A couple of weeks ago, one of my friends suggested that a few of us all purchase ARK: Survival Evolved and play together on our PlayStation 4s due to the game looking like a lot of fun. I must admit that while it was a rocky start, the game does have its moments of all out fun, a sense of danger, and working together as a team to survive in the harsh world.
ARK: Survival Evolved is an online survival based game in the vein of Rust and The Forest, these sorts of games have generally been regulated to PC gamers only due to a majority of the titles being “early access.” Studio Wildcard ported this title to the PS4 in late 2016 after first porting it to the Xbox One and the fact that this title is originally a PC game most certainly shows. The game can best be described as being in beta for those unfamiliar with early access titles, so while it is very much a functioning game, you will encounter many issues, glitches, and inconsistencies as the developers constantly update and add to the title based on user feedback.
Despite this, I have had an absolute blast with this title, and have never experienced something quite like the feeling of foraging and hunting with your friends to survive, build a base, and continue evolving your abilities and equipment. The game has a very steep learning curve, and is not a “pick up and play” title. There were many times I had to resort to looking online for help, the menus and server browsers are all clearly designed for use with a mouse and keyboard, and as such, it can sometimes be cumbersome to navigate, especially if you are in a hurry. That being said, the controls are still more than functional and only slightly hinder the experience, the main aspect that will deter console players is the high difficulty and online player base.
As I mentioned earlier the game has a steep learning curve, this is due to the fact that after you make a character you are simply thrown into the world with nothing but a pair of underpants on, and at this point, it is up to the player to figure out what to do and where to go. There are no tutorials, no friendly NPC’s to hold your hand and guide the way, it is just you on your own trying to survive. Even when I had my friends on the same server, it is not quite as simple as having them join on your session. You have to physically walk around the map and locate them as you would in real life if you had no mobile phone to contact them. The map is all but useless in this endeavor, their names will not appear anywhere. You have to try and find a meeting spot (we use the towers or lights from the supply drops), once you do manage to locate them you can then invite them to join a tribe, which does put a green username above their head to make it slightly easier to visually locate them from a short-medium distance away.
Before I could find my friends, I was very much on my own. It took me awhile to figure what I should be doing, and how I should be doing it. The first thing you are going to want to do is forage for berries, rock, and thatch in order to eat and make a pickaxe to further gain resources quicker and to defend yourself from the many threats that populate the islands. Whilst the dinosaurs are a threat to your survival, perhaps the biggest danger to you is other players, as they are able to hunt you and kill you in order to steal what’s in your inventory and put all your hard work to shame.
An example of this was when two friends and myself spent hours leveling up to unlock various other items to craft and collecting a ton of resources in order to build a raft. The idea here was to build a base on top of the raft which would enable us to easily navigate the map, whilst having a place to store goods and protect us from threats. There were a few hiccups along the way with getting the design right and ensuring we knew exactly what we were doing would help us. After many more hours, we finally had a fully enclosed two-story base complete with a campfire to cook food, storage boxes to store our items, and beds which enabled us to respawn at the base, we even named the base after a quote from one of our favorite movies Step Brothers.
Now this is where we ended up encountering issues. The fact that we had a “well-established” structure made us a target for many other players online, as this meant we had resources and higher level equipment. High-level players love to pick on the lower level players for fun, this is called “griefing” — basically it means that the attacking players are doing whatever they can to annoy, hinder, and kill you just because they have the ability to. Most times they do not even want your resources. An example would be if you were to build a small house, and then a higher level player stumbled upon it while you were offline and your character was asleep inside the house, the high-level player could build a wall around the house which would mean you would be unable to escape if you lacked the necessary equipment to destroy the wall, thus rendering your base useless.
A personal example of this happening to me occurred when one of my fellow tribe members set out to collect some more resources one night. Unfortunately for him, he did not notice that another much higher level player was lurking in the shadows watching his every move. Once our mate was finished he returned to the base as the enemy player stealthily stalked his tail, at this point, he waited for our mate to open the door so that he could kill him, and have full access to our base. The enemy player stole all of the equipment we had been saving and destroyed parts of the base, essentially putting us back at square one. It was quite annoying to find this out, as all the work we had put into getting to where we were was rendered useless, but now we are able to start anew and improve a new base from what we have now learned.
Despite the extreme difficulty, and general rinse and repeat gameplay as you constantly die and start from scratch again, I must say that I genuinely cannot wait to dive back in and see what else we can come up with, and how we can further build upon what we are constantly learning.
I would recommend this game to people looking for a challenge but be warned you will need to have a lot of patience as you will die many times, you will get stuck many times, and you will be at the mercy of the islands creatures and fellow players constantly. If you have seen gameplay and reviews and feel like the game looks interesting to you, then I would tell you to take a dive and purchase it. I doubt you will be disappointed, but again, only if you are aware of the high level of difficulty you will be walking into.
Have you played ARK: Survival Evolved on the PC, PlayStation 4, or Xbox One? If so, what are your thoughts? If not, does it peak your interest at all? Let us know in the comments section below or on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.