DFTG Reviews ARK: Survival Evolved (Xbox One)
In the last several years, there’s been an abundance of survival games being developed by AAA studios and independent studios alike. One particular game in this genre has stood out among the competition in huge ways. Studio Wildcard’s ARK: Survival Evolved takes the survival genre to another level by simply adding a prehistoric utopia to the mix. Surviving the elements is hard enough, but add a pack of velociraptors to the equation, and you’re in for a heart-pounding thrill ride.
Exploring ARK’s island in its entirety can take days when first starting out. After taming flying animals, you can soar above the trees from one end of the island to the other in a fraction of the time. The changing weather patterns and the total darkness of night offer surprise situations that pull from the monotony of farming. Taming dinosaurs and having the ability to command and ride them is one of the most gratifying aspects of ARK. The gratification comes from the amount of work one must put in to be able to obtain such goals. Hours of grinding, farming, crafting, and building all seem to be worth the time when charging into battle on the back of a T-Rex. The same creatures that want to kill you can also be used to defend you against other creatures or rival tribes.
ARK at its roots is a game where players are tasked with one primary goal: survive. In order to do this, players will have to build tools, weapons, and homes for their survivor. Players will also need to create clothing to protect them from the elements as well as add defense against the wild inhabitants of the island. It’s important to keep an eye on health and stamina, as well as hunger, thirst, and body temperature in order to stay alive.
When first starting out, survivors have only a pair of “fashionable” undies. Players are immediately tasked with foraging for materials such as thatch, fibers, stone, and wood to build tools to help them better farm these materials. The most basic of tools is a primitive stone pick, which will aid in mining for stone, flint, and metals. Once the sun sets on the mysterious island, a torch will be needed to help light the way and keep you warm. Farming materials, especially in the beginning, can be rather monotonous. However, during my playthrough I found that the added elements of eating, drinking, and staying warm distracted me from the fact that I spent several hours just chopping down trees to build myself a small wooden fortress. I found that the hours I spent chopping down trees felt rewarding when I could step back and stare longingly at the four story log cabin I had built.
Building tools, weapons, homes, and armor comes from ARK’s engrams (blueprints) which are earned as players level up. Experience (XP) is earned from farming materials, killing wildlife, crafting items, and even just exploring the island. A new set of engrams is unlocked each time a player levels up, and skill points are rewarded to the survivor to spend on engrams. Engrams have varying skill point costs, and can only be used on the items unlocked by the player’s current character level and below. The engram system is fairly simple to grasp as the blueprints list everything you need to craft the desired item. Larger text size on the highlighted engrams could be a huge improvement, especially for those with less than perfect eye site.
After building my handy set of tools and comfy new home, it was time to venture out and discover the rest of the island. If you thought just fighting hunger and cold weather is rough, try getting trampled by a giant, seemingly docile, Triceratops. It’s all fun and games before one of the many colossal-sized creatures that inhabit the island eat or trample you to death.
Early on, players will be nearly defenseless against these titan sized creatures, but the big ones aren’t always the biggest threats. Lakes have giant piranhas and saber-tooth swordfish, deadly, carnivorous birds fly above, and crafty poison spitting dinosaurs the size of a large dog are just some of the threats to be found littered throughout. Certain creatures can poison or even blind you, while others can simply crush you or eat you.
The worst that I encountered was an aquatic meat eater that dragged me to the briny deeps, sending all of my acquired gear and materials to the bottom of the ocean. It was a lesson learned that no matter how confident you are, there is always a bigger threat somewhere on the island. Whether it be by land, air or sea, death is always just one step away. Tread carefully, or die.
It may seem like the logical idea to avoid and fear the creatures of the island, but this is where ARK: Survival Evolved becomes a different level of badass. You can hunt, kill, eat, and skin the animals, or you can tame them. I personally wouldn’t mind having the ability to do this in the real world. Taming animals will gain you fierce companions in your new found home world. If the creatures are big enough, players can craft saddles to ride atop these majestically prehistoric monsters. Soar the skies aboard a Pteranodon go head to head with some of the biggest and meanest carnivores while riding on the back of a Tyrannosaurus.
With over one hundred different species on the island, the native wildlife is by far the most impressive part of this survival title. Giving gigantic meat eating killing machines names like Fluffy or Snuggles is always loads of fun. You can also pair same species together to get them to mate and make babies for you to raise. The same monsters that players will fear in the beginning of their experience will be hunted and tamed to build your massive fleet of monsters.
