Many games over the years have shown us brilliant concepts; concepts that have never shone through all of the hard work nor held the level of excitement offered by its potential. ARK: Survival Evolved is just another game to throw into that pile, or at least so far. The game is constantly being updated and added to by the developers, so hopefully the growing amount of content can save what little this game has right now. Either way, fans of free-roaming sandbox games are sure to love the lack of direction and customizability offered by ARK, while others might find it frustrating and pointless.
In the beginning, you’re greeted with a rather large beach and some kind of strange object that’s stuck inside of your arm. As you walk around, you may notice dinosaurs that are near impossible to take on, fish swimming around the waters, and a plethora of trees. With this thought in your mind, you look for supplies, but unfortunately, your health, food, and hydration levels must take priority. The game takes a very long time to start off, and you can lose everything in the blink of an eye to an unsuspecting dinosaur or player. Once you’re dead, you respawn with nothing but skin and bones and a very limited amount of time to retrieve your goods from your decomposing corpse, assuming someone hasn’t already done that themselves.
Mechanically speaking, there’s a bit more to it than that. Your body can become too hot or too cold depending on what you’re wearing and the environment around you. You can build campfires, shacks, gates, or whatever you need for survival. Unfortunately, though the bases are customizable, the lack of options for actually building your base is rather disappointing and effortless, especially considering the power of the veteran players on whatever server you’re on. You could choose to play in singleplayer, but I honestly wouldn’t recommend it as it gets boring rather quickly.
The main draw to the game is the fact that you can tame and ride any wild dinosaur of your choosing, and to be honest, it’s pretty awesome. Or at least it would be if there was any kind of goal in the game. You can become strong and loot other players, but other than that, there isn’t much to do other than collect data on the island’s dinosaurs or work your way up to one of the three boss fights. The problem with that, though, is it takes a very long time to get to that point and is almost impossible to beat if you don’t enlist help from the entire server. Even then, sometimes the game will decide not to work properly and do the things we don’t want it to do.
The game, unfortunately, suffers from a plethora of glitches and bugs that make the adventure much less spectacular than it seems. In my experience, I decided to finally take a crack at the boss fight I previously mentioned, but a glitch prevented me from teleporting to the area, thus making all of the items I retrieved in order to get there disappear and become wasted. Another important note is that your save file is stuck on each individual server, so you can’t transfer your character to another world. It is very important to save the server information so you don’t lose your progress like I did. Either way, it didn’t seem to matter as most of the players in whichever server I was in made sure to find me, kill me, and insist that I become their slave. At that point, I could barely level up and get armor without having a hard time, so it really didn’t help.
I know a lot of what I’ve said seems pretty bad, but it’s just not quite up to snuff with its competition. Minecraft set the stone for the sandbox survival genre, and ARK tries to mimic it, but it completely and utterly fails at providing the same kind of environmental and social experience that our beloved voxel crafting game has provided for over half a decade. It might be unfair to compare the two, but it is more than obvious what ARK is trying to accomplish in terms of gameplay and style. It’s not necessarily a bad thing to attempt to be like Minecraft, but it’s just that Studio Wildcard hasn’t quite succeeded yet.
On the bright side, the game looks beautiful. Aside from some odd physics engine problems and glitches, the art design is bordering on graphical beauty. Some of the areas aren’t all that memorable, but the feeling of being alone and isolated is very real. The visuals definitely nail the tone of the game, despite the many mentioned shortcomings. It’s a shame, though, that it still doesn’t make the game worth your while, especially at the extremely high price point of $54.99; it does look pretty, though.
I can’t stress it enough that ARK really lacks any kind of direction. It’s a sandbox game that tries to be something more, and it just doesn’t make the cut. Aside from riding dinosaurs and killing new players that don’t know what they’re doing, there really isn’t anything to do. It’s a vast and wide open land that seriously needs some decorating. For some, that might be okay, but ultimately it hurts the longevity of the game if nothing is done about it. Fortunately, the development team is constantly applying new updates, so who knows what the future of ARK holds? I think a quest system and some kind of subtle storyline would really do the game wonders. If not, it’s just going to be a game full of trolls and dinosaurs.
Most of my time is dedicated to tearing apart games and movies, then telling you what I think about it. I've been a gamer since birth, practically born with a controller in my hand. I've always spoke my mind, so critique was a natural fit. Twitter: @Jsrf38