I’m not a huge fan of Steam early access games, especially the plethora of open-world, survival-building games that have followed in Minecraft’s wake. I’ve been burned too many times, and more often than not, these games NEVER come out of early access. In most cases, these types of games cease getting developer support, and then you’re sitting there with a game you purchased with the promise that it will be completed, but never is. Heck, the standalone Day Z game is still in beta, and it came out as early access in Dec 2013!
I just hate supporting the early access habit with my hard-earned money, which is why, despite the urging of multiple friends and coworkers, I was wary about trying out Ark: Survival Evolved, a game currently in Steam early access. Eventually I succumbed, and with extreme wariness, I purchased the game and hopped in. Fortunately, I have not been disappointed by the game, or the support the developers have been providing.
Ark: Survival Evolved is a open-world survival game where you can collect materials and build yourself a base/shelter/weapons/armors, etc. However, where it differs from most survival building games, is that it takes place in prehistoric times, when dinosaurs and other ancient organisms existed. Not only that, but you have the option to tame these creatures to work, fight, or even put a saddle on them and ride them!
|Whenever you tame or kill a creature for the first time, you get a journal entry.|
Like all survival games, you start with nothing but your fists. The classic punching of trees and gathering plant fiber will be some of your first activities on the island. As you gather materials, fight for your life, and create items, you will gain experience and levels that will allow you to improve your character and unlock the ability to create more complicated items and structures.
Creating shelter and having a steady food supply will go far, as your character becomes hungrier and thirstier based off your activity. Not only does shelter keep your character warm during the cold night or cool throughout the hot day, but it also provides you protection from the very dangerous world of Ark. While there are many herbivores and non-aggressive creatures in the world of Ark, there’s a vast amount of creatures that will delight in chasing you down and eating you.
Luckily, many weapons and armors can be created with the resources you find. With these tools, you’ll be able to defend yourself from some of your wildlife, though a wood spear and some hide armor won’t save you from a T-Rex attack. For that type of defense, you’ll need some dinosaur bodyguards!
As you progress, you will unlock firearms, base defense turrets and even metal walls. But, these amazing creations require lots of precious materials, both to make and to create ammunition for. These materials can only be found while spelunking in the dangerous caves of Ark island. These caves not only present active hazards, such as dangerous bats and dinosaurs, but there are also environmental dangers such as overheating, freezing, and even lava! Spelunking is a dangerous activity in Ark, but the rewards are completely worth it.
|Apparently there’s a dragon!|
Eventually, you will discover the ability to create narcotics, a bow and arrow, and tranq arrows. At this point, the game will open up for you and you will be able to start taming larger creatures–creatures you can’t take down by merely punching them into unconsciousness. Once you manage to tame something larger, it’s possible to learn how to make a saddle for that creature. Some dinosaurs that you can mount are able to collect resources at a rapid rate, making it easier to build up. You can eventually create your own dinosaur army to protect your base of operations!
The story of Ark is very mysterious. Your survivor wakes up with a computer implant in your wrist. This implant allows you to have your inventory displays and keeps track of all your learned schematics. Oddly enough, the implant in your inventory reads as if you are some sort of survival experiment. I have a sneaking suspicioun there’s some sort of alien angle happening here.
The graphics and atmosphere of the game is just great. Your character wakes up to a bright sun and a vibrant island. This island seems so alive as you take in your surroundings. Triceratops and Stegosauruses roaming the land amidst flying Pterodactyls, and even prehistoric giant turtles! Of course, that image could also be a Raptor pack attacking that Triceratops, and you’re the next prey on its list! You never know what the island is going to throw at you! Best to have your head on a swivel until you become more the hunter than the hunted.
|I would not suggest going after a T-Rex with spears and a bow.|
The variety of dinosaurs you will encounter and how they interact with one another is just incredible. You learn that raptors are suicidal, and are actually difficult to tame because whenever you find one, you discover that it made every Triceratops in the area angry and has been mobbed to death. Or, you learn that some areas of the island are very dangerous. For example, an Alpha T-Rex has taken up residence in the area. The persistence of the server makes it feel like a breathing world. You’ll log in the next day and find that very same T-Rex, still wrecking everything in the area.
My qualms about early access, while not unfounded, have no traction when it comes to Ark: Survival Evolved. The developers go above and beyond to support the game, adding new species on an almost weekly basis, along with bug fixes and gameplay tweaks. About a week ago, they even added little monkeys you can tame. These monkeys perch on your shoulder and warn you of danger, and they also throw poop at your enemy!
Currently, Ark can only be found on the PC; however, plans are in the works for Ark to be released on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in June 2016. This game is what a Jurassic Park game should have been– having fun in your own dinosaur playground!