‘ARK: Survival Evolved’ Preview: Dino Dung

ARK: Survival Evolved from publisher Wildcard Properties has come to the Playstation 4. Released in beta on PC in mid-2015 and eventually Xbox One at the end of that year, the game, while still in beta, finally comes to us on PS4. ARK: Survival Evolved is being sold on the Playstation store as the “Survivor’s Pack”; the pack includes the base game alone with the Scorched Earth expansion and other goodies. Players fight for survival in a harsh world filled with dinosaurs and other prehistoric beasts. Build shelter, find food, and make sure you keep that fire going so you don’t freeze to death.  

ARK: Survival Evolved is, at its core, a survival simulator. Players first pick a server, design an avatar, and start out with literally nothing but a loincloth. When you die, you start right over at the beginning with the same avatar, different loincloth maybe, but who can say? The only thing that players retain is levels, and the perks they unlocked. Every time a player levels on a server, they are given a stat increase point and points toward skills called Engrams. These are the various objects your avatar can craft. They include weapons for fighting and gathering materials, structure sections like walls and doors, clothing, and various other objects for survival.

The first thing players will need to do is gather materials. It took me a while to figure out I could punch trees to get wood. While it depletes your health, it’s the only way to get enough to craft those first items. I then crafted a pick, used that pick to gather more wood, stone, and flint. I then used those materials to make more weapons and a fire, eventually building a shelter. That is the only goal at the start, gather and build, gather more and build better and better. Along the way your avatar will need to find food to eat, drink water, stay warm by building a fire, or cool off in the shade or shelter, and poop, thankfully pooping requires no interaction.

ARK: Survival Evolved all takes place on an island and players interact with other players on the same server. If you create an avatar on one server, it’s ONLY on that server. Unfortunately that means if the server you picked is full when you want to play, too bad. So your choice is a high population server for interactions like joining a tribe, but not being able to play during high traffic times, OR picking a low population server and hoping it doesn’t completely fill up, and living like a castaway alone. I didn’t realize this when I started out, and picked a rather full server. I spent the weekdays leveling up and was constantly frustrated by not being able to build anything because all land near the starting areas had been claimed already. I then spent that friday night particularly irritated because I could not play the character I had been working on all week. Hopefully this can be addressed before the game leaves beta.

The controls for ARK: Survival Evolved are rather clunky. I can see where the game would be much more enjoyable as far as building and crafting with a keyboard and mouse. With so many things to build and create, the Playstation DualShock 4 controller just does not keep up. Combat, at least what I saw in the early to mid levels, is horrible. There is no reticle or display to help with your attacks so most of the time I was just swinging blindly at the small dinosaurs trying to eat me. They always won and I was back to square one. To build many items, players MUST kill small animals for their skin and meat for food. So be ready to wander around for some time looking for something small enough and non-lethal enough like a Dodo to slay.

The map is very hard to read in ARK: Survival Evolved and there are no indicators or markers to show where you built a shelter or anything for that matter. Many times I would die, respawn, and then spend an hour looking for what I was building before, only to never find it. It’s also very frustrating to be gathering and building one second and then mauled by a giant snake or dino that is 100 levels higher than you the next. Other players can also kill your avatar if on a PVP server, so be sure to watch for this when picking a server.

ARK: Survival Evolved is, in my opinion, a better looking, much less fun Minecraft. It’s not even that great looking. After so many years in development and a still-going beta, the graphics are starting to look a little stale. The world that the many developers working on ARK: Survival Evolved have created is impressive; it’s a living, breathing, constantly-changing world. The game has a following of diehard fans, and to be fair I did not see the “endgame,” with mounts, guns, and huge raids with a tribe. After hours and hours of playtime, I didn’t even want to see the endgame, and I still didn’t have that sabertooth cat or raptor mount I kept seeing. All ARK: Survival Evolved left me with was many deaths, disappointments, and a horrible gaming experience. I will not be passing final judgement and will not be rating ARK: Survival Evolved because it is a beta. Hopefully some of my issues will be addressed, but at the time of writing this article ARK: Survival Evolved is kinda like dinosaur dung, it’s really cool at first, because well, dinosaurs, but it’s still poop.  

This article is based on a digital copy provided by the publisher. ARK: Survival Evolved is still in BETA and available on Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PC. 

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