Since Ark: Survival Evolved launched on Steam Early Access the game has been getting ever more popular with gamers. Studio Wildcard announced that the game has surpassed two million copies and earlier this year they had the ARK: Survival Evolved “The Last Stand” Tournament. Since then the game has growing even more as the dinosaurs are to invade home consoles around June next year. If you are an Xbox One owner though you will e able to get the game through Xbox One’s Game Preview program right now. It was released on the 15th December and while I wanted to get this preview out to our readers soon after, due to the sheer size of the title this was not possible. In fact one of the XLCGN team members got a second Xbox to host a fifty player server the game is that enjoyable. I had sunk about 20 hours+ over just a few days, with the new count at over 40 hours. If this doesn’t show you that this is going to be a title to watch or better, pick up right now, then read on for my full preview.
If you have not yet heard of Ark: Survival Evolved the game is an in-depth survival simulation crossed over with an equally in-depth action RPG system. The game has you fighting for survival against Dinosaurs and more. Can you learn enough skills to evolve yourself and come out top against all odds? It would be quite easy to compare this title to the likes of Minecraft as it is a game where you have to use what you have and gather multiple resources to survive. I never really could get into Minecraft but with Ark: Survival Evolved I just love the game even in its very early preview build. As one of the other XLC Gaming Network team put it, think of it as Minecraft but for adults. As the title suggests the game is about evolving. You have to evolve your skills, as wells as battle various prehistoric creatures from throughout evolution, with the most impressive of creatures being Dinosaurs.
So what is the Ark I hear you ask? Well the Ark is one massive open world which consists of a cluster of islands, mountains, forests and a wide variety of animals from the Jurassic age and ice age. In fact there is over 50 creatures for you to go and fight or tame. The obvious selling point of this title is of course the Dinosaurs which are not only realistic in movement but some are just so large in scale that you can’t help but stand in amazement when they pass buy you. Remeber that scene from Jurassic park with the T-Rex? Well there is even more ground shaking in this! As you explore the world more you will start opening up snow filled regions which will introduce types of animals that are unique to this type of environment. There are also some dungeon crawling locations in the form of caves, which are getting even more deadlier with each new update. It isn’t just the animals that you will be fighting against, you also have the environment in general from the day/night cycle to the weather system all having an detrimental effect on you if you are not well prepared. If you travel to the snowy peaks and don’t wear the appropriate clothing you will soon start freezing resulting in your increase of hunger and if dealt with your death.
One of the most interesting things about this game is that it does have a back story and an endgame for players that like closure in their games. However you can also just play the game as an endless survival sim if you so wish. This is so much fun when there are a group of you working together as a team. The game starts off with you waking up on an island with absolutely nothing except the underwear that you are wearing. You will be surrounded by Dinosaurs but the first thing you should do is form some kind of shelter and a campfire. From the start you are thrown into the games extensive crafting system, where you will learn craft skills like saddles to ride the many creatures that you will be able to tame. Yes you will eventually have your very own T-Rex to wreak havoc with. After you have some shelter you will then need to worry about food. As I found out you can’t just eat raw meat, it will need to be cooked hence the campfire. You will have to be quick in cooking meat and eating it as it does spoil within a certain time frame. You can also pick berries from the many plants and bushes you will see scattered about.
Once you have these basics and have a steady supply of food you will then need to craft yourself some tools so you can gather other resources to further craft more complex items. A lot of the rules that would apply to you in real life applies in this game which adds that extra level of addictiveness. You will get away with punching trees to get would a couple times but keep at it and you will break bones, which if you don’t let heal will cause death. You may die a couple of times at the start as you find your limits, but what lies ahead after the initial stage is a title that you will get lost in and never want to come back to reality.
As you play you will be able to level up your character through a great little levelling system, where you choose what attributes you would like to concentrate on. Attributes include things like carry weight, Food, Health, Water, movement speed and so on. This system comes into it’s own when playing with a tribe like I am. I play the resource collector so I would concentrate on carry weight and my health till about level 30 and then concentrate on other attributes after this. When it comes to crafting not all crafting skills are available at the start. As you level up you will get Engram points to spend, which are used to learn the different crafting skills. Each crafting skill has a set number of points you need, the better the object the more points it will require. Crafting skills include but not limited to things like wooden, stone and metal structures, weapons, storage facilities and so fourth. It can be tough collecting all the resources needed to obtain some of the good stuff and help comes in the form of loot drops. These appear at random and are colour coded as to the value of goods inside them. Take note though that certain colours can only be opened by certain level characters. They still need some tweaking as to the items inside, but they can include blueprints for items that you may not be able to unlock yet through your engram points as well as items like a laser sight for a gun.
