Ark: Survival Evolved has made its way out of early access and has finally launched as a full product after just under 2 years on the preview program. Having played a bit of the game in preview and having spent time on it since it’s full release I have mixed feelings about the game.
For those who don’t already know; Ark is a survival game that places you and a bunch of other players on a variety of different maps called arks. Each of these arks are inhabited by a variety of dinosaurs and other animals which players will have to avoid, hunt and tame whilst collecting resources and levelling up their survivors to try and take on the game’s bosses. Players can tackle the game through many different servers, be it dedicated or private, unofficial or official, PvE or PvP; there are a variety of ways players can choose how they want to experience the game.
One thing I can safely say about Ark is that it’s main appeal for players is the use of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals being mixed in with the survival aspects of the game along with the combination of primitive and almost alien, futuristic technology. Actually hopping into this world and experiencing it is a completely different story that will be full of many hours of grinding items, losing them to either players or dinos and doing it all again until you level up so you can fend most of the world off or find a tribe to do it for you. It should be noted for those who don’t want to play with advanced technology such as guns there are ‘primitive’ servers out there that keep to the basic ends of the tech tree.
The biggest problem with Ark and majority of its gameplay, is the arduous process of gathering materials and building up the amount of technology available to you. Even if you have a lot of resources available to you and miraculously don’t have then stolen by other players in PvP or lost to dinos while out on scavenging runs then you have to level up enough and spend engram points to learn how to make a specific piece of technology, be it a tool or a station for making other forms of technology. Most of you reading this are probably thinking ‘but the whole point of a survival game is to spend most of the time collecting resources, what’s the problem?’ Well, the problem isn’t that you spend most of the time collecting resources and crafting, the problem is how much time you actually spend doing it. Starting out, you’ll find yourself repeatedly dying on almost every scavenging run and losing the majority of your supplies which on most servers will take well over a day’s worth of playtime just to advance to wood/stone structures and begin getting to the mid-tier items. Even then that would be extremely lucky.
There’s also one issue I found when starting out on new servers is that due to the way you spawn in and how weak characters are initially, sometimes I would be eaten by a carnivore before I even had control of my character and be forced to respawn before I’ve even moved. Anyway, around the mid-tier of the game when players will start having access to metal tools, some saddles for tamed dinosaurs and probably even a musket. There won’t be much of an issue staying around that point since if a survivor has been levelled up well enough they can tackle most of the early resource collecting, taming and crafting with ease and no threat from lesser dinosaurs. Expect to stay around this point for a long time though especially in PvP since most players will be looking for the more advanced structures to raid and take precious loot so they can save time for themselves.
As for the late game, when modern structures, guns, clothing and for the really hardcore players, Tek gear becomes available to survivors; it becomes even more of a grind to maintain this technology, if not just as much as it was to get there in the first place. Despite having the capabilities to tame pretty much anything and craft almost everything, players will find themselves still doing the same old grinding for the same old resources making the game full of repetitiveness. Sure, that first time you soar through the air on a pteranodon and see the world through a birds eye is amazing. Getting atop your first tamed T-Rex and making short work of all those lesser dinos that you had so much trouble with to begin with gives you a real sense of accomplishment and progression but a couple taming sessions later it becomes tedious and just another stepping stone on the way to the boss or that next big creature/piece of tech you want.
Despite my thoughts on the game being too much of a grind, I can see the appeal along with the loss of resources being able to be prevented by going into PvE or a private server. One thing I have an extremely positive opinion on however is the sheer amount of things to see in the game. The tens, if not hundreds of different creatures out there, most of which are tameable by players and the different environments in which these creatures reside is nothing to scoff at. Amongst all these other creatures in these environments will also be other players just like you most of the time, trying to survive and advance in the world. Should you manage to avoid the outright trolls on some public servers there are many memories to be made with fellow survivors with whom you can team up with and form a tribe and even the rival tribes that you have back and forth raids against. The core gameplay can be a bit of a bore but the aspect of randomness brought in by other players makes the entire experience once the buzz of surviving against dinosaurs wears off.
Co-operating with other players is definitely encouraged within the game anyway since for the most part you won’t be able to get all of the engrams you want and having specialised roles within a tribe can make progression so much quicker. For example, one person could focus on base building, another on dinosaur breeding and taming, another on weapon and tool crafting and then the rest of the players put those crafted supplies to use and get more resources to expand and progress through the tech trees. Of course, all of this can turn sour quick if you’re on an online server and your designated weapon crafter isn’t on just when everyone needs a new sword to take out on that hunt or your base builder isn’t back to help repair after that last raid. If everything goes right though it can make the game a hell of a lot easier and a million times more enjoyable.