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ARK: Survival Evolved : Turok Was Never This Crafty

Company: Studio Wildcard

Our first thought after seeing ARK: Survival Evolved was that itís about time dinosaurs came back. Zombies, weíve had our fill. Itís always good to play to popular opinion, but bringing back dinosaurs was a good move. If youíre friends with any PC gamers, youíve likely heard about this game already, as it was released as an Early Access title for Summer 2015. ARK is still in active development, and while console gamers should be excited about jumping in early, the overall quality on Xbox One is spiky. All basic functionality is here, but the visuals take a beating compared to PC. ARK was a relatively demanding game already for desktop specs, so itís no surprise things are still being optimized at this point. The dip in resolution and framerate is most noticeable in online sessions, but theyíre still playable. Which is good, because online play is where ARK really shines.

Backing up a bit to explain the story and setting of ARK, itís a game where dinosaurs, man and technology (if not magic) coexist. At the beginning of each session, you wake on a beach wearing nothing but some underwear. Your immediate priority is to gather the materials youíll need to protect and sustain yourself. So, itís a survival game? Yes, but thereís also a substantial crafting dynamic here. One of the perks of gathering items and fighting off hungry dinos is that youíll level up, at which point youíll earn credits to spend on improved base stats and new crafting recipes. Eventually you can make some pretty amazing stuff, including clothing, buildings, and weapons.

Browsing the list of craftable items, youíll come across saddles. Oh yeah, you can tame and ride dinosaurs. At this point, itís hard not to be really wowed by the creativity behind ARK. The basic mechanic for taming a dino is to beat it senseless and feed it some drugs so it wakes in a more docile state. You can also hand-feed dinos to tame them, and you can even drug up other players. Where all this goes is still a bit of a question mark. There are some objects scattered through the game that hint at a larger story, hopefully explaining how you came to be in this weird world and who populated it with dinosaurs.

Right now, thereís a huge amount of gameplay that feels a bit like Minecraft and Rust got married, with a dash of Turok thrown in for good measure. You can jump into a wide variety of "official" Xbox One servers, slanted toward either PvP or PvE, and you can choose a spawn point that dials in Easy, Medium or Hard difficulty levels. The menus and controls are torturous on Xbox One; this is where ARK really shows its roots as a game designed for mouse/keyboard controls. There are a few nods to joystick control, but thereís huge room for improvement in this dimension of the game. Join any of the multiplayer servers to be inspired by how much people have already achieved in the game. You canít be too jaded when you see people riding past mounted on a dinosaur, or come across a well-built structure. If crafting and survival appeals to you, but youíre looking for a unique theme, ARK: Survival Evolved holds a lot of promise. Look for our full review when the game fully releases.

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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