Ark: Survival Evolved--A Minecraft Killer?

Steve Anderson : End Game
Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
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Ark: Survival Evolved--A Minecraft Killer?

The Xbox Game Preview program has brought out some interesting advance looks at some unexpected titles, and one of the most exciting just recently arrived. It's "Ark: Survival Evolved," and console gamers are getting their first taste of a game that may well be a better Minecraft than Minecraft itself.

If you haven't tried this game yet--and console gamers can get a time-defined trial, about an hour, I think, at no charge--you should. Players wake up on an unfamiliar stretch of beach with a strange gem set into their forearms. While the beach itself is beautiful, strewn with stones, trees, rocks, bushes and shrubs aplenty, it's also clearly hazardous, populated with dinosaurs and stranger things. The first time you see a dodo bird run by--turns out they're both tasty and easy to kill--you know you're not in Kansas any more, if you ever really were. Now, you've got to survive the island as best you can, for as long as you can, making items from the native material and making yourself the island's new alpha predator.

You'll accomplish this via leveling up, a process done by collecting, killing, and making things. Successfully leveling up gives you engram points, which you can put toward the invention of a variety of materials from spears to flare guns to narcotics. The longer you live, the more you learn, and the better placed you are to reach alpha predator status.

The game is much like Minecraft with far better graphics and a deeply ingrained survival bent. I found myself quickly growing fond of gathering materials and discovering more of the island in which I found myself so thoroughly embedded. That's not to say there weren't problems. It would have been nice to know what I was fighting and how likely it was to kill me. It would have been nice if a respawn hadn't cost me everything I built and everything I'd crafted. The tech tree could grow a little faster; when I'm still at pointy-stick tech after three hours of play and rejoicing when I find a slingshot in a supply crate, something's gone wrong. Later, I discovered some difficulty sliders that helped, but it still took a long time to get to metal tools, and longer still to get the necessary metal to make them.

Still though, it's one of the most novel games I've played in a long time, and it's a great deal of fun. It actually got me to turn my attention away from Fallout 4, and that's a feat in and of itself. What will Microsoft bring our way next with the Xbox Game Preview? Only time will tell, but man, it's been great so far.

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