ARK: Survival Evolved is one of the most played games on the planet. Inspired by a certain cinematic franchise, it sees players team up or go solo in a futuristic world overrun with dinosaurs and a menagerie of monstrous creatures. Throw crafting, base-building, and beast-taming into this sandbox shooter and it’s easy to see how it became so popular.
Already, efforts are being made to build ARK into something much bigger. Chinese studio, Snail Games, is currently working on the Minecraft-like PixARK and has just launched its VR spin-off, ARK Park.
The good news is that you don’t need to know the ins and outs of Survival Evolved before booking a ticket to ARK Park. Although there’s bound to be some overlap (and an air of familiarity for existing fans) this game does a good job bringing newcomers into the fold.
Upon learning the basics, you’ll board a shuttle that takes you deeper into the exotic wilderness. There’s a neat facility – similar to a welcome lobby – where players can learn more about the world and its inhabitants before heading out on an excursion. Your focus will be split between exploration, resource gathering, and combat, similar to the original game. Of course, being in VR, there are plenty of set pieces and gorgeous vistas to help immerse you in the world, from riding a giant triceratops through the jungle to standing top a canyon, watching pterodactyls fly against the setting set.
Each activity is locked to certain areas which players can jump between by bringing up a menu. For example, an exploration section is contained within its own miniature sandbox with various interactive elements such as mining nodes and various forms of wildlife. These non-combat zones prohibit the use of weapons, encouraging players to use a scanner and learn more about their surroundings instead. Resources and data are then fed back to base camp, allowing you to craft items and unlock new areas.
Shooting a dinosaur in the face is pretty much an ARK staple, and there’s some of that here too. Combat missions follow your typical tower defence template as incoming enemies look to destroy the objective you’re defending. As you progress, they’ll come in bigger waves, filling their ranks with stronger beasts to gun down.
It’s fun yet simplistic and inherently repetitive. For those who have been spoiled by other, better VR shooters like Raw Data, Arizona Sunshine, and Farpoint, the novelty will quickly wear off. It’s a shame, considering how a lot of the game’s progression system is geared towards crafting new weapons.
You can play ARK Park using a DualShock 4 or two PlayStation Move controllers – the standard for just about any first person PSVR title. However, where motion controls usually allow you to grab and interact with objects within reach, ARK Park makes a slight adjustment. Instead of needing to physically lean towards an object or point of interest, you can simply look at it, then press the action button to trigger the same effect. In some cases this is pretty handy, especially when there are items on the floor that would normally mean crouching down and positioning your Move controls outside the play area.
This does make the game feels less tangible, however, with the other downside being the amount of head movement the game demands. Navigating menus is a literal pain in the neck as you awkwardly reel your head in just to select an option. It’s damn uncomfortable and could easily have been remedied by rejigging the controller layouts.
Instead of being a full-fat adaptation of Survival Evolved, ARK Park is more of a taster, chopping that game into smaller chunks, then isolating them. This isn’t the same sprawling open world shooter – it’s something much smaller and less substantive, though still looks to capture that core ARK essence. It may succeed on some level though, needless to say, those players who pony up £30 and go in blind could come away deeply dissatisfied.
Version tested: PlayStation VR