In this post, I’m going to be sharing my Ark Survival Evolved PS4 Review and answering the question "Is it worth the price?"
I’ve been fiending for a survival game with a big multiplayer element for a long time. I saw games like Day Z and H1Z1 on PC and I hoped that one day we’d get a similar experience on consoles. Ark was the first survival game like that that made its way to PS4. I played it for about 3 months while it was still in Early Access back in January of 2017. I played on official servers and I created and ran a tribe that eventually became the Alpha of the server we lived on.
Ark has a few different ways to play the game that drastically change the experience. So for the gameplay section of this review I’m going to cover the experience of single player, PVP multiplayer on official servers and then on unofficial servers. I did cover the experimental “no tame” servers in another review but I have never played the primitive plus mode or multiplayer PVE.
Singleplayer in ARK is basically an adult version of Minecraft. You don’t really have a set goal and your thrust into this world and expected to find a way to survive. You can try to complete the “story” and get to the ending but that aspect of the game is clearly an afterthought. This is not a story focused game, but you can immerse yourself in the mystery of the world and work towards uncovering the mystery while you build a place to live and tame dino pets.
The early game can be hard and you’ll likely die a lot but once you get your bearings and get a decent base up the challenge fades. Singleplayer clearly wasn’t the focus of the game and it shows. You can have some survival fun in single player but you will be missing out on the true fun if that’s the only way you play the game.
You can change a lot of the rates on single player to make the game less grindy, easier or harder depending on your preference.
Multiplayer PVE is basically single player with other people around. You can trade with other players and possibly get griefed and trolled e.g a tribe may lure an angry Dino to your base. You can also show your creations off to strangers on the internet.
Side note - The AI of the dinos is completely trash in this game. Many strategies for taming or killing dinos are based on exploiting the terrible AI. Of course, strong dinosaurs can still kill you if they catch you but other players is where the real danger lies.
Multiplayer - Official Vs Unofficial Servers
The experience on official servers is likely the experience that most people picking up the game will have. This experience may include waiting for 20 minutes or more trying to get onto your home server because it’s full of players. At the time of this review there is no queue system to join a server and the best way to get into a crowded server is to spam the join button and hope you get in or someone leaves. The devs are continuing to add new servers so these problems may decrease in the future.
The official PVP experience is extremely geared in favour of large tribes. If you plan to play solo on an official server it will likely be a waste of time. There is a good chance that you will log on and find your base has been destroyed and your belongings have been robbed. Experienced players or people that push through these initial losses will learn from their mistakes and eventually build a hidden base with defences, but none of this guarantees that your base will be there when you log back on.
That’s the risk you take when you log off in Ark and it’s also a very interesting part of the game. When you log off, your character goes to sleep and stays in the game world. You can be robbed, imprisoned or even turned into a living blood sack Mad Max style. Your base is also able to be broken into and completely destroyed. Any dinosaur you’ve tamed may be murdered and harvested for hide and/or meat by someone who just likes to see things die.
Playing in a small tribe can also be similar to playing solo. The advantage of joining or creating a tribe and playing with people is that you can get more things done in a shorter amount of time. The more players the better, in theory. Finding people you trust can be very difficult on Ark’s official servers. Ark rewards the most toxic and ruthless behaviour. You may find yourself betrayed and robbed by someone who you thought you could trust. You might lose everything you’ve built because someone had a bad day.
The key to succeeding in Ark is developing alliances and good relationships. Politics are a very big part of Ark and if you and your tribe do not play the politics game then it is unlikely you will last long. I’m an introvert and I don’t really like to talk to people too much, but Ark forced me to do just that and I’m a better person for it. I formed alliances and created partnerships and talked to a bunch of people on our rise to Alpha status.
An Alpha tribe is the most powerful tribe on the server. You may join a server where the Alpha tribe has created rules or extorts players with threats of destroying their base. Or you might join a server where the Alpha tribe doesn’t get involved with what’s happening on the server. A smart Alpha tribe stays in the shadows because they are often the target of ambitious tribes or raiders from other servers.
Let’s talk about the dinosaurs in Ark. There are a lot of dinosaurs in ark, over 100 right now and the devs are continually updating and adding new dinos. Most of the dinosaurs have a useful ability like being to gather resources efficiently or providing buffs to other dinos or players. Taming the right dinos and playing as efficiently as possible is very important. However, taming useful high level dinos is usually a time consuming and grindy process.
You will generally have to knock a dino out, keep an eye on it and feed it while it’s unconscious for hours sometimes. This is not fun. If you have other tribe members online at the same time or you were smart enough to lure the Dino back to your base before knocking it out then you can multitask and do other things. But waiting hours to tame a dino that can be killed in less than 10 minutes is silly. You can create something called “kibble" in order to tame dinos quicker but the set up to create kibble is a long process in itself.
