Ark: Survival Evolved meets Portal Knights as Snail Games put a more juvenile twist on Studio Wildcard’s prehistoric action-packed survival title in PixARK. Through means of a Minecraft/Portal Knights inspired “cube” graphic style and more forgiving survival elements, developers mitigate the brutality of Ark (one of Xbox’s best-selling video games), making it more befitting for younger gamers.
In this open-world sandbox title, players are driven by a single, simple premise – survive. You must scour a vast world riddled with an immense catalogue of prehistoric wonders, harvesting resources to craft tools and shelters in order to endure the danger that lurks far and wide. Not only are you threatened by the colossal foot of a Brontosaurus or the pronged jaws of a hungry Raptor, but you also face a treacherous battle with your own nourishment needs alongside harsh weather elements. Furthermore, outside of single-player modes there’s also the looming peril of other PixARK players. Unlike the game on which it’s based, PixARK allows you to tear apart it’s boundless cube landscapes and rebuild them to your hearts content. Whether you are a constructing fierce, impenetrable base of operations or adding a charming aesthetic to the scenery, creativity flourishes in this title, provoking in turn a further appeal to youngsters.
All those in favour of character customisation say “aye”, for dolling up your cube-like avatar is where PixARK begins. The game does well to provide you with a generous ensemble of customisation options, offering a little something for everyone. After personalising your survivor in a way that tickles your fancy, you’re able to select a spawn region and drop into the map via balloons – don’t fret, you’ve not unknowingly picked up another Royale title. Upon setting your feet firmly on the ground, the fight for survival ensues. Acquiring resources is straightforward enough and done so by interacting with the environment in different ways. Whilst fibre and berries can be harvested from bushes, wood must be attained by chopping trees with an axe.
The crafting interface (accessed via your inventory) is very minimalist and easy to comprehend. Upon levelling up, you are granted a number of engram points which can be used to unlock blueprints for PixARK’s assortment of craftable items. Experience points can be attained using countless methods. Scavenging for resources, crafting items and hunting the array of dinos and other creatures that roam the cubed setting all reward you with heaps of XP. In addition to these methods, dispersed across PixARK’s extensive setting are mailboxes that ask you complete specific quests in exchange for XP. The more you level your character, the more advanced, higher-tier items you are able to craft and the further you’ll be able to venture out. Although at first all of this can seem rather daunting, developers make certain to talk you through the essentials of surviving. All of the above information is effectively handed to you on a silver platter through means of on screen text prompts. These serve as helpful tutorials as and when you need them, providing you with the guidance you need to warm to the world of PixARK.
Although typically within most games death is considered nothing more than a inconvenient burden to set you back, in PixARK death actually proves to be the advantageous approach. Yes, a trial and error methodology is well intact within the game. You’ll find yourself being ripped apart by bothersome Dilos and being hindered by your depleting food and water bars before you develop a knack for countering these elements. You must acquire enough experience to trudge through the first few levels before you start unlocking weapons and gear necessary for more prolonged survival. This shouldn’t discourage you or deter you from playing on though. Once you grow accustom to the map layout and the general workings of the game, PixARK definitely begins to really boast it’s enjoyable sandbox gameplay elements at their finest.
Like Ark, PixARK is centred around it’s prehistoric ecosystem, but not only in the sense of reducing each creature you encounter to a pile of pixelated blocks. Much like the game on which it’s based, taming is essential in PixARK for besting it’s treacherous landscapes, riddled with deadly dinos. Creatures can be tamed in numerous ways. Whilst herbivores such as Parasaurs can be tamed by passively feeding them berries you’ve gathered, Raptors must be knocked out with weapons and fed meat via their inventory. The versatile span of wildlife within PixARK all possess their own pros and cons. Whether your tamed dino helps you traverse the map more efficiently or alternatively offers a mean set of teeth to ward of impending enemies, they’re a creature comfort (literally) that almost always prove useful. Much like your character, your tames level up. Journeying with your companions and engaging them in combat gifts them with XP, allowing you to boost their stats in a way that suits your exploration needs best. PixARK includes pixelated renditions of many dino encounters featured in Ark alongside a welcomed selection of new and different species too. This is especially true at night in which newfangled, more aggressive enemies spawn intending to make short work of you.
PixARK does provide a phenomenal single-player experience that’s far more forgiving than Ark itself. Less of your inventory drops upon death and your nourishment bars are less of a concern to maintain. Even so, the game sees a much steeper difficulty curve when playing alone which may point you in the direction of PixARK’s multiplayer. Again, much like Ark’s widely-credited multiplayer, PixARK similarly features multiplayer servers which you can explore at your leisure whilst accompanied by friends and randomers alike. Granted, it does leave you open to a whole new level of danger. In some cases you will encounter players who wouldn’t hesitate to dispose of you and steal your hard-earned gear. However, it equally opens up countless other opportunities. Crafting fortresses and taming dinos is far less formidable as part of a tribe and it will dampen the overall difficulty of the game quite significantly. Across both single/multiplayer modes, you can brave the menacing world of PixARK in both first-person and third person. This can be toggled at any point throughout offering you better peripherals in more hazardous terrains or more accuracy in battle. It’s a perfect asset for meeting your circumstantial needs as you play.
A “cube/block -style” world allows PixARK to breach the creative confines of Ark itself. Players are able to tear apart the world to access resources and build more elaborate and aesthetically pleasing bases. This heavy focus on creative elements is also carried over into PixARK’s blueprints in which you can craft stations to allow you further access to decorative items to embellish your bases with. It is here that the game reflects it’s profound similarity to the likes of Portal Knights. As it stands, Ark’s preexisting sandbox gameplay elements oozed replayablity to a noticeably high degree, something that’s only been enchanced in Snail Games more child-like approach to it’s mechanics that’ll no doubt have you itching to explore and build upon every last bit of the map.
PixARK takes all the awesomeness of Ark and completely reenvisions it in a way that offers appeal to numerous new audiences. All of Ark’s prehistoric fun is depicted in newfound gorgeous landscapes, dominated by flora and fauna brought to life in an fun graphic-style seeping with colour. Although Ark is a well-rooted inspiration, PixARK doesn’t feel like a mindless regurgitation of Wildcard’s title. Instead, thanks to it’s cleverly integrated and more elaborate crafting elements, it feels like an entirely unique adventure to embark upon. It is worth noting that the game is still in early access/ game preview stages and in being so is not without it’s faults. As it stands, a heap of performance issues stagger the potential greatness of the title, occasionally closing the app in some cases. This is understandably frustrating as the game decides to unexpectedly close as the taming bar of a feisty Raptor teeters on the edge of completion. Moreover, navigating menus using the d-pad feels inconvenient and somewhat primitive where a more fluent cursor mechanic would feel more at home. However even with it’s current faults, PixARK is not to be considered to be on the edge of extinction just in presenting both Ark: Survival Evolved fans and newcomers to genre with a lighthearted escapade to dabble in.
**A code was kindly provided by publishers/developers for review purposes**