The hardest problem with "Early Access" is the fact that you know that the game you are playing is not going to be the final product. The final, post-beta version of Ark: Survival Evolved will be different from the current version available right now. The real question is, how different is it going to be. Other early access titles provides players with a substantially great gameplay –much like a super-extended demo sequence that shows you how much fun the game already is. Ark, on the other hand, shows you how much the developers still have not figured out.
What is Ark: Survival Evolved?
Ark is a survival crafting game set in a world with dinosaurs. So if you were thinking prehistoric Minecraft with fancy modern graphics –you would not be too far off. If the promotional screencaps are anything to go by, the game is meant to be gorgeous showcasing an impressive environment and a rich supply of flora and fauna to find. The Early Access, however, is not as impressive.
Unless you have the best and greatest PC rig, expect to spend the first hour or so of the game trying to figure out the best graphical settings (if you are running a crossfire rig, good luck). And even at the optimum settings, there is still a lot of visually unimpressive stuff. Flat textures, environments with very few objects, awkward lighting effects, and occasionally, the animations of the wild dinosaurs just do not seem to work so well.
The AI is no better. This is not a jungle safari, at all. When herbivores encounter meat eating predators, they do engage in combat, but it looks boring with the two sides trying to chip away at whatever is the equivalent of HP in the game.
Will It Wear a Collar?
So exploring the world is not as fun thanks to the bland environment and watching the dinosaurs feels pretty lame. But what about taming them? Well, putting aside the fact that this is probably one of the most tedious tasks in the game, it is actually quite worth it (and yes, the game presents that as an established thing early on –your first true progress is when you are able to tame your first dinosaur). Expect to feed food over and over again to these very ungrateful giants and hope that they start liking you enough to let you ride them.
But when you finally do get to ride your first Utahraptor (don't ask), it feels immensely satisfying and this is where Ark itself set's itself above the many dinosaur games out there. The strength and advantage that a dinosaur provides is a vast contrast to any experience you would have at the start of playing this game. It pretty much redefines the way you can play Ark. Then you can proceed to acquiring more resources in order to tame even more dinosaurs (some to guard your base, others to help you in raiding other bases).
Things to Do
Sadly, as fun as having a dinosaur army of your own can be, the rest of Ark: Survival Evolved does not give you much else to play around with. The world is curiosity-piquing (it's got dinosaurs after all), but this is obviously not prehistoric Earth and there are lots of questions that seem worth learning the answers too. While the vast map provides players with many strange and unique places (sorry, no spoilers), the presentation feels a little rough and unfinished. And there is nothing else that actually happens –no quests triggered, no NPCs found. Of course, this is all in early access so that could change.
At the leveling is not a terrible grind. Sure, it is a grind, but the pace at which you advance is fairly decent. You will start researching and unlocking new saddle configurations to help you ride different types of dinosaurs (that little detail is pretty impressive), you will being to consider developing weapons that you can still use while riding (when you ride a dino, your controls switch over to the dino's abilities, not your characters). You can seek out larger dinosaurs that have saddle configurations that let you fight alongside them.