With the widespread usage of Early Access these days, there are some games that feel like they have been out forever, but they still haven’t been officially released. That is how it has felt with ARK: Survival Evolved since it first entered Early Access in June 2015. The game has even received a major expansion in that time since, and now the official release of ARK: Survival Evolved is finally here after much waiting.
ARK: Survival Evolved is billed as an action-adventure survival game, which it most certainly is. You can either play the game in single player mode or in an online multiplayer mode that takes place across various online servers that hold up to 60 people at a time, with you able to choose which one you want to join. You can also choose between a PvP server, which allows live players to attack one another and their bases, or PvE, which has live players in the same world, but not able to hurt one another directly.
ARK: Survival Evolved runs on Unreal Engine 4 and really does not take advantage of it the way many other games have. The visuals are far from standout and there are numerous frame rate drops throughout the game, as well as lots of glitches involving the dinosaurs and even your character getting stuck in the environments.
Once you start up the game, you must create your character via a very simplistic character creator. As soon as I got to this screen when playing online however, one of the game’s most annoying features popped up. Since the game is played online across servers with other live players, there is text chat available in the game. The chat is set to pop up when someone says something and then fade away. However, the chat windows just happens to be located directly on top of where you are trying to create your character, with it being near impossible to make one if the server you are on has many talkative players.
With the chat, I noticed a very bad trend on here that I had heard was an issue during Early Access on PC and hoped was fixed. The players that make up the player base are often very toxic and vulgar, with many racial slurs being thrown out on a regular basis from random players. This is something that is hard to police for the developer, but when it is that bad, something needs to be done. This could be done with some sort of censoring or banning of certain words, but for now there is no change from the Early Access in that regards. If you do not like seeing such words, ARK: Survival Evolved may not be the game for you with what appears to be a very toxic community at times.
Back to the game design, ARK: Survival Evolved has somewhat of a prehistoric setting with an impressive number of different species of dinosaurs roaming the island that you start on that is known as the ARK. The ARK has separate biomes that you can spawn in, each with different pros and cons. Some of these are less dangerous enemy wise, but may not have as much of a certain resource.
Resource gathering is one of the most important aspects in the game, as you need to find as much as you can to build weapons and other useful items. Similar to games like Minecraft and No Man’s Sky, you must break down objects to then be able to gather resources. You start off pretty much naked and with no supplies, with your only ability being able to punch trees to break off wood and thatch. By crafting these two items with a stone, you can make a Stone Pick. That Stone Pick can then be used to break down rocks that provide you with flint and so on.
You will eventually unlock new Engrams that allow for crafting additional items as well. The crafting process isn’t made easy though due to definitely not suited to console controls that include a terrible hotbar and menu setup. The gathering and crafting process gets incredibly tedious and it is what you will be spending a lot of your time doing throughout the game.
In addition, if you die in anyway, whether it’s being killed by a dinosaur or another live player if you’re playing in PvP mode, you lose all of your collected items, at least early on in the game. Dying likely will happen a lot too due to potentially losing stamina from not getting enough water or potentially passing out due to starvation and your Torpidity meter going up, which makes you easy prey. Thankfully, these stats can be increased one by one by spending points after leveling up and they carry over regardless of if you die.
While you do lose your collected items if you die, you do retain the crafting knowledge you’ve unlocked. This means you just have to gather the resources again rather than truly start from square one. Once you start gaining access to more crafting items to make weapons like a spear and the foundation for building a base, ARK: Survival Evolved definitely gets a lot more enjoyable, even if you’re constantly having to grind. Once you create a base, you can store items you’ve gathered inside, though others can gain access to bases you build unless you put special locks on them. It can be an arduous process to get there, but the game certainly improves a lot from this point onward.
Hunting plays a major part in ARK: Survival Evolved, as you are trying to kill wild dinosaurs that you can eat to maintain your food meter. This means you will have to fight the various dinosaurs, which can be done in a few different ways. The brute force way is usually not your best option, so it’s wise to level up and unlock additional Engrams to be able to fight from a distance. The earlier stages of the game will fit in with what appears to be a prehistoric setting, but the much more futuristic aspects will show up later when you throw guns and other modern weaponry into the mix. Fighting other players will take even more strategy as well, which may be a reason to stay off PvP servers until you learn the ropes.
You can also try and tame the various dinosaurs in the game as well, which can be done in a few different ways, often depending on the type of dinosaur. This is a very detailed and complex system that you can tell the developer put a lot of time into.
While the servers may be toxic, being able to take ARK: Survival Evolved online definitely does help to add some life to the experience. Both the single player and online will be as tedious as the other for the numerous opening hours of the game, but the further you get into the game, being able to either face off against live players or work together with live players adds a lot more excitement to the game overall, though it takes awhile to get there.
After sitting in Early Access for more than two years, you would have thought ARK: Survival Evolved would feel polished and ready to go, but the visuals are very mediocre and there are numerous performance issues. While the later stages of the game are a lot more enjoyable and live more up to the potential that the game has, the process of getting that far just doesn’t feel quite worth it, which makes it very hard to recommend ARK: Survival Evolved.
There are many resource gathering and survival based games on the market and ARK: Survival Evolved almost feels like it has officially jumped in a little too late after finally leaving Early Access. If you don’t mind spending hour after hour of doing repetitive and tedious tasks, you may find some fun in the later stages of the game. However, if that doesn’t sound worth it, ARK: Survival Evolved likely isn’t going to be for you.
6.5 Punches To A Dinosaur’s Face Out Of 10
Release Date: August 29th, 2017 (US)
Available Platforms: PS4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Publisher: Studio Wildcard
Developer: Studio Wildcard
Disclosure: ARK: Survival Evolved Was Provided By The Publisher For Coverage Purposes