On my current character I am building a house with a water fall backdrop. I have also tamed a Pteradonon so I can go flying to other locations. I am addicted to taming Dodo’s and we have a few Trike’s and other Dinosaurs. The animals that you can tame in the game will depend upon your character level, this rule also applies to which you can kill and mine resources from as well. This provides a large challenge as some creatures you will run into early on in the game will be ones that you can’t kill, so you will just have to run. For every new location always tread carefully as things can turn bad in an instant resulting in death. For this very reason when you go off and explore be sure to be well equipped with food and weapons as you could be away for days.
One of the issues of the preview build is that for every new server you connect too, you will have to create a new character. Well at least this is the case for private servers, public servers I still have to try out. However the levelling up system is quite fast and I felt this is to combat this very issue. It could also be to allow you to get to try out as much content as possible. Once the full game gets released later this year I can see this being adjusted. It isn’t that bad but a bit of an annoyance none the less. While there are a wide verity of servers you can connect to you can also host a game or play locally. If you host a game then at the moment it is limited to four players at any one time, and you can only be a certain distance in the game from the host. However you can use a second Xbox One as a server host and this will allow up to fifty players with no restrictions. One note about public servers, is that due to the very high interest in this title the servers are filling to their maximum player limit fast and it is hard to get back on the server you originally connected on.
If you are new to the game then hosting is a great way to go as you can adjust a verity of game settings making the game as easy or as hard as you like. You will be able to adjust the length of day/night cycles as well as environmental object re-spawn times. You can also adjust things like damage etc. This will allow you to familiarise yourself with the environment and you can then up the settings the more skilled you get. On the other hand you can jump straight into one of the many public servers and test your luck and chance of survival. Just remember that other payers will be able to raid your buildings and storage boxes if not protected. You could be lucky and come across a tribe that will welcome you into there home and help you.
When it comes to the controls and the user interface the transition from PC to console has went quite well. For the most part I have found my way around the U.I to be quite simple. You can categorize things into folders in your inventory folders making things easier to find. There is also a tool bar at the bottom of the screen where you can assign up to ten items for quick access. I use these for food and weapons mainly. The option to customize your controls would be welcome but hopefully this will be one of many feature requests added before the full release. Reading the map is OK apart from the fact you don’t know which direction you are facing and when riding a dinosaur you need to go into first-person mode to see the map.
Graphically the game is using the Unreal Engine and even at this early stage the visuals are quite impressive. There is some great lighting in action when you enter caves as well as the gorgeous sunrises and sun sets. I like how realistic the metal looks with a very eye catching shine in the daylight. This same shine works to great effect to see which rocks contain large amounts of metal. There are a few issues that need ironed out though which includes animals getting stuck in scenery and objects as well as frame rate issues especially when many things are happening on screen at once. I have no doubt that as the months go on these things will be addressed as well as other things. One area that needs fixed badly is the colour of your food, water, stamina, weight and health indicators. At there current colour it is hard to see the level when flying or when against certain backdrops. Even with these issues it hasn’t ruined my time in the Ark.
With the game still in a preview state and not due release until around June 2016 the game for the most part is very playable especially on a private server. Yes there are some issues that effect gameplay at the moment, but there is still plenty of time to get things fixed before the final release. One of the more annoying issues is losing your dead body through the the floor. I have been on a server where the time your corpse disappears for good is fifteen minuets to give you time to get to your corpse to get your inventory but this is no good if it goes through the floor. There are also less annoying issues like animals getting stuck in scenery and some of the kills just randomly disappearing. With regular updates these should be fixed. In fact it has only been on the Xbox One less than a month and the crashing issue I had when entering a specific cave seems to have been fixed, and the caves have even been updated to be much more deadlier.
Each time I have played this game it has never been for a short period, I always end up on it for five plus hours at a time usually. The game is just that addictive and engrossing that I can never pull myself away from it. I have spent well over thirty hours in the Ark now and still feel I have only seen a small amount of the game. I’ve not even had the chance to mention that you are able to breed dinosaurs, although I have yet to get a fertilized egg to get the full experience of this. There is just so much to do and get side tracked in, wither that be hunting to craft better gear, building you own mansion in the sun complete with your own plantation or just taming various prehistoric animals.
While the price to step back in time may seem a little steep for some (£27.99), the game feels well worth the price of admission. Just as long as you are happy with some of the bugs mentioned in this preview and the possibility of more bugs I just haven’t run into yet then this is a great action survival title. With the game getting continuous updates and improvements not to mention new animals I can only see this game getting even more addictive and much more refined than it is at the moment.
You can purchase Ark: Survival Evolved right now via the Xbox One Game Preview Program. You can check out much more gameplay footage of Ark: Survival Evolved over on our Twitch Channel Be sure to follow us to be alerted when we do live streaming.