Review: Ark Park (2018)

A promising start that soon disappoints.

When Studio Wildcard released the open-world survival game Ark: Survival Evolved late last year they had something of a hit on their hands. Gamers loved the combination of exploring, surviving and base-building alongside the ability to hunt and train a wide range of dinosaurs. With VR picking up pace it was only a matter of time before Ark made an appearance on the immersive platforms. Ark Park, developed and published by Snail starts promisingly, but soon goes downhill.

Ark Park has a fantastic opening, taking influence from 2015’s Jurassic World, you’ll find yourself on the platform of a monorail station. Step aboard and you’re whisked across the ocean to an island where you’ll be greeted by a visitor’s centre complete with animatronic dinosaurs and educational features. Experiencing this in VR is amazing and the closest you’ll come to visiting Jurassic World for real. From this point on however, it’s a mixed bag of features that all work fine, but don’t do anything new or utilise VR to it’s full potential.

I advise before playing the game you select the optional tutorials at the menu screen, as jumping straight into single player will leave you lost as to what to do and frustration will soon set in. Once you arrive at your main hub area, you will be able to breed new dinosaurs, craft and test weapons and change your appearance. Breeding and crafting are simple enough (once viewing the tutorial) and the moment your first baby dino hatches was a thrill. In no time it will be big enough to ride through the jungles.

In order to spawn new dino babies and improve your weapons you will need to explore a series of different locations, from swamp land to mountain tops. Here you can collect resources such as wood or food and extract DNA from the creatures you discover along the way. Collecting DNA will also unlock the next location. This is by far the best part of Ark Park, but it’s also the most disappointing. Each locale is so small you won’t need to travel far, which is done via teleporting, and so lacks any real “exploring” and there are few creatures to actually discover or interact with.

The third section is ‘Battle’ which challenges you to protect ‘brainwave’ towers (used to suppress dino aggression toward humans) from a series of enemy waves. An accomplished feature that works well in VR, but the gun tracking and hit rate is slightly off making for irritating gameplay.

Visually, the game impresses. Very few VR games, especially on PSVR, have pushed it when it comes to graphics, but that’s never a real loss as the main appeal for the platform has been gameplay and immersion. Ark Park does a good job of constructing rich and dynamic worlds, and it’s easy to get lost in them, it’s just a shame they’re so limiting in scope.

What Ark Park boils down to is a huge disappointment. After the initial first 15 minutes I was excited to venture further, but I soon found the game dull and monotonous. Attempts to log on to multiplayer were fruitless and I had explored every locale within 30 minutes leaving me to just mull about wondering what to do and the trouble was, what was left to do I had no enthusiasm to bother with.

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