Punching dinosaurs in ARK: Survival Evolved

    
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Five minutes after I logged into ARK: Survival Evolved, I punched a fish. A few moments later, I punched a tree. Shortly thereafter, I mustered the courage to punch a dinosaur, and while that didn’t go as well as I would have liked, I did in fact survive.

ARK is one of the ubiquitous early access survival sandboxes littering Steam these days, but because of some glowing recommendations and because dinosaurs, I opted to forego my usual bias against paying to test and dropped 25 bucks on the title.

2015-06-16_00015And despite its reminding me of Mike Tyson’s Punchout in the early going, I’m having a pretty decent time with ARK. True to its early access nature, the game boasts little in the way of tutorials, lore explanation, or hand-holding. I awoke on some sort of tropical beach, scratching at the diamond-shaped implant in my arm and looking at a monolithic sci-fi tower structure looming in the distance.

First I took stock of the UI, which is dead simple and right up my alley in terms of its unobtrusive minimalism. There’s a single hotbar hanging out where most hotbars do, and there’s a vertical row of icons on the right side of the screen, displaying your health, stamina, weight, hunger, and thirst.

Yes, this is one of those survival games where you’ll need to not only kill things and craft things but also remember to eat, drink, and even defecate. Drinking is as easy as wading into the nearest body of water, which will also do you right should you get a system message like “you’re feeling hot; you should cool off.” Eating is almost as easy, since all you have to do is walk up to the nearest plant, hit your E key, and hopefully harvest a handful of edible berries.

These don’t fill you up, though, and soon you’ll want to procure some dino meat as well as all the necessities to craft a camp fire. Oh, and take my advice: Don’t eat the raw meat.

2015-06-16_00014Press I to open your inventory, drag berries or meat to your hotbar, then activate them with a number key and chow down with some hilariously loud sound effect accompaniment. Your inventory screen also serves as a jumping off point to your character vitals screens, where you’ll make various progression related choices as you level up.

Leveling up seems to happen after you pick enough berries or punch enough fish/trees/dinosaurs. Each time I leveled up, I was given the opportunity to boost one of my character stats (health, stamina, fortitude, melee damage, etc.) by a single point. You also get something called engram points to spend, and I’m assuming that a lore explanation will be forthcoming as early access moves along. Maybe it’s some sort of Assassin’s Creed sci-fi memory thing? I dunno, but at any rate I opted to learn the stone hatchet and campfire engrams first, each of which cost three points.

The inventory screen also allows you to click over to the crafting screen, and after I’d punched a bunch of trees to gather wood and collected enough stone from the random rocks conveniently lining the beach, I clicked through and crafted the stone hatchet.

2015-06-17_00011Crafting is disappointingly simple. If you have the proper engram and the required materials, you simply select the item from the craftables menu and click the craft button. Voila, it’s in your inventory. Given how gorgeous the rest of the game looks, I’d like to see some crafting animations at some point, not to mention some variation and customization in the process itself. That all may yet happen, of course, since this is early access and since the developers’ stated goal is to launch for reals in June 2016.

2015-06-17_00006In addition to sparing my knuckles, the hatchet rendered resource gathering a much faster task, and it also allowed me to tomahawk a couple of loitering dinosaurs who kindly gave up their meat and their hides for my future survival needs.

Here is where the game’s alpha state first became apparent, as the dinosaurs in question did run away as I attempted to bring them down, but they also pathed right into a lump of nearby rocks and remained there while I hacked away at them with my crude stone gathering tool.

Visually, ARK is a marvel. The world feels alive and looks photo-real in places but for the aforementioned sci-fi tower and the dinos milling about. Character creation has a few basic sliders, though the avatars tend a little too much toward Gears of War beefcake for my taste.

There’s a day-night cycle with actual night, so be sure you’re versed in making fire before the sun sets on your first day. I’m running the game with the settings maxed on a 30-inch monitor and getting upwards of 30 frames per second, but performance will naturally depend on your PC hardware. In my experience, it’s more than acceptable for an alpha.

The animations are occasionally janky, but they’re also occasionally superb, from the way my avatar flips his hatchet in the air when equipping it to the lumbering gracefulness of the various dinosaurs on display around the starter area.

2015-06-17_00025Is ARK an MMO? Probably not, given the fact that you can opt to play it solo or host a friends-only server. Oh, and the official multiplayer servers currently top out at 70 souls each. But it’s got more than its share of MMO-like mechanics, and you could do far worse in terms of quality when it comes to early access survival games. ARK’s world is truly massive, too, and its bare-bones navigation features (there’s no minimap that I’m aware of) make for a more interesting and immersive experience than the usual follow-the-line-and-kill-the-mob MMO paradigm.

I’ve written a lot of words about ARK already, and I’ve yet to really talk about the main attraction. The dinosaurs are big, beautiful, and varied, and I’m plenty motivated to level up and learn the game’s ins and outs after seeing players ride (and fly) by on various dino mounts. You can also build player housing using all of those resources you’ve been accumulating, and ARK features rudimentary guild functionality (here referred to as tribes) for those of you who want to grab your friends for a spot of survival gameplay crossed with Jurassic Park visuals.

While I’m typically loath to buy or recommend early access games out of principle, in this case I’m glad I broke my own rules. ARK is absolutely worth the 25 bucks it’ll cost you during the Steam summer sale, and if the development team makes good on the laundry list of additional features it plans to add over time, this’ll be one to watch in 2016. And if they don’t, well, it’s already enjoyable in 2015.

