The name ARK: Survival Evolved suggests that this is the next step in the survival game genre. Well at first glance you can’t deny that it looks impressive and who wouldn’t want to roam around a vibrant landscape on the back of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Strip away the pretty scenery though and you’ll find that there’s nothing we haven’t already seen in other survival titles. The game is currently in early access on steam and we’ll have nearly a year to wait till we see the finished product.
As soon as you appear you’ll immediately notice a pretty big problem; a massive drop in performance. So the first moments in which you should be exploring your surroundings are instead filled with you fiddling around with the huge amount of options in the settings menu. Drops in performance are normal for early access games but this one bordered on making the game unplayable. Just to give you an idea of how I played this I ventured in to the ark along with a friend, me on a mid-range gaming pc and him on a high-spec pc and both of us were forced to reduce our graphics setting to the lowest possible just to make the frame-rate more tolerable. You venture out into this dino infested wilderness as some form of humanoid being. In the character customisation menu you can, as you’d expect, choose your gender, eye and hair colour. Beyond that you can alter just about anything you want from the width, height and depth of your head down to your shoe and hand size. It’s quite remarkable just how many grotesque and imaginative creations you can create.
Once finished your creation is dropped into the world with nothing more than their tighty whitey’s and a glowing diamond imbedded deep within their arm. What significance this holds is unknown as the game has no real story, although that’s not to say there won’t be one. Floating obelisks and towers of lights litter the landscape leaving us to pondering what our purpose here is. As you set out you notice indications that you’ll need to manage your bodily functions. There are your fundamentals like eating and drinking and then there are your more complicated status ailments. What’s great is that all of the systems work together perfectly and in great depth. Going for a stroll in the rain will make you colder which will lead to higher energy consumption and starvation, keeping warm by a fire is the solution but staying in the heat to long will lead to dehydration.
You start off with nothing and must forage what you can from the immediate area. Stones, fibres, thatch, oh and you can punch trees down with your bare knuckles for wood. As you collect items you begin to build up some experience which leads to you being able to craft items. Each time you level you can enhance one of your natural stats, then you have to use engram points to select what you want to learn to make. You start off simple with stone tools, some basic clothing and thatch based housing structures. All pretty standard crafting equipment for a survival game, that is until much later in the game where you can also construct transponder trackers, metal spike walls and pump-action shotguns.
If you say you don’t like dinosaurs then you’re just lying to yourself. Who wouldn’t want to take on a dinosaur with an assault rifle or fly through the sky on the back of a Pterodactyl. ARK: Survival Evolved lets you do just that although it’s probably best when tackling these prehistoric beings to be well prepared and have some back up. Each encounter fills up your creature compendium revealing in depth details outlining weakness and dietary preferences. Combat feels rather sluggish with a wild camera and each hit resulting in both players and prey being pushed around erratically. Of course if you’d prefer not to chow down on monster steaks or craft beds with the hides of these mighty creatures you can instead try to make friends with them. Taming, while not a completely original concept, is the most unique mechanic ARK has on offer as it adds a nice change from the typical collect, make and kill pattern that fills other survival titles. Punch, pelt or tranquilise your potential pet to knock them out at which point you can feed them to gradually build up their trust before lashing a saddle on their back and riding them across the wilderness.
The scenery is truly stunning, forests are vibrant and densely populated whereas oceans are bright and vast. However because of the huge lag you suffer with all of the specs at max you’ll be forced to reduce the appearance settings and settle with muddy textures and magically materialising boulders. The amount of settings you get to alter is rather staggering from how much shrubbery you want under foot to if you want clouds to appear in the sky.
ARK: Survival Evolved as it stands is not the next step in the survival genre, but it certainly has potential. Don’t forget this is still an early access title, all of the performance issues and glitch moment that litter the game at the moment will be improved as time goes on and just think of what is to come. The developer is already suggesting some neat new features like procedurally generated terrains and the inclusion of vehicles. Don’t be put off by the early pitfalls and slow start, invest some real time and you’ll find an addictive experience that’ll eat up hours of time.
This preview is based off an early access code of ARK: Survival Evolved provided by Reverb Communications Inc.
This preview was originally published on the site GamersFTW which unfortunately has now been taken down. It’s been published on my personal blog, DanielVaughanReviews, out of respect for the developers/publishers that were kind enough to give me review copy of their game.