Developer: Snail Games USA
Publisher: Snail Games USA
Genre: Adventure, Multiplayer, Role-Playing, Action
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: Teen – Crude Humour, Fantasy Violence, Mild Blood
Release Date: 31/05/2019
Price: £49.99 – Rapid Reviews UK was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
My Ark experience
A few months back I picked up Ark Survival Evolved on the Nintendo Switch. Before I could even pop the cartridge into my Switch, my twitter feed was flooded with posts on how awful the game was… and how poorly it was ported. I had already bought it at this point and wasn’t to be deterred by the posts. One of the things that drew me to this title was the ability to tame and ride dinosaurs, which I found such an exciting mechanic.
I tried the game out and while there were definitely some issues, I had a lot of fun with it and loved the taming, dinosaurs and crafting on offer. The visuals for the dinosaurs were really well done and sometimes the game would look quite beautiful, even though the frame-rate would take a hit every now and again.
I felt like the game was getting a lot of negative attention even though I personally thought it wasn’t all that bad. The ability to create your own base and survive a hostile world was exciting and it was my first try of this franchise: a franchise I found quite addictive and engrossing.
A while later, I was looking through the eShop and found that Snail Games were bringing out another ARK title called PixARK. As you could imagine, I immediately became excited as this had a completely different art style from the previous entry. Fast forward to a few weeks ago and after getting a review code, I was set to try a second time on the ARK franchise. I was keen to see if it could improve on some of the issues Evolved suffered with.
On booting up the game for the first time, I found the game to be a lot more friendly and helpful than the former entry. After creating a custom character in the editor (which gives you a few different options to create a unique individual), you’re set on a procedurally-generated map and left to your own devices.
After a brief rundown on some of the basic abilities like running, jumping and gathering resources – through text bubbles during the tutorial – you’ll learn how to use your hotkeys that allow for quick use of different items such as food supplies and tools. As well as this, you are taught how to manage your inventory and how to upgrade your character through levelling up your statistics. The need to keep necessities close by such as water and food which will keep you alive is also shared. Neglecting these will result in your timely death, so always have these necessities in your inventory or close by and keep an eye on your water and food gauges to see when certain items should be consumed. After the tutorial, you’re free to explore the map however you see fit.
Like every game before it, the Ark franchise is all about survival within a hostile world filled full of monstrous creatures. PixARK is no different and from the get-go, I realised that. Upon appearing in my newly procedurally generated map, I was confronted with more diverse wildlife than I saw in Evolved, all roaming around my so-called campsite.
As soon as I had the freedom to explore, I started to gather food and building resources around the area and create an enclosed camp to protect myself. Almost everything in PixARK world can be collected for use in crafting or consumption e.g. berries, thatch, wood, dirt, rocks meat etc. I would use these new resources to build a decent-sized fort where I could craft new tools, structures, saddles and other useful things to help me survive.
Every action will slowly fill your level-up bar and once it reaches its threshold, you’ll be able to level up your statistics increasing stats like damage, speed and how much weight you can carry. These are essential to your survival, so make sure you’re always adding points to your character every time you level up. There is also a letter-bot that is located around the map that can give you daily quests for you to complete. These will earn you chests full of new resources or other goodies that you can use.
As I slowly adapted to my surroundings, I started to build my own homestead. Finding engrams from levelling up – found in your inventory – helped me to craft new items, tools and clothes that provide extra defence. These also helped me to create stronger tools, building blocks and other essential unities.
Art of taming
Upon levelling up I learnt I could now tame my first dinosaur. The creatures surrounding my camp were of a low level so taming them was really easy and it didn’t require me to wait around. This was a pleasant surprise when compared to Ark Survival Evolved where it can take up to 4 or 5 minutes to tame even the smallest of dinosaurs. Here, I would simply press the X button and they were mine as long as I had a certain berry in the last slot of my hotkeys. This pig-like creature would follow me back to my base camp where I could secure him until I could create a saddle.
Of course, all Ark games require you to craft a saddle for your new mount which can be unlocked through engrams, or by levelling up. After crafting one, you would simply equip it and you are ready to ride.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it
In fact, the game is almost identical to the previous entry with the only difference here being the pixel art style and some of the creatures you get to tame. That being said, it was different enough to set it apart from its big brother as it all just ran a lot better and I felt the game as a whole performed a lot better on the Nintendo Switch. I also found I prefer playing in third-person view more than first-person.
PixARK, like hundreds of games before it, builds its gameplay on the repetitive task of collecting, building and using the materials you’ve collected to survive and craft. While that concept doesn’t excite everyone, its been highly addictive for me and I’ve found it difficult to put down. So far I’ve played 15 hours of the game and have barely scratched the surface as with most Ark games the surrounding world is your playground and there’s always something to discover while exploring its vast world.
I’ve played most of my time in single player but the game also offers a creative mode which lets you build whatever your heart desires, as well as localhost mode and online play with up to 64 players which is pretty cool. There is a lot of content on offer here that takes weeks, or months even, to discover – that’s one of the things I really enjoy about it.
So does the game have any issues?
Well kind of. I’ve experienced:
- Pop-in while flying through the environment but it is less noticeable while you’re on the ground.
- You can switch viewpoints to a third-person or first-person view as sometimes the characters head can obstruct your view when you’re trying to build.
- The inventory can be little cumbersome to select items due to the cursor colour being so light it can be difficult to see.
But my biggest gripe was after constructing a huge wall around my base to protect my animals and equipment, I found that larger dinosaurs roaming near my camp would clip through the walls I had created. They could then appear right inside my camp which caused me to lose a lot of my smaller tamed creatures who were killed and had multiple pieces of equipment destroyed after spending hours making it.
This happened numerous times and is the most annoying issue I have encountered so far. While none of these are game-breaking, it can be annoying to lose things you’ve spent time on because of a strange clipping issue.
So much more
I’ve not even touched upon the online section. What I’ve played is very similar to the single-player offering but this time you have other characters that might help you survive or hunt you down and steal your resources. I found a few games and they were enjoyable, especially the tribe I met who all had tamed rabbits on their heads and a T.Rex in their camp.
I like PixARK and can see myself spending another 15 hours creating and taming. It’s not perfect but I think it’s definitely better than some other opinions I have seen online.
There is a lot of content on offer here. Anyone who enjoys creating and building will get a great deal of mileage out of PixARK. Yes, it has some issues but there’s just so much to discover here and there’s still so much to talk about. Want to create your own Jurassic World? Then look no further than PixARK on the Nintendo Switch.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase PixARK from the Nintendo eShop on the following link, https://www.nintendo.co.uk/Games/Nintendo-Switch/PixARK-1569926.html
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.