ARK: Survival Evolved has been somewhat of a cult hit since it originally released on Steam Greenlight, but due to an overflowing backlog and a busy review schedule, I never had the chance to take this “acclaimed” dino adventure for a spin. While I can see how Ark has become such a niche phenomenon on the PC, the console release is far from complete, much less playable. You see, developer Studio Wildcard insists that the game is still in development, and that as a reviewer, I should hold off on the final score until version 1.0 is released on all platforms in Spring 2017—and yet, they’re ok with selling the game AT FULL PRICE despite it being utterly broken on both console platforms.
Okay then...fine, I don’t need to assign a score, but this doesn’t mean I can’t express my honest opinion. So, here we go: ARK: Survival Evolved is one of the worst titles I’ve had the displeasure of playing in years. It’s a hideous, broken, unplayable concoction of trite ideas that serves as the perfect example of everything that’s currently wrong with Early Access bullshit (as if the lawsuit wasn’t indicative enough of the studio’s fishy practices). At a time when so many other developers offer free trials of their titles during alpha/beta stages, Studio Wildcard doesn’t seem concerned that they’re overcharging for something that barely classifies as a competent product.
"ARK: Survival Evolved is one of the worst titles I’ve had the displeasure of playing in years. It’s a hideous, broken, unplayable concoction of trite ideas that serves as the perfect example of everything that’s currently wrong with Early Access."
However, the madness goes beyond iffy ethics...ARK: Survival Evolved is an awful game, period. I can't comprehend why this disaster has captivated so many gamers, and I’ve been desperately trying to find out for the past two weeks. Again, I have no idea whether the PC experience differs drastically from the Playstation 4 release, but my 20+ hours on console have been nothing but painful.
I’m already sensing the sharpening of pitchforks in the comments section, but honestly, I went into this title with an open mind and plenty of enthusiasm. In fact, ARK: Survival Evolved seems to be right up my alley on paper, but sadly, not so much in practice. Studio Wildcard can’t even seem to get basic elements like menus and UI design right. Dealing with ARK’s menus and poor navigation is like tying shoelaces with toes while blindfolded. What were they thinking when they slapped this atrocious user interface together?
"Again, I have no idea whether the PC experience differs drastically from the Playstation 4 release, but my 20+ hours on console have been nothing but painful."
After trudging through what seems like the worst character creator in the history of gaming, my avatar woke up in utter blackness with only a few rays of light piercing through the clouds. I’m guessing the starting points are randomized, but couldn’t they have at least blocked spawning at night time for first-time players? When I say night time, I’m not talking about the typical night time scenery seen in most sandbox games, I’m talking about utter blackness with no value separation or details. Lazy doesn’t even begin to describe ARK’s immediate impression.
After taking a few steps, ARK’s framerate plummeted to single digits, and I was enveloped by invisible dino attacks from several angles. My avatar died within ten seconds, and thankfully, I was now resurrected during daytime. It was then that ARK’s ugliness revealed itself in all of its broken glory. I’ve been gaming for over thirty years now, and this is the first time a game has made me genuinely nauseous. The motion-blur implementation can only be described as having Vaseline smeared across your eyeballs. There’s an option to turn the motion-blur off, but the consequent judder makes the entire game look like a stop-motion animation, and not in a good way.
"The motion-blur implementation can only be described as having Vaseline smeared across your eyeballs. There’s an option to turn the motion-blur off, but the consequent judder makes the entire game look like a stop-motion animation, and not in a good way."
It also doesn’t help that the core concept is really no different from any of the countless, derivative “survival” games found on Steam Greenlight...BUT WAIT….it has dinos—and that’s pretty much where the uniqueness begins and ends. Ultimately, ARK: Survival Evolved feels like a slightly more involved No Man’s Sky, and I don’t mean that as a compliment.
The gathering/building/survival approach can be mildly fun if you’re lucky enough to avoid the constant bugs that interfere with the gameplay, but honestly, I turned the game off after twenty hours and plan to never come back. Gathering structural components for my first base was relatively enjoyable until the structure was finalized. At that point, I had tamed a few dinosaurs and constructed a pretty solid defense. The problem is that ARK offers no motivation to keep on playing. The world isn’t interesting enough to explore, and even though there are over sixty (I think?) breeds of dinos with individual abilities, the actual gameplay execution is what makes the whole experience incomparably boring. Studio Wildcard has desperately tried to appeal to mass audiences by including things like boss fights and an end goal, but ultimately, only hardcore survival game fans are going to enjoy this—and no one else.
"I didn't anticipate a masterpiece by any means, but I didn't think I had to suffer through another No Man’s Sky-style travesty."
Overall Progress Impression: I’ve got to be honest here, but ARK: Survival Evolved is nothing what I expected. I didn't anticipate a masterpiece by any means, but I didn't think I had to suffer through another No Man’s Sky-style travesty. It doesn’t matter that the game isn’t complete, because there is nothing at its core that deserves your attention. I have extremely high tolerance for bad games, and I personally tend to enjoy a lot of the lesser-known titles out there, but ARK: Survival Evolved has hit a new low for me. If I really had to assign a score right now, it would probably be a 3/10, and I can’t imagine that score getting any better regardless of how much the performance improves over time. As it stands, ARK: Survival Evolved is one of the worst games of the year for me.
Still not convinced? Then maybe this will change your mind. I honestly can't, in good consciousness, condone such vile and unethical behavior.