There’s a lot to like about Lost Ark. There’s the exaggerated action-RPG combat, which makes the fighting in other MMOs look like trash. The variety of endgame activities, all the way up to multi-stage legion raids that seem to have cost what would’ve been another game’s entire budget. And the in-depth customization, from character creation sliders to cosmetic recoloring that can turn you into something a sick rainbow might vomit up.
Lost Ark is celebrated for all those things. But there’s one thing the Korean MMO doesn’t get enough credit for, and that’s how deeply weird it gets. We gave a shout-out to the massive clown battle that takes place when a demon trickster summons his horde of cavorting harlequins for a sequence that’s half battle scene from The Lord of the Rings, half the Gathering of the Juggalos, but that’s just the beginning of the batshit in Lost Ark.
Note that there will be spoilers for both Lost Ark’s main storyline and sidequests ahead.
Getting turned into an anime foxgirl
Night Fox Yoho is a guardian raid boss with multiple tails who summons tornados and can teleport. She also has several attacks that turn players into booby anime foxgirls. The downside to this is that, while transformed into a Tumblr illustration of someone’s fursona, you lose access to your skills and can be hit by other players. You’ll probably get smacked around by one of their area-of-effect attacks and die before the transformation wears off. This happens a lot, particularly because of how many players immediately zoom in to check out how hot they look as a foxgirl (opens in new tab).
The dwarf musical
The umars, Lost Ark’s version of dwarves, do things differently. One of the first things you see in their homeland of Yorn is a grand funeral where the dead are packed on longships and sailed out into the bay—at which point a catapult launches a burning barrel at them, ridden by an umar who aims it into the boats then leaps clear before they explode.
At the end of this continent’s questline the master smith Balthorr returns to craft a magical weapon. As the umars prepare the forge, they launch into song. Well, fair enough. The dwarves in Snow White sing all the time, though I don’t remember there being this many fireworks or rains of petals.
After a couple of minutes of increasing Bollywood extravagance, your character suddenly appears in the cutscene for a synchronized dance sequence, joined by a crew of dwarves in suits and sunglasses like the Blues Brothers. The musical number climaxes with the naming of this powerful magic artifact, its title sung by everyone present: “Rrromaaantic Weaaapooonnn!“
If you’re wondering whether that’s an oddity of localization, it’s exactly the same in the Korean version (opens in new tab).
The Colorful Room
At the end of both the Naruna Hot Springs and Aira’s Oculus dungeons you confront a demon named Seto, who is a giant fancy clown-chad wearing a gigantic ruff around his neck and those curled-up shoes known as Aladdin toes. He looks like Lord Farquaad from Shrek if he didn’t leave the gym for six months, then stole a wardrobe from Katamari’s King of All Cosmos.
Land a few hits on this capering creep and he drops to the floor, twirling one leg in the air, which somehow transports you to a place called “The Colorful Room”. It’s a kaleidoscope arena walled in by giant toy blocks where Seto fights you with moves that combine Slavic squat dancing, juggling on circus balls, throwing hula hoops, and shooting hearts.
The whole thing’s as unsettling as a clown at your birthday party, and made even more so by the fact he taunts you the entire time in a voice like a cross between Wario and Mark Hamill’s Joker. He’s gross and I hate him.
The horny typing test
Lost Ark’s boss fights and especially legion raids are defined by their mechanics, tests that punish failure with debuffs or just straight-up party wipes. The most ridiculous comes at gate three of the Vykas legion raid. Vykas is the demon commander of the Covetous Legion, basically the dominatrix queen of the succubi, so how does she challenge you? With a mid-battle touch-typing exam, of course.
Every time Vykas hits a player during the fight, a bar above their head called the seduction gauge fills up. The effects change as it rises, but once it reaches 100% you lose control and attack the other players. Partway through the fight a yellow orb that reduces the gauge to zero appears, so everyone runs over to grab it, and that’s when Vykas launches her devious test of your typing ability.
These quick-time events give you a few seconds to type seven-letter combinations of random letters, though they always use the same keys as your skills: QWEASD. To distract you from this seemingly easy task, Vykas poses and writhes in the background, moaning things like, “Focus your eyes on me.” It’s not really a test of your ability to touch-type after all. It’s another test of your ability to not be distracted by boobs.
If everyone passes, Vykas will be briefly stunned when the fight resumes. If three or fewer players fail, Vykas gets a shield and sends out a map-wide shockwave, which causes more damage the more players screwed up. If all four players were too busy gawping at the jiggly demon lady to accurately type nonsense words? Everyone dies automatically.
I say “nonsense words”, but it’s possible for this selection of Scrabble letters randomly drawn out of a bag to make actual words. The best I’ve seen so far is DEADASS (opens in new tab). Which is what you’ll be if you don’t get your mind out of the gutter.
