Wednesday, August 11, 2021

ARK Survival Evolved Is One Of The Most Disappointing Games Ever - Eric Vs.

Ark Survival Evolved is the most disappointing thing since my son. 

Eric here with another longform video essay about video games. Today's topic is how Ark Survival Evolved is one of the most disappointing games ever and why I freaking hate it. Find out why after the jump.

When I was a kid I loved dinosaurs more than anything. When Jurassic Park came out in 1993 it instantly became my favorite movie. And, heck, the Jurassic Park book is pretty much the single reason why I skipped past the entireity of "young adult" literature and went right to actual grown up novels by 4th grade because I wanted to read real books and not baby shit. Then I became a teenager and kind of forgot about dinosaurs for a while until I discovered Godzilla in my late 20's and fell in love with dinosaurs all over again and I haven't stopped since. 

Ark Survival Evolved hit early access in 2015 on PC and Xbox One and seemed to deliver exactly what my newly rekindled love of dinosaurs wanted. An open world full of dinosaurs? Aw heck yeah! Sign me up! Hook it to my veins! And at first I did love it. I played the early access version on Xbox for more than 100 hours. There were some definite big giant huge flaws, but I kept telling myself that it was OK because it was early access and things would definitely get better. 

Except they didn't get better. 

Before I explain what I mean, I suppose I should say that I've only ever played Ark solo. I'm sure it's more fun if you actually embrace the online multiplayer aspect and really get into base building and waging wars with other player clans, but that isn't what I wanted from the game. I wanted a dinosaur game, dammit, and Ark blows in that regard. I know it isn't fair to judge a game based on what you wanted it to be instead of what it actually is, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't still suck anyway. Kind of like my hatred for Sonic the Hedgehog (heh) which is well documented in several videos on this channel.

Back on topic about what things didn't ever get fixed from early access. Oooh boy. There's lots. 

1. ARK is a survival game at its core where hunger and thirst and body temperature all have to be constantly monitored. It sucks. It isn't fun. It's brutal. I hate it.

2. A huge component of the game is crafting stuff. Weapons, armor, ammo, shelters, bases, furniture, dinosaur saddles, and more can all be crafted. Except it's a huge pain in the ass to do any of it. Everything requires rare resources that are spread to the far corners of the map so you have to walk for miles to find that one thing you need. The amount of rare crap involved in crafting is absolutely ridiculous and you never ever have enough of it. I guess this is where the online tribe component comes in where it would be easier if everyone contributed. But I don't want to play with people! I just want dinosaurs!

3. Speaking of those dinosaurs, the A.I. is terrible. Every species has about 3 animations and that's all they do. Prey animals don't react at all when predators are chewing on their asses for hours at a time. Which is what happens 100% of the time because the game is stupid and you have compys and raptors and insects following other animals around constantly. You can't even just sit back and watch dinosaurs do dinosaur stuff because they never actually do anything.

4. The user interface is absolutely putrid. The game was clearly made with PC keyboard and mouse players in mind and they never tried to make it easier to play with a controller on consoles at all. It is just an abysmal user experience.

5. Ugly graphics and terrible performance. This one sort of got fixed. Kind of. At the launch of early access Ark Survival Evolved was pretty ugly on Xbox and the performance was very stuttery and terrible. They have made several passes at making the graphics better - mostly on Xbox One X or Xbox Series X - but it's still pretty darn ugly overall. The dinosaurs generally look terrible and have awful animations. One thing I can say is that peformance is actually pretty smooth now if you play on Xbox Series X, though stuff still pops into view about 100 feet in front of you.  

All of those problems were present Day 1 on early access and never really got addressed. The survival system never got better. The crafting system never got better. Dinosaur A.I. and animations never got better. The user interface is just as crap as it ever was. The graphics are still ugly, though the performance did improve with more powerful hardware.

It seems as if Studio Wildcard is aware of all of this because there are a wide variety of sliders in the game options to adjust your experience. And, by the way, an explanation of those sliders is one of the most popular videos I ever made ... You can turn off the survival aspects, adjust dinosaur damage, and a bunch of other stuff. I would have rather they fixed the game itself rather than making users fix it, but whatever. The sliders do help a lot. Somewhat surprisingly, the game has also added a full on creative mode that you can turn on in the options as well, which previously was only available if you used command line inputs (yeah, you can use command line on Xbox and PS4). Just plopping the creative mode into the options reads to me like an admission of defeat that they had no interest in actually fixing the game than it being some benevolent act the help players, but I'm extra spicy cynical when it comes to this game. 

Even the creative mode still kind of sucks, though, because you still have to deal with the absolute putrid interface, but at least you can craft whatever you want. Creative mode also really highlights the other flaws in the game, though, because getting unlimited access to everything the game offers really shows how shallow it ultimately all is and that it isn't all that fun to start with. That's a bad thing.

What really chaps my ass about Ark Survival Evolved is that they kept adding content to it instead of fixing anything in the core experience. New species of dinosaurs and insects and mammals and sea creatures and all sorts of crap got added along with tons of new crafting stuff. But they were just piling more stuff on top of a shaky foundation that desperately needed fixing first. With every new thing they added the experience got worse because it just added more complexity to a world that was barely held together to begin with and stressed a user interface that was already at its limit in terms of usability. 

But on top of that they had the gall to release multiple paid DLC expansions, including some that launched while the game was still in early access, before they ever fixed the core problems with the experience. With every new expansion I just got angrier and angrier because the base game was collapsing under the weight of all of this extra shit. 

To this day in 2021 they have never actually fixed anything in Ark Survival Evolved. And now they've announced ARK 2 starring Vin Diesel so the original game is truly never going to get fixed. And from the looks of it, Ark 2 leans even harder into the multiplayer tribe stuff and further away from the cool dinosaurs, so my expectations for it are pretty much zero.

Ark Survival Evolved is absolutely one of the most disappointing games I've ever played. And being along for the ride from pretty much the start during early access and seeing the potential that they absolutely wasted by not fixing any of the gigantic problems the game had is a real kick in the dick. You can't make money by fixing a bad game people already paid for, so let's just pump out DLC instead. 

I hate ARK so much as both a gamer and a game critic but also because it is a truly disappointing dinosaur game. I could put up with a lot if the dinosaurs themselves are well done, but that isn't the case here and as development went on the dinosaurs seemed to actually became less and less of a focus. 

I'll say again that if you play ARK online with a big group of people and have a good time with it, more power to you. You aren't wrong. But as someone that plays solo, and someone that wanted a good dinosaur game, Ark Survival Evolved sucks ass. 

Thanks for watching! Stay tuned for more videos. I promise they aren't all just rants like this.