For those of you who don’t know, Ark Survival Evolved is a game from that period of the mid-2010s when all the big survival games like Rust, Subnautica, and DayZ came out. It was released a bit later than all of those games, and was apparently rushing to meet even that deadline because when it was initially launched in 2015, it was so desperately unfinished I completely wrote it off as a wash.
For those who are just getting into it as I’ve seen it make a resurgence in recent months, Ark Survival Evolved five years ago was an absolutely unplayable piece of shit. Where to even start? Whenever you’d spawn, the game hadn’t finished loading yet so everything looked like the 3D equivalent of a rough sketch for about 5 seconds. Dinosaur aggro range seemed to reshuffle based on the current mood of your server, which led to several embarrassing moments of sprinting away from a predator that wasn’t actually chasing me. Whenever you got attacked by a dinosaur it would just circle you like a wasp, and the hitbox was connected to the model by about the same distance as France to Brazil.
If you tried to kill anything, there were even odds of being able to harvest it, as the dying spasms had an annoying habit of rocketing the corpse a fair distance. That was when the corpse stayed on the ground. Occasionally the engine would forget how gravity works and I’d spend a lot of resources on a big kill, only for it to float off into the sky and despawn, regardless of size or weight. Sometimes my oxygen meter wouldn’t detect that I wasn’t swimming, and I would drown in the middle of the forest. The relative positioning had a few hiccups, and I would sometimes find myself unable to walk through a weighty cube of empty space, and I’d get the occasional crash, just to top it all off.
All these factors led to me not giving Ark the time of day for about 4 years, but Steam was selling it for 66% off, and I figured “Why not, let’s look and see what they’ve improved”. As it would turn out, they actually haven’t spent the last half a dozen years wanking off like 3D realms did with Duke Nukem Forever, they’ve actually put in a lot of work. How much work you ask? Well, the resource gathering ratios have been rebalanced, I can now actually count on the aggro range of a predator to stay consistent, and the death animations are actually worth a squirt of piss. Bit of a shame too because the death animations were a source of endless amusement in the early game, when they weren’t hampering your progress that is.
They’ve also added a whole bunch of new creatures that you will get killed by long before you ever see, all with names like a Hogwarts spell so all you can do is describe them and hope someone else has seen it. I also appreciate how the sun reflecting on the water no longer makes my monitor throw up, although despite that being fixed, the Sun still isn’t a visible thing in the game which is as weird as it was back then.
“Why am I writing this” you may be asking. “This is just an Ark review, I can get this anywhere”. True, you can, but the point I’ve been trying to get at is the fact that I think it’s high time we give games a second chance. I previously subscribed to the idea that you shouldn’t believe in the “fix it in post” mindset because how could you possibly trust any bad review ever again. I think that philosophy works in regards to movies, because movies that keep rebooting themselves aren’t fun or enjoyable to get invested in, just ask the Amazing Spiderman trilogy with 2 films.
I don’t think this works for games, though, because games that just stay the same get boring. Look at Minecraft, it certainly hasn’t stayed the same. I’ve been playing since 2013, and I can say with total certainty that it’s changed to an almost frightening degree. Imagine if nothing had changed, we’d think they’d gone raving mad, and had wasted such amazing potential. But when something does poorly out the gates then makes an effort to improve, everyone shuns it. Doesn’t seem very fair. This is why I’d like to announce that I’m officially changing my attitude towards games that were poorly received in the past, and to the 2 or 3 people who might comment, gimme some suggestions.