Ark provides an absolutely insane level of fun. I was excited for The Stomping Land which had even gone to the trouble of hiring the awesome artist Rodrego Vega for concept art before pulling the plug on the thing after they had nabbed a thick wad of cash.
Ark is nothing like that. Although still in Beta, I'm amazed at how much I can do. Before I got my souped up computer I couldn't even boot it up and feared that it was a crudely cobbled together monstrosity that couldn't even start without dying. Thankfully this is not the case. It requires some intense hardware, but it's worth it!
Let's start with the animals. It's not just dinosaurs alone. There is a huge selection of animals from different time periods. Everything from trilobites in the Permeian Era to Gigantopithecus long after the dinos bought the farm, you've got around 35 different animals to start off interacting with, including some of our classics like the ever present T-Rex which is legally required in anything dinosaur themed. But thank Odin, we have some far lesser known cast members in the line up! One that really surprised me was Sacrosuchus, the Super Croc. A big dino eater from Northern Africa back in the way back when, this sucker is a super predator prowling around by the water and is a real wake up call.
There is Spinosaurus, but to my intense delight it's actually scientifically accurate! Not a biped, it's actually a water-dwelling quadraped that owns the shallow rivers and water ways and is a spectacular sight to behold: Slicing through the fresh water as it prowls around in search of prey, which includes anything smaller than itself, which is almost everything.
Then again, the Dilophosaurs have frilled necks and spit venom, which will undoubtedly drive the paleo-nuts into fits of rage, but you can't have everything, eh? I'll take what I can get!
I had to laugh at Titanoboa though. Although history's largest snake, this one isn't a constrictor but also has a frill around the neck and has venom! I think this is actually because animating a snake coiling and constricting other animals or players would be a headache that would kill half of the programming staff, so I'll give them a pass on that one.
And they have WAY more animals coming! Including one of my favorite animals, Kaprosuchus! Oh heck yeah! Can't wait for that one!
Everything has it's own behavior and predictability, making them feel more alive. And the skins aren't all the same. There are a lot of different color patterns that really set the animals apart. And the textures! Good grief! I'm not one for graphics, but this game is gorgeous and the scales on these beasties are unreal. They look amazing. I can spend a ton of time just looking them over as if they were real creatures. It's fantastic.
Of course, you can tame and ride them, which is all sorts of fun! The taming is a hassle, requiring you to first knock them unconscious with either blunt force trauma or slipping something in their drink, usually on the end of an arrow and keep feeding them drugs to keep them in a stupor until they somehow trust you.
... Man, when I type all that out, it sounds pretty terrifying. You're getting these poor animals to like you through Stockholm Syndrome! Using drugs and forced feeding until they do your bidding? I think I'll stick with the cheats to make them trust you instantly.
The crafting is darned fun too. It requires a lot of resource gathering, but it's fairly fast if you're even half decent. Unlike most games where you have a leveling system, this game doesn't ask you to perform 500 quests or build 10,000 ice cream cones before it will grant you the privilege of leveling up. Here you get XP for doing just about anything, including not dying! As long as you're doing something, anything, you're slowly gaining experience. It's nice, because it doesn't make you choose between having fun and leveling up.
So many games handcuff you to the escalator of level grinding by making it so that you have to perform certain tasks to get XP. That makes it feel more like a job than a game. This solves that problem nicely in that you're doing whatever the heck you want and you level up anyway. Hooray!
Anyway, back to the crafting itself, I'm actually very impressed by how versatile it is. Many games only let you operate within a pretty narrow field of building. Often it's just a building already that you can only place in a certain location and can't modify. This lets you build from the ground up, allowing you to tailor your structure to your preferences with everything from lockable doors, windows, ladders, ramps, pillars and other goodies. You can make anything from a single room hut to a multi-story mansion to bridges to towers or even an obstacle course if you have the time and ingenuity.
I was even able to make a few shooting platforms where I was able to hunt from with relative safety. Those were fun! But it's not just stuff like wood and thatch you can build from. When you get the resources and levels, you can make far more advanced stuff like fabricators, metal strutwork, electric lights, generators, radios, GPS, and even automated turrets! This game is like a sped up version of human history, going from the stone age to industrial age.
The environment itself is breathtaking. The plants, rocks, landscape, everything feels alive. I've kept mostly to the coast and thinner forests where you can see the critters coming at you, but I have delved to some level into the thick forests. In there it feels like the world is closing in around you, cutting out the sunlight and swallowing you in shadow. Now that is when you feel like you've stepped into another world, and you react accordingly. Playing there I've felt my tendons tighten like piano wires with tension, looking around for signs of danger.
And gosh, the sound! I thank whatever deity that answers to game makers for the sound in this game. Every animal makes unique and realistic sounds. The burbling rumble of a trike, the tittering of the reptiles, the shriek and roar of the predators, the bass rumbling of the crocs, everything. Crap, it just swallows you up!
So do I like this game? Let's pencil in a yes. Like I said, it's like this game was made just for me. It hits all the right notes. I can't wait for the next update when we get more dinos. I just hope we get a little bit more weapon variety. Not that I hate what is already present. I really like the longneck rifle, which is a single shot lever action falling block rifle, not terribly unlike a Sharps 1874 or Winchester 1885 but with a full lever instead of a tiny one. I'd like to see some other weapons between the very old cobbled together guns and the more advanced automatic weapons.
Heck, some modders have done a few things already. I'm just hoping for a lever action repeater! My love for those things borders on being a fetish. I could also do with a big double rifle or harpoon gun. That'd be all sorts of fun! :D
Anyway, I recommend taking a good hard look. It's worth your time if you can play it! I'll upload screenshots later to convey some of my disastrous forays into this strange and savage world.
Update! As promised, here are some screenshots!
|Riding a carnotaurus and enjoying the view of the red river.|
|Delving into the humid swamps upon the back of my sarcosuchus!|
|No dinosaur is a match for a good rifle and steady aim!|
|Me stalking the rare nose-bearing boulder.|