ARK: Survival Evolved needs no introduction. It’s a game that took the world by storm upon its initial early access release and despite a considerable player drop-off due to performance issues, it still continues to excite and entice heaps of players worldwide. PixARK is set in the game’s same universe, but trades the realism and adult themed content for something more “ideal” for the younger audience. It’s important to note that the game is still subject Xbox Game Preview. The opinions here may not reflect the game’s final product quality.
The premise of PixARK is almost identical to that of ARK: Survival Evolved. Players wake up stranded on a mysterious island and to survive, they’ll need to hunt, harvest, craft items, grow crops and build shelters to protect themselves from the island’s dangerous inhabitants; its dinosaurs. PixARK is an open-world voxel-based sandbox survival game, one that’s as accessible as it is in-depth and exciting. There’s still quite a bit of work to be done before release, indeed, but the foundation points to a very promising experience.
The game wastes no time at throwing you into the deep end, but mercifully, the mechanics are very easy to pick up on and it doesn’t take long at all to bond with the fields of play. The overarching aim of the game is to adapt to the dangers within. Yes, it can be an absolute pain the backside to be eaten time and time again, but failure is often one of the best lessons in life, that, and a great deal of trial and error. You see, in PixARK, the island is your source of life. You’ll swiftly pick up on that notion as you spend more time with the game.
Once you’ve crafted your chosen character and have been plopped onto the island, it can be quite an overwhelming affair. Granted. However, I found the difficulty and learning curve to be much steadier than that of ARK: Survival Evolved’s steep offerings. I don’t want to rag on that game too much, because it is a competent survival game to say the least, but I would lying if I didn’t say that I found PixARK’s pacing and theme, refreshing. Expect a much easier ride with this game, which is pretty much a given when we look at the target audience.
Taming a dinosaur no longer takes hours of preparation and effort. Surviving the harsh realities of the vast location no longer demands patience and perseverance. Hell, even leveling up and bettering your output is as fluid as can be. Though, with that being said, there’s still a solid challenge to be soaked up, ensuring that the game isn’t too much into holding the player’s hand. One thing that I particularly appreciated about PixARK was that it amply rewarded you, win or lose, so that you gradually become more capable either way.
Leveling up, nabbing crafting recipes and distributing earned points to spend on your character, rapidly becomes second nature to begin with. It’s a shame, then, that the dangers of the wild are perhaps a little “too” dangerous to contend with. I found myself staring death in the face far too often than I would care to admit, so I hope there’s a balance adjustment on the cards before PixARK leaves preview. Still, some time and attention will often alleviate these frustrations, but a game should always make a good first impression.
What it shouldn’t do, is make you a meal for just about anything that cares to look at your twice. Building a home or structure, much like anything else in this game compared to its counterpart, is far easier. It’s not at all complicated and is just complex enough to relay that all important “look what I have created” feeling when you’re finally done. Crafting may well be plentiful, but it pays off to understand how each material and resource should be used first and foremost. Once again, this isn’t at all too difficult to eventually gel with before long.
PixARK supports procedurally generated maps and quests, ensuring that your time on any given island is unique. This can be a blessing and a curse depending on how RNG likes your company, but in the grand scheme of things, the system holds up well. The game can be played with other gamers or through solo-play, however, the core foundation and goals will always remain the same; hunt, craft and survive. It’s an addictive loop that I cant see myself shaking anytime soon. PixARK also has some magical elements present, which I enjoyed.
Much like ARK: Survival Evolved, the game comes with a biome-system, with eight unique biomes in total spanning deserts, caves, jungles and more. I have yet to explore each of these biomes, though I will say that the ones I have visited adds a nice variation to the game’s visuals. Being a voxel-based game, you know what sort of design you’re going to be soaking up. PixARK makes great use of its colors and and playful format throughout, which I honestly didn’t expect to appreciate as much as I have. It’s like ARK swallowed Minecraft.
I have to commend the UI and menus too. I hated ARK: Survival Evolved’s UI and menus during preview, so it was nice to see PixARK offering up something more rounded. I found it easy to digest much sooner than I ever did in ARK: Survival Evolved. There’s also a few bugs and performance issues; framerate and rendering to name but a few. I will point out that these problems didn’t persist on a regular basis, but when they did, it broke my concentration. This is, of course, to be expected, given the game’s position in early access and game preview. All in all, PixARK is a robust adventure that offers heaps of content. If you love ARK, this is certainly one that should be on your radar.
It’s still early days for me and I fully intend on spending more time with PixARK as the months pass by. I hope that by full release there’s a better balance for the initial phases of the game and that the technical issues are ironed out. Though, I must admit, PixARK certainly has my attention. It’s got a decent foundation and a lovable design that makes it suitable for players of most ages. Despite the few issues, it’s clear that this game has a great deal of potential that I have no doubt it will meet come launch.
This game was tested and previewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.