ARK: Genesis Part 1 review for Xbox One, PS4, PC

Platform: Xbox One
Also on: PS4, PC
Publisher: Studio Wildcard
Developer: Studio Wildcard
Medium: Digital
Players: Multi
Online: Yes

The success story of Studio Wildcard?s ARK: Survival Evolved has always been a rather interesting one to me. The game first launched as an early access/game preview title for the PC and Xbox One title back in 2015, and to spite its relatively rough appearance and performance, ?multiplayer open-world survival with dinosaurs? was a pretty big hit. Fast forward to early 2020 and we?re still on the receiving end of significant updates including new content and expansions, and the game continues to find a place within monthly sales and livestream viewing charts on many platforms. For a game not named Minecraft or Grand Theft Auto V, that’s impressive to say the least.

We?re pretty confident that ARK 2 is deep in development somewhere, but through the end of 2020 Studio Wildcard is committed to ARK?s latest story expansion ARK: Genesis. Genesis is actually rolling out in 2 parts, the first of which is now available for all platforms, with Part 2 scheduled to go live later this winter. If you?ve thought you?ve seen everything that the game has to offer over the years, you?d likely be wrong. ARK: Genesis Part 1, with its all-new simulation-style environment, definitely takes it in a different direction. New additions to the game include diverse mission-based game mechanics, an AI robo sidekick/companion, and some very unique new creatures and biomes which change things up as compared to past expansions.

ARK, as a survival game, has never been an easy experience. The base game can challenge even veteran survivalists, and a number of the expansions have pushed it even further up the difficulty scale. ARK: Genesis though really seems to expect players to step it up even more, since it drops you into an extremely inhospitable biome which immediately starts affecting the well-being of your character. Your experience may vary depending on playing offline or on (and a public or private server), but either way, it?s not a walk in the park by any means.

The new features and enhancements in ARK: Genesis Part 1 set it apart from some of the more recent content drops since they change the gameplay loop to an extent. Introducing the HLN-A hovering AI companion (think Ghost from Destiny) opens up a whole new world of things to do within the game. Using HLN-A, players can scan the environment to pick up missions and tasks, which can provide players with much-needed loot, help push along the story and also provide more detailed info for the creatures inhabiting the world. The missions are fairly diverse, from tracking and taking down boss creatures, to just playing some ad-hoc basketball or racing dinos. It?s a fun addition to the game and provides a little more structure to the never ending open-world survival.

Speaking of creatures to discover and tame, there?s certainly some impressive new ones in the Genesis expansion including dreamy flying astral whales, volcanic Magmasaurs and absolutely massive land tortoises. Additionally, there’s some cute smaller creatures which can be raised into some pretty fearsome, nasty beasts. Since the expansion takes place in a sim, the biomes can be very diverse — meaning there?s a low gravity alien moon-like area, dark, deep-sea trenches, ice peaked mountains, and everything in between. Of course none of it is particularly hospitable, but that?s par for the course for ARK.

Crafting also received an enhancement in this expansion, meaning players can assemble new tools (fishing nets, mining drills), vehicles (hover-skiffs) and structural elements, including jump pads, alarm systems and others.  Variety is the name of the game here.

With all the new features and content in Genesis Part 1 comes a number of bugs and glitches, and there have already been a couple of client and server patches to help smooth them over. Generally, the performance is decent enough on an Xbox One X, even if the aesthetic is all over the place. One minute players are treated to some great looking creatures, lighting and effects, and then next there will be some laggy performance and low quality textures. Again, ARK veterans should know what to expect more or less.

To spite some issues and inconsistent performance, ARK: Genesis Part 1 is a solid content drop for the game so far and should hopefully be enough to hold players off until Part 2 which is scheduled for later in the year. Either way, we’re hoping the development team continues to patch up remaining problems with the expansion and base game to improve the overall quality of life. As we transition into the next generation of consoles we have our fingers crossed that Studio Wildcard does reveal an actual ARK 2 release date once Genesis wraps up.

Studio Wildcard provided us with an ARK: Genesis Season Pass Xbox One code for review purposes.

Grade: B-