Massively Overpowered skips scored reviews; they’re outdated in a genre whose games evolve daily. Instead, our veteran reporters immerse themselves in MMOs to present their experiences as hands-on articles, impressions pieces, and previews of games yet to come. First impressions matter, but MMOs change, so why shouldn’t our opinions?
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mysecretid
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mysecretid

ripteh1337 Rozyn 
Thank you, Ripteh. The way things stand I probably won’t even get to try this game until July, but I will keep your offer in mind, and I thank you for your kind offer.
Be well,

Robert80
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Robert80

paterah Rokko  Pretty much any of the Alpha version Early Access sandbox games out there with smaller server setups allow for specific server rules.  Several of them even allow for mods, and a few have huge lists of special mods that people have already come up with.
Additionally, most of the games that offer the small server alpha versions also offer a solo play mode, and many of them allow you to essentially be a server for a very small group of friends (unless you have one beast of a computer!)

paterah
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paterah

Rokko Wait, this game can have specific server rules? Interesting.

Werewolf Finds Dragon
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Werewolf Finds Dragon

One thing that comes to mind here is the overestimation of human survival potential. It occurs in a lot of works of fiction and tends to be tied to power fantasies. However, our reality and history paints a very different picture. It’s only tactics and advanced tools that allow us to overcome such adversity, and the ones who believed that they could go toe-to-toe with a tiger were the ones that died the most grisly deaths.
That’s interesting because the culling potential provided by nature and stupidity allowed for a more even balance of peoples in the past, one where intelligence and wariness prevailed. It has been noted in numerous medical studies that the human brain is shrinking, but it’s not taking into account all humans as these studies tend to use extroverts as a basis. And it would be the extroverted man who’d try to kill a tiger to woo a woman. It still would be, today, but the chance doesn’t present itself thanks to society. Instead, we have video games.
It’s also fascinating that there is an inverse parallel between intellect and fertility — by which I mean that the more fertile a person is, and the higher their fertility potential, the less intelligent they are. In other words, a person with a high fertility potential has a mind which is more like an animal than what we’d think of as a human.
A lot of people will jump to the conclusion of women with the incorrect assumption of what fertility actually refers to. Not so. This affects both genders equally. As I’ve mentioned in the past, the fact that the phrase ‘alpha fucks, and beta bucks’ exists is proof enough. The less a person’s fertility potential, the less likely they’d be to say something like that unironically.
The closer they get to infertility, the higher the chance that they wouldn’t even say it at all (outside of quoting it to make a point, anyway).
Suffice it to say, I’d be cautious. I wouldn’t punch a dinosaur even in a video game. Nor a wild animal. If the game were realistic at all, I wouldn’t stand a chance. It’s their environment, and they’re specialised to work within it. The only way to actually deal with a tiger is through the most cowardly approaches we can muster, which tend to be practical. This leads to insecure hunters trying to kill enough animals in reality to justify their masculinity. The two predator (not prey) hunters I’ve met were hilariously insecure.
As I’m comfortable with my identity (gender, self, et cetera), I’d probably rather try to befriend and train dinosaurs, which would be a much more realistic goal. And that’s funny. I’m not begrudging anyone for punching dinosaurs, you must understand this, it’s just that from the perspective of someone who wouldn’t it’s a rather odd spectacle to behold. I definitely feel it’s worth analysis.
I’ve always been curious about those — and they are many, most likely the majority — who enter into an open-ended experience by punching something. I modded Fallout: New Vegas so that I was able to handle conflicts non-lethally, often using talking or stealth whenever and wherever I could. I’m hoping I’d be the same in Fallout 4.
It’s probably why I wouldn’t do so well in a game like this. I think this game expects you to punch dinosaurs and that’s part of the experience. Not for me, then.

Rokko
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Rokko

jesseschulkers Damonvile Rokko 
Yeah,that has been my experience as well. Its nice to have a tight community, and teamspeak just makes it even better to interact with other tribes. Our server just increased the difficulty level from a poll on our site so its nice to be able to cater to the community, as opposed to the official servers where you get basically no support. We are also going to do 2X XP events once the server code supports it, and even have been talking about PVP turned on for a few hours on primetime to give players some controlled PvP action.

karmamule
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karmamule

I got it too, and it has lots of potential, your summary is spot on.  I think I’ll give it a couple months to mature before I really start putting serious hours into it, but do fully intend to spend lots of time in it.

MatthewWard
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MatthewWard

Ket_Viliano MatthewWard I’m really not trolling.. I believe the Early Access / Paid Alpha model to be entirely detrimental to the industry. 
I don’t doubt that there are games that weather the storm and release to a strong audience of enthusiastic players. I am just yet to see one personally. 

You personally attacked me by saying that I couldn’t possibly be a software developer because I clearly didn’t understand how software development works… 
I would respond by saying that I am a professional software developer that lives and dies professionally by my reputation within the industry. 

I would not ever sell a half baked idea to my user base on the proviso that their investment would (maybe) fund the realisation of the product to fruition, because of the simple fact that I value my reputation. 

Also, I would never impart the financial risk of a project on to my user.. something the crowd funded/EA software does.

My suggestion was that if the creator really believes in the product, the risk should be theirs and theirs alone, by securing funding via traditional means off the back of what amounts to a bond via Steam provisional sales. 

Everyone wins. Except unscrupulous indie devs out for a pay day through a sub standard product that gets protection by being sold in Alpha state.

pid
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pid

Nreff jefreahard pid Thank you all for the replies! Now that I’ve a better understanding of what to expect I’ll jump in :D See you online, guys!

MatthewWard
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MatthewWard

BrianSleider MatthewWard The dev gets the interest.

BrianSleider
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BrianSleider

Rozyn BrianSleider Damonvile Apologies, I read it as you could still find Very new games at unreasonably cheap prices soonish after release.

Bygones be Bygones.