Having somehow avoided playing surprise Early Access hit Ark: Survival Evolved since its Steam release back in June, this weekend I got my first taste of life among the dinosaurs on the Xbox One. It only hurt a little.
I honestly do not know why I haven't played Studio Wildcard's dinosaur-themed survival game until this weekend's test session for the Xbox One version, launching on December 16 for the Xbox One's Game Preview Program. It probably has something to do with the massive influx of PC survival games over the past couple of years overriding my passion for all things dinosaur related.
I am a dick to character creation.
For those of you in the same boat, Ark is a game in which the player wakes up nearly-naked on a tropical island and then immediately gets killed by one of those poison-spitting dinos from the first Jurassic Park. At least that was my initial experience. Spawning on a server for the first time in the darkest hours of the morning is not recommended.
Should you survive — which is kind of the point — you'll find yourself lost in an island (at least in this case) paradise that's so pretty you'll want to punch a tree. You'll need to punch a tree. Also pick up some rocks. Then make a pick axe.
Basically the game is human evolution at a relatively rapid pace with dinosaurs. Players start off with no clothes and crude tools. Slowly they begin to gather and hunt. They start forming tribes, building towns. Hunting becomes breeding and cultivating. Security brings new advances in technology. Eventually everyone is riding dinosaurs to the Apple Store to get in line for the new iPhone.
So far my experience has been pretty basic. After dying several times as I got my bearings, I started off on my crafting adventure. I built a lovely hut, which only one player tried to beat me to death in while I was away from my keyboard. I chased them into the woods and put a pick axe in their head.
I met a strange lady buried in the sand. Having not played the PC version of Ark I have no idea if this is a bug of a feature. Will I one day become a sand person? Frightening.
Meeting new people is the most exciting part of the game so far, which says a lot when there are dinosaurs everywhere. The tension of those first moments — are they friend or foe? Why are they taking out their spear? Did I just poop instead of emoting? Dammit.
As I wound up my time in the pre-pre-launch test I found myself a nice little island filled with nothing but friendly dinosaurs. We sang songs and told stories. It was a happy time.
The game runs relatively nicely on the Xbox One so far. The menus are a bit daunting for a game pad and the radial menu is a little over-sensitive, but all-in-all the basic functions work. I noticed a little hitching as I played — the game would briefly stutter now and then — but I'm sure that's something that can be fixed in post.
Keep in mind that of this posting I've not played the PC version, which means I'm not coming into the game comparing the PC to console. The Xbox One is my first taste of Ark, and so far it tastes pretty nifty.
Again, how did I miss all of this? It doesn't matter now. I won't be missing it anymore once Ark: Survival Evolved launches as part of the Xbox One Game Preview Program on Wednesday, December 16.