ARK: Survival Evolved is a strange game that appeared out of nowhere to initially hit the Xbox One Game Preview program, becoming one of the first to mix survival management, punching dinosaurs, riding them, hunting down strange monoliths and coping with endless pooping, into one whole delicious package. It’s a game which you can play alone or compete with others on an island to become the true master of all that you can see.
Now I’m not going to review this game again – we’ve been there and done that, covering everything in a much better way than I ever could. But what I am going to do is take a look at the update that the good Xbox One X owners can enjoy, combining it with a quick look at the two pieces of DLC that have recently arrived. So buckle up on your favourite dinosaur and let’s go back… to the island.
On paper, ARK promises quite a lot. The new graphical options raise the resolution, which enables a bigger draw distance, high-end graphics, shadows and lighting with amazing textures and atmospheric effects. There is also an HDR mode that enhances the lighting and makes everything look like you really are trapped on a monster island. The split screen now gets rid of the distance limit that forced players to stay near each other and the servers support up to 70 players rather than 50. But can you really spot the difference?
Yes, you can. And you may as well double that yes with some extra yes sprinkled on top.
It’s very clear from firing up the game that the menus and loading times are much quicker than before. After that though, one of the first things I saw as I was falling through the air, were the details in those ripped muscular arms, with every sinew shining out at you.
And then, when you arrive at the island, it really does take your breath away.
Beautifully clear waters make you want to get out the rubber dingy, and spend the day drinking cocktails while floating around getting a nice tan. The grass and textures all around you are more detailed, more lifelike and just more, well, sparkly and shiny. Fast forward to the day and night cycle, and you’ll find amazing skies and an improvement to the weather which really makes the game come alive.
And then we get to the dinos and these are now full of colour and intricacies, allowing you to see the whole clever design of each specimen in glorious detail. I could forever list every little detail from the simplest fire to the shiny monoliths that beautifully light the night sky, but I’d be here all day. Let’s just say if you like your worlds pretty, then ARK has a lot to offer.
But it’s not just the visuals that ARK is all about and after being given the opportunity to spend time online in other worlds – even though there were some games that had a bit of lag – my experience has been pretty good. I do prefer ARK as a solo experience though; maybe it’s the embarrassment of pooping with others around.
So what about the DLC additions that have hit this great game, I hear you shout.
First up is Scorched Earth which takes you away from the moderate climes of lush forest and wetland, to a desert area that is steaming hot and filled with danger lurking around every corner. There are a whole bunch of new skills to obtain and of course an even bigger bunch of new creatures to kill or tame, whichever is your preference.
Amongst those creatures of the desert is a kind of rock golem which hurls massive rocks at you. Then there is a creature from the storybooks – the legendary wyvern who can destroy everything you own in a blink of an eye. Water is a key ingredient to survive here, so watch those dehydration levels. Then you have new weapons like boomerangs and whips, and oil to burn. The new areas and architecture, including ruins and caverns, are stunning to behold and there is plenty to do and explore. Survival Evolved once again looks amazing and beautiful, even in this arid scorched land.
Next up is the Aberration DLC which places you in an underground biodome. Once again the world and lighting looks brilliant, with some excellent design choices in place.
But it is the prettiness that really comes into its own in this new package.
The world is dark and you can find yourself getting lost in the twisty mazes set all around this map. The tension ramps up when a creature comes upon you from the darkness and decides to attack. There are a host of new skills to collect along the way too, notes that tell a story about someone’s descent into madness and some fabulous new creatures to kill or tame. There are Rock Drakes that are very handy to tame as they climb up the walls and there are very cute bulldogs that I would love as a pet. There is even a Reaper Queen that can impregnate you! I promise you won’t sleep a wink after that. Throw in some hallucinogenic mushrooms and you’re in for some more survival madness with a game that keeps on getting better with every update.
Initially I was not entirely convinced with the updated version of ARK: Survival Evolved, but the difference is amazing and the world really comes alive with detail, colour, and amazing lighting. Everything seems a bit faster in the menu and the lag has got a whole load better across multiplayer. The two new DLC packs add an extra dimension to the game, amid a significant number of beasties, skills, and things to do.
ARK: Survival Evolved has got me completely sold, especially now I can finally build a toilet to hide my dirty pooping in public.