If you’ve not stopped playing Minecraft or have never left the world of Ark: Survival Evolved where dinosaurs and dragons could be your best friends then PixArk is definately the next game you should be checking out!
PixArk is the frankengame brainchild of Snail Games and is in early access taking fans of the builder and survival genres by the hand and leading them right into the gates of PixArk Park. The games core framework feels very much like its base game Ark: Survival Evolved by Studio Wildcard, however by mixing it with the obvious sandbox builder titles such Minecraft and Dragon Quest Builders they’ve been able to branch away from Ark’s science fiction roots and tiptoe into a realm of magic instead. Doing this has created a more welcoming world for all ages and one that opens up more endless options, however I have to wonder as I float down into this prehistoric block age world of magical possibilities if they haven’t kept things a little to savage?
The Character creation screen for PixArk is in alot of ways very similar to that of its core game Ark: Survival Evolved. It offers you a lot of the same customisations and feel and even allows you to pick your starting area. What it does reveal at this early stage as well is that the user interface is not console friendly, PixArk has definitely been designed with a mouse and keyboard in mind and is being adapted here to play on a console. Whilst it does work I felt clunky and restricted in my movements at times and it did hinder my experience.
“…it wasn’t long before I was soon set upon by one of PixArk’s numerous beasties for being the tasty walking drumstick that I am.”
When you spawn in PixArk you float gently down into the world via a bunch of balloons. Holding onto them like some sort of amusement park mishap only in reverse you have no concept at all of the pixelated horrors that await you below. Floating down I aimed myself towards a lush vegetated area as with most building games its best to get started on deforestation and strip-mining for materials as quickly as possible.
Immediately setting about the task of farming to create tools, weapons and the like, it wasn’t long before I was set upon by one of PixArk’s numerous beasties for being the tasty walking drumstick that I am. The number of agressive beasts and things wanting to eat you in PixArk is particularly high, check that ridiculously high. All too quickly the game lost all tension and suspense while I was walking around and I just came to expect my inevitable demise.
After too many deaths to bother counting I finally found myself a safe(ish) location to start building a home. I was restricted by my materials, of which I had lost a lot of via my numerous deaths, and my location so my started home was what a realtor would refer to as “modest” and not at all flashy.
It’s important to note here that death appears to be the goal in PixArk at least for learning to survive past the early levels. In your journey of death through these early stages you’ll learn the much needed skills of how to manage your depleting food and water bars as well as learn the skills of using and unlocking blueprints, used to build, via engram points as you level up in the game. The game does a decent job of guiding you through these via the tutorial system, its simply a shame that the environment is for the most part so unforgiving.
Once I finally found my safe house location I didn’t dare to explore too far from its shelter until I had the tools or means to do so less I be eaten once again, to do this however I needed to find quests and explore. Quests are scattered about via mailboxes to help you level up and are comprised of what you’d expect, hunting, gathering, crafting, taming animals or simply exploring the environment. Once you complete a quest just return to the mailbox to claim its reward, just try to avoid dying along the way.
PixArk isn’t just a dino mining magic adventure though, much like its grown up counterpart Ark, PixArk comes with a multiplayer component for those wanting to take their adventure to greater depths or just not quite brave enough to go it alone. Whilst the single player adventure found within PixArk is for the most part a phenomenal journey if you’re a fan of either genre, its still a desperately difficult game, possibly more so than Ark so the fact that the developer has added this multilayer feature is a massive bonus.
However much like the multiplayer found within Ark, PixArk also features servers where you can play with both friends and random players ready to form a tribe or be hunted down on a whim for your treasured possessions. This risk also opens up greater possibilities such as crafting fortresses, taming a greater variety of dinosaurs and also lowering the over all difficulty of the game in general. Sadly, servers aren’t overly populated currently and when you do find players they are more often than not hostile. Proving that this fun open world style of play can at times be almost as dangerous as the closed one.
Sadly as much fun as I might have had playing this game I was constantly plagued by bugs or glitches. This could be overlooked if the game itself had enough to grip me past its initial concept however unfortunately PixArk lacks its own identity. Its isn’t quite Minecraft and its not quite Ark: Survival Evolved either. Whilst it does offer all the fun prehistoric fun of Ark mixed with the builder joy of Mincraft it also offers a lot of the core frustrations felt in the original games as well.
Currently I feel little reason to stray too far from my safe little camp or tackle taming large dinos, due to the lack of player base on console however the PC community is much larger. The magical concept of PixArk is also something I personally would like to see explored more by the developer who are reasonably good about content and updates, checkout their Twitter. With the game still in early access for the foreseeable future however we will have to wait and see where the magical prehistoric world of PixArk goes from here.