ARK: Survival Evolved PS4 Review - A Flawed But Fun Prehistoric Playground

6
  • Linux
  • OS X
  • Playstation 4
  • Windows
  • Xbox One
  • Action-Adventure
  • Survival
2017-08-29
P1 Ark Review
ARK: Survival Evolved lets you live out your prehistoric fantasies, buts its steep learning curve and technical glitches hold it back. ARK: Survival Evolved is available now on PC, Xbox One, PS4, OS X and Linux. STUDIO WILDCARD/Player.One

ARK: Survival Evolved began its early access journey two years ago, and it’s now available for the wider public to try. Is it worth the $60 investment? After spending roughly 60 hours with the game’s various modes, I’m still not entirely sure.

Right from the get go the very fiber of ARK feels especially intimidating on console. Navigating the clunky and dated server list  makes it abundantly clear this game has been totally tailored to the PC player. While I genuinely appreciate the vast amount of modes available, including PvE, PvP and lobbies with no tamed Dinos or high-end gear, it’s extremely off-putting to see that little to no care was taken to make the interface more suited to the platform.

Once you actually enter a lobby the UI bombardment continues. Again, the wealth of options in character creation and inventory management is appreciated, but there simply has to be a better way to make these options display comfortably on console. Whether you’re playing on PS4 or Xbox One, be forewarned that there’s a massive navigation learning curve to overcome.

As this is a survival game, ARK’s gameplay introduction relies on a sense of tough love too. While there are text tutorials available at the main menu, they don’t really prepare you for anything you’re about to experience. Playing ARK for the first time is like learning to swim by being tossed in the ocean. While that’s how the game’s development team at Studio Wildcard probably wants it, new players shouldn’t expect the wilderness to treat them kindly. Instead of relying on the game to teach you, your best bet is to scour YouTube or read guides like the ones we’ve made. You’re going to need them.

ARK Dinos
Living out your Dino dreams is the best part of ARK. Photo: Studio Wildcard

Once you’ve done your homework, the very first thing you’ll learn about ARK is that the early goings are all about the grind. You’ll spend literal hours punching trees, collecting rocks and leveling up your character to get clothes, weapons and other safety gear using Engram Points. It’s not going to be fun, but, like most games in this genre, the hope is that the end reward is substantial enough to make those struggles worth it.

Thankfully, for the most part, ARK delivers. Once you’ve crafted a few basic weapons and have made a decent shelter out of stone, there truly is nothing more thrilling than using your allotted resources to tame a massive, beautiful Triceratops. If you’re lucky enough to keep going, that initial tame can quickly snowball into Raptors, some horse-like creatures and even a giant squid. If you can get a good crew of Dinos working for you, ARK transforms from labor into magic. Its goal is to fulfill your prehistoric fantasies, and it knows how to hit every single high note. The high-end gear even allows you to fly like Iron Man, and it’s all enveloped in a story that’s more intriguing than it probably has any right to be.

ARK TekJet
The Tek Tier is totally worth the time investment if you can make it there. Photo: Studio Wildcard

Of course, unless you’re playing single-player, those moments of grandeur may be short lived. While I did encounter some helpful multiplayer survivors during my review period, there were just as many griefers being legitimately nasty to new players. It also wasn’t the most thrilling experience to spend days building up your perfect base only to have it destroyed by a tribe that had no reason to take what little you had. Hardcore players will likely say these unfortunate events come with the territory, but that doesn’t make them any less maddening.

In that same vein, ARK still very much feels like an early access game in terms of its performance. While generally decent to look at, the player models, Dinos and maps are all very glitchy. It’s also worth noting that we delayed this review because the PS4’s post-launch servers took several days to fully come online. Don’t be surprised if you fall through the environment, watch your Dinos get trapped in tight spaces or have connectivity issues.

ARK player models
These survivor models showcase the game’s visual prowess, but there are too many glitches to count. Photo: Studio Wildcard

ARK: Survival Evolved is a mixed-bag experience that only truly caters to those well aware of, or heavily interested in, the survival genre. It’s not a game for the average dinosaur fan. If you’re willing to put up with its early-game grind, however, the payoff can be pretty awesome. If Wildcard continues to expand the experience and tighten up the consoles’ messy UI and performance it could be a real winner. For now it’s out of early access, but it sure doesn’t feel like it.

ARK: Survival Evolved is available now on PC, Xbox One, PS4, OS X and Linux. Be sure to read our beginner’s guide and Dino taming guides if you need some help.

What do you think of ARK now that it’s out of early access? Would you play this game on console? Tell us in the comments section!

REVIEW SUMMARY
ARK: Survival Evolved
6
ARK: Survival Evolved PS4 Review - A Flawed But Fun Prehistoric Playground
ARK: Survival Evolved is a mixed-bag experience that only truly caters to those well aware of, or heavily interested in, the survival genre.
  • Lots of Dinos to encounter and tame
  • A thriving online community
  • A game that truly rewards time and dedication
  • Server stability issues
  • The grinding gets tedious
  • Terrible console UI
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