Behind the ever present threat of death looming around every corner, the island in itself is a wondrous experience to behold. Estimated to be roughly fourteen square miles of land and around four and half square miles of surrounding ocean, the playable area within ARK is vast and full of mesmerizing scenery. Graphically on the Xbox One, ARK is gorgeous, but there is definitely room for improvement. Perhaps on the Xbox One X, the game will be taken to a completely different direction with the increased tech capability.
The island is full of different settings. Tropical beaches are the most obvious when thinking of an island, and the beaches here are like Paradise. Tall palm treas sway in the wind and the ground has luscious greens growing on the rock formations just passed the sandy beaches. Waves roll in and out and you can hear marine life splashing about every so often. Further into the island are dense forests and jungles that create a canopy that separates the ground floor from the sky. Caves and swamps can be found scattered around the island that house the deadliest of beasts. Desert plains provide little to no plant life, but are home to creatures worth hunting and taming, if you can survive the heat without dying of thirst and dehydration.
As a gamer that likes to be transported to other worlds, ARK hits the mark by providing a magnificent and realistic and landscape that streamlines very well. Finding new caves and areas on the island provided me a sense of exploration that not a lot of games tap into. The ability to manipulate and transform the island by building man-made structures can add to the already beautiful, albeit deadly, setting.
You ARK Not Alone
There are a few ways to play ARK. You can try playing solo without any other players, which may work for or against you, depending on your personal goals within the game. Most survivors tend to lean more toward joining one of the many online PvE or PvP servers that ARK has to offer. Both online modes allow players within the servers to join up with and help other players in their quest for survival. Players can form tribes within the game that will allow other tribesmen to access fortresses and inventory (including tamed creatures). Tribes can team up to go on raids in search of Alphas (high level creatures that produce high stats when in battle and mating), or in PvP mode, go to war with other players and tribes.
Some of the popular servers are maxed out at 70 players that all inhabit the deadly island, while newer servers are a fresh start to stake your claim wherever you wish. Depending on how you prefer to play, there are options to suite your needs. You can even host your own server where you can set the rules when it comes to XP, how many players are allowed to join, and a plethora of other options to give each server a custom experience. There are even ways to port your survivors from other servers.
I had the privilege of entering a PvE server that was chock full of helpful players that were quick to help each other as well as newcomers. Several members from different tribes would band together to help myself and other new survivors with materials and even some pets. The other players seemed to have their own commerce by trading certain materials in exchange for tamed pets, weapons, and other items.
Press ‘A’ To Continue
ARK feels like a title made for PC when it comes to the gameplay mechanics. Playing on Xbox One, while just as enjoyable, is a little frustrating at times. Tasks such as attacking, moving, jumping, etc. are pretty linear to most first-person games. The frustration lies within navigation of the menus. For instance, if you have some meat cooking on your campfire and would like to acquire the cooked food so you don’t starve, you must walk up to the campfire and hold the ‘Y’ button. Doing this will open a radial menu in which you have to make a selection to “Access Inventory”. Seems simple, but sometimes navigating the radial menus with the thumbsticks will take you to other options that you’re not trying to access. At times, it takes away from any form of streamlining when trying to complete tasks in a hurry.
Movement is fluid for the most part while walking, but controlling your mounts can be quite tedious at times. Larger creatures have a wide turning radius, which makes navigation difficult at times when you can’t turn due to a small rock formation. Smaller creatures that are speedier are almost too fast at times, which can send you off course or have you losing control of the direction you intend to go.
The Bottom Line
Ark is most definitely a game for those that are survival game enthusiasts and/or are dedicated to pumping out countless hours of farming. If you don’t take the time to farm for materials, you won’t get very far on the island. The first dozen hours or so of gameplay will be a seemingly never-ending cycle of chopping down trees, mining rock formations, collecting berries, and building some sort of base of operations. As you level up and acquire new engrams that will assist in storing materials and building new tools and weapons, you will begin to venture further and further out into the world. Some areas are suited for building massive empires, while others are deathtraps full of ravenous beasts waiting for a tasty meal.
With the continuous support from Studio Wildcard, ARK: Survival Evolved is always improving. With the full launch underway, and the additions of features and even a few quests, now is the time to see if you’ve got what it takes to survive. ARK is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PC for $59.99. Let us know your thoughts on the survival title in the comments section below. Be sure to follow DFTG on Twitter to stay up to date on the hottest news in gaming and entertainment via our 24/7 live news feed.
Jon McAnally376 Posts
Hailing from the armpit of California, this most radical of nerds loves video games, comics, and collectibles (not dolls). Prepare to feast your eyes on the magical wonder that is his editorials.