Ark: Survival Evolved for the Xbox one preview program.
One of the largest releases on the Xbox One Preview programs and a Staple of the Early Access Alpha program on Steam. It has quickly out shown its PC big brother in terms of players and play time.
Ark begins like any other early access game. As in it doesn’t very few if any story details are available at this time, with the best guess being that none have been finalized.
What we do know is that weather single player or Multiplayer you load into a very minimal character creation screen, which looks like it could be taken much further. You select all the average things you would in a base frame RPG. Sex, name, and then it all goes wonky. You get to “select” body types which are in the form of sliders for proportions. Which leads to some rather hilarious mixes, but overall everyone looks the same. The Males all have a nice 5 o’clock shadow and a freshly shaved head and the fairer sex all have a nice ponytail. You can select eye color not that it matters much but you can! Along of course with hair color, both of these things are also on a slider rather than a RGB setup.
Then you select a spawn zone out of a dozen or so options, which are labeled by difficulty but let’s face it…….they’re lying!
Then you for no known reason wake up all but naked (a nice pair of boxers for the boys and a top and bottom for the ladies to keep those “special bits” covered.
Now this in and of itself it amazing, the first 2 or 3 times you see it but rest assured you will likely see it at least a dozen times over the course of your first 5-10 levels. Now there is the off chance you get lucky and spawn on the happy side of things and nothing happens, but more often than not you will in your first few hours of gameplay experience all those horrifying deaths you’ve seen across the Jurassic park film series.
Now if you’re like me you’ll have done this for your first time in single player, if a challenge is what you want online multiplayer exists but we will cover that, and PVE vs PVP later.
But back to the meat and potatoes after the first 3 or four times of fresh spawns, you get the wonderful task of clothing yourself and building shelter.
Because you begin naked they grant you the ability to build primitive tools, a hatchet and a pick, these are built by scavenging stones off the ground then punching trees. Over time you gain XP and level and learn how make better gear, better weapons and shelter better everything really.
This is where being online helps immensely, for the first 20 or so levels things are rough, but having buddies are helpful because it allows you to delegate which direction you and your “Tribe mates” level. Every 5 or so levels you get the opportunity to learn new blueprints to flesh out your base and other things. Idealistically you’ll learn the basics of taming and have an Army of Dinosaurs and other prehistoric mammals to help defend against other wild things.
Online you have the option of Player Versus Environment or Player Versus Player. Both of which come with massive ups and downs. In the PVE setting it’s far less irritating than single player to level as you and your pals can group up split your duties and rather quickly have a base and group of tames. Unlike PVP your structures can’t be destroyed by other players, and if you take a break the time allowed for you to be offline from your base till another group can demolish your base, to rebuild it that spot is extended.
The Glaring downsides of PVE? Well for starters Land griefing. Other players can and will drop an unbreakable item near your base and prevent expansion. And just all around be jerks.
On PVP on the other hand they can do all sorts of nasty things such as bombing your base and everything else.
But the real downside of online play in this case is a massive lack of server space. Servers hold 70 players and rarely see empty slots, as such even logging on with buddies can be a mini-game all itself, having to repeatedly attempt to log into “Your” Server while hoping someone drops out or the occasional error that allows you to over populate the server. That said If you’re a casual player who doesn’t have a lot of time, single player or PVE servers are your best bet, PVE seems to see fewer players over all but lacks that extra element of fear.
I personally play on a PVP server and have a fairly decent group of fellows I play with, Politics play heavily into PVP servers as not being jerks isn’t always enough to not get raided. Making alliances with other tribes is a centerpiece of not getting raided by other tribes.
As with any other early access alpha game it’s entirely about the new game and end game leaves you wanting. After the first 60ish levels you’ll be familiar enough with gameplay to move on, but it’s a time consuming game. PVP if you are successful is even more so if you aren’t politically inclined. Hundreds of hours of gameplay can come crashing down in minutes if another tribe wills it. And at higher levels there is little left to do but become a raider!
For people like me that like the thrill of danger but less so the constant back watching that comes with raiding indiscriminately end game becomes a constant balancing act. Offering trades and other favors to maintain tense friendships, have to make judgment calls about troublesome tribe members whose mouths and actions can break an alliance. It’s constant game of thrones dialogue to avoid helms deep scale battles.
Dinosaur taming is also a magical feat in and of itself. Smaller early game low level dinos are easy and great….. for a time, but at that end game BIGGER BADDER MORE DEADDLY is the call to action, which without proper items can take 8-12 hours of constant care, with the proper items, 2-4 hours which can also be killed in a matter of seconds, lose internet? Watch as your tame wakes up and wanders away……or simple eats everything in sight.
Do I recommend this game? Absolutely, I especially recommend picking it up if you’re in the preview program now and getting it at a far reduced price. And the opportunity to see the game evolve until Its June release.
Over all it has its own merits, but falls short in the survival category and near endgame the only true reason to “survive” is to not lose days of work you’ll have to redo, making even PVP become PVE late game as it stands, unlike games like DayZ also due out on XBOX One this year, you don’t lose anything but an inventory when you die, beds allow for respawns in your own base, all “knowledge” is retained (die at level 90 wake up at level 90 with all the things you learned) and so it simply becomes a grind to retame animals and rebuild bases (basic items which can be built in minutes in most cases)
Solid 7 out of 10 but not as in depth in the survival department as other games in the genre that actually punish players regardless of time played, all the most wanted Dinos spawn in multiples all the time, all resources respawn, even the rare items have easy ways to obtain, and the lack of actual story drives some players away. Simply having a RPG element doesn’t mean it’s good, the hours spent questioning how the average human magically learned to build an assault rifle let alone the fabricator to make it, or single handedly built a metal fortress in this possibly alien environment has little rhyme or reason.
But it’s an Alpha game. We can’t ask for to much all at once I suppose.