Every gamer has their favourite game series and occasionally we look for games that have some nods towards our favourite games. As a huge fan of the Resident Evil and Tomb Raider franchises I find games that have similar motifs quite entertaining. One such game for me is ARK: Survival Evolved by Wildcard.
Here’s the official synopsis:
As a man or woman stranded, naked, freezing, and starving on the unforgiving shores of a mysterious island called ARK, use your skill and cunning to kill or tame and ride the plethora
of leviathan dinosaurs and other primeval creatures roaming the land. Hunt, harvest resources, craft items, grow crops, research technologies, and build shelters to withstand the elements and store valuables, all while teaming up with (or preying upon) hundreds of other players to survive, dominate… and escape!
So yes, one can simply describe ARK as a sandbox game but what makes ARK different is the presence of dinosaurs that can either kill you or, once tamed, help you.
You start off with no resources, tools or clothes and your initial task is to gather stones, wood and thatch to create a stone pickaxe. With that tool you can then mine flint which is essential to
build a stone hatchet. More tools and technologies become available to the player as they level up and also, as the game is still in early access stage, as the game receives updates. Wildcard provides regular updates where they
tweak game mechanics, optimisations and add new dinosaurs and technologies.
I started playing ARK last year and I have an excellent gaming PC, but even that could not run ARK on medium-high details without a drop in FPS. Wildcard has optimised the game since and if you, like myself, played the game before and had issues with performance, do give it another go as soon as possible.
ARK is more than just a sandbox; it is a massive living world with its own rules. Animals and dinosaurs have specific behaviour and spawning patterns. The spawning system is quite sophisticated, for example I never had issues with dinosaurs being spawned at random behind my back as I walk but now there’s this nasty Alpha raptor running around the island, across the river from my base since about a week!
Aside from gathering resources, crafting, building, farming you can also tame dinosaurs who can help you with a variety of tasks. Some of them can’t be ridden, but every single one of them will try to protect you from enemies, unless you will set them to “passive” mode. The variety of creatures you can tame is impressive: there are goofy dodos, quick and fierce raptors, mighty brontosauruses and tens of others that rule the land, with peaceful Ichtyosauruses, blood-thirsty Megalodons and cowardly pteranodons and fierceful argentavises – plus others that rule water and air respectfully.
As your character levels up you can choose which attribute to improve and which new engram to learn and eventually you will be able to craft things like generators and machine gun turrets.
Even though there’s currently only one map available to play, it is big enough for you to explore and it has a variety of locations with different weather conditions. The game in fact pushes you to explore the island, as you won’t be able to harvest some resources close to your base (wherever you are.) The game also has massive caves for the player to explore and this is where my inner Tomb Raider fan goes crazy; caves were a huge part of the classic Tomb Raider games, notably the first three games in particular, and all three had dinosaurs in them.
Surely it is not a platformer game and even though you can switch to a 3rd person view the game mechanics are completely different to a Tomb Raider game, but nevertheless I can’t help but draw some heart-warming similarities. There are also some underwater caves, but I haven’t been able to explore them just yet.
The main problem with the game in my opinion is optimisation: it runs fine on medium-high details but I do want to play it on higher details so I can enjoy this beautiful world to the fullest. Most say that even on medium-high details the game looks absolutely stunning. Sometimes I just walk around my base at night and enjoy looking at the moon.
Another problem is a lack of character customisation. You can adjust various body parameters and even the colour of the character’s hair and eyes, but you can’t change facial features or hairdos. Nevertheless, the game offers you a variety of wearables that you can either unlock or earn from killing an Alpha Raptor for example. You can also craft a painting brush and paint your clothes or equipment, dinosaurs and buildings just the way you want to.
In fact, you can also craft a painting canvas and draw whatever you want, here’s a masterpiece that I have on the wall:
Players can create tribes, tribes can go on war on one another or trade and help eachother, creating a very interesting social component. If you are playing this game or plan to buy it, do join our dedicated “South Pacific Islands” server, we are a friendly bunch 🙂
ARK is so huge that it has its own Wiki website, where you can learn about every single creature and resource.
With the game being in the early access it’s clear that there are some bugs, but the game is totally playable already. You may find it a bit expensive for an early access game but do consider that you are sponsoring an independently produced game that will capture you for many weeks or months! The full version of the game is set to be released later this year so you have a chance to learn how to play and level up your character
before the release, though you still may find that there are lots of players playing the game already.