Review: ARK: Survival Evolved (PS4)

Review: ARK: Survival Evolved (PS4)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • PC, Mac, Linux

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None


Title: ARK: Survival Evolved
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (36.39 GB)
Release Date: June 12, 2017
Publisher: Wildcard Properties
Developer: Studio Wildcard
Original MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: T
PEGI: 16
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
The gameplay loop is simple: gather materials to create tools, gather more materials to create better items, and eventually tame and ride a dinosaur.

ARK: Survival Evolved does introduce a twist to the gathering mechanics. Stone and flint are gathered from rocks and boulders and you will always get some of both when gathering.

Using a pickaxe or hatchet determines whether it’s mostly stone or flint. Trees are the same with wood and thatch. It’s not complicated but just one more thing to think about.

The game is far from beginner friendly. People should not expect Minecraft with dinosaurs. If you’re not careful you can easily wander into an area with a higher level enemy. I can’t even count the number of times I was minding my own business at night when I was suddenly jumped from behind.

Really, the dinosaurs are probably the least of your worries as every action drains your stamina. Your character is constantly hungry and thirsty. Meanwhile, you cannot hoard some food because there’s a countdown until your meat or berries spoil.

Even the time of the day can cause issues. Obviously, at night you need to have a torch or be by a fire to see, but without fire or proper clothing your character can get cold.

There is no tutorial here. The most helpful thing you can do is have a wiki open on a tablet or laptop next to you. Occasionally I had to go on a deep dive into the forums.

The developer, Studio Wildcard, did provide a Survival Guide at the start menu. All that is though is a bunch of overwhelming text. It’s far too much to absorb at once and a lot of it will not make much sense until you’ve played the game.

I found the easiest way to learn was to create my own server. There are so many settings that can be altered to customize it just the way you want. I lowered the damage I took and the rate at which I became hungry and thirsty.

I also increased damage output, quantity of resources gathered, and XP gained. This way, I could spend more time figuring out the menus, crafting, and mechanics, and less time worrying about being attacked or starving to death.

Fortunately, when you die you retain all the recipes or engrams you have learned. Losing all of your materials and items that were crafted can be frustrating. After I built a small structure, I crafted chests and filled them with materials to help jump start my recoveries after death.

After your baby steps into the world it’s time to join a real server. Most of the game is a repetitive grind and I was crafting better weapons and building a nicer little base but it was more of the same. The whole time I had my eye on the future engrams that seemed so much better than what I had access to at the time.

Whenever I hear people talk about ARK: Survival Evolved, it’s always about the later game. I have heard/read many stories over the last couple of years about taming a difficult dinosaur, a group working together to kill a dangerous and enormous enemy, or building amazingly advanced bases.

I have done and experienced things that can only be done in ARK but they’re just too few and far between. I spent too much time bored and grinding to reach that next amazing moment. Peppering in the moments more evenly throughout the game would do wonders for the pacing.

There’s a lot going on in the menus and you’ll spend plenty of time in them. They are well organized and laid out… well, if you’re playing on a PC. I have not played the PC version but it seems like they just copied and pasted with no attempted to revamp the menus for consoles.

It’s not intuitive at all and pressing the touch pad to cycle between menus took me far too long to figure out. To equip an item to the hotbar, you must select the item and then slowly tab down to the highlighted hotbar.

The game knows you are wanting to place the item into the hotbar but does not automatically move the icon down there. On PC it would take half a second to move your mouse but it’s slow on the console. Moving from one side of the menu to the other is just not as simple and quick as it should be.

The real kicker though is that the game was launched on Steam Early Access in 2015 and it’s still so buggy. It kept telling me I was hot and the heat was starting to affect my character so I jumped into the water and suddenly I was too cold. Nothing I did would have me at a normal temperature.

I got my first big kill because the higher level dinosaur chasing me got stuck or clipped into the environment. Once I realized I was no longer being chased, it was easy to see that it was stuck and I attacked where it could not strike back.

Visuals:
There are a number of graphical issues, especially at night. There were a few frame dips but many times at night with a torch the framerate dropped to the low teens. The pop in has been improved but it still happens and shadows flashing in and out at night is all too common.

Even if all the glitches went away and there was a smooth framerate, I just don’t like the way the environment looks by torchlight. I cannot explain why, it just bugs me.

Audio:
The audio is a little shallow. With so much gathering and crafting, it seems like all I heard was the grunt from swinging a pickaxe or rustling when gathering from a plant.

Online/Multiplayer:
There are people who will never play this game with anyone else and that’s perfectly fine. Most everything can be done on your own but some of the major events late in the game will be harder and take longer.

I ignored PvP servers completely and stuck with PvE servers. For those who will want to interact with others, I recommend a server with a medium population. Servers that were close to maximum population had no free areas to build near the water and some early resources were harder to come by.

From my experience, grouping together was more fun in theory than in practice. There’s no easy way to communicate in game as most people are not using mics. If you’re not grouping up with a friend, the best way is to just find someone and tag along.

Conclusion:
ARK: Survival Evolved is pretty rough around the edges. There’s potential for a great game here but needs a lot of work to flesh it out.

There’s no tutorial, too many graphical issues, and other bugs. There are memorable one-of-a-kind moments but they require too much grinding to get to them.

Even if many of these issues were addressed, this isn’t a game for everyone. For those who are interested, play on PC if you can. Not only to avoid navigating the menus with a controller, but also to take advantage of the large modding community. In a game like this, mods can make a huge difference.

Score:
6.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Matt Engelbart

Matt Engelbart

I love all things video games. When I am not gaming I am watching the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals, BBQing, and reading.

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