One of the most important things that any game developer can do is generate hype over their products. Depending on the project, this can be a relatively difficult thing to do. Studio Wildcard’s Ark: Survival Evolved is one of the few examples of a title which generates its own hype based on concept alone: it is a dinosaur themed open-world survival game, built upon the idea of taming one’s own dinosaurs. For many players, this childhood wish fulfillment might be enough of a sell by itself. When you combine this premise with over two years or pre-release early access, the amount of hype and expectations can only grow so much more. Now the questions become focused on how Ark: Survival Evolved meets those lofty hopes and expectations.
In my opinion, there are many ways that the game does meet expectations. One of these ways is the game’s general atmosphere. Wherever you begin your journey on the island map, it is always immediately clear that you really are in an open world. The environment is beautiful, but it also feels huge and daunting. The creatures in ARK appeal in a similar fashion. They are colorful, they fit in with their environment, and many of them really do feel dangerous, especially in the early levels. A player who attacks a Triceratops with nothing more than their torch or stone axe is definitely a dead player.
While surviving alone is importantly very difficult, forming a tribe with online friends and taming dinosaur friends feels equally empowering. Riding into battle against a boss monster or a weaker tribe on the backs of several, high-level Rexes is a gratifying feeling unlike anything any other game in the survival genre can give you. Unfortunately, what ARK gains with its atmosphere, it loses with lack of polish. For a game which spent over two years in early access, the amount of bugs is a little shocking. For example, it is possible for tamed dinosaurs to simply fall through the world and disappear due to pathing and collision issues. While a Spinosaurus might feel powerful while you ride it into battle, it loses so much of that power and awe when you can tame or kill it as a solo player by trapping in a patch of trees which any kind of real thinking, living creature would seem to be able to walk around or break through.
In addition to the bugs, the game mechanics feel a little slow. Gathering resources and taming dinosaurs are always lengthy ordeals. They are compounded by the fact that one’s life and belongings are not safe when they sign off for the day. If a new player must spend hours on their first wooden base, for example, it does not seem like a healthy game feature for this base, and all of the players dinosaurs, to be killed and destroyed overnight.
Overall, Ark still feels like a game that is a little in the rough. The concept is still as appealing as it always was, but it currently feels somewhat unpolished and overfilled. In my opinion, it is still definitely worth checking out.
Check Out the ARK: Survival Evolved Aberration Expansion PAX West 2017 Trailer:
ARK: Survival Evolved is available for PC via Steam, PS4 and Xbox One.