Ark: Survival Evolved Preview – Jurassic DayZ

After the influx of indie survival titles in recent months, or even years at this point, my response to hearing about Ark: Survival Evolved was along the lines of “oh boy, I can’t wait for this to spend 2 years in early access before substantial content actually comes out.” I can’t describe for you how happy I was to realize that I was wrong.

Ark dropped into early access on June 2, brought to PC gamers by developer Studio Wildcard. I’d like to describe it as a cross of DayZ, The Forest, and naturally, Jurassic Park, as it encompasses (assuming you choose the online play options rather than single player) the competitive, rigid survival styles of all three.

The game is a survival simulator, but it aims to make the player versus environment (PvE) experience much more viable. Players are stranded on the Ark, a massive island inhabited by dinosaurs and other prehistoric life, and are tasked to survive. The basic formula of eating and drinking is spiced up by things like body temperature control and defecation (although as it stands you just kind of poop when ever, even if you are running full-tilt up a mountain.)

Further enhancing the PvE focus, there is the option for players to play in local modes, allowing them to avoid the all-too-common kill-on-sight player versus player (PvP) community. In addition, PvE servers are available for those that want to band together with minds akin to theirs and hunt down serious prey. There are also some instanced boss fights like dragons (yes, I’m serious), according to the developers, but they require high level characters to engage as far as I know and the leveling can be a bit slow at times.

My first PvP house, before it was broken in to and I was murdered :(.

My first PvP house, before it was broken in to and I was murdered :(.

In regards to the leveling system itself, it operates in a well-made RPG style. You gain experience for everything from cutting down trees to spearing raptors, and apply skill points as you level up to things like increasing your threshold for hunger, or your melee damage. In addition, you also unlock research points, which can be spent to learn how to craft more and more advanced equipment, including structures and weapons.

The game boasts a lot of really cool mechanics and they are what sold me on the concept, hands down. Whilst roaming the Ark, you are not just stuck in a cycle of hunting, eating, pooping and sleeping. You are able to tame practically every creature around you, from the tyrannosaurus rex to the dodo birds.  Some, of course, are more useful than others when it comes to carrying supplies or killing potential, but each animal takes a significant amount of time to tame.

Once you’ve got yourself a tamed creature, they too will level up as they hunt or walk around with you, allowing you to build up some truly fearsome beasts.

At this point it might be hard to see yourself picking up yet another survival game, especially when Subnautica, The Forest and Stranded Deep have made some serious headway recently, but I swear that this one brings enough new to the table to be worth the 30 or so dollars.

A lot of the fears that I have experienced as an early adopter of games run back to my sentiment of things staying in early access forever because they are nowhere near complete. However, Studio Wildcard definitely has their “poop in a group,” so to speak, as they not only have a plethora of functional and well-implemented content, they also have due dates set under the public eye. The developers openly intend on having the game released on next-gen consoles next year, and that level of preparation calmed a lot of concern.

Additionally, there has been a lot of dialogue between developers and community over Steam pages and forums claiming that the reason Ark is in early access is just to smooth out rough edges and implement things that fans would like to see. Studio Wildcard’s commitment to this was proven to me, at least, on launch day. After a short delay of a few hours before the game dropped, they faced a massive wave of fans buying the game, a number of game breaking bugs and consistently posted on the game’s Steam forums to let players know what was going on, and when things like new servers and singleplayer mode would be active and working.

These absolutely shocked dilophosaurs helped ease my pain however, after they messed with the wrong stegosaurus.

These absolutely shocked dilophosaurs helped ease my pain however, after they messed with the wrong stegosaurus.

Despite a lot of players spilling out the common “way to be ready for launch, guys” complaints, they kept powering through, and a few hours after release I was playing single player without a hitch for hours on end.

This piece of gold was released on YouTube by user Oshibas during the uproar on release day regarding delays:

There is still plenty more game for me to experience at this point, but the basics are all flawless in my opinion. The crafting is intuitive, the RPG-style leveling system has endless potential, the controls are responsive, the sound design is incredible and it is all-in-all an impressive title.

If you’ve been off of the survival band wagon, and would like to hop on, this would be the title to do it with. At the very least, keep an eye on this one, and I’ll see you on the Ark.