Ark Survival Evolved Early Access Preview
Publisher: Studio Wildcard
Developer: Studio Wildcard, Instinct Games, Efecto Studios, Virtual Basement
Platform Reviewed: PC
Release date: 02/06/2015
Roaring its way onto Steam’s Early Access is Ark Survival Evolved, yet another survival game. Another open-ended sandbox where it seems everything is out to kill you or at the very least do you harm. Hostile environments, dangerous predators and sociopathic players all threaten your existence and from your modest and humble beginnings it is clear that your life here will be arduous, at least in the beginning. So, is Ark worth the investment? Why choose this over other very popular similar titles such as Rust, Day Z or H1Z1?
Well, Dinosaurs, lots and lots of dinosaurs. The lands, seas and skies are littered with them, from the tiny Dodo to the still awe inspiring T-Rex, these extinct beasts are incredibly well represented. The shuffling horde of the undead have happily been replaced with some of the most powerful and intimidating creatures that once graced this land. The success of the Jurassic Park franchise is proof alone that we, as a species, are still infatuated with these fantastic beats and with the promise of being able to tame them, to have them as pets, willing to do my bidding, well I couldn’t resist, without hesitation I jumped straight in.
Let’s get the negative stuff out of the way, being an early access title, optimisation is an issue and to have it running anywhere near acceptable levels of performance you may spend quite a bit of time within the menus tinkering with settings trying to find the right balance. That being said, I have never experienced a game that is patched as often as Ark has been, the list of fixes and improvements since launch is very impressive and performance levels are on the increase so, if you were to start playing now or in the near future, you may find things a little easier going.
Onto the actual game itself, aside from the aforementioned dinosaurs, there really isn’t a great deal of difference between this and the other survival games which currently flood the market. Your character starts their journey with the most meagre of possessions leaving you scouring the earth or punching trees until you have enough basic materials so you can begin to construct tools, weapons, clothing etc. There is one notable difference to the crafting system however, there is fairly rudimentary experience system to Ark. The ability to create anything more meaningful than a pointy stick is limited to how much experience your character has gained. In the early stages this is quite an easy process and it won’t be long until you can start to build a fairly basic camp. However, if you dream of anything a little more grandiose you may find yourself grinding out the levels later on. I enjoy the feeling of being rewarded for my progress, but I’m not sure I like the idea of being restricted because of my experience, at least in these types of games.
Is Ark a game for you? Well only you can answer that. I adore the social aspect of the survival genre, the joy of working together with friends towards various goals, the unrelenting sense of danger, meeting new people and the unpredictability which that brings all combine for such a unique experience. Each time you play you should have a story to tell, whether it’s a tale of great success or terrible misfortune, or maybe it’s just something simple, like the friendly person who gave you berries because you were dying of hunger. It’s here that the Ark Survival Evolved excels. Despite a fairly rough start due to performance issues, its proven very popular since launch and it’s easy to see why. The core gameplay is all present and correct (even if I’m divided with regards to the XP system) the servers are full of people almost constantly; the support from the developers is outstanding. If you enjoy survival games and the thought of taming your own dinosaur army appeals then the Ark is definitely worth paying attention to.
Reviewer – Ian P.
Have you ever dreamt of living on a dinosaur infested Island, attracting them with your faeces, battering them half to death, then breaking them in and making your steeds?
Erm…. Nah… Neither have I, but a collective of developers under publisher Studio Wildcard most certainly did, and wildcard is the correct right in describing this game. The easiest and probably laziest (but that can be easily forgiven, given the influence DayZ has had on gaming these past couple of years) is to say that Ark is DayZ with dinosaurs.
Just like DayZ, your character first spawns on the edge of a beach, bewildered and lost, with little in the way of an inventory or skills. From the very start you can start bashing away at trees with your fists; this gives you materials to craft with. Pick up a rock, use the wood you managed to get from fisting your wood and you have a better tool to bash at your wood and balls of rock.
Also in these early stages you level up quite fast by doing just the above, allowing access to an RPG style tree of unlockable perks. Your first steps of days and nights are spent in the relative safety of the beach as you gather resources and brace yourself to move inland on the island and towards open world adventure.
The island is full to the brim with dinosaurs and beasts of all shapes and sizes. With the right skills and help, you can tame the chompy little beggars and make them work for you, you can build bases, frolics and adventures will no doubt ensue. The potential for fun here really does seem boundless. On one of my forays I bumped into a player built fortress, with dinosaurs flying around, dinosaurs herding on the ground, it was an absolute spectacle.. Until it came to a stuttering halt with performance issues.
Any of you that are paying attention to my drivel may be wondering where my own adventures are? My tales of poo and taming dinosaurs are a thing of the future I’m afraid. Ark: Survival Evolved is Early Access and comes with the trappings of many Early Access games: As it stands, it’s not optimised very well and for the first couple of weeks it was unplayable for me.
To the developers credit, updates are coming in thick and fast, the game has gone from unplayable for myself – to very much playable (albeit on lower setting than I may normally be used to).
I feel it’s also pertinent to point out that I paid for my own copy of the game. Why do I say that? Because there’s an understandable cynicism when it come to Early Access games, with a growing burial mound for unfinished games that have taken peoples hard earned cash, but never delivered on their promises. Ark will be released on consoles in the near future and I have a lot of confidence it will deliver on its promises, with VR support on the horizon as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if this became the poster-boy for VR on both PC and consoles. I’m not alone in my confidence, with over One Million sales on PC in a month, this dinosaur looks like a long way from extinction.
Reviewer – Lee Rand
Zombies, Zombies are so 1996-2014. 2015 is the year of the dinosaur. What better way to complement the box office hit of Jurassic World than to visit an island roaming with your favourite carnivores in a land before time.
Ark has entered the sandbox survival genre in an early access form and this is very apparent from your arrival. With my mid range setup on low settings, awaking at a dazzlingly bright beach as naked as the minute you were just hideously formed, both hot and hungry and surrounded by recognisable brontosaurs and triceratops. There are currently over 50 species that roam the isle and all of the familiar Dino’s from the movies are present and accounted for, albeit looking drawn out as a school project finished with crayons.
Jerking towards these oversized pets I returned to the settings menu to find there is no lower setting than the one already afforded to me, so 17 FPS with potato detail will just have to do.
Back to the beach and it’s time I found shelter, and something to eat, hacking at the bushes seem to provide a variety of berry’s which looked deadly and delicious in equal measure, after my feast I spied a slow moving cute looking dodo, punched it to death with my bare hands and now with berry belly pressed Z to defecate on it’s still flinching corpse.
You are not alone on this mysterious island retreat, the multiplayer aspect of this game means your threat of survival is not only at the claws of the prehistoric, but also at the over-sized fists of the equally deformed human players, although in one session in a group of 3 we were unable to meet up and the useless pirate map provided no noticeable clues to coordinate our position.
On a very positive note not a day goes by where there isn’t a patch queued for ARK, and I really feel the developers are doing all they can to get things the way they want.. If you already have a £££ setup this may be a game to keep your eye on, but without a major overhaul I’ve been unable to see this game as the developers intended.
Ark Survival Evolved has an official release date of June 2016 on Steam, PS4 and Xbox One, so with a year to go I’m hoping there is enough time to optimise the settings, add further elements to the game which hopefully the community will have some part to play in, and with the developers intentions will showcase both Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus and realise some of the hardware’s potential for mainstream use in the living room.
Reviewer – Adam Belcher