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Xbox One Game Review

Ark: Survival Evolved


Format: Xbox One
Publisher: Studio Wildcard
Developer: Studio Wildcard
Age Restrictions: 16+
Release Date: 29 August 2017

Stranded on the shores of a mysterious island, you must learn to survive. Use your cunning to kill or tame the primeval creatures roaming the land, and encounter other players to survive, dominate... and escape...

Ark: Survival Evolved is an action-adventure survival game that throws you in at the deep end. You awake on a beach naked (apart from some flimsy garments covering your modesty). That's it. As far as game's that hand hold you through the action, Ark must be praised for not doing this... but a little help would have been useful. As it is you'll spend the best part of an hour trying to get used to the controls and then working out what the hell you're supposed to do.

Review imageI have a full time job, I have a girlfriend, family and a social life (of sorts) so maybe I'm not the sort of gamer that Ark: Survival Evolved is aimed at.

When I started playing I couldn't believe a game could be so full of glitches and so frustratingly awful. I wanted to like this game and I was impressed with the variety of dinosaurs you're greeted with very early on... but there are way too many negative points that just dragged the whole experience down. Having said that, those that persevere will quickly be rewarded, but I strongly suggest that to get yourself through the opening segments you download one of the free apps that provide a handy reference to the game's mechanics.

The first thing you notice, once you load the game up, is that the main menu is a little confusing. There's no real help on what on earth you're supposed to do. But that soon melts away when you get into the game and realise that... er... you've no idea what on earth you have to do. So, a good few minutes are spent pushing every button to see what they do (some have different functions depending on whether you quickly press or hold the button). Then you can start exploring your new world.

There's a rather weak text based help segment on the main menu, but it doesn't really offer a great deal of help other than the absolute basics.

I spent the best part of an afternoon watching YouTube videos... where even the fans of the game had a hard time trying to make the early stages look interesting. At its heart it's a simple game that's been stretched to breaking point by having you endlessly collect items and craft them into something else.

Review imageChopping trees, picking up rocks, crafting weapons and clothing... it gets old real quick... unless you're a huge fan boy of this genre. I have to admit I was expecting a little more dinosaur action. But stick with it... you'll soon have your own army of beasties to command.

The text on the menus is so small that even on a 40" screen I pretty much had to press my nose to the glass in order to read it. The menus are not intuitive. I kept getting a huge message on the screen telling me I could level up by going to the menu. When I went to the menu there was no way of telling how on earth I could level up. Everything appeared to be at 100 percent, but what you have to do is upgrade one of these sections (health, stamina etc) which then takes you through to another menu that allows you to unlock a variety of crafting skills.

It's like the developers released this half finished, realised it was a mess and thought that if they stripped out any tutorial then gamers would invested a good week simply working out how to play it... before they realised it was really boring.

Now for the inexcusable bugs. At one instance my character was stuck. This was actually because I was carry too much inventory but it would have been helpful if a notification was flashed up on the screen. Eventually I got him to move, but in extremely slow motion. Again, this was because of how much inventory he was carrying, but the fact that the online lag had on occasion produced the same lack of movement meant it took me a while to realise what was going on. Because I didn't realise what the issue was, I thought it was a lobby problem, so I quit out of the game and tried another lobby. Here I was asked to redesign my character and start from scratch. I had saved my character the first time, but there was no selection available in the "load character" field. As I said before, there's no real help to get you started (apart from the incredibly brief text based tutorial).

Review imageThe next issue I had was the start of the very next day. I'd had enough and decided to start a fresh. I logged into the Xbox full of renewed hope that this was going to be a pleasurable experience. I started in a new lobby with a new character.... and the second I spawned someone was there to great me with an axe to the face. I immediately died. Respawning somewhere else on the island it immediately turned from daylight to night time... I couldn't see a thing and had no resources... so I quit the game once again.

The next time I played I opted to play in single player mode, so no online gamers could kill me, destroy my buildings, steal from me etc. And so far that's helping a great deal. While it means I'm not interacting with other gamers it does mean I can get further into the levels without being mugged, killed or my house destroyed... Or so I thought. Randomly dinosaurs would hunt me down, just as I had managed to get a little progress. When I died it took an age to find my body so I could take back all of my inventory. So you'll need to quickly set up base and store inventory away from harms way.

If you're the sort of gamer who is really really anal about their Minecraft world building, then you'll get months of mindless fun out of this. Everyone else will probably get bored before they've crafted themselves a sleeping bag.

Review imageThe press release promises: "Fly a Pteranodon squadron over the snow-capped mountains, race through the deep jungle with your pack of trained Raptors, tromp through a fortified enemy base along a convoy of gigantic Brontosaurus, or chase down prey on the back of a raging T-Rex". While that all sounds exciting and I wanted to experience all of these, I just don't have the time to put in hundreds of hours that are no doubt needed (plus I'm on a deadline to get this review published). There's additional DLC available for those that fancy a different map with different beasties. But that doesn't come cheap - there are two additional DLCs planned for the rest of the year too.

Despite the bugs and my many issues with the game, I have to admit that it is addictive and incredibly entertaining and if you can spare the hours you will have months and months of entertainment awaiting you. As you progress through the levels and develop better weapons and tame dinosaurs there's a lot of satisfaction to be had from your world building. Also worthy of note is Gareth Coker incredible original score.


Darren Rea

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