I purchased this game in early access as the Explorer's Bundle sale shortly after they released the Scorched Earth expansion pack, so near the end of early access. I purchased for the Sony Playstation IV because, at the time, my computer wasn't quite strong enough to run the PC version. I didn't plan on my PC finally going (it was closing in on twelve years old) to it's final resting place shortly afterwards, or I may have just bought a PC version. Now I have both, so I will be reviewing both versions here.
The Game - The game overall is incredible. I've been playing it for over a year now, and I've never gotten bored with it. I would like to point out that I have only been playing Single Player. I have very limited internet access, so online play is out of the question; this review is solely for Single Player mode.
The game is open world, and completely explorable. If you can see it, you can go there. The world is incredibly detailed, feels absolutely massive, and is full of danger at every turn. The graphics are very good, with trees and grass waving in the wind, beautiful lighting and weather effects, and good water effects. There are four maps with different characteristics (the newest expansion as of this writing, Aberration, adds a fifth one), and if that's not enough, you can also try to create a proceduraly-generated world that will randomly create a custom world for you, meaning the game is potentially limitless in world design. The world is filled with creatures of all kinds, with no shortage of variety. Again, as of this writing, I believe there are over one hundred different varieties of wildlife in the game. Their movements are, for the most part, realistic, and the detail is incredible. Scales shine, feathers and fur ruffle in the breeze, eyes glint in the firelight. Some of the large animals have issues with partial floating when going over rougher terrain, and the attacks of some seem like old-fashioned RPGs. For instance, a creature may attack and connect with a hit, despite not actually connecting with the target visually, or a side-sweeping attack may still throw the target backwards rather than sideways. A short person and a tall person still have the same strike zones for hitting and being hit, so there's no real advantage to customizing your character beyond the visuals (this would have been an awesome and creative thing to add to the game).
I prefer to play games like this as I would in real-life, so a lot of sneaking, pausing, and looking at your surroundings for potential danger is involved for me personally rather than just plunging in with both barrels blasting as others prefer. If you like games that scare you, this is also a good way to play, as every now and then, you'll miss something that will attack you when you're least expecting it and make you jump right out of your seat.
There is a great deal of advancement in the game, from absolutely nothing to nearly space-age equipment. Starting out with nothing and building up as you progress through the game is very satisfying. Leveling up happens at a good pace, and can be adjusted to happen more or less frequently. One thing I would like to point out is that, at least while playing Single Player, there are sliders to adjust nearly everything in the game. This makes it anywhere from totally impossible to so easy it's a yawn. Expect to have a couple false starts when creating your game before you adjust the sliders to get the right combination for you personally (this is something the Gamespot reviewer really could have been helped with). Slider adjustments exist for everything from difficulty, day-night cycle, and stats to the amount of wildlife, the amount of items you can gather, and leveling frequency. I would estimate about forty to fifty individual adjusters can be used to maximize game experience. Nothing in the game is useless, either. There's no random junk; everything has a purpose. This purpose can be generic, or incredibly focused, which adds a lot to the gameplay.
The variety in the game is also incredible. The wildlife is all over the place; roaming the land, lurking in caves, swimming through the water, and flying in the air. There are many different tools you can use in the game, and a variety of structures to create by building. Over time, the developer has made tweaks to make this much better with a more intelligent snapping mechanism than when I first got the game. The resources you can collect are also everywhere. As you move throughout the world, you can go back to where you were before and some, or even all of them, will have regrown or reappeared as well, so there's no running out either. There was an official mod called Primitive Plus that was included with the game. This mod removes any modern technology, but adds many, many new items you can create. Unfortunately, I ran into stability issues with this version. It's a shame, as it was quite fun when it was working, but seemed to crash every couple times I played and took an exceedingly long time to load (about twelve minutes vs roughly half a minute for the standard version of the game).
The user-interface is fairly complex, but mostly intuitive and no harder than many other games of this magnitude. I find it no more difficult than the ones in, say, the Elder Scrolls games, for comparison. The game auto-saves when you exit, and will also save now and then as you play just in case of a crash, something very useful in early-access.
PS4 - The graphics are fairly good. It's not the best-looking PS4 game I've seen, but definitely not the worst either. I have the basic PS4, not the PS4 Pro, but even so, the framerate is smooth in 720P, the controls are easy to use and operate smoothly, and everything was fine. I particularly liked the PS4 version for one very big bonus: split-screen. Not many games still offer an old-fashioned split-screen mode for two people to play together on the couch, but this one does and it is a blast to play together. There are a few caveats, the main one being that there is no vertical-split option; only horizontal, which can be a little difficult on a widescreen television. The biggest flaw was with a user-interface update that occurred after I had been playing with my wife for a couple months. They updated from the old black-background with wooden outlines to a spacey, transparent blue menu sometime in mid-2017. After that update, the menus were pretty much unreadable. We tried three different times to play the game together, and each time ended up with a bad headache from squinting at the screen within half an hour. No further updates have been made to that user-interface, so we ended up no longer playing split-screen and only engaging in Single Player by ourselves. A major loss and major blow to the PS4 version. In addition, it had early-on issues with properly saving both players profiles; this went away later on with updates. If you don't mind playing without split-screen, then I can find no major flaw with the PS4 version.
PC - The PC version is a step above the PS4 version provided you have a modern (circa 2017) computer. I purchased a computer with 16 Gigabytes of RAM, a 3 Gigabyte Nvidia video card, an Intel Core I5 processor, and a standard SATA hard drive, which runs the game on 1280X960 resolution excellent. We even tried dumbing down the graphics and putting it on an old laptop my brother had with integrated graphics, 3 Gigabytes of RAM, and an Intel Pentium D processor. The game still loaded quickly and ran on lower resolutions like 800X600 and 1024X768, but was a little too delayed to play (move the mouse or press a key, wait a half-second, then a response). Overall, if you have the computer that can handle it, the graphics are amazing, the gameplay is nearly seamless, and it loads quickly. I would recommend the PC version to anyone who values graphics over everything else and prefers the precision of a mouse versus a game controller.
My overall score for the game is a nine out of ten, based primarily on this is a genre I personally enjoy, the graphics are excellent, there is a vast amount of variety and things to do in the game, the interface is intuitive, gameplay is almost infinitely customizable, and it is just plain fun for me. That's something some reviewers should keep in mind; if survival games aren't your thing, why does that merit a poor review? If someone who loves arcade shooters is asked to try an in-depth, first-person war game, they may just not be into it. It's like asking someone who loves romantic-comedy to review a thriller. Maybe leave the company reviews for survival games to those who actually enjoy survival games. For me, the only thing keeping Ark Survival Evolved from a perfect score were the split-screen issues on the PS4 version and just a few polishing issues regarding the way the dinosaurs move and the way certain attack mechanics that could be fixed in the future.