It has been a long time coming but ARK: Survival Evolved has finally been officially released. I doubt anyone could have expected the final release to be as comprehensive as what we have received. There is so much for players who haven’t experienced it yet but what about the veterans who have been with it from the start? What can you expect from Ark: Survival Evolved now that it is available to everyone?
Ark: Survival Evolved has been accessible for some time now via the Alpha program. PC gamers got first access June 2nd 2015, followed by Xbox One on December 16th 2015, and PlayStation 4 on December 6th 2016. Its popularity increased incrementally with regular updates adding bug fixes, creatures, and maps. I am personally very happy to see the game grow and finally get its Gold Release.
Fitting into the survival game genre, you begin alone on a beach in nothing but underwear and a strange implant in your wrist. Similar to games such as Minecraft, your task is to accumulate supplies from the nature nearby: Wood and Thatch from trees, Stone and Flint from rocks, Fibre, and assorted berries from plants. These are your basics and you will need to construct basic tools, clothing, and shelter to begin your quest to survive. What really made me gravitate to this game is the fact that the wildlife is primarily dinosaurs. Yes, those awesome creatures that I was obsessed with as a child. I had been forever hoping for a decent dinosaur focused game and was always disappointed, but no longer. ARK: Survival Evolved is here to scratch that itch.
Depending on your starting position, you should have no issues with the nearby dinosaurs that wander around, but you will need to act quickly in order to keep yourself warm (or cool), fed and hydrated.
As with some other survival games, if you have not constructed a bed and you happen to die a distance away from your spawn point, then you are likely to lose all your belongings unless you are able to make your way back to your dead body to collect your things, unless it was eaten along with your body.
Beds, along with other constructible items, are unlocked as you level up your character through purchasing with Engrams that are granted upon each level advancement. There are many more items than Engrams so I will warn you now against unlocking everything. The best action is to play with a friend and unlock different items so you can work together on your endeavour. This will allow you to accrue more engrams for the higher-level equipment later in the game.
As you progress further in, you can upgrade from your basic stone tools to metal ones as well as adding bows, rifles and more. These require other resources and manufacturing equipment to build which should be somewhat familiar to veterans of the genre.
Dinosaurs play an integral part of your survival and advancement as well, but not just as a source of meat and resources. Taming wild animals will allow you to utilise them to carry supplies and also to ride after saddles are built. The current list of available creatures originally started with 51 across land, water, and flying types, but this has more than tripled with more still coming. From the small Compsognathus to the Titanosaur, each has their own perks and levels to upgrade in order to assist you on your journey, including a small few who you can build structures on their backs so you can have a moveable base.
The original Alpha release came with only one map, The Island. This has seen some transformations but relatively a good starting point. Since then, The Centre was added as a free map which gave a new environment to explore. Following that, Scorched Earth was released and it was quite controversial as it was essentially a paid DLC released before the actual Gold release of the game. Gripes aside, it did offer some new features for the game. A new desert map which required new building types, creatures, and play style. Being based in a desert, your requirement to locate a source of water and stay cool became your primary focus until you were set up successfully. The greatest appeal to me for this DLC was the inclusion of dragons (well wyverns, but you get the idea) and this is where some players had some issues. Up until this time, the games creatures were all real, actually existed at some point in history and the inclusion of mythical creatures broke that trend.
The latest addition to be added is the Ragnarok map, no it has nothing to do with the upcoming Thor movie. The Ragnarok map was released for free with the Gold release of the game but new players will not be able to play it for some time if they play it properly, in fact this also now applies to The Centre as well.
Since the new Ascension End-game was added, these two maps are restricted to those who have at least “ascended” once. So, players who have been working in The Centre up until this time, no longer have access to their game until they do the Ascension section which can only be done on The Island. To Ascend, you have to have defeated all three boss creatures, be level 60, and work your way through the Tech Cave. Not an easy task to say the least.
News has become known that by the end of October, another paid DLC will be released as well which adds more mechanics, play styles and creatures as well. In my opinion, any DLC released this early is arguably something that should have been included in the game’s release price.
I do want to also note a couple of things that did not impress me in regard to the marketing of the game. Many early adopters have expressed their thoughts on certain exclusive items that are not accessible by those who have supported the game throughout its testing cycles. PS4 players received a special Dino skin which is not available to PC or Xbox One players and also “pre-order bonuses” were offered to those who purchased a physical copy of the game but again, the early supporters did not. This is a little backward in my opinion, it felt like we were not appreciated for all the support offered up until this date.
One thing I am looking forward to is the Cross-play feature coming in November. This will allow players of the Xbox One version to play on PC without an extra purchase. This is not compatible with the Steam version of the game however. With this, you will be able to host your world from your PC as well which means team mates will not be restricted to the host’s location and if left online, authorised players will be able to play in that world without you needing to be playing online if you choose.
Essentially this game is designed to be a multiplayer experience, players have the option to survive on their own but working with a mate or team is certainly beneficial. You can do this in a number of ways, to give players the variety of playing their own way. Despite the name, a single player world can in fact include friends if you open it up to a Hosted Private Server. Here you can invite friends to join your game and share the experience. The one downside to this is that the host needs to be online for others to play in that world and every player will need to remain within close proximity of the host otherwise they will get dragged around with them. Despite becoming a rarity of late, you can play this game in split-screen mode as well which is great for couch co-op however if you have a low quality and/or small tv, then on-screen text becomes virtually unreadable.
If you prefer to increase the difficulty or play with more friends, you can play online in either PVP or PVE servers. I personally prefer a PVE environment as I can focus on my task at hand rather than having to constantly watch my back for someone advancing on a T-Rex destined to snack on my character. Both have their advantages and disadvantages but are suited to everyone’s preferences. Also note that if you do play on an online server, you will need to allocate a lot of time to the game or have a great team to keep things running. The reason is that after 15 days of inactivity, your base, belongings, and Dino’s are free to be claimed or destroyed by other players. To add salt into the wound, if you are offline and your tamed dinos run out of food, they will die oh and they can be killed while you’re offline, you have been warned.
Audio & Visuals
Visually, ARK: Survival Evolved looks fantastic. The environments and locations are very appealing to look at. The dinosaurs are as accurate as they can be considering we don’t know exactly what they looked like while they existed but all things considered, they look great. Each species has an assortment of colour patterns which provides you with an array to find the one that you like better. Although generally you don’t see much of your character since it is mostly first person, (unless you choose to enable 3rd person mode) there is a generous character creation model upon game entry. The environments are also exposed to weather as well as day/night cycles and so rain, fog etc. can affect your visibility just as much as the pitch black of night time. I will note that although there has been a lot of updates, the game still suffers from frame rate drops and freezing from time to time.
To compliment the visual presentation, the audio is very good. You can clearly hear yourself breathing whilst sprinting and grunting when hit, each dinosaur has its own characteristic sound. If you have seen the Jurassic Park movies as much as I have, then you have a head start already.
When I consider all the games I have played and time spent playing them, ARK: Survival Evolved stands at the top of my list as there is always more you can do. You can always set yourself or your team objectives to do. Building bigger and better bases, taming higher level dinos that can assist along the way, playing with friends online and helping them in their worlds. It has the variety to keep gamers playing for a long time, in fact I was surprised to see just how long I have spent in this game and I still plan to play much more. I do appreciate that there is a few more bugs that need to ironed out but don’t feel this greatly affects the overall experience. If you are a fan of survival games then I definitely recommend you get your hands-on ARK: Survival Evolved.