Lost Ark: not appropriate for my stiff upper hip

They say a change is as good as a holiday, but is that always the case?

I’ve been playing The Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) on and off now since December 2015. Although I may take a break from it every once in a while, there’s something which always draws me back and the game has become a mental refuge over the past seven years.

It formed the basis of Friday gaming nights with Pete, the arse-kicking Ellen from Ace Asunder and friend-of-the-blog Phil for a long time. We’d get together in the evening to battle our way through a few dungeons, clear out a dolmen or two and moan about the working week. It would usually end up descending into chaos when somebody invariably tried to pickpocket a guard in one of the towns.

But around a month ago, we decided it was time for a change. Although we were still enjoying ourselves hanging out online, ESO had become a little monotonous when scheduled events weren’t taking place and the dungeons were now too familiar. We wanted a new challenge to entertain us, new lands to explore and new monsters to take down, and so begun the search for a new game to play.

Someone in the group threw out a suggestion of Lost Ark. The recent reviews on Steam may not have been entirely glowing and many people appeared to be complaining about a bot problem or slagging off Amazon Games, so we deliberated over it for a while. But nobody was interested in playing something competitive and here was a release which was cooperative with a nice isometric art-style. On top of that it was free, so what did we have to lose?

The Warrior is a class which is currently gender-locked. Choose it and you’re forced to male, while Mages and Assassins have no choice but to be female.

I happened to mention ditching ESO in favour of something new during a meeting with my new boss the following Friday. He openly admits to being a gamer (which is kind of refreshing at my workplace) so I wasn’t surprised when he told me he’d already given Lost Ark a go. His overall opinion of the game was that it was ‘OK’: the story was adequate and the earlier parts were fun, but it eventually turned into too much of a grind and he uninstalled it. I wondered what we were letting ourselves in for.

The gang gathered at our usual time that evening and started up the MMORPG to create our characters. Pete may believe it’s enough to click the ‘randomise’ button and add a handlebar moustache for good measure but for the rest of us, this is an important part of the gaming process. It’s one we spend a good hour on and carefully consider our choices. The first step was to pick a class which would then give access to advanced sub-types: Warrior, Mage, Martial Artist, Gunner or Assassin?

As a gamer who prefers close combat in video games (mainly because there’s greater opportunity to press all the buttons and hope for the best), the Warrior seemed like the best fit for me. I was a bit confused though when I was presented with a male protagonist after the selection and couldn’t find a way to switch. I’ve always preferred to play as a character of the same sex whenever I can and there were options for female Martial Artists and Gunners, so I assumed I’d just missed something.

But no: a quick internet search revealed that the Warrior is one of several classes which is currently gender-locked. Choose it and you’re forced to male, while Mages and Assassins have no choice but to be female. An article from March 2022 revealed that those in charge of Lost Ark had finally acknowledged these limitations and were working on changing things – but here we were three months later with apparently no progress. I rolled my eyes and selected a female Martial Artist instead.

Lost Ark, video game, screenshot, tutorial, sneaky trolls
Lost Ark, video game, screenshot, Prideholme, costumes, dinosaur, cats, Ellen, Phil, Kim

After spending way too long picking out an outfit which was the best of a bad bunch, my fellow players finished their characters too and we headed through to the launch screen. Que another moment of confusion: when had she transformed from the protagonist I’d created into a walking pair of boobs and hips? She seemed to be standing rather unnaturally, her right hip jutting out at an awkward angle as far as she could push it, as if she were all dolled up ready for her first social media shot.

I checked in with Ellen and something similar had happened to her Assassin. We also felt our characters were walking with a pronounced hip-sway once we’d made it through the tutorial and trying to cover it up with the full-body cat and dinosaur costumes we’d received as rewards had little effect. Maybe we were being too sensitive, but it was difficult to unsee this over-sexualisation once we’d noticed it. It’s hard to continue playing a game once you hate your character and so after two hours, we gave up.

I understand that sometimes it’s necessary to step into the shoes of a protagonist who’s completely unlike yourself. Sometimes you have no other option: take video games who have a single hero defined by the developer such as Deathloop or Control for example. But you expect to have more freedom in MMOs and Lost Ark gave the illusion of choice before abruptly snatching it away. I couldn’t be a female warrior, couldn’t walk without exaggerated hips, couldn’t cover it all up in a cat costume.

After trying both Lost Ark and Runescape, a return to ESO is on the cards for tonight’s gaming session. The Zeal of Zenithar event starts next week and so a few hours’ play is just what we need to get us ready. I’m looking forward to getting back to my Wood Elf who’s designed exactly the way I want her to be: shorter than most other characters, with short brown hair and grey eyes, without big breasts and swaying hips – kind of like me. A change can be as a good as a holiday, but it can also make you realise what you missed.

Maybe we were being too sensitive, but it was difficult to unsee this over-sexualisation once we’d noticed it.

There’s a chance we’ll give something else a go again in the future though. We’ve been talking about maybe doing something completely different to an MMO – the online clone of Cards Against Humanity perhaps or even one of the Jackbox party games for a bit of fun. We’ve also been toying with the idea of trying a board game via Discord stream since our first trip to the UK Games Expo earlier this month. My copy of Alice is Missing arrived yesterday and it could be an option too, seeing as it’s played via text message.

