ARK - a triumph of ambition in modern gaming
ARK: Survival evolved is a perfect example of a daring and ambitious title that, until now, only existed in outlandish daydreams that I remember having as a naive child.
Waking up in ARK is a jarring experience. The game dumps you on the beaches of a massive, foreboding island with just enough clothing to stay modest and your own two fists. From there, the challenge is to stay fed and hydrated while avoiding a menagerie of terryfying dinosaurs and other beasts long enough to advance up the painfully slow slog that is the tech tree. Early in the life of a character, the odds are so firmly stacked against you that the most you can possibly hope for is that a triceratops doesn't come and knock your flimsy thatch hut over in the middle of the night.
Once you hit a certain point, the flow of technological progression begins to feel far more like actual advancement than just a semi-arbitrary increase in stats. Within thirty hours, you might find yourself perched atop a stone castle, picking off dinosaurs with a rifle. Once you reach the endgame, it's possible to reside in a massive steel fortress, resplendant with blast furnaces, electric lighting and gas generators. Rocket launchers and Scuba gear await you at the endgame, taunting lower-level scrubs with their unatainability.
The excitement of reaching this hallowed stage of the game is, unfortunately, greatly dulled by the extreme grind you have to suffer to actually get there. Stocking up on ammunition for certain weapons can take an entire day of playtime, causing things to really drag when you're just getting access to some of the most interesting tech - especially if you don't have a large tribe of other players to aid you in dividing the labour. ARK is one of those games that can be played solo but, without other players by your side it really becomes an unbearable slog. On public PvP servers, other players are both your greatest opportunity and greatest danger. As I learned the hard way more than once, making sure your shelters are hidden from potential looters is far more important than making sure they are strong, and I often returned from less than 12 hours offline to find my barricades wrecked and hours worth of resource harvesting hauled off. Things get much better if you can work your way into a strong tribe of players that can protect your stuff 24/7.
Although marred by lingering technical issues and a gargantuan marathon to reach the endgame, ARK represents a triumph of ambition in modern gaming. All we need now is for a top developer to buy into the survival genre and make a game that actually feels clean and finished.
ARK: Survival evolved