tl;dr Inconsistent gameplay and perverse incentives encouraging gatekeeping make it hard to recruit other people or continue playing.
First off, I’m not a good player. I’m a casual minnow playing suboptimal builds and am constantly gatekept and I won’t deny this as part of the reason why I am having problems with the game right now. I play games to have fun and will continue to play so long as I can have fun.
If I were to summarize my main complaint about the game in one word, it’s that it is inconsistent.
The early gameplay is mostly solo questing and some rpg elements. This is very different from mid gameplay, which still has some questing but adds lots of open world amusement park style exploration and easy guardian grinds.
This changes when you get to Argos, and you are like a little kid playing soccer running around chasing a goat and changes again to Valtan where you feel like an epic high level gamer. Finally we have the current high end content which is Kakul, which is basically a bullet hell game with unforgiving mechanics.
At some point you realize that a lot of the things you saw early game in the game are just gone from what you do in the game. And the very high end raid content, unforgiving bullet hell, is not visible in any form early in the game.
Some people argue that Kakul is optional content, but lets be honest, everyone uses party finder and for the first few months people won’t let you into their Brel group, or join the groups you form, unless you have a full set of clown upgrades.
Inconsistency can be seen in gear transitions. Early game open world enemies just drop the gear through normal quests. Mid game you can do chaos gates or buy it off the market board. These methods are super casual friendly. Late game, you must do the more challenging content “hard” abyss dungeons or Argos. To advance further in gear, you must be a high end raider… or not play the game and just buy a bus.
Inconsistency can be seen in the nomenclature. The current “Normal” (Kakul) content is significantly harder than the current “Hard” (Vykas) content which are both harder than the “Challenge” or “Abyss” content.
Inconsistency can be seen in what builds and playstyles work and don’t work. Think about how some classes are really good/bad in early game, but then die/come alive in late game.
Early game you could try a lot of different playstyles and just get away with it. Front attack characters, characters that used items a lot, dps support classes, or tanky characters with shield and defensive abilities that allowed you to survive big hits. Early on people were encouraged to play tanky characters that can face tank everything because they could survive and play the game more.
Creative item or skill usage allowed you to get away with a lot of things, like clay bombs for extra dps, scarecrows and taunting for distracting bosses, timestop for avoiding lots of mechanics, or even purify abilities to remove the any and all bad conditions.
At Kakul, and to some extent hard Vykas, playstyle creativity is lost. Incoming damage is a lot less relative to what a standard support can shield and instead you have to deal with non-depletable lust and mayhem meters. Item utility is severly diminished. Scarecrows never work, purify only purifies certain things, clay bombs do less damage, protection items are near useless, etc.
This strongly encourages every dps to behave like a glass cannon with specific builds and then gatekeeping enforces this.
The problem is the game doesn’t tell you that the strategies you learn in early gameplay, like equip an engraving and use items doesn’t matter which ones, switch to you MUST make a meta build, or you won’t be able to get a party, and even if you do, “git gud” or you may not dps fast enough before random mechanics and enrage kills you.
The game strongly incentives gatekeeping. Due to how the party finder is setup, people are encouraged to choose the best possible candidates, like a job recruiter choosing candidates. If you don’t like this, then you form your own parties and choose the best candidates yourself. This method of party finder is competitive at it’s core. Anyone applying for content must compete against others applying for it.
This has two consequences, it ensures the runs that fill go smoother because higher item level people get in. It also causes the people who are the lowest levels to not be able to play the game and do the content. This is really bad for casuals that just want to play the game and encourages them to quit trying. However, there is always a bottom, so there will always be people being sliced off for arbitrary reasons due to the competition.
In NAE most parties won’t accept you for content unless you can already show you have cleared it a bunch and have invested in the character already, or are selling you a bus. This not only means new players or casuals that are behind in content can’t just find a group and play the game like everyone else. Instead, they have to “bring some friends” or “join a guild and find people”, and in essence play a different game.
This also creates odd scenario where you will be denied trying to find a group for Argos as a 1415-1430 ilvl character on reset day because everyone wants 1445+ runs. So even though you are the same ilvl as early Argos bus drivers, now you are gatekept.
My main problem with gatekeeping is you can’t just play the game and do the required stuff for advancement. If you are new or near ilvl, you have to wait, potentially hours, and cross your fingers that you will get accepted or that enough good people will join your group.
Most games that you pick up and play start off teaching you what you need to succeed in the game, and then build off those formulas. They slowly make things harder. Most importantly, you can just play the game through algorithmic matchmaking.
Lost Ark looks like a bunch of developers worked on their own pet projects in the game and when they left those parts were just kept in as is but never expanded on. There are fundamental changes to what the game is supposed to be without any in game warning. This is worsened by the fact that Lost Ark’s systems encourage this gatekeeping.
As a result of the inconsistency if I have a friend that likes exploring islands and the horizontal content, once they get to tier 3, they’re effectively done with the game. If they really like Valtan, nothing is as good or like Valtan, so they do Valtan over and over until they are sick of him.
if they like bullet hell games, they have to suffer through several months of grinding other content and gatekeeping to get to clown, And wish them luck if they’re playing the game to get all the arks. It’s really hard to recommend this game to any of my friends and encourage them to play it.
Possible Suggestions: There really isn’t much that can be done. A lot of these problems are fundamental to the history of the game and how it was developed and evolved. Changing them would make it a different game to the people that are heavily invested in it right now.
Taking a look at some of these suggestions:
- Add extra clear reward incentives (e.g. legendary card packs or legendary books) for using matchmaking, and improve how matchmaking is done.
- Add bonuses reward incentives for helping someone who hasn’t cleared content before clear it.
- Add and communicate clear build requirements for matchmaking so players without a chance to clear the content can’t join.
- Change partyfinder so anyone can join a party they meet the requirements for.
- Add in lower level raids (rehearsals for instance) to earlier parts of the game to prepare characters.
- Bring consistency with the use of items and abilities across tiers
- Add more horizontal content and add replayability of horizontal content so that ocean explorers and death island enjoyers have a reason to continue to doing it.
- Add alternate options and paths for gear advancement besides just raids
A lot of these “fixes” would make the game more accessible but would also be far-reaching, difficult, and possibly ruin what some people like about the game.
My friends have already quit this game awhile ago, and most of my guildmates have quit as well. Based on what people in the forums previously have said to similar complaints maybe I should just quit this game and play something else.
Have any of you guys noticed any other inconsistencies in the game, or notice things that have stayed the same or improved throughout the game? Also what have you done that has been successful in getting new people to play the game?