ARK: Survival Evolved is a very interesting preview build of a game. Once you get past the Studio Wildcard and Instinct Games screens and into the main menu, you really have no idea what to do. I sat there and allowed my Xbox One to try to find a session for about ten minutes, then I quit the game because it froze. Then I got a chance to play some single player. While you are navigating through the menus and watching load screens, the game tells you that this is a very early build of the game and that some aspects of it may not work properly, or at all. This had me a tad worried until I finally got into the single player feature. I was greeted with a half put together avatar builder; You only get to chose from six pre-made avatars. The biggest choice you make is male or female, but it doesn’t matter because the game is first person. The second biggest choice you make is where to spawn. When I chose, I was only allowed to pick from four options: three zones in the East where the difficulty was normal, and one in the North which is hard. I chose the East, seeing as I had no idea what I was doing. After I perished, I found out there were three zones for each direction. South has the easiest zones and North the most difficult, so I decided to hang out in the South.
The game spawned me on the beach where I looked around and noticed a weird crystal in my wrist, ala Logan’s Run. I then stupidly began testing the controls on the beach; “A” is jump, Right Trigger and Right Bumper are attack, Right Thumbstick is sneak or crouch, “B” is menu, and as I found out an hour or so into the game, “Y” is harvest or pick up. “Y” is probably the most important button to have. You’ll immediately want to start pressing it when you spawn so you can start gathering items which you can later use for crafting and eating. I first picked a rock up by accident, then fumbled my way through the menu to see if I could equip it and huck it at a dinosaur–I could not. My death toll continued to rise until I finally leveled up somehow and I honestly have no clue why. I hadn’t killed anything, built anything, or done anything of consequence to earn my Level 2 status; I did happily take it, though.
Leveling up opened a whole new world in the game for me. First, I could pick an attribute to increase. I chose health first. Then, with my next levels I increased the amount of food I could eat so starving would become harder. I was then allowed to chose which engrams to unlock. These would let me craft items very important to my survival. The first engram I bought was a stone axe. This axe allowed me to have a weapon, and made it easier to beat up trees for fiber and wood and so on. Once I started crafting a lot and leveling up the game became very addicting, yet still very challenging. It’s very difficult to survive in a dinosaur ridden world wearing nothing but tighty-whiteies. With my axe I was able to gather more and more resources for crafting–soon I had a stone hatchet, a torch, and finally a shirt and pants. My confidence was building within the game and I couldn’t pull myself away from the crafting and harvesting. I spent my first night almost dying of starvation, just harvesting berries and eating them as fast as I could. Once that terrible night was over, I had grown a few levels and was ready to take on the world, prehistoric as it was.
The sun finally rose, and full of berries and a new hope, I found a Dilophosaurus attacking another dinosaur. I fought that dino to the death and harvested some great items from his corpse, and the corpse of his prey. Suddenly, I had some dinosaur filet mignons and some hide pelts. Once I had enough parts to build a campfire I did so, and cooked up my steaks so that they spoiled much slower. All of food that you find in the wild has a spoilage date, so you must eat before that time hits or you’ll have wasted a precious resource. There I was, finally doing well in the game, and along comes a Raptor that ends my amazing streak. I re-spawned near where I had perished and searched in vain for my campfire and for my corpse. I had hoped that if I found my corpse, I would be able to pick up all the gear I had. My corpse was gone and I couldn’t reclaim my lost goods, but luckily the game was nice enough to let me keep my level and my engrams. Immediately I began to punch trees and pick up rocks so that I could build myself some sort of weapon–unfortunately, I fell back into the “die every few minutes” turn. Maybe this wouldn’t have been as difficult if I had some buddies with me. Solo is very difficult at the start.
The gameplay in ARK: Survival Evolved is fun, the concept is fun albeit difficult, and the graphics are pretty good. I’ve never really gotten into a huge online game before, but I’d heard that graphics sometimes aren’t as good to account for all the online capabilities; ARK: Survival Evolved didn’t have bad graphics at all. There was some tiling when I would spin around trying to run from certain death, but nothing that detracted from the overall experience. This game is set to be an amazing experience. Seeing as it’s only a preview build and how much fun I’ve had with it–and how much fun I will have with it–I think Instinct Games has gold on their hands. I’m excited for each update that may come, and for the day when I can log into a multiplayer session and see what that is all about.
An Xbox One preview code for ARK: Survival Evolved was provided by Studio Wildcard for the purpose of this preview