has held up very well in the month since, with concurrent player counts remaining in the high six figures. Unfortunately, that success has come at a cost: Lost Ark's Europe Central region suffered from long server queues because of unprecedented demand, and while Amazon Games quickly launched a new Europe West region to help alleviate the load, it's unable to increase the capacity of Europe Central itself.
Fortunately, the recent "ban tsunami" seems to have helped free things up: A message posted in the Lost Ark forums a day after the bans rolled out indicated that EU Central queues had been dramatically reduced.