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In case you want to buy this game, click here for Xbox, here for Playstation, and here for PC. For those of you who have been sleeping under a rock for the past few years, or are usually generally uninterested in survival games, you may have no clue what this Ark is. In that case, why are you here in the first place? At any rate, I'll give a little bit of an explanation. Ark is a survival multiplayer game in which you are stranded naked in a weird world filled with dinosaurs and death. You start by first making a shelter, gaining various tools using "Engram points," and thusly make your mark on this landscape. There are large scale boss fights and many a dungeon to run, along with various expansions and worlds. It is currently one of the most popular survival multiplayer games out there. I'll be rating this game based on graphics, gameplay, plot line, replayability, and how much it costs. This will mostly be a review of the base game, not really focusing on the DLC content.
The graphics engine used in the game is Unreal®, which is usually give or take. In this particular game, however, the graphics are okay...until you start looking at the water. The water seems to reflect anything and everything you have in your hand if you look right directly at it. It makes for a definitely jarring experience overall. The next gripe I have with Ark's graphics is the snow. The snow will render you absolutely blind. Imagine staring directly at the sun for hours on end. It gets pretty bad, but it seems to improve if you dim the game down once you enter the area. Speaking of dimming, do you like not being able to see anything at night, even with a torch? well your in luck! This game provides just that! Although this is a good thing in PvP, as it makes raids in the nighttime harder, it gets pretty annoying to have to wait an hour to go out and collect resources around you during times of peace. Texture loading in this game is pretty slow, especially if you are playing split screen or are in a populated server. Most of the time it seems like your riding something that crawled out of Super Mario™ 64 game, amongst other graphical glitches.
But this game can be quite pretty!
There are huge caverns and giant volcanoes along with huge planes and hills. All of this looks extremely pretty. This usually outweighs the many flaws in the game. For the graphics, I have to give it a 4/5.
Seeing as Ark was recently fully released, I feel like it's fair to make an opinion on the gameplay. The gameplay for Ark is close to that of Minecraft (lightly) and other survival sandbox (especially rust) games. You start with nothing but your naked self and you slowly build yourself into a powerhouse of dinosaur fueled death. There are a few things in this game that pull it away from every single other survival game. The first thing is the Engram system. This system brought something fresh to the survival game genre, giving you something to work towards. It also added a strategic and role playing aspect to the game. Engrams are the blueprints within the game. Most of them are useful, and others, not so much. They can both be found in the ark loot boxes that drop from the sky every so often, or be earned by way of "Engram Points" that you earn every level up. The level for players caps at 100, so unless you were playing on a custom server, you would never have enough engram points to learn everything in the basic tiers of tech. This makes you have to pick what it is you want to be within your tribe. The next aspect that really makes this game different is the taming system. I know, I know, Minecraft (if we're even going to go that far) had a "taming system" as well, but not nearly as complicated or painful as this. You needed to memorize what dino's favorite foods where, or what food they even ate at all in order to get a good taming efficiency. This matters because the higher the taming efficiency, the higher the level the tame will be. Some of them you have to knock out and feed to tame, others (like my personal favorite, the Diplodocus) you have to sneak up on to feed. This is both a blessing and a curse, however. You can't really tame any of the bigger creatures, realistically, by yourself unless you take time off of work and pay attention to it for hours on end. Even then, if you where to spend those hours, you would have a pretty low taming efficiency, making the whole experience less worth it. This is a bit of a problem for those who wanted to lone wolf the game. That does, however, make tribes all the more attractive.