And that’s my biggest problem with the official servers. The rates are ridiculous. The amount of grinding and boring tasks that you need to do in order to have a couple hours of fun is wildly unbalanced. You can spend a whole week in real life preparing to have one day of PVP. It can be like spending all week at a boring job just so you can go out on the weekend. It can become very much like having a second life, and that second life isn’t always fun.
The devs seem to want you to devote your life to Ark in order to be successful at it. It rewards players who sink an unreal amount of time into the game over skill. Skill can definitely help you but the levelling system and the time it takes to get anything noteworthy accomplished make skill much less of a factor.
Most of the action on PVP official servers consists of people attacking bases while their opponents are offline or PVB (Players Vs. Base). A legit strategy in Ark is to wait until your enemy is offline so you can destroy their base, steal their stuff and kill their dinos. It takes so long to gain resources and dinosaurs that it’s not worth the trouble of risking losing those for the sake of having a real PVP fight over just attacking people when they can’t defend themselves.
The combat isn’t the greatest. Both melee and ranged combat are mediocre at best, but the sheer choice and options that you have in terms of dinos, weapons, armour and strategies make up for the janky combat.
Unofficial servers are run by players, either from a second console or a rented server. On these servers the owner can change many of the rates and options in the game to create a customised experience. For example, on my rented server, harvesting is 15x the normal rates so that the game is less focused on grinding and more focused on actually having fun. There are many aspects of the game that can be adjusted to find the right gameplay style for you.
I’ve had more fun on my unofficial rented server than I ever had on official. I can control who plays on my server and I can also create rules for people to follow to keep the experience fun for everyone.
Ark is a great sandbox and having the ability to host or play on an unofficial server allows you to play the game the way you prefer.
Of course there are problems with unofficial servers too. You may experience admin abuse on a server that you join or the server can go down and you may lose all your progress. You could very well experience an official server going down and you losing all your progress too but it is much more likely to happen on an unofficial server. The servers hosted from a PS4 or Xbox are especially unstable and prone to crashes or data loss.
Since I’ve rented my own server from Nitrado I haven’t experienced any problems and the server runs just as well as an official server, minus all the grinding and the trolls. I’ve only opened my server up to patrons to ensure the future of the server and keep it up for the long run through donations and such. The $3 monthly payment is more than worth the amount of time you save grinding and being wiped on official servers.
On unofficial servers with higher rates you can actually engage in PVP more often and with less worry.
There are frequent updates which add new features, dinos and fixes. The game is still full of glitches and things not working as intended. On an official server you can lose hours of progress because of a glitch but on a server with boosted rates it generally isn’t that big of a deal.
The toxic community
Since Ark promotes devoting your life to the game it makes sense that it attracts a lot of toxic people. You will find people who have no lives and spend every waking hour playing Ark. These players tend to be quite elitist and unwelcoming to new players. You will also find people who just love to troll and ruin people’s days. This is what you should expect on official servers. Of course you can also find some cool people and not everyone is a dick.
Graphics & Sound
The graphics are pretty good. For a game of this scope and size, the graphics are more than good enough. When you fly past big bases the frame rate does drop but it usually smooths out after the base has loaded in. Frame rate drops are a common thing in the game but it hasn’t hampered my experience too much. The sound, however, is mediocre. The actual sound of the dinos and environment aren’t that bad but, even after launch, you still can’t tell exactly which direction a sound is coming from.
The music is pretty good though.
Is it worth the price?
Ark Survival Evolved is currently £43.49 on Amazon. To be honest, there is a bunch of things that I couldn’t cover in this review because of how deep and big this game is. I have had a bunch of fun playing Ark and it is one of the most unique and wild experiences I’ve ever had in a game. There are so many possibilities to experience, so many hours of fun and also so many things that may make you rage quit.
If you want to play this game solely for singleplayer then you should wait until the price drops to about £25. If you want to play on official PVP servers then I don’t think this game is worth the time or money. If you want to play on an unofficial PVP server then this game is definitely worth the price and you are going to come away with many many hours of fun. You can apply here to join my rented Ark Survival Evolved Server for the PS4.
Here are some pros and cons to help you make the decision for yourself:
- The game is very deep
- This is truly a sandbox game with many possibilities
- There is no game like this on consoles right now
- The tutorial system does not do a good job of covering the deep aspects of the game
- Playing on official servers is a tedious grind that ends up feeling more like work than fun
- The game is full of glitches
I’ll see you in the next review.