Lost Ark has had one of the most successful launches of nearly any MMO in history, shattering Steam peak and concurrent player records, showing up heavily on Twitch, and surpassing almost any expectation. It was expected by many people, as the game is a massive success in Korea and Russia. Lost Ark has been widely celebrated for the immense amount of content, both casual, serious, and competitive; more specifically, raiding.
One of the most popular videos to surface before the game was released was Saintone’s “How Difficult is Raiding in Lost Ark?”, giving insight into how intense raiding can be at the highest level. This added even more anticipation and excitement for the western release. More and more class guides came out, resources became abundant, and hype was slowly but surely building.
The developers over at Smilegate RPG and Amazon provided a loose schedule for the content we could expect. This included the highly anticipated Argos Abyssal Raid. This was one of the premier entry-level raids in the game, and many people were looking forward to experiencing raiding in Lost Ark for the first time.
The problem, however, was that nearly no one could actually do it.
The game released with nearly all of the Tier 1 and Tier 2 content intact, so players could progress at a reasonable pace, while experiencing what the game has to offer and learning the fundamentals of the game as you go. Tier 3 happens at gearscore 1302, where the “true” endgame begins and where everyone will end up eventually. Tier 3 has most of the content you’d experience in Tier 1 and 2; Guardian Raids, Chaos Dungeons, daily tasks, world bosses, and Legion Raids.
Argos released at gearscore 1370 causing a major uproar among the community. So much so, that even players in the Korean version of the game expressed concerns over it.
So what was the problem?
The first primary issue is that Tier 3 honing (upgrade) materials are largely scarce and challenging to obtain. The biggest culprit of this is the lack of supporting vertical progression that’s present in other versions, such as weekly Challenge Guardian Raids and weekly Challenge Abyssal Dungeons, which provide a hefty lot of honing materials and other supporting items.
The second: Honing chances across the board are lower than other versions. In the Korean version of the game, the honing chances are significantly higher than our version, which greatly helps alleviate what’s considered the “dead zone” of upgrading at gearscores 1340 to 1370.
Lastly: There simply isn’t much to do to progress in said “dead zone”. You only have your two Guardian Raids (Igrexion), Chaos dungeons, and your two weekly Abyssal Dungeons, and that’s it. For perspective, when progressing towards the end of Tier 2, you have five Abyssal Dungeons available to you and many islands to help you progress and advance. There are almost no islands that give tier 3 materials as of this writing.
These three issues compound into a great feeling of inaccessibility and prohibitiveness amongst the community at large, with many people stating that the western version is leaning into the “pay to win” aspect of things. Even if you were grinding many hours of the day, you were highly unlikely to reach 1370 by the time the raid was even released. It wasn’t a sustainable means of progression for those wanting to see the endgame.
Smilegate and Amazon have since released a “Message from the Team” post, addressing the current issues and discussing how they plan to solve them. They’ve stated that they:
“...made a mistake releasing the March game update too quickly after launch. Data we analyzed alongside Smilegate RPG from their previous launches projected that a larger portion of players would have reached the level required to challenge Argos. However, we overlooked certain variables, such as players spending more time on horizontal contend and the price of honing materials increasing due to bots and real-money transactions.”
The piece goes on to reveal their plans for the future, including additional rewards to the Arkesia Grand Prix to help with honing. Additionally, their plans will include an event guardian raid daily which will give honing materials, and Season 1 of Competitive Proving Grounds, which also give a ton of honing materials through a vendor for simply playing the game mode.
These additions and changes are likely a band-aid fix to a problem that may take more time to rectify, but they help immensely. It is imperative that gear progression be as smooth as possible (to a point), and having reasonable means to actually get to the content that releases in a timely manner is pertinent if they plan on giving us said content at an accelerated rate. They’ve already done a lot in banning bots and handling compensation for overcrowded regions, and this next month should be a big help in stymieing the current Tier 3 issues at hand.
The implications of both the implementation of Argos too early, and the resulting plans to willingly change course and adjust the content release schedule, are very good overall. While there are problems with the current state of the game and how progression is handled, thisaccountability and transparency is a very refreshing to see. Of course, the follow through matters just as much, but this is a very good start in communication and addressing. With South Vern effectively confirmed in the next major update (but notably not the next raid along with it, as no mention of it was made), along with more focus on vertical progression, the already booming western release of Lost Ark will keep rolling along.
Personally, I’m happy with the way the game has been handled thus far and having been stuck at around 1360 for quite a while, I can’t wait to actually get to progress through Argos. I’m cautiously optimistic that things will change for the better, and am grateful for the transparency. It’s a bit of a surprise to me that Challenge Guardians and Challenge Abyssals weren’t available at launch, but I definitely expect them to be implemented much sooner than later. It’s very tough to keep up with the demands of players these days, but there will be a ton of new content to look forward to.