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ARK: Survival Evolved Review

ARK: Survival Evolved Review
Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, PC
Publisher(s): Studio Wildcard
Developer(s): Studio Wildcard, Instinct Games
Genre(s): Shooter, Role-playing (RPG), Adventure, Indie
Release Date: August 29, 2017
ESRB Rating: T for: Violence, Blood, Crude Humor, Use of Alcohol

Ark: Survival Evolved is a difficult game to describe. At its core, this is a first-person survival game. You wake up nearly naked on an island and have to immediately fend for yourself. Here is the kicker, though. When you die, you are pretty much really dead. You have to create a new character and start again from scratch, making survival even more important.

The first thing I will say is that they don’t make this game great for newcomers. As mentioned earlier, all you have to go by is “alone on an island… and go!” The game has no tutorial on what to do or how to proceed. It’s really daunting overall, as the survival aspects come into play rather quickly. You become hungry a bit into your first gaming session and need to eat something, and fast. I did figure out how to poop, though. Yes, the game’s survival elements including defecating regularly to stay healthy. And if you’re really desperate, sure, you can eat the poop.

If you can somehow survive for long enough, you’ll realize that you’re really not alone on the island. You’ll also need to avoid the dinosaurs. The island is packed with them, and they spell death for your character – especially early on. Avoid the dinosaurs until you are ready to confront them!

After my first 15 deaths or so I took a break from the game to do some learning on my own, so I took to the internet to find some help on getting started with ARK: Survival Evolved.

After spending some time learning the basics and getting some great info from one of the PlayStation communities and various YouTube videos on ARK, I was ready to dive back into the game. One of the key things is gathering and crafting. This allows you to create weapons, clothes, armor, and shelter. This will drastically change how the game plays and will allow you to breath a bit. And if you can join a settlement or tribe of people it will usually be for the better as it will usually improve your quality of life People playing online are generally friendly and happy to help noobs.

The early to mid game stages of the game are very well balanced. You rarely feel like you’re grinding because so much is happening. Need to build a simple thatch hut? You’re going to need thatch, wood, and fiber. To get those, you’ll need to bloody your hands, or better yet, craft a pick or an axe. All along the way your character is leveling up, even by simply surviving, and you feel like you’re progressing in terms of your understanding of the world as well. Survival necessitates exploration and discovery in the early going and it keeps things interesting.

Once you get the crafting pieces down, next comes the games big promise: DINOSAURS! Not only do you get a chance to fight the dinosaurs, but you can also tame them and take them out for a ride. Use them to haul inventory or to protect you while you sleep! The dinosaurs are not the most dangerous creatures in the game, though: the other people playing the game are. Human players are smarter, and you will quickly go to war against them. And since when you stop playing you basically fall asleep, this will leave you vulnerable to attacks. Protecting yourself from other people is really what this game is all about, as there are many cruel players in this game and you need to be prepared for that.

The game looks great and features a great variety of environments to explore. What’s more impressive is how your character will react to the environments and what you have to do survive. The games sounds are interesting with generally serene ambient sounds from the island while playing. And when there are dinosaurs on the screen, they sound great and make you feel as if there’s this giant thing next to you.

All the while you have to avoid predators, find food and water, and if you’re in PVP, watch your back for other players. Even the simplest actions require thought and planning, and Wildcard has done a fantastic job of keeping you engaged in the world. You will find yourself unwilling to sign off until you have that door built and locked, that roof tile in place to keep out the flyers, or that last bit of meat cooked and stored in a preserving bin for your return. This, of course, keeps you playing longer than you would anticipate, which is how people have already racked up thousands of hours playing ARK. The late game balancing, however, leaves a lot to be desired.


The game has 33 trophies and 33 achievements, including a Platinum. On PS4 Most can be obtained pretty easily for things such as taming and riding dinosaurs and maxing out your level as well as that of your dinosaur. A few are rarer to come by as you need to defeat the final bosses of the game which certainly takes some extra time – not to mention that due to the permadeath aspect, you certainly want to be prepared for those fights!


In the end, Ark’s ambition pulls it in the right direction with more force than its clunkiness tugs it the other way. It’s always more enjoyable to spend time with a game that tries something new and exciting, stumbling along the way, than a game that tries to tick focus group-inspired boxes. If that game also happens to simulate an entire prehistoric ecosystem, and produces bewildering emergent scenarios like clockwork, all the better.


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