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ARK: Survival Evolved Game Review

4 min read

ARK Survival logoThe evolution of the survival genre.

What They Say: 

Stranded on the shores of a mysterious island, you must learn to survive. Use your cunning to kill or tame the primeval creatures roaming the land, and encounter other players to survive, dominate… and escape!

The Review:

Since the release of Minecraft, the survival game genre has been oversaturated and filled to the brim with countless entries, most of which aren’t notable in the slightest. ARK: Survival Evolved set out to change that when it first came out in early access back in 2015 on PC and later brought to consoles on Xbox One and PS4.

More than two years later, here we are as ARK is one of the only early access titles to successfully release in full retail fashion. To the excitement of fans everywhere, we are happy to say that it truly is a successful launch. While it’s not exactly a full evolution of survival games, it certainly accomplishes what it set out to do.

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Even with the influx of brand new players that might have been skeptical at purchasing an early access game, the servers are online and stable for all to enjoy on PC or console. And for those that prefer playing alone, it is perfectly playable offline in singleplayer.

Beyond the technical side of things, ARK plays out a lot like Minecraft from a base perspective. You start out at a specified spawn point with nothing at all and are forced to survive against powerful beasts, thirst, hunger, weather, and more.

The premise is simple but nearly infinite in possibility. Start with nothing but your two hands and work your way to becoming a conqueror of the island (or desert), taming various animals from raptors to the feared T-Rex and potentially fighting alongside (or against) other players.

It’s no joke to say that ARK really does offer nigh-endless playability, something that is a testament to its design. At the same time, its depth and extensive systems is also its weakest point. For those that have never played a survival game before or have only tried others like the aforementioned Minecraft, ARK can be tough to start.

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This is because there is no tutorial given. You are just thrown onto a beach somewhere and left to figure it all out on your own. This is daunting, creating an intense learning curve that takes quite a bit of time and patience to cross over. Expect to jump between the game and a browser frequently.

While it is unfortunate that there’s not more guidance given, there’s still something magical and beautiful about exploring your (rather pretty) surroundings, never sure what’s just around the corner. Trust us, you will die a lot, but each time, it will teach you valuable lessons you won’t soon forget.

Regardless of whether you’re on console or PC, though, there is a solution for any difficulty that is just too much for you. In what may surprise you, there is a console command available on every platform to spawn, tame, and power up your character infinitely with its helpful cheats.

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Those cheats are actually recommended for those that play alone, because unfortunately, ARK doesn’t feel meant to be played without other players. The engrams system in it is just so deep and robust that it’s almost impossible to unlock everything by yourself (without the cheats).

Engrams themselves are essentially your skill tree. Each time you level up, you get a certain amount of points that can be used to purchase new crafting recipes and so on. The detail given to this system basically requires you to create a tribe online with others and divide up duties like building and taming between you.

Even beyond the engrams, playing with other players allows you to have an MMO-like experience, whether in PVE or PVP. In-fighting, betrayal, war, and conquest are just a few of the various role-play or scenarios that can occur, adding more and more to the amount of content that already exists.

It is worth noting that even though this is a full release, there were some occasional frame rate drops and minor glitches that we experienced on our PS4 copy. It was by no means major or game-breaking, but notable nonetheless. The game certainly is the best looking survival game out right now, and so the relatively good performance is a surprise and added bonus.

In Summary:

ARK: Survival Evolved is a rarity in the industry, successfully going from early access to full release with roughly no major issues outside of some minor technical issues. Though it can be a massive undertaking to start the game fresh with little to no knowledge beforehand, but once over the hump, you will find a seemingly endless amount of content that will allow for you to create precious memories building elaborate creations or riding a T-Rex online or offline.

Grade: C+

Developer: Studio Wildcard
Released By: Studio Wildcard
MSRP: $59.99 (full retail release)
Platforms: PC, Linux, Mac, PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One
Release Date: August 29th, 2017

This review was done with a review copy of the game provided by Studio Wildcard. We are grateful for their continued support.