Tribes within the game are an essential thing. You can't make it very far without one, mainly because of both the dino taming rates and the engrams. This adds a sense of cooperation in this otherwise hostile environment. Tribes can both be a help and a hindrance. The community within the game is like that of rust, minus the racial slurs and hacking. It's very much a roulette spin on if you get a good tribe or not. This is why I suggest popping in with a few friends, as to not have to worry as bad. Nextly, raiding in this game is much different from that of most other survival games. Dino's add another depth to the raid system. Every single dino has a specific job and ability, making who you choose to bring into battle essential. Let's say you wanted to raid a base, but the base is on a mountain top with huge gates. You could easily just ride in on your mountain climbing cat kangaroo hybrid and scale all the way up to it. You could also ride in on a giant bird and hop off, parachuting down and picking people off with your long ranged weapon of choice. It makes stealing people's things and destroying all their hard work much more fun! Assuming you're not on the receiving end. That brings me to the bad end of raiding. Again, this isn't a dig at just the game, this is a dig at the community. You can never really leave your base alone for too long in the official servers as everyone is ready to attack absolutely anything that they see. This could prove to be really frustrating considering the amount of grinding you have to do to pull yourself out of the naked self you were at the start of the game. Besides that, it provides an honest challenge in the game, even at the higher levels and tech tiers. You could be the most powerful tribe on the server, but if you let your guard slip, that could quickly change. The next feature in this game that sets it apart is the transfer system. At each one of the obelisks, giant Red, Green, and blue pillars, you can transfer up to twenty dinos and your character to another server exactly as they are. This could prove essential when the server you are in is becoming useless or dangerous. It also helps when you ascend. This also creates another problem within the game. With this system, trolls can hop from server to server and absolutely annihilate everything around you.
The next thing that sets this game apart from the other ones is the boss fights. The boss fights are so large scale and amazing, not to mention that each one has a specific arena.
Along with each specific arena, you need to plan what dinos you need to bring in with you. Lack of planning could lead to you having to start from square one, building a new team. This adds a sense of anger and a sense of satisfaction with each boss fight. Before you hop into the boss fights, however, you need to collect all the artifacts that are required.
These artifacts are painstakingly collected from various caves ranging from easy ones where you can walk in and walk out, to insanely hard ones that cause you to lose the raptor you love. Rest in peace Gnash, Blu, and the Scorpion Squad.
After collecting the artifacts, you take them up to the obelisk of your choice, each one holding the portal to a different boss fight and different difficulties. The boss fights are pretty hard and different from just battling normal dinos, which offers a breath of fresh air to the game. Again, though, if your planning on soloing any of the bosses, it's near impossible. This eliminates a lot of the single player factor of the game. This leads on to the final two things in this game. Ascension and the Tek tree. Ascension happens once you complete all of the boss fights within the map you are in. This then allows you to go to the Tek Cave. The Tek Cave houses the next, and final, boss within the island. The mysterious overseer. After its defeat, you are granted additional levels, or tek levels. In single or local play, you will then unlock the next map in the story, in which you will do this all over again, with different tames and gear. Overall, I give the gameplay a 4.8/5.
Just a warning that there are spoilers. Ark's plot-line is pretty amazing, despite what some may say. The only problem is it's conveyed in a way that you have to put it together yourself. This leads some people to only seek out these journals for their double exp boost. As for the contents of the story, it isn't super clear until you get to the DLC. I'll give a brief synopsis of what it is you find in the basic game. There are three different people who drop journals in the Island. Mei yin, a feudal era warrior who has the ability to tame raptors and is considered the first to ever tame anything on the ark. Nextly is Rockwell. He seems to be some kind of scientist, mainly focused on plants. Lastly is Helena. She is just like Rockwell in a way, except she seems to be from a different time period and focuses on animals rather than plants. It starts with Rockwell and Helena starting on different sides of the island. They eventually meet up and trollops around the island trying to figure out just what it is their doing here. Eventually, they meet up with Mei Yin. She is very unreceptive to them at first, eventually allowing Helena to become closeish to her. After this, it seems as if Rockwell and Helena go on the same course as you do, defeating all the bosses and eventually ascending to the next DLC. There are a lot of plot holes. We're talking Marvel level plot holes. This makes it really hard to even try to get the story line straight, leaving it to theory. You really have to spend money to even get the rest of the plot, which isn't that bad considering you get a lot of play time and plot out of the island alone. This makes me give the plot a 3/5. Great plot line, zero way to connect, and little impact on the world around you.
Replayability and Cost
Cost: $60 USD plus the DLC
Replayability: Very high. There is so much to do, and they continue to add more. This makes you want to keep coming back to the game time and time again.