ARK: SURVIVAL EVOLVED
Prehistoric survival sim gives players a rawr deal
Like a prehistoric Love Island, this game’s premise is a simple one: stranded on a mysterious island, you must use your wits and cunning to survive against all manner of perils, including maintaining basic food and heat supplies. Throw in dinosaurs, and servers thronging with individuals just as eager to tear you limb from limb, and you’ve got one of the most promising setups to ever grace videogames. Finding a soul mate amid the carnage, that’s optional. Sporting naught but a piece of cloth and bearing a strange artefact on your wrist, you set to work on your key (and basically only) objective – survival. While retaining a pulse under such extreme circumstances is, of course, bound to be tough, the struggle is made far more pronounced thanks to the lack of any kind of tutorial system. There’s absolutely no indication of what any of the game’s various, convoluted systems are or how to perform any actions, forcing you to adopt a trial-and-error approach to survival or, more likely, frequently consult the interweb.
From the off, you’re at the mercy of the game’s internal clock, with the hours draining not only daylight but your various survival meters. Blueprints indicate the materials you’ll need to craft useful items – initially a stone pick, fashioned from wood gained by punching trees (get used to it, you’re going to be thumping a lot of trees) and stones found scattered on the ground. From there you’ll utilise your surroundings, increasing your resources to construct essential items like campfires, clothes, and lodgings. Performing actions levels up your character, giving you access to new blueprints for forging increasingly helpful goodies.
Dying is significant (as you’d expect) and saps both your time and resources, adding to the thrill of battle. Take on something that’s beyond your means and you’ll likely get a speedy ticket to the afterlife and have to start from scratch, waking up nearly naked on the island and forced to punch yet more trees. Eventually, you’ll acquire the strength and supplies necessary to indulge in Ark’s main draw – recruiting an army of dinos to do your bidding. Taming the prehistoric predators requires overpowering them in combat. Flying into battle on a speedy Gallimimus or soaring through the skies on the back of a Pteranodon is thrilling, even more so when you recruit a few more players for some tribal warfare, island exploration, or T-rex battling.
Unfortunately, even after a lengthy playable pre-release period, Ark: Survival Evolved still feels unfinished. The basic graphics and technical niggles, like stuttering frame rates and spawning through objects, grate. While the struggle for survival is riveting, the bare-bones narrative and lack of objectives make for an experience that ultimately feels unfulfilling.
“EVENTUALLY YOU’LL ACQUIRE THE STRENGTH TO RECRUIT AN ARMY OF DINOS.”
Battling and taming dinosaurs is undoubtedly a joyous pursuit. Unfortunately, the excitement is marred by the game’s overly grindy nature and your lack of purpose. Anne-Marie Coyle
Your spear serves you well early on, but you’ll need hefty weapons to take on the big beasts.
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