Damn, it’s cold as fuck. Those must’ve been the first thoughts my character had as he was spawned into existence on The Island. Snow trickles down from above as I stand on a polar ice cap. A large beam shoots out into the night sky. As I look around this game the only thing on my mind is how beautiful ARK: Survival Evolved is. It’s easily the best looking game to come out of the survival genre. I’m getting the feeling I could get into this game. There’s a sense of mystery, I really want to know what’s going on with the chip like artifact that’s attached to my player characters wrist. The night sky is dark making the waters look like a deep midnight. I can spy faint glimmering lights under the surface. I near the edge of the ice cap, stare into the water, and plunge deep into the murky abyss. I immediately regret my decision for, well, several reasons: 1) my characters agonizing moans and groans as the icy water nearly freezes me to death and 2) the glowing object at the bottom of the waters happen to be fucking JELLYFISH! Ow ow ow god damn this fucking bullshit.
The good thing is that I was able to escape that horrifying event. Not without a few scrapes, cuts, bumps and bruises, but alive nonetheless. I scrambled back onto the nearest ice cap to allow myself to rest and catch my breath. A spot around my surrounding area and see ‘it’. It refers to a large wooden structure that would possibly have some mighty fine loot. I make this my next objective. I once again plunge into the waters towards the destination. It was a short swim but overall I was just happy to be near something lootable. Once I had planted my feet on the platform you’d think everything would’ve been hunky dory, right? 100% fucking wrong! From the dark, cool waters emerges a hellspawn. A Dire Wolf three times my size, with the ability to remain underwater for obscene periods like some god damned wolf version of Solid Snake. No matter, this wolf is no match for my hand-to-hand combat proficiency.
I swing the first punch…
It seems ineffective.
No matter, my second swing will contain five times the fury… Oh I’m dead. Well, would you look at that. That sucks.
Needless to say, my first impressions of ARK: Survival Evolved were not exactly the best. In fact, I would say it was a pretty awful first impression. Now, just to give a bit of context. ARK is a game that, when it was first introduced to me, I believed had a really spectacular concept and I still believe that. It’s much more interesting than the slew of zombie survival games that pour onto the marketplace every week. I’ve tried them all. I dislike them all. I thought ARK could change this. Or maybe I wanted for ARK to change this.
The idea behind all of these "survival" type games are really quite cool. Scavenging for every last morsel of supplies in order to survive is a really awesome idea, it just seems like no game has been able to capitalize on this in a way that appeals to me. ARK is the “close but no cigar” of survival video games for me. It has all of the necessary components but fails to have that…pizzazz. I don’t know how else to describe it, there’s just something about it that feels slightly clunky. I’m sure that this game would be excellent with friends but as a single player experience it falls flat and seems boring.
Even the most exciting aspect of this game, the dinosaurs, seems so…dull. There’s nothing exciting to it and, more than anything, they just feel like an obstacle. It really is a shame as the dinosaur element could have been a home run, I really didn’t enjoy having them around. The interactions I had with them over the first 5 hours were fairly limited and only seemed to serve to annihilate me. It’s incredibly novel the first time a giant dinosaur walks across your screen, it nigh on magical and gives a big tip of the hat to Jurassic Park, but sadly it ends there. After the fourth or fifth time it’s little more than part of the background as you scavenge for actual supplies. The one thing I’m unable to comment on with any major certainty is the PVP elements. During my five hours I saw a few other people walking around the map but there was absolutely no interaction between one another. The best way to describe the interaction is like being in a gym shower, there’s some nudity, followed by awkward staring into each other’s eyes as your manhood swings lazily, a battle of low grunts and squeals ensues, feces is thrown, and then you depart, moving onto bigger and better things. The lack of player vs player conflict was a little upsetting as I wanted to witness the struggle of spear vs spear action as a velociraptor tries to eat our insides.
I played a few additional hours beyond the first 5 but sadly ARK didn't sell me. There’s a lot of potential here no doubt. I feel that once it’s fully feature complete and out of early access it’ll be worth it but in its current state I just can’t put a rubber stamp of approval on ARK: Survival Evolved, unless you're a manic dinosaur fan or you have a group of friends who are willing to join up and play with you.