If you ever dreamed of riding a majestic giant reptile creature across sprawling fields and icy peaks or taking to the air on the back of a pterodactyl, Ark: Survival Evolved will assist in fulfilling those fantasies. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though, because getting to that point ain’t easy in Dino Town rife with murderous carnivores trotting about eagerly awaiting the opportunity to gnaw your face off.
By the skin of my loin cloth!
Imagine waking up one day on a beach somewhere with nothing but your dwindling health, crippling hunger and your bare mitts. Might not sound like a party for some, but for the avid survivalist it’s a orgasmic wet dream. Being spawned on a vast expanse of treacherous lands known as ARKs, where you need to hold out long enough to gather the resources you need in order to climb up the evolutionary tech tree. Getting to grips with the environment will be hard from the get go, but once you’ve dug your feet in the sand on a beach scattered with limited resources with which to build your first settlement, you get the chance to study the lizard creatures roaming about and start planning your journey into this jurassic world. But, you’re not alone.
There are three game modes available for you to start off your quest for dino domination. Online PVP sets you up in a world where it’s man versus dino versus man. Your resources become a commodity that either saves you from being raided, or king of the hill where you are main supplier to the masses after careful negotiations with various tribes. This is no easy task as most players are already starving and will do anything to survive, or troops of scavengers whose soul purpose is to pillage from the weaker meat. Online PVE takes away the raiding aspect to an extent. You’re unable to kill and steal from others (unless you know their access pins to storage boxes and such) and you’re all running around battling the elements and looking for potential comrades to form a formidable tribe. When and if you do form alliances with other players, you can set roles for each member ensuring that your resources, crafting and fortification can grow in leaps and bounds, but the opposite is also true as you could end up with a tribe filled with leeches, inhibiting your tribe’s progress which can literally leave you in the stone age.
If that’s not your flavour and wish to grind your way solo (and I mean, REALLY grind) you can play the offline story mode which will see you venturing into the world alone uncovering artifacts and hopefully facing the three bosses in the world on your way to the end game. All I can say is, there’s a spider. A massive man eating spider as one of the bosses. It’s not a pretty sight (for me) and not an easy task to overthrow, but an entertaining and educational experience nonetheless. This part of the game surprisingly offers a lot of backstory to the existence of the ARKs and why the hell you were thrown into this forsaken mess. It sets it apart from other grind-fest games in the genre, something we didn’t expect when first introduced to the game. Although enjoyable, it’s a long, tough and lonely road where your progression in the world rests solely on your shoulders.
Gotta tame them ALL!
The amount of detail that’s gone into the creatures inhabiting the ARKs is astonishing. Everything from pesky mosquitos and venomous scorpions, to a damn Gigantosaurus. The name says it all. T-Rex ain’t got nothing on this beast (the spider boss might get an “eek!” out of it though). Most of the prehistoric creatures can be tamed, ridden and even mated (with each other, not you) to craft your beastly army. There are two ways to tame them, either by feeding them their favorite food combinations, or knocking them the hell out and virtually enslaving them. It’s not as horrible as it sounds, these were times before we had laws and rights anyway. This is where playing ARK: Survival Evolved really becomes quite laborious. Constantly checking in on the unconscious creature to see if it’s gained affinity to your feeding can take days depending on the size of the creature. You could see this as a make or break component for the game as it takes up most of your time and resources as you scavenge the lands and prepare meals for your future pet. When all is done and you got your saddle ready though, things become easier, especially traversing the dangerous lands.
Certain creatures can be of great benefit for resources and overall defense of your camp, with all creatures providing nutrient filled mounds of poop which you collect to fertilise your crops with ensuring you never run out of food for you and your killer pets. Having at least one of each creature occupying sea, air and land bodes a great advantage in the ARK universe. But, the grinding does take the fun out of the experience. Hard work never killed anyone though, right? (the opposite applies in this world though, seriously).
On the coastal areas you’ll find most of the docile creatures with a sprinkle of maniacal monsters. As you travel further inland and up mountains you’ll come across most of the creatures you may have encountered in a movie that was based on a similar concept minus the endless grinding and running around in dirty undies. Although a great marvel to walk amongst these beasts, there are some instances when the AI mechanics looks like it took a leaf out of Mass Effect: Andromeda’s book. Ever seen a Bronchosaurus do the moonwalk? It’s… not sexy.
I want to ride my tyrannosaur! I want to ride my Rex!
In the beginning you obviously start with smaller creatures to tame like most of the lower level herbivores, but you want to get to the meat of the taming experience, and that’s getting raptors and the iconic T-Rex as part of your arsenal/dino garage. Running through lush forests and clambering up mountains are fantasy fulfilling stuff, making the world of ARK so much more enjoyable and invokes the urge to explore every inch. I’ve been riding a very low level Raptor and it has been a big weight off my shoulders (you’ll get the reference once you’ve played the game) and does the world of difference to have a beast to ride that can get you where you need to be quickly as well as put up a fight when need be.
One small step for man. One giant leap for dino riding kind
ARK: Survival Evolved has been a mixed bag of experiences with various server issues on both PVP and PVE variants of online play, although the instances spent in those worlds gives you great sense of scope for the the game in its entirety. The single player mode does have a lot of meat on the bone in terms of backstory even with the endless grind to get to the levels you need to be to take on the bosses in the ARK universe, making it stand out in the survival genre. The creature AI could do with a bit of a tune up and perhaps the taming times could be shortened to enhance the overall experience you encounter in the game. The UI might also need a bit of a rework as when you need to shift resources from your person to storage units are painstaking with single or all item movement instead of multiple selection options. The progression does tend to get a bit steep the further you climb up the tech evolution ladder, but I guess it’s par for the course in the ARK world.