Thursday, June 11

ARK: First Impressions
(how not to survive in a survival game)

Early Access
There have been very few bugs/glitches. Biggest issue has been the rag doll mechanics, not uncommon to see a Dodo you just killed go flying off for several hundred meters, makes it a royal pain to chase and then gather its hide and meat. AI needs work and combat is very awkward. Beasts sometimes glitch.

Character creation for body parts is pretty over the top but as yet there is no facial choice. You can play in first person or over the shoulder if you want to see your character.

 Visually looks great, I have most things set on high, with textures at ultra, works fine for me but I know a lot have suffered with the lack of optimisation (tomorrow sees a big patch). Mechanics all work fine so far, gathering, crafting and building have had no problems, There seems to be enough content for a sandbox/survival game. There is no tutorial and no help screens, you are very much on your own.  Overall for a game not officially due out until next year it's further along than I expected and I've been having lots of fun..

A survival game with a capital S, I really have lost count of how many times I died. I first logged in to an official server, not the greatest idea, they are all PVP enabled, and as if the world isn't harsh enough I got killed by another player within three minutes. I loaded the list of unofficial servers and found a UK PvE server run by Gamers Republic, holds a maximum of 126 players, there's usually around 40-50 logged in at any one time, no worries of being player killed.  The developers have plans to increase the amount of players to 500 per server but for now the limit seems to be 126, ample enough. After 11 hours play I've not yet (thankfully) had a server disconnect. 

You'll need to gather a lot to ensure you have enough food and water, you don't want to starve to death. If you're trying to tame a dino (for transport - air or ground, as a  weapon or goods carrier), you'll need tonnes of food, so both you and the dino doesn't starve during what can be a very lengthy process.  The basics are food, clothing, shelter and a bed (to respawn at after death). The items you need are mostly danger free unless you didn't clock that giant scorpion hiding behind that tree, its sting will stun you and you will die. 
Without that torch it was pitch black

Knowing which dino's are aggressive or passive is trial and error, you'll only discover that when you get close enough for them to attack, you won't see their level until then either. Size means very little. Some will try to run away after you attack them and they run fast, you can use sprint to try and keep up but getting them stuck in a tight corner or them glitching is your only hope of catching them. Some will fight back, their attacks differ, some will perform a nasty charge, others spray poison in your eye (vision turns blurred and green making the combat even harder) or stun you, a lot of movement to dodge the spray (their gills expand just before hand). the charge or the sting really helps. Check their level before you attack, a lvl 25 Dodo will probably fight back when your level 1, but a lvl 3 will probably  just try to get away.

Unforgiving is the best word and a royal pain in the ass. It's full loot, when you die your inventory is left where you perished,  you're booted to a map screen of the island and given the option to either create a new survivor or respawn in a random location on a chosen section of the island, make sure its the same section you started in. Your death location will be marked on this screen. 

When your put back on the map, you're naked and your inventory is empty, you have 20 minutes to locate your stuff before it disappears. Your in game map is useless, it doesn't show your current location but does allow you to put a waypoint on it, you can note this from the death map screen, however unless you have played the map long enough to recognise the landscape (and these areas are big), it's pointless. I wonder if this is intended, you can't see yourself on a hand held real life map after all, or maybe a quality of life thing to be addressed later ? Often I just ended up gathering from scratch as I had no way of locating where I previously died. As the spawn is random you can get spawned next to aggressive beasts (see Sabretooth screen at top of this page^^) and die again immediately.

When you log out of the game your character remains in game for another twenty minutes, if you haven't been able to build shelter just pray something aggressive doesn't come along ion that time (it usually does...)
You don't lose any levels, experience or any engrams (recipes) after death, losing your stuff is harsh enough. To ease that pain you'll need to build a shelter, to protect from the elements and wildlife, and stock it with a bed (you'll be able to respawn there after death). Beds can also be used for fast travel, BUT you have to leave your stuff behind. Don't expect to be able to have your shelter and bed until you have reached around level 10, several hours of gameplay where you may well lose your stuff several times.
(You'll be doing a lot of this)
When you first spawn or spawn after being killed you have nothing. My advice here is to check the server time when you create your character, if it's night you won't be able to see a thing, I'd leave it a short while until it's daylight, without a torch you really are blind unless it's a full moon and a very clear sky. Gathering is simple, when you come across something you can gather you'll get a blue hand icon on the right hand side of the screen, press E to gather. To start you'll need food, mostly berries, raw meat isn't good for you and you shouldn't think about killing anything until you've collected your resources and unlocked a few 'engrams' (the games crafting recipes). Food decays over time, it will need replenishing.

You make your choice of engrams as you level, use your points wisely. I'd recommend unlocking the basic tools (Pickaxe, Stone Axe, Torch and Spear) and clothing as a priority. Some clothing requires hide, wait until you have your spear, you'll need it for poking things. 

Gathering berries at Sunrise

You'll be gathering lots of berries, I mean LOTS of them. Ground covering plants have a loot table of different berry types and fibre (important for your first cloth outfit). Berries come in different flavours, some are edible (which also help replenish water), others are edible and put you to sleep, useful for taming dinosaurs, others are stimulants, some can be used to create dye and add to stews. Just eat the ones with no adverse effects and you'll be fine. If you're not getting enough liquid just jump in the water for a few secs.  You'll also need to be gathering lots of wood, thatch, stone and flint, for this you'll need tools, craft them as early as you can (pickaxe should be your first engram). Items decay with use so materials for repair are also needed

The inventory has a maximum weight limit, as you level you can choose to increase the weight you can carry, if you get close to max weight limit your speed slows down, if you max it, you can't move, not good when you accidentally disturb a giant scorpion while gathering.

Them dinosaurs sure get big!

As you level you get points to spend on engrams, some engrams, like the wooden wall, won't let you take it unless you unlocked the previous tier (thatch wall). It's a simple system that works well enough, the amount of materials required isn't excessive and there's no crafting of sub items before you make the real thing.  It should be obvious what your crafting priorities are, survival is always number one. The engrams don't show what they create until you reach a high enough level to use them, I tend to not blow my points all at once and wait to see what comes along later.

You can craft saddles for different dinosaurs, create farms and build yourself a homestead or create cities complete with water systems. Right now I'm just happy I've got my simple wooden shack (with a lockable door) and it's bed to respawn at.

Home sweet roofless home

Final thoughts
I'm having a blast, the community is helpful and there's enough to keep me logged in to see how far I can go. Now that the safety net of my home base is there (really feels like I've achieved a major milestone) I can spread my wings and explore what it has to offer. I haven't approached any ARK yet (drops of loot, signified by different coloured pillars of light for different level ranges) nor tried taming any beasties yet and of course I want my own farm. 

I can see me spending a lot of time jumping in and out of this game, going to be fun progressing and seeing which direction the devs take it in. Worth every penny :)

A tribes (guild) fortress and their tamed dinosaurs