I haven’t played ARK much since early 2016, so I decided to re-download it and give it another look. The game finally “launched” last year, after all. Presumably all of the problems I had with the game are now fixed.
Well, not exactly. Although to be fair I really enjoyed it before, too. I just ran out of challenge. I got to a point where I could go to any biome and survive, and kill any dinosaur in my path, and that is pretty much “winning” the game.
So to start off with, yes, if you have a controller plugged in, the game still vibrates it whenever you die, even if you aren’t using it. So the controller sitting over on a table somewhere will leap to life when you die, vibrating itself on maximum full power, scaring you and your pets half to death as it slides off said table and crashes to the floor. And no, there is still no way to turn off this feature, two years later, even though literally everyone who has ever played ARK wants the ability to turn off controller vibration.
But I will say that ARK does appear to run much faster. Then again, my PC is much faster than the last time I ran ARK. At any rate, I am able to run at 1920×1080 on Epic settings with minimal resolution scaling and a tolerable frame rate, so that’s a whole lot better than before, when I had to run it basically on just a few steps up from Low.
Initially, the intense motion blur and camera shake had a tendency to make me physically ill after a short time. I just don’t have the tolerance for first-person games that I once did, at least not without immersing myself in them for a while. Eventually I got used to it.
The basic gameplay is the same as before, but there is a lot more variety in the dinosaurs and a few crafting changes.
The menus have undergone a facelift. They look better (I would characterize them as higher-resolution), but unfortunately they still have the somewhat random organizational style that makes it hard to figure out where the clickable buttons are. Sometimes they are in the middle, sometimes they are on the right. You basically just have to memorize and get used to each menu page because there is no consistency.
In terms of crafting changes, most everything is the same as before at the lower levels. (I have not gotten beyond level 15.) I did notice that there is now “raw fish” in addition to the regular “raw meat.” You get fish meat, obviously, from chopping up fish. You catch fish by jabbing them with your spear, which is by far the easiest way to get some protein in your ARK diet.
Unless there happens to be one of those duck-dinosaurs flying around nearby. I stabbed a fish one time and a duck-dinosaur flew down from out of nowhere and stole it from me! It kept circling around me and stealing all my seeds and berries, and knocked my spear out of my hands. It was very annoying but it was also a fun, new gameplay experience I hadn’t seen before in ARK. Eventually I had to run away from it. New gameplay experience in ARK = win!
The bow is considerably improved since the last time I played. It actually feels like a viable weapon now, and it’s much easier to hit things. The arrows fly reasonably straight, as opposed to before, when it felt like you were basically just throwing the arrows with your hands in a really high arc.
There are now “story” elements in the game, which take the form of finding journals in chests throughout the world. This seems like it will give much more incentive to move around, instead of just building a base near the best resources and staying there indefinitely. There was a story before (I think) but I never really encountered it. It will be interesting to see if exploring the world to search for things will be fun or aggravating. It can be very dangerous to move away from your “home base” if you aren’t prepared.
The lights that beam down from the sky and provide gear, which I just discovered were called transmitters, also have blueprints which apparently let you generate “portals” to boss encounters, like the “Broodmother.” I’m not high enough level to see one of these yet, so I don’t know how it works. But I don’t remember seeing anything like this in the transmitters before. The last time I saw anything about a Broodmother was at one of three big obelisks, which were rather difficult to get to. Now I guess you can get to a Broodmother from anywhere.
There are still problems, though. Once I got stuck among some rocks. This is when I discovered there is no suicide command. I had to wait until I died of starvation. As you might expect, I did not find this to be a compelling gameplay experience. You know, staring at the screen, waiting. It takes a good fifteen minutes to starve to death. I tried to fatigue myself by punching at the air to speed it up, and managed only to pass out in the heat. At least it gave me time to work on this post, so I guess they can call this getting-stuck-and-waiting-to-die feature a blogging tool. I imagine there are a lot of places to get stuck in this game so I expect to be seeing this feature again.
It’s still totally safe to drink the salt water from the beach, too. I guess that’s the “evolution” in the survival they are talking about.
Anyway, it’s a fun game to kill some time in. I’ve been looking for something semi-fresh to putter around in while watching television, and ARK is perfect for that. It was worth the $20 investment in 2015.
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