Ark on console isn’t new, but the game did just officially launch, and other than it’s terrible User Interface, the game plays quite well.
So I know everyone’s experience won’t be the same, especially when it comes to games like Ark. Not to mention the varying differences in platform capabilities, however, I’ll start by saying I’m on a PS4 Pro, my internet is 200 Mbps, and other than the UI Ark on console is just like the PC version if not better because of the bigger screen, stable performance, and comfier sitting arrangements. Ark is not a game for everyone, and according to my Co-Founder, the game plays absolutely horridly (his review will be posted shortly). I have tried to stress test the game to get it to replicate his issues, but even on a server of 70+ people, I had no problems enjoying the game.
Ark: Survival Evolved is your typical survival game with one key difference; Dinosaurs. Just like every other survival game, you start practically naked with nothing but your fists and wits to survive. You begin knowing how to make very basic stuff like clothing and simple tools. As you begin to gather food and basic materials you will level up to learn new “engrams”, or recipes to make new and improved items.
As you begin to move away from the beach you wake up on, you will start to run into more hostile, and much larger dinos. Unlike how I said in my Conan Exiles review, you will notice that not all the mobs in the game are hostile. It’s a bit more realistic, and more satisfying to be able to see different animals up close without fear of them trying to bite your face off. Although you will need to be on your guard, as plenty of hostile creatures do still exist.
The game features 7 tiers of structural buildings, from Thatch all the way up to TEK which is a massive undertaking to build. I’ve always struggled to get to the Metal tier because by then, you need to farm for what seems like days to make anything meaningful with it. It’s not impossible, it just feels like it’s more than it’s worth.
Working as a Team
Perhaps that is because Ark is designed to be played with others. Whether it is actually with or against them, it is a team game through and through. It’s not expected that one or even two people will be a driving force in any given server, unless of course, you plan on playing in single player. Just expect to be working for so long to make anything of note that you will likely give up before you finish.
That is unless you find a server with the progression speed cranked way up. Which you will find plenty of. Some people don’t like taking 100+ hours just to be able to even begin to think about starting the end game tier buildings.
While on the other hand finding a team you can work together with makes the game really fun. You start giving out “roles” where people mutually agree to do something that benefits the Tribe (guild). The reason for this is because the game only gives you so many engram points, which you get at every level. There aren’t enough to buy every engram, so you must pick and choose which route you want to take. Often there will be builders, armorers, and weapon smiths. There are enough to dabble in a bit of each, but not enough to fill the entire board.
When the team really begins to flesh out the base and starts to expand it really feels like you’re a part of something bigger than you are. People start to work towards taming different dinos for each other so you can eventually lay waste to those rival tribes. That is assuming they don’t try and take you down before you manage to build up enough resources to defend yourself.
Speaking of taming dinos. On a faster server they can still take upwards of 4+ hours (9 at normal speeds) for some of the bigger dinos. We’re talking just the amount of time they beast is down and incapacitated. That doesn’t include preparation of any sort. That’s correct. You just basically standing over it making sure it’s fed and still knocked out. You may have to defend it, or go get some more food or whatever, but that is a very long time to sit around waiting to tame a dinosaur. Which in the end does make you rather powerful. So it’s a risk/time vs. reward factor. Is it worth it for you to spend that much time? That’s your call. Personally, I found it too demanding.
The game has a ton of different ideas all thrown into one game, and sometimes that hurts the game. Instead of it being a core game with a set number of features that are well optimized, the game tosses in so much it’s almost hard to follow. Sadly, this turns into features that feel like they’re added in to “Add content”, but then are promptly forgotten.
The lack of any sort of tutorial is clearly intentional, but it can be frustrating. Trying to figure out what materials you need to build certain items, or dying repeatedly trying to figure out which monsters you can tame as they gnaw on your face. The beginning hours are tough on new players as they struggle to figure out the point of it all.
The game offers the expected modes, PvP, PvE, Hardcore, and Single Player. However, it does offer some different ways to play that spice things up a bit. The extinction mode sets the sever to last for only 1 month of play time. The mode has a countdown timer so players know how much longer they have, and ends with a dramatic meteor impact. Primitive mode takes out all the advanced technologies and buildings in the game. Don’t like those pesky guns, elevators, or electricity? Gone.
There are also multiple maps that can be played on. Which have specific engrams that can be used in them due to the available resources being different. They pose different challenges, as well as have different dinosaurs for you to tame and control.
As a single player game, you can expect to enjoy the game without fear of someone stumbling on your base and destroying everything you’ve worked on while you sleep. But you can also expect it to take much longer, unless you tweek the games settings to speed up progression. You can adjust just about everything about the game to your liking. Want to harvest more materials, level up faster, tame quicker, have dinos do no damage, and a myriad of other options? Feel free to adjust the game to your liking. Just keep in mind your save file is the only one you can have. If you want to have another save file on the same map, sorry. You can have a save file for each different map, but you will need to start over every time.
The game can be quite pretty, as you can see by a couple of the screenshots above, but it can also come at a cost. You may experience some lag, usually as you log in, or if you’re in a large server with tons of player build structures. The worst part is the User Interface on consoles. Ark on console is an impressive feat, it runs at different framerates depending on the graphics options you choose, but on my PS4 Pro it rarely ever dropped below the 30fps mark. There is some screen tearing, but it’s minimal, and overall the game it quite stable. I have not tested it on a different platform, so your experience may vary.
Now the UI, it’s pretty dreadful. It does give you an idea of what buttons do what, but only at the top left corner of the screen, and there are no quick transfer options of one stack of items to anywhere else. You can transfer an entire inventory, but not specific items and it gets time consuming and tiresome. It seems like the game is built on being time-consuming and tedious to the max. You will often find yourself clicking on items you didn’t mean to, dropping items you need, or swapping to screens you don’t want to be in. It’s sluggish, and not user-friendly.
The sad part is it has gotten an update since it first launched on consoles, and it’s still a mess. While I would say this is arguably one of the hardest features to get right in a game, even when it’s not a survival game that will have you in menus more than most others, it still could use some work.
As the title says, the game transfers over to console in a very complete, and mostly satifactory package… so long as you’re on a PS4 Pro. The framerate is mostly stable, the graphics can be quite pretty, the game has loads of stuff to keep you busy, and the community is active. Sure, the UI needs some work, and the game as a whole is a massive grind fest with next to zero direction. But that’s the intent, survive the harsh world full of monsters trying to get an extra meal in for the day. The PvP is full of relentless players out to destroy your work, but if you can find a like minded community its fun factor increases tenfold.
Ark: Survival Evolves isn’t perfect, but it’s a fun game, and has made a pretty good transition to consoles, and it’s worth looking into.
Want a second opinion? Head over to Russ’ Review and see what he had to say.