Being brought down to earth in Tortoyk
Lost Ark’s first continent is modeled on Europe, and its epic storyline climaxes with the restoration of the land’s rightful ruler. Later you visit places that draw inspiration from Asia, Hawaii, and so on. Before you get to them you quest on Tortoyk, which is modeled on Peter Pan’s Neverland.
After meeting the Tinkerbell-sized locals called mokokos you get shrunk to their size, gain a ladybug mount, and cruise around an adorable village where the children use a leaf as a slippery-slide. It’s not all toadstool-gumdrop whimsy, though. You’re here to help them fight a band of full-sized pirates, and before you get unshrunk you have to eavesdrop on the pirates’ meeting. This leads to a frantic escape across a table covered in a multi-level landscape of ship’s logs and treasure maps, fighting bugs and toads as you go. Then you hear a squawk.
The boss of this dungeon turns out to be a huge parrot with a jaunty naval hat, neckerchief, and peg-leg. This pirate parrot is a dense sack of hit points and takes a while to put down, pecking you the whole time. It’s a real slap in the face. Lost Ark lets you save an entire nation and restore its king to his throne, then almost kills you with a tropical bird who only has one leg.
Spying on ghosts while disguised as a corpse wagon
The ancient spirits in the Swamp of Despair have stories to tell, and a sidequest handed out by Hirakuth the Ancient demands you listen to them. The dead are shy, however, and surrounded by swamp monsters who will attack you on sight. To approach the ghosts safely you need to be in disguise. So you wander over to a nearby coffin on wheels and climb inside.
Perfectly innocuous in this new form—as an ambulatory corpse cart with two jaunty lanterns placed on top—you complete the quest by trundling from one circle of gossipping spirits to the next, stopping in the middle of each huddle to listen to their whispers, and moving on. None of them comment on the self-steering deadwagon. Then Hirakuth the Ancient gives you some silver coins and crafting materials as a reward and you leave as if nothing strange has occurred.
The fourth wall-breaking sidequest
A map found as a random drop unexpectedly leads to Lost Ark’s wildest story. On the tail of a mysterious man who seems to be messing with things that would most annoy players—stealing collectibles, capturing merchants who sell unique items—you meet NPCs who have gone off-script. A tooki (essentially a treasure goblin) is building a memorial to the rest of his doomed kind. A spider-queen boss goes into hiding after discovering she was created to be killed by wandering adventurers. A talking mannequin claims to have been made in a factory and come from another world.
You also find a high-tech device that transmits voices from this other world. Any NPC who hears it gets reset, repeating their introduction as if they’ve forgotten their last interaction. While tracking down the factory where this device was made, your screen suddenly fills with error messages and you fall unconscious, waking up inside a place where mannequin NPCs are being assembled and brought to life.
A mysterious voice shows you a training video in which a peppy lady in a uniform explains how to greet new people and says, “We’re building this world together! You’re one of its real heroes.” From here the story goes full Matrix, or maybe Westworld. You’re shown a glitchy, unfinished version of Lost Ark’s starter town Prideholme where the textures checkerboard, you can see camera placements overhead, and at the edges of the map there’s nothing but flowing datastream. It’s all just a game, man.
In this training area NPCs stand in the town square learning to say “We’ve been waiting for you!” and “Oh my, you’re so amazing!” Others take a moment to relax. One innkeeper who normally makes terrible food informs you she’s actually a good cook but has to serve you bad meals because her character concept was rewritten, while another insists you’ve followed her out of the game because you must be in love.
Finally, you’re transported to a recreation of the early sequence where you rescue a priest dangling from a bridge, only this time you kick him right back off. He reappears and obediently clambers back down into position, at which point a developer appears and ends your fun.
The developer thanks you for helping him track down a bug and says he’ll fix everything the rogue NPC you were chasing has broken. First, he’ll have to erase your memory of this incident. You’re dumped back into fantasy-land and have to go on as if everything’s normal and you haven’t seen through the façade.
Your reward for this quest? A “developer’s bag” full of worthless items from the other world, including some CDs and an energy drink called Greenbull.
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How basically everyone looks
Between the outfits that let you dress like a cow, a penguin, or a dinosaur who hosts a children’s TV show, the one-legged pants, the facial tattoos you can use to make it look like you’ve got fangs, the bunny ears, the cat ears, the floaties, the sunglasses, the hoverboards, the rideable turtles, hermit crabs, clouds, and velociraptors, every second adventurer in Lost Ark looks completely ridiculous.
Sometimes you forget how bizarre you look because you’re just wearing something just because it gives a boost to wisdom or charisma or whatever. Then, during an extremely serious and dramatic cutscene, the camera cuts back to you and you’re dressed as a sailor mouse.