We’ll stick with ESO for at least a few weeks for now. Although if we get chucked back into the Darkshade Caverns II dungeon and have to face that damn engine guardian yet again tonight, we might have to re-evaluate.

About Author /

Spreadsheet lover, video gamer and SpecialEffect volunteer. Goes by the name 'kissingthepixel' online. Lifelong fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.

12 Comments

  • Mr. Wapojif
    5 months ago Reply

    I had this with NieR:Automata, the lead character is oversexualised. And you can see all the guy gamers online leering over her. Guess I’m “woke” for pointing it out, but it was totally unnecessary.

    You don’t get this with Unpacking, you know? You just unpack stuff.

    • Kim
      5 months ago Reply

      I should have known that Unpacking (or Marmite) would appear in a comment from you, ProMo! Damn you and your persuasive ways. Fine, I’ll give Unpacking a go…

      • Mr. Wapojif
        5 months ago Reply

        Thus, my devious plan is complete… mwahahhaa. MMWAHAHAHAHAA!!!!

        (Unpacking is on Steam Sale right now btw)

        • Kim
          5 months ago Reply

          Next, you’ll have me drinking cheese tea.

  • Frostilyte
    5 months ago Reply

    That explains the recent foray into Lost Ark, and RuneScape. Was wondering about that, but figured an article was on the way.

    Not really surprised by how the female characters were done, but then seeing where Lost Ark was developed kinda shows why. Amazon was simply the publisher: it was developed by a Korean studio. With that comes a handful of tropes like an extremely grind heavy endgame, microtransactions out the bum, and hyper-sexualized characters.

    Ah well. Doesn’t sound like too much was lost aside from a couple hours. My vote would be to find something non-MMO, which y’all are already doing. Sometimes taking a break from the things we love gives us a whole new appreciation for them. Hope the next game or games work out better.

    • Kim
      5 months ago Reply

      To be fair to Lost Ark, I knew very little about it before installing and it was only after reading the article mentioned that I discovered the game was installed in Korea. I probably wouldn’t have given it a go if I’d been aware, so I guess in some ways, it’s good that I didn’t as it forced me to try something different.

      Why am I not surprised in any way at all that you could tell something was up from my Steam activity. I’m so predictable. 😆

      • Frostilyte
        5 months ago Reply

        I just like to keep tabs on what my friends are playing. Never know when someone will find an indie gem that I’ve never ever heard of before 😋

  • cary
    5 months ago Reply

    I had that same “oh this is not good” moment with creating characters in TERA! The game itself is actually pretty fun with great combat, but it also has gender-locked classes, and it’s uncomfortably clear to whom the female characters are aimed. In trying out different ones, I ended up with a “fully armored” warrior in a thong and a mage in clothing that might as well have been lingerie. Trying to make “less sexy” characters didn’t really help, because the physical shape of a character made no difference when all the female armor followed the “less is more” concept. I’ve not been able to go back to it since. It’s just not cool, man. Not cool.

    I’ll cast a vote for trying TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge, if possible. We recently completed it in an evening, and I think it’s the most fun I’ve had with a group in a game in a long time. It’s silly and chaotic with that “old school” gaming feel, but it was loads of fun!

    • Kim
      5 months ago Reply

      I just looked up TERA on Steam where the developers are currently broadcasting what looks like a character creation screen. Wow. There’s no way I’d choose any of those armour sets if I were going into battle. Just think of the chaffing and the sunburn.

      But seriously though: why can’t we be female warriors who wear proper armour and kick butt? I understand there’s a certain market to which more sexualised characters appeal, and that’s totally fine, but there are also many players who want a more believable character who doesn’t have a preference for metal thongs.

      I’ve seen quite a lot about TMNT recently and it looks fun! I’m going to put that suggestion to the group, thanks for the tip.

  • Dryad
    5 months ago Reply

    Cary has it right with TERA. That’s also why I stopped playing that. It was fun, but I was tired of having a character who’s armor couldn’t even cover her lingerie, which doesn’t really make any sense at all. Lost Ark was a turn off for me because I was I really suspicious of the systems and I don’t like the pacing of combat. It feels too staggered. If a game is going to gender lock the classes, they better have a backstory to prove it, otherwise I see no point in doing so.

    I really don’t want to have to transmute armor or something just to make sure I have my body parts covered. One of my least favorite things in a game with customization is when I take that chest slider and turn it all the way down and their chest is still huge. Makes me roll my eyes. This isn’t to say every game I play is clean of stuff like this, but it really does have a big impact on how I feel about a game or a character.

    • Kim
      5 months ago Reply

      I totally get what you mean. Ellen and I hated our Lost Ark characters because they were so different from how we’d pictured them to be (and that’s not even touching on the gender-locking) and we just couldn’t continue. I’d say we spent an hour creating our characters and doing the tutorial, an hour actually playing… and then a third complaining about how much we hated the oversexualisation.

      Some players want a character with big boobs, while others don’t. Including a chest slider during creation should mean that both groups can be catered for instead of making one feel alienated. It just doesn’t make sense to me that this isn’t always the case, and we’re still having to make do with female characters we don’t feel a connection with.

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