Surviving has never been so fun.
ARK: Survival Evolved is a Preview Program game that is here and ready for its full release. ARK is an open world game built around one simple task (you guessed it): survival. The game is not perfect, but it doesn’t have to be. I was pleasantly surprised with the seemingly simple start to the game, but quickly realized how in-depth it all is.
ARK starts your created character off in the middle of nowhere, in a lush, tropical setting. You awaken suddenly, not quite sure what happened or why you are there. That’s as far as the game takes you in terms of holding your hand, save for a brief explanation of a few basic functions via a tutorial in the main menu. The game lets you create your character and change a fair amount of the aesthetics. Once created, it’s on to the game.
You start off at level 0 on one of the various spawn points around the island. Each server holds approximately 100 real-life players, so your experience is a shared world game, much like you’d find in Destiny. In addition to running into other characters, you’ll find no shortage of wildlife and plant life. You level up quickly to begin with, which unlocks new perks per level such as learning how to craft weapons, clothing, and shelter. You also earn points, which is how you pay for a given perk. Despite not holding your hand in teaching you how to play (which we’ve become accustomed to in gaming), the game gives you all of the tools to craft your own experience and figure things out.
In order to survive, you must perform tasks that will help to balance out multiple meters. Included in these are health, warmth, food, stamina, and more. If any of these falls too low for a period of time, your character will die. Your health can be affected by getting attacked by the various animals you’ll run into, particularly a high volume of species of dinosaurs and birds, including the Dodo bird. You can fashion a weapon by collecting various materials, learning how to craft that weapon, and then using it and maintaining it. Not only are your weapons used to defend yourself, but you must use them to catch your food.
Berries are good for a while, but ultimately are not sustainable in keeping yourself nourished. However, eating raw meat from an animal that you slayed could actually hurt your health. So what do you do? Learn how to build a camp fire using a small list of materials that you must collect. Then, you get to cook your food and, alas, your inventory contains a healthy, okay-to-eat meal. Another catch? The meat will spoil after a certain amount of time. Just another layer for you to balance during your time in ARK.
Building my first fire was immensely satisfying, and the game does a magnificent job of making you feel and enjoy your successes. Nothing is given in ARK, and that adds to the degree of satisfaction. Did you run around too much? Take a break and walk for a bit to bring your level down. Feeling like you’re about to starve? Find some nourishment quickly. Your character will level up quickly in the early parts of the game, and it can be daunting trying to ensure everything is balanced. Once I figured out the basics, things became seamless for me. The game’s menus are intricate and there is a lot of detail spread across them. On an Xbox One controller, it’s not the best setup, but I struggle to think of a better way to do lay it out on a console. Of course, a full keyboard while playing on a PC is the best way to go.
The game’s graphics are certainly detailed and gorgeous. The art style feels like it is influenced by Dishonored, but is set in a Far Cry game. The game gives you slider options to balance out the detail and scope of the graphics. Occasionally, the game would skip a beat and some texture popping would occur, but it was rare. The other end of that was the server strength. Overall, the game had very strong servers, but sometimes the game would drop me from the world despite having a relatively strong internet connection. This is the perfect game to have in a preview/early access program because of the way it is interconnected with its mixture of PvP and PvE setup.
Before I jumped into the game, I was admittedly reserved. I typically enjoy games that give me good cinematics and a rich, detailed story. ARK gives neither of those. However, the game has me sold on a genre that I typically don’t fall into with my gaming tastes. If I were to introduce someone to a shared-world RPG, ARK would be my first stop. There’s something here for everyone, if you have an open mind, and I’m thankful that I was able to spend some time with the final version of the game. In fact, I’ll dare to say that I’ll be continuing to do so as we make our way into the fall gaming season.
ARK is a journey, one that leaves the details up to the player to decide. It’s a fun, satisfying way to dive explore the prehistoric era. Knowing that I barely scratched the surface makes my interest all the more piqued in returning to ARK. The game is dangerous in that you could spend hours playing it and not realize it. While certainly not flawless, ARK promises to be a a game that evolves and grows over time.
+ Big, exciting open world that begs to be explored.
+ Leveling up system is perfectly paced, along with your choice of relevant perks.
– Graphics are good overall, but can slow the game down and cause some frame rate issues.
– Game can be tough to start for novice players, thanks to lack of direction.
ARK: Survival Evolved was reviewed on an Xbox One. It is also available for PC and Playstation 4. All pictures are from the Xbox One’s screenshot functionality.
Josiah LeRoy is The Geekiverse’s founder. You can catch him (hopefully) surviving in the tropical land of ARK: Survival Evolved on Xbox Live via josiahislegend.
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