Ark: Survival Evolved | A Christian Review
You wake up on a deserted beach. After briefly analysing your body, that looks like it’s made out of clay moulded by a small child with a blunt spoon, you rush for the nearest tree, punching everything in your path to gather enough just enough material to create a pickaxe. Many dodos will die by your hands, as you slaughter generations to satiate your enormous primal appetite, that can only be attributed to intestinal worms. With only 12 hours of tutorials from eight-year-olds with shitty mics on YouTube, without whose help, you never could have navigated the un-intuitive crafting system; you almost feel like you’re having a good time.
Your grandiose dreams for making it through the night are rudely interrupted however, when out of the blue, a pack of wild Dilophosaurus emerge, spitting acid in your face. You try to make your escape, your vision obscured by the thick green saliva; when a lurking Spinosaurus cuts off your retreat. You dodge his attack, which connects to the pursing Dilophosaurus, and the beasts fight amongst themselves. Escaping what would have meant certain death, you seek refuge in the nearby forest, only to die of thirst two seconds later.
ARK: Survival Evolved is as unforgiving as the Old Testament God who wiped out the dinosaurs 6,000 years ago. Every mistake you make is punished, every wrong step, is a death sentence, every stray arrow, is a dead triceratops you spent an hour taming. RIP Cera. I can certainly see the appeal of a harrowing game that keeps you on edge, but there are only so many times you can lose three days’ worth of gear to a horde of alpha raptors who spawn out of nowhere, before you start to realise that the game play is less challenging than it is needlessly punishing. If I wanted to get consistently griefed by primitive beasts deemed unworthy of procreation by nature; I’d play Fortnite.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t spend a little more time ranting about just how uniquely pathetic the game’s UI is. It’s barely any better looking than a zoomed out Excel spreadsheet, and every bit as tedious to use . There’s a kind of beauty in intricate complexity, but ARK: Survival Evolved’s interface is neither beautiful nor logical. They could have easily simplified the crafting and tech tree systems without compromising on any of the more challenging elements of the game or at least made the fonts and items in the Inventory visible to the human eye so the player isn’t forced to literally put a magnifying glass over their computer screen just to make sure they don’t accidentally waste their time and resources constructing a new spear instead of equipping one they already have; in the middle of battling a sabretooth. The UI is so un-intuitive, that it doesn’t just break any immersion you may have in the game; it renders it impossible. Because even a game with the most pristine graphics (which mind you, ARK doesn’t have to begin with) would be instantly ruined by some giant disgusting text in the most gaudy font looming over an item, NPC, or structure.
The game mechanics are clunky and the engine it uses make it look like it was designed in 2002. The graphics simply cannot justify the 100 GB of storage you’ll need to keep it on your system; not to mention the hefty price tag and DLCs. You may excuse the shoddy graphics by saying the game is still in Beta, but it isn’t; ARK: Survival Evolved was launched in 2015, which means the developers had five years iron out these issues, but chose not to. The close quarter’s combat system is about as refined as taking two plastic toys and smashing them together; but not nearly as emotionally gratifying. In ARK: Survival Evolved’s defence, there’s a lot to explore, but you won’t experience even a fraction of it because the only viable strategy to stay alive, is to build a base along the coast and retreat to the high seas every time you see the silhouette of something remotely threatening. If there’s any semblance of a story to the game, I never came across a single scrap of evidence in my 100 hour play through.
And then there’s the grind. Levelling up your character so you can learn the recipes to unlock high tier gear starts off fairly straight forward, but soon devolves into an uninspired grinding session. You’ll find yourself performing mundane tasks like picking berries to make potions you’ll never use and crafting wooden containers just to fill your XP meter, because they’re a quicker and more reliable source of experience than hunting down friggin prehistoric beasts. If anything; ARK is as much a blueberry picking simulator as it is a survival game with dinosaurs.
The only reason I’ll never give up on ARK: Survival Evolved entirely is because of just how attractive I find the game conceptually. The idea of having an army of extinct reptilians to do one’s bidding, is certainly appealing to the male psyche. The only problem, is literally everything else. While not a bad experience by any stretch of the imagination, it fails to be Minecraft with dinosaurs, and that’s a tragedy. For something with such a brilliant overarching theme, that should have guaranteed it a place as one of the best survival games of the decade; ARK: Survival Evolved fails on too many fronts to make the cut. I would rate it 5.5 on 10. It’s definitely worth a try, but the 100 GB of storage space it hogs up could be used for better things.
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