First Impressions: ARK Survival Evolved

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I have had my eye on ARK: Survival Evolved for some time now, having always had a love for dinosaurs and a bit of an addiction to survival games (DayZ and various iterations of zombie games come to mind). Thanks to my dear friend Zeberg who picked it up for me as an unexpected gift, I was able to play it! During the Steam sales I also grabbed it for T so we could try it together. Here is my ARK: Survival Evolved first impressions review!

ARK is very pretty, and the character creation is relatively in-depth, which is something that doesn’t seem to pop up often in games in the survival genre. I’d love to see more options, such as different hairstyles and facial customisation, but for now it’s pretty great and allows the player to adjust body shape quite a bit without being too ridiculous.

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The most positive point for me so far has been that survival is very much the focus of ARK. Unlike many other survival games where PvP has been a big focus, when you first spawn? Yeah, that Dilo over there is probably going to spit on you and kill you. There’s also a Megalodon or possibly a Piranha just waiting for you to jump in the water. Also, Raptors can swim, man!

And if it’s not the dinosaurs trying to kill you, you could easily starve or die of thirst if you don’t start gathering resources quickly. I wouldn’t say the game is particularly difficult, but it’s also not easy and you will die at least a few times getting used to everything.

I have now tamed several dinosaurs, a process which takes some getting used to and is very difficult earlier on if you don’t know what you’re doing, and realised that I get a little too attached to virtual creatures and was devastated when my tamed Dilo got speared by a very angry Trike. However that hasn’t stopped me, and I now have that Pokémon-esque “Gotta Catch ‘Em All” feeling all over again!

The weather system is really cool (pardon the pun), however it definitely needs some work. I like that it changes how hot or cold you are depending on your geographical location and whether you’re in shelter or standing in water, but sometimes the temperatures change a little too quickly. For example, I was standing in a forest and had a notification that I was overheating and needed to cool down immediately. I walked literally five steps towards the beach and was told I was now freezing and needed to warm myself up. I checked the temperature difference between these five steps, and it went from 44ºC down to 15ºC in an instant! Though that said, the developers are working on this, and the weather won’t cause you too many issues.

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One gripe I have with ARK is that it’s pretty, but it’s a little too taxing on some systems. I find that even though my PC can easily handle recent games on their highest settings (Battlefield 4 or Hardline spring to mind) I lag quite a bit in ARK which I presume is down to the amount of things going on in the massive world. After some tweaking, I kept most of my settings at high but dropped a few to medium and was able to get a fairly good experience, though I would argue that it isn’t the most optimised game and lower-end to middle-of-the-pack systems may have some issues playing a smooth game.

All in all though, I really enjoy ARK and have been trying to convince my friends to join us, and perhaps even host our own server. Here’s a few quick points that might help.

Overall enjoyment

Very high, would recommend it for sure. I’ve invested a good amount of time (over 12 hours over the course of two weekends) into playing with just the two of us, and can imagine there’s a whole other world out there if you play with a larger group on an online server.

Should I pick it up?

If you like survival games but don’t need the horror aspect specifically, yes. It feels somewhat like 7 Days to Die but much more dynamic and fun. Enemies feel dangerous rather than being a nuisance. There’s something for everyone: PvE only servers as well as servers that welcome PvP, as well as crafting and building, and taming dinosaurs. You can even ride them into battle!

Will I be able to run it?

Debatable. It claims it requires at least a Dual-Core 64-bit CPU, 64-bit Windows 7 or Windows 8, 4GB RAM and a DirectX 10 compatible GPU with 1GB of video RAM, but as someone with a system more than capable of running games of this caliber, I found it a little laggy whereas other high-end games weren’t. Just be aware that it’s possible that you’ll find some sluggishness. The devs are committed to improving this, and some of it may also be improved with updated drivers as well.