Ark is an early-access survival, crafting game (I know there are millions which fit that description) but the main kicker and reason for playing this one is that it was one of the first games to fully utilise UE4 and also DINOSAURS.
The game starts off with a character of your choosing waking up alone, on a deserted beach. The character you choose can be either male or female, but then you are able to horrifically skew the proportions of your character, creating mutated monstrosities, which will haunt you for the rest of your save. From this point, the game is driven purely by your skill, determination, and most importantly patience.
You will need to start by punching trees in a very Minecraft-esque fashion, with the realistic element of pain added to the mix. You will need to collect stones and make a pickaxe (the only blueprint you begin the game with, along with a torch), then you must continue until you level up and are able to unlock the hatchet.
From here on, resource management becomes an ever-changing game of cat and mouse. The hatchet will favour certain resources while the pickaxe will favour the other. For example, trees provide both thatch and wood, with the pickaxe favouring the former and the hatchet favouring the latter.
You will notice as you run around that there are hundreds of small 1×1 huts made by players. These used to be littered around the maps, which in turn can cause lag. This is no longer a problem thanks to a recent update. This is one example of the developer listening to the community, where the community suggested a timer on buildings, which starts after a period where the player who owns it has not returned to the Ark.
As you slowly wander through the wilderness, you will come across different climates, even if you were to stay in the same area. This adds another factor you need to maintain, as each climate, hot/cold and their respective extremes, affects the player in terms of speed of deterioration of the player stats, hunger and thirst.
As you can already tell there is a lot of micro-managing of stats involved in this game; hunger, thirst, stamina being the main three, then with resource managing, starting the game can be a tedious endeavour; the resource drop rate is very low, getting around 8-10 resource per tree and with a limited amount of trees available. The drop rates do improve with the taming of dinosaurs, though the act of taming a dinosaur can be just as tedious, if not more so, than the initial start.
(Please note, they have slightly altered the taming mechanics, so there is an alternate method, as of yet untried by myself) In order to tame a dinosaur, you need to first knock it out. This is done in one of three ways: you can punch the dinosaur, fire rocks from your slingshot, or use tranquilising arrows/darts on them. Each of them has their pros/cons, which I won’t go into here. After knocking the target unconscious, you then need to keep it that way with narcoberries for herbivores, or narcotics for carnivores. You can collect 3 berries from a bush on a lucky go, but then can go 15 bushes without a single one. You will need to collect a HELL of a lot of berries. A triceratops at level 6 needed around 300 narcoberries to start and then some more as well.
You then need to feed it with their preferred berries for herbivores, and meat for carnivores. This will fill up their taming bar, and once filled, you have your own dino to help you! However, you need to wait for the dino to eat the meat/berries of their own accord and so this takes a looooong time. A level 6 trike required around 2 hours of non-stop attention to tame.
Running round at the beginning of the game, when first released was a pleasure, the feeling of witnessing for the first time each dino was fantastic, and since then the sheer amount of dinosaurs you see has increased dramatically showing just how populated the map is. I have recently restarted a game, and you will see that the variety of dinosaurs as many. However, it appears that the difficulty has also been ramped up to the extreme. Being a fresh start, Sikamikanico and myself begun at a measly level 1, and encountered (and were slaughtered by) dinosaurs of level 80 and upwards.
Performance is this games biggest weakness. It is poorly optimised and most pcs will struggle to play this game at 30fps, let alone 60fps. Even with a GTX 970 SLI setup (there isn’t currently an SLI profile for the game) my PC is barely hitting the 30fps mark on Ultra, and getting around 35-40 on high. If you are able to see the game in its full beauty then it is a beautiful game to play though.
The developers are constantly updating, changing and tweaking the game, communicating with the community and getting ideas, and implementing them into the game, and this deserves commendation. As developers, I cannot fault them. They are constantly looking to improve the game, and will always listen to ideas.
The lore of the game is kept very secret as of now. The developers have already teased that there is lore and hopefully it will answer all the questions we have currently. Questions like, where are we? What is this on our arm? Etc…
So as of now, I would say that this game is worth a punt at £25, if you have a beefy PC capable of running it. I would recommend at least 780s or above, to even think about playing the game, at a decent quality, although you are able to lower the settings quite drastically. As an early access game, it is probably one of, if not the best that I have backed, and risked paying for. It is always going to have bugs, be unbalanced, and if they can tweak the settings of the servers just right, then this will be a bigger hit than it already is.
See Sikamikanico’s and MeesterMeerkat’s LP below: