Back in 2017, my brother and I got this game to play together. Once we got over the horrible optimization, we really enjoyed playing it. Unfortunately, it didn’t take us long to find many faults that hindered our enjoyment of the game.
Many years later, that game is out of early access and has changed quite a bit. My friends and I have recently sunk dozens of hours into ARK, and we’re enjoying it a lot. New players and returning players are wondering if the game is worth your time, and while I can’t answer that question for you, I can give you a general overview of the state of ARK. For me personally, ARK is worth playing, but not everyone agrees with me.
I’ll start off with the elephant (or mammoth) in the room: the optimization. Almost everyone that’s had any experience with ARK knows that it used to take a NASA supercomputer to run it smoothly. I’m happy to report that that is no longer the case.
When I first got the game, there was an awful memory leak issue that caused the game’s performance to become atrocious as your play session progressed. The only way to fix that was to restart the game, which got very annoying after a while. The game ran so badly that I was always nervous that my PC components were being taxed too hard.
Thankfully, the memory leak seems to have been fixed. I can comfortably run the game on high settings while getting decent frames, but I can’t speak of the performance of consoles. I’ve seen people online describing the console performance as “buttery smooth 15 FPS,” so I assume it’s not that great.
Overall, I think the performance has reached a bearable level. It’s not amazing, but it’s also not bad enough to constitute avoiding the game. ARK doesn’t look too bad on lower settings either, so you could always turn some settings down to get better frames.
There’s a lot to cover in gameplay, so I’ll only talk about some of the basics here. The game starts out like most survival games, with the exception that dinos are constantly trying to eat you. No matter where you go, there are always large creatures that would love to have you for lunch.
You’ll spawn on one of many beaches around the map, each of which has their own difficulty. However, the beaches are the easiest areas in the game, so the real challenge starts when you venture deeper into the map.
There are dinosaurs everywhere you go, and tons of resources for you to collect. New players will die quite often even on the beaches, losing all of their resources. Eventually, they get the hang of it and survive for longer.
After leveling your character up enough, you’ll be able to make a small hut. The low-level dinos that spawn on the beaches are easily tamable, so you can tame a couple to aid in your journey. Eventually, you’ll be able to create armies of dinosaurs, but it’s really difficult to tame them at the start.
The leveling system is pretty unique, and I actually really like it. Each time you level up, you’re able to put a point into one of your stats. Then, you get a bunch of points that you can unlock engrams with. Engrams make new items available to craft, and you get lots more as you progress. At first, it’s easy to know what to unlock, but eventually, there are so many items that it can get confusing.
Around the island are explorer notes, each of which is a new piece of lore. The notes will also give you tons of XP, so lower level players will level up 3 to 5 times after collecting one. It’s quite easy to get your level up into the 70s with just explorer notes, but soon it becomes quite difficult to level up higher. Higher-level players gain access to much better equipment and items, so they’ll always have the advantage.
Honestly, ARK has so much content that I could write a book talking about all of it. There are supply drops, giant floating structures, holiday events, bosses, and much more. In terms of the sheer amount of content, ARK is most definitely worth playing.
ARK has an overwhelming amount of maps to play on. By default, it comes with several free maps, with the option of buying many DLC maps. The game would be worth it if it were only the Island map, but the other maps add so much more content it’s crazy.
Literally the first island alone has thousands of hours of content, so you can imagine that there’s a lot to do in the other maps. I’ve played for about 70 hours now, and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. That’s not time spent grinding I’m talking about either.
My brother wanted to get all of the achievements using console commands, and he spent several hours doing that using god mode and teleporting. I can’t even imagine how many hours it would be doing that all manually.
In short, there are a bunch of maps, so you’ll never run out of things to do. Each map has hundreds of hours of content on each one, so pick the one you like and get ready to spend a lot of your time on it.
Dinos are, of course, the main reason people play ARK. According to a quick search, there are 174 dinos in the game. Many more have been added in the Genesis update, so that number is probably too low.
The creatures in ARK will make your life easier in every way, that is, once you’ve tamed them. Hundreds of dinos roam the servers at any given time, and it’s only a matter of time until you run into one that wants to devour you. When you tame them, they become your personal slave that does whatever your bidding is. Whether it be combat or collecting resources, everything in ARK is better with a dinosaur at your side.
Almost everything about the dinosaurs is amazing, except for the ultra-long taming times on official servers. Tames can take many hours if you don’t use the right foods, and the right foods can be hard to get. It feels great to have an army of powerful dinos at your disposal, but it’ll take you forever to get them.
If you find that it’s too long for your taste, play single-player or an unofficial server that has boosted taming rates. This will allow you to enjoy your dinos without spending your entire day taming them.
One aspect of the game that a lot of players (such as myself) haven’t learned much about is the lore behind the insane world of ARK. Every map has its own lore, which can be read about via explorer notes around the world. Besides the explorer notes, there’s a lot of story in the Genesis expansion, and the other maps have their fair share as well.
The game never shoves any story down the player’s throat, but it’s there should you be interested. I think it’s pretty interesting from the small amount I’ve read about the lore, and I’m excited to learn more about the game. People who enjoy learning backstory about games will love this part of ARK.
ARK: Survival Evolved is totally worth it for both single-player and multiplayer experiences. People who enjoy survival games will enjoy a game much less stressful than Rust, along with a crazy amount of dinosaurs.
If you don’t enjoy survival type games, then you won’t like ARK. There are always plenty of options for people who hate certain parts of the game, such as playing unofficial servers for better taming rates or changing the settings for your single-player game.
I recommend buying ARK on sale, and I think you should prepare to be wowed at the insane amount of content packed into it.