Ark, from Studio Wildcard, is a first-person survival game, where players must survive in a punishing world filled with dinosaurs and other types of massive creatures, some even mythological. It takes the idea of surviving out in the wilderness, and adds dinosaurs to the equation. Not only that but dinosaurs can be tamed and ridden by players.
The concept of a survival game with dinosaurs was enough to pique my interest, and the addition of dino taming is unique, and adds a different layer to the game you don’t see in many survival type games.
Even with the ability to tame dinosaurs, Ark’s world is a very dangerous place, and much of the early game will be spent trying to scavenge for any supplies you can, while also avoiding the mean dinosaurs who want nothing more than to kill and eat you.
This makes exploring through Arks massive maps exhilarating, and while there are only a few maps, one of them locked behind a paid expansion, each one is quite large and features plenty of space to explore. Arks release also adds some story to the game, after you find some caves with boss creatures, and then take certain body parts from them to another cave which leads you to the last zone.
The story is overall pretty predictable, and doesn’t really add much other than a proverbial carrot on a stick to keep players going. After taking down the final boss players can then ascend, which increases the level cap, adds new higher powered blueprints to collect, and makes the creatures in the game harder.
From an atmospheric perspective, Ark absolutely nails it. The world feels constantly threatening, and even as I leveled up and crafted better gear I never once felt like I was completely safe. The graphics are also fantastic, and the dinosaurs in particular have a large amount of detail and work put into them. This helps make the world feel living and real, except when dinosaurs are clipping through things or getting stuck in objects
With that difficulty comes an issue however, the amount of time and supplies it takes to craft, especially higher level gear. In multiplayer games this is alleviated some by having the ability to make tribes to help you out, but in single player, how I usually prefer to play, it is particularly cumbersome.
Higher tier supplies are often difficult to find or collect, and very time consuming as well. This adds a lot of tension to the game because of the fear of losing it all, but at the same time adds frustration when you do lose it.
This is alleviated some by the fact you can loot your body for your gear back, and by the fact that as you reach higher levels, there are higher quality loot crate type drops that give you better gear. Thankfully the game offers the capability to tweak the game quite extensively, so anyone can make the game easier or even harder as they desire.
Another point I should mention is the mod support on PC, it is a very welcome addition. From a game conversion that makes the game more primitive, to steampunk style creations and large working galleons, the game has many mods that add a lot to the game. To me this makes the PC version the most appealing, as long as you have a rig that can handle it, at least until they add console mods, if they do.
Despite being quite time-consuming in the later game, I enjoyed my time in Ark a lot. As far as survival games go, it does a lot of things right. The world feels constantly threatening, and I always found new things to explore, or creatures to find. With its leveling system, I always felt like I had something to work for. The building aspect is easy to use, and provides a pretty good amount of possibilities, and the addition of dinosaur taming adds a cool new layer to the game. Plus with strong developer support the game is going to be constantly updated, making Ark a game to come back to frequently.
Although the game still has its fair of bugs and other issues, including optimization troubles, I find it an easy game to recommend for fans of survival style games. As it stands Ark is probably one the best survival style games out there that I’ve played, despite its issues. 8/10
*This review is based on the PC version of the game, it is also available on Xbox One and PS4*