This is MY review and a few friends!
Ark Survival Evolved seems to be a bit infamous among the community that tends to pay attention to Early Access games. Personally, I've never believed in Early Access and I only buy games if I'm happy with the state they're in when I buy them. I recognize many are not. I bought Ark just before it came out of Early Access. For me and the friends and family I convinced to buy the game, it's a bit hard to understand why so many people give this game bad reviews. After all, we've loved our time with the game. However I can imagine if you bought into the game early or only play on the public servers, you would probably not really like what you got.
The core of the game: the crafting, leveling, surviving, exploration, taming, building, etc. is incredible. I can safely say this game is far and away the best survival game I've ever played. It has good progression. Early game you level up quickly and get a lot of exciting blueprints for things to craft, however you are unable to get all of them, which lends itself great to multiplayer. The diversity of environments and creatures makes exploring a blast, and I have barely scratched the surface of Scorched Earth and Abberation. The fact that there is an end goal and tough encounters you are building to along the way is also very exciting and engaging. I can't speak to the quality of the bosses, the dungeons, or the ending of the game, I haven't gotten there yet, but I can say the fact that they are there coupled with the overall structure of gaining more powerful equipment and dinos over time makes for a very enjoyable and purpose driven experience.
Of the 110 hours of the game, I've probably put about 35 hours into hosting a non-dedicated server for some friends, 70 hours doing a separate solo campaign (primarily on the Center for those who care) and about 5 hours trying to play on a public server. Nondedicated servers are fun, though the tether distance is certainly a bit of a problem. You're going to want to set up a dedicated server, which is what I just did a week ago, however doing so is a massive pain, so keep that in mind. The public servers though... bleh. I gotta say, spawning in and seeing the beach dotted with tamed Gigas and massive forts is not fun, nor is the server lag, nor is the stupid events they always seem to be holding, nor are any of the players I came across. All the things I like about Ark; the pace, the mystery, the progression, the functionality; all trashed on public servers.
Touching on some other things: the graphics look fantastic if you can get your settings at something above potato mode. Water reflections are nice, though they have the weird problem almost all UE4 water has where you can see what you're holding reflected across an entire ocean, and that really takes away from the visual presentation. The game is poorly optimized, though they've continued to improve it over the time I've owned the game. There are bugs in the game, though the only bugs that I ran across that I thought were a real problem was how you can get pinned behind the stair model if it is against a corner, the crafting menu randomly kicking me out of folder view even though I have that mode selected, and being randomly kicked off my pteranadon when I wasn't anywhere close to the cave ceiling. A lot of people report that the game is a buggy mess, and while I've seen a few graphical glitches in my 110 hours I've spent with the game, the only big game I haven't seen graphical glitches in recently was Xenoblade Chronicles X. It seems like they've ironed out a lot of the bugs in this game. They also still update the game regularly which I appreciate. Sound design is good. The game feels fine to play. The character creator at the start is really terrible though. I think it might be the worst character creator I've seen. The ability to make more adjustments to their face like different eye shapes, nose shapes, etc. would be much appreciated as well as having some different hair styles (I realize you can get a few pitiful ones if you have the scissors and completed some other tasks, but this area really should be expanded).
All in all, a great game. If you want a good solo survival game or a game to play with your friends, I can't recommend it enough. If you want a game with solid public servers this ain't it.
That being said, it is an amazing experience! It is fun, creative, adventerous...torturous, masochistic, hearbreaking at times, a waste of your life, but at the same time, memorable and fantastic, exhilirating, suspenseful and so on. You will make great friends in-game and have actual enemies(in-game and in real life). You can choose to be moral or amoral, the game will reward you for both. In the end, however, it is that one betrayer in your clan, a single person in an allies clan or a server-wide conspiracy, that will sink all your best-laid plans to bottom of Ark's seas. You might be Alpha for a long time and simply grow weary of the grind and constant watch for you or your clan's destruction. You may laugh one day and just give it all away. I've seen that more than once. This is part of the allure of the game, but at the same time, can be exhausting. At a certain point, after you gain so much and you put real-life hours into it and the virtual world, it will either last or it will fall, suddenly, usually within an hour or less. Probably while you are at work or sleeping.
It is an incredible experience, that anyone that loves open-world games, taming dinosaurs, building, conquering, should try at least once. You will try to get away from Ark, but it will keep on pulling you back in. Eventually, you will have a realization of this and you will simply uninstall the game, walk out of your room and go back to enjoying real life. You will find other games that don't take as much time and allow to leave, when life calls you away with a simple SAVE, QUIT. This will be your choice as you grow older. Of course, you may not, if you have no family or friends outside the game, or have a desire to keep your spouse/friend/lover happy who does not play the game.
