ARK: Survival Evolved is a rare beast indeed. As one of many games jumping on the open world survival bandwagon, it would not have been a surprise to see it joining the likes of Rust in Early Access purgatory. Yet, here we are, three years down the line and we have a finished product. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long to see that it needed a few months more work before its final release.
The game hinges upon the idea of you surviving amid a land of dinosaurs. Armed with little more than a stone axe at first, your task is to tame the giant beasts about you and find a way to thrive in the dangerous land. It’s an engaging concept and one that the game plans out well. The ecosystem is extremely varied across the gorgeous landscape, with everything from giant insects to krakens littering the island.
While each can be tamed, you will often find yourself hunting them for essential resources as you slowly build up a personal encampment with high tech equipment. You are always forced to keep searching across the island and taking risks in order to survive, giving it a thrilling sense of genuine discovery. Combined with a very detailed crafting system this should have been a sure-fire win, until you try to run the game.
To put it simply - ARK: Survival Evolved is so badly optimised it makes Magicka look good by comparison. High end PCs will find themselves chugging along at the best of times, even when there is only a relatively small number of creatures on screen. Worse still, the creatures themselves are astonishingly half-done, with many retaining extremely basic animations and utterly brain-dead AI, reducing many creatures to simple attack beasts.
Even if you move beyond the PvE element into PvP the game is incredibly flawed. Little has been done to balance out any disparity between players, meaning that the strong will always stay on top. This has naturally led to rampant griefing, and you can simply expect to find yourself dying over and over again to someone who had a head start on you.
This is painful to write, as there is still a good game somewhere in here. It’s still a hunting fantasy with machine guns and the opportunity to tame gigantic prehistoric monsters. It’s just that with such a mishandled execution, for every moment you start to have serious fun, you are almost required to turn a blind eye to a dozen other issues. If you’re truly enamoured with the concept then give it a look, but otherwise pass this one up until the developers release a few more patches.
ARK: SURVIVAL EVOLVED / DEVELOPER: STUDIO WILDCARD, INSTINCT GAMES, EFECTO STUDIOS, VIRTUAL BASEMENT LLC / PUBLISHER: STUDIO WILDCARD / PLATFORM: PC / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW