Okay, so the PS4 has survival games on it. Don’t Starve, How to Survive, even Minecraft and Terraria to some extent. But the PS4 has always lacked that DayZ feel of being alone in a dangerous world and oh wait there’s someone and he’s blown my head off with a sniper rifle. Fuck. But now Ark has come to PS4, but has it filled that hole?
I bought Rust on Steam in its early days when it actually ran on my laptop, and I tried desperately to make DayZ work but Arma II just hated my system. I managed to play Don’t Starve Together on Steam with my wife using an old laptop I had in storage, but it ran poorly and the battery couldn’t hold a charge. Still, we had fun and it was enough for her to get the itch for more survival.
Ark: Survival Evolved is the only game I know where you can eat your own shit.
From dehydration to bowel movements, Ark has you covered. The first time it happened, my wife and I were in our ramshackle thatch house with a roaring fire that was sure to set our home ablaze. Our lack of windows and the closed door suggested we might die from carbon monoxide poisoning before the house actually burned. As we warmed our hands by the fire, I heard a familiar sound.. one a gentleman only hears alongside running water so his lady doesn’t hear it: I’d just shit on the floor. Shocked, we both looked down at my glorious turd. “Human Feces.” Without thinking, I picked it up. I opened my inventory and tried to equip it, hoping to throw my poop at my wife and laugh maniacally. Oops, I ate it by mistake. And died. Your house can’t actually catch on fire and you can’t die from carbon monoxide poisoning due to an indoor wood-burning fire, but the shit thing really happens.
What do you do in Ark?
Not unlike Minecraft or Rust before it, you wake up in a strange place and need to quickly gather materials before the elements and wildlife kill you. Much like Minecraft, Ark you start by punching trees to gather enough basic materials to craft a pick. Then you harvest trees with your new pick until you have enough materials to craft an axe. Then you harvest trees with your new axe until you have enough materials to craft, well, everything else. You’ll also mine rocks and harvest berries and fiber.
And, like most survival games. That’s about it. You’ll spend the majority of your first 20 levels harvesting, building, and killing some weak dinosaurs. You’ll stay very close to your home base. Until a brontosaurus makes a nest on the top of your house. Then your house collapses. Then you learn how to build spiked walls.
Open world survival games like this make it hard to define what one actually does. Maybe you’ll be a dinosaur hunter, roaming the world with your spear, club, bola, and bow seeking to slay the greatest beasts the game has to offer. Maybe you’ll build a colossal base with a dino strip club and parasaur strippers offering blowjobs in exchange for Narcoberries. You could also just find a cave and live like the stereotypical caveman, clubbing women unconscious, handcuffing them and placing them in wooden cages (not that I recommend it, but you can actually do that).
Local Split Screen? On my PS4?
I’ve read that Ark runs like shit on launch and slim PS4. I’ve got a Pro, so I don’t get horrific frame drops all the time and I can turn on detail mode which may or may not change anything. But the developers included a split-screen mode, which is why I was willing to shell out $75 for the game. Split screen has bad frame rate and you’re limited to no more than 250 metres distance between both players. But it’s there.
Split screen is limited to local, offline games only. So while Studio Wildcard deserves praise for putting split screen in a modern first-person game, two people can only play the true experience multiplayer experience on two consoles playing online. That said, if you’re having enough fun split screen, you could avoid online altogether and still have a great time. Until a brontosaurus tramples your base and you have to start over.
I play on a 24-inch monitor and one thing that really bugs me in split screen is the font size in the inventory and crafting menus. I need to lean forward and squint in order to read some of the menu. Split screen players will always suffer from the lack of visibility, and I’ll admit there’s no easy solution to a problem of text in a split screen experience. Just one more argument in favour of two consoles, I suppose.
Base Building and Survival in Ark mimic actual Evolution
Because advanced crafting (better saddles, better weapons and armor, better building materials) is locked behind levels, it’s likely your first base will be made out of thatch. Then you’ll either abandon or tear it down and make one out of wood. Later, stone. The buildings you can construct will move up an evolutionary slope not unlike those seen in real life museums. Likewise, you start the game with the ability to make crude tools and spears with as much durability as a twig. You graduate to slingshots, a crude bow, then metal spears and tranquilizer darts. Eventually you get a rocket launcher. Just like evolution!
Let’s talk about bugs—the game-breaking variety
I needed to get down a mountain to kill a dinosaur. I carefully descended the rocky cliff but fell between two boulders and got stuck. My food and water bars stopped dropping and I couldn’t move or jump. My wife had to come find me, get stuck herself, then kill me. I respawned far enough away for her to teleport back to me. Twenty minutes of frustration ruined the entire evening for us.
Other times you’ll encounter dinosaurs stuck in geometry in much the same way, completely unable to defend themselves and way above an appropriate level to kill with your wooden spear and weak arrows. We’ve taken to avoiding the stuck dinosaurs and hoping they get out off screen, but it was kind of a disappointing discovery when the first triceratops I killed (and so far, only) couldn’t fight back.
But other than those few hiccups we’ve had a really clean experience. Sometimes a foundation won’t snap properly or a corpse will pop under a rock but nothing that absolutely ruins the game. When new games come out on a weekly basis, it’s important not to have bugs that stop people from playing for more than a few days.
Ark: Survival Evolved. Get your revenge.
We lost our house to a brontosaurus at least three times. Since we’d avoided attacking them, I concluded that the game deliberately moves brontos onto your house to fuck with you. I spent hours gathering materials to surround our beautiful beachfront property in horrendous-looking wooden spike walls to protect us from these aggressive pricks. And then.. it happened. I heard the familiar combat music and quickly spun around, looking for the little bitch compys that were sure to be nibbling at my legs, only to see a bronto engaged in a fierce battle with my fence. My wife and I got our spears out and helped our heroic fence defend our campfire and storage crates. Finally, after days of being afraid of these bastards, we slew the monster.
Oh, game also has a boob slider. So that’s nice.
Overall Score: 78/100
My score reflects a single-player and split-screen local experience only, with virtually no online play. Ark: Survival Evolved needs work; there’s no denying that. But the game is fun, just like a game should be. The audio is mostly forgettable (I even forgot to mention it this whole time), the bugs threaten to ruin an evening of gaming with your partner, but when the game is good it’s great fun.
- Detail Mode looks gorgeous on PS4 Pro.
- Split Screen exists and works pretty well.
- Human Feces.
- Dinosaurs and players getting stuck in the world.
- Brontos nesting on your roof