The other option...is that you simply leave, when you feel like it, letting go of that hours-long tame, or perhaps leave your clan in a lurch, when they are in the middle of something important, or you just stop caring when you know someone will walk up to your heavily-defended base and drop C4 from high above, strapped to turtles and blow it all to smitereens. This will be happening as soon as you log off, even with good alliances, but you will simply stop caring and it will be a fairly freeing moment and life will move on.
Then months later, years later, you will say, man...I want to play that game again, because none of the other survival games can touch the experience you had in ARK. Then you will remind yourself, oh yeah, I have a life, I have way too many other things to do that are more important. You will shrug your shoulders as your mouse hovers over the Ark installation and then, you will spy your old faithful Ark friends still playing the game, many of them with no spouses or children, spending literally, thousands of hours in ARK and you will shake you head and install another game, a faster game, that you can save easily, stop when you want to and have no consequences that will affect anyone other than yourself.
Long story short, it is addictive and amazing, but unless your lover or spouse plays it with you or you a single person who has chosen to (a) halt all personal or professional development in your life (b) only have time for ARK and for work and sleep, with no real relationships and friendships outside the game world (c) play with your significant other until you both realize, that you should go live life together, away from the PC or (d) you are able to juggle all those things and somehow have a balanced and fufilled life, an active work and social life. You are amazing person, keep up the demigod status.
In the beginning, ARK was an really good game for Early Access in my honest opinion. Sure, it had a bunch of bugs and an incredibly agrivating building system, but it was fine to accept for an early access title. Tons of people played it and tons of people loved it, including myself, even though I was pretty much somehow playing it on a potato with a few blinking lights and USB ports. Even though most times I didn't have the mental strength to play it, when I did, I had a swell time.
Then came Scorched Earth.
The Scorched Earth DLC pack, a DLC pack that was for a game still in Early Access, mind you, whilst being an OK DLC pack, marked the beginning of the end. It added new dinosaurs and a new map that many, also including myself, thought should've have merely been an update to the game. It also proved to many people that, instead of working on the many, many bugs and even the building system (which was still laughably bad, by the way), they were working on more content that merely added more bugs to the pool of already existing ones. Obviously, ARK lost a lot of followers and support.
Between the point in which Scorched Earth was released and the free DLC, Ragnarok, was announced, time marched on as if Scorched Earth never even existed. No further support was given to it whilst Studio Wildcard added in new, vanilla dinosaurs. The only bit of major support SE was ever given was the addition of the Pheonix, which, at that point, couldn't coax players back onto the map in order to get it. Players had already done what Wildcard seemingly wanted them to do; they moved on.
Ragnarok was released and people were fairly pleased. The map was interesting and new and was used for a long while. Granted, it was a fan created map, and there are some incredibly tallented map creators for ARK out there, but it was something new for everyone that played on consoles that couldn't use user created content (yes, ARK was released on consoles in this stage). However, even with the new map that added the Griffin, many things still weren't fixed, most importantly the building system that had gone years without repair. Everyone that could play on PC weren't adversly effected with the mod Structures+, but every player on console were having to suffer the ugly pillars that poked through the ceilings, the glitches in which a structure would snap to a point that wasn't even accessable, and the fact that if the surface you were building on wasn't perfectly straight, you were sh!t out o' luck. However, even then, they still held hope; Studio WC announced that they were planning on integrating S+ into the base game, and everyone erupted in glee.
And then, sh!t hit the fan.
Whilst Abberation was still under development, the STILL Early Access title was raised from the previous $29.99 to the wopping $59.99 it is now. Fans erupted with outrage, seeing that the title that was 75% completed at best was raised to the price of a full AAA game. At this point, ARK started rolling down hill at the velocity of a bullet train as SWC rushed the game to "completion," leaving many of the bugs that had been there since day one in the game and declaring it a finished product when Abberation finally launched to the public. It was at this point, and the point we're still at today, in which ARK reached the lowest point of its lifetime, a point thought unreachable when it was first put into EA. Server preformance was garbage, S+ had never been implemented into the base game, the game was an unoptimized piece of rotten fruit that required the entire bulk of a well preforming gaming PC, the server browser was a complete joke, and there was NO WAY that ARK should've been released in the state that it was.
And now, here we sit, with yet another game fed to the dogs that sh!t money. Was the game ever ready for release? No, my friend, no it wasn't. Now, we have a game that is STILL 75% completed at best selling for the price of a AAA title with a basic carbon copy dipped in glitter glue selling on the Steam storefront for half the price. Am I angry? Yes. Am I devastated? Also yes. I'm angry and sad that this can happen so easily to good games in EA, but, hey, it's Early Access. What you buy is never what you can expect years into the future. Fate, no, some developers in general, are cruel and choose making money over making a quality product that people can enjoy years after we've long passed on. I won't refund my copy, too late to now. However, what I can do is warn everyone. DO NOT BUY ARK IN THIS STATE! Do not give Studio Wildcard more money for this beaten and broken game! If everything changes, I'll change this reveiw as well, but for right now, even with how hard it may be to...