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cover-Ark: Survival Ascended

Thursday, October 26, 2023 11:32:07 AM

Ark: Survival Ascended Review (Vallith)

It's a shame, but it's in a pretty awful state currently.
NOTE: I am going to try and come back to this review as I play more, and update it with the things I do/don't like.
It's probably going to be pretty messy but I hope it helps some of you.
EDIT 1: Okay, so as it turns out this game is actually even more unplayable than I thought. In 3 hours I have crashed about 7 times, I've updated my graphics drivers and I like to think I keep my PC in overall good health so I can only think it is to do with the game rather than my PC. This game seems incredibly unstable. Playing alone and spamming saves whenever I remember seems to be the only way I can get anything done - because otherwise I will crash and lose all progress from when I last saved.
EDIT 1.1: Okay so I haven't been crashing nearly as much anymore. I wish I knew what it was that stopped the crashes, but day 1 I was just getting loads and after a couple days it has improved significantly. Performance is still pretty shitty and there are some performance bugs that are quite significant.
EDIT 2: So after they released that optimisation patch it *has* helped, but still has a long way to go. I put together a spreadsheet of how much each setting impacts the overall performance.


The most fun I have had in ARK Survival Ascended so far was in the character creator, seeing how truly horrendous I could make my character look. The quality of the character is pretty damn good - although there are quite a few less options for some things now.
The game looks phenomenal. Absolutely stunning, it's got to be one of the best looking games I have seen in terms of general landscape and lighting. That is if you can run it, but we'll get to that.
The foliage and just all the details in general look really good. Global Illumination does a LOT of the heavy lifting in terms of how good the game looks, which is a shame because it seems to be the most demanding setting.
I haven't had the chance to check them all out, but the new buildings look pretty incredible. I love the changes they've made to the style the buildings are in and it does a lot to make things look innately pretty rather than the less than appetising structures in ASE.
Especially happy with the change to the wall height - making them square rather than the weird rectangles they used to be.
The main menu re-design looks great and works so much better. More settings are exposed for hosting a server locally/single-player which makes it so so much easier to set up the rates and settings you want without having to outside of the game edit a .ini file.
Although there aren't many yet, having mods built directly into the main menu and allowing them to be cross platform is great and really improves how easy it is to install/manage mods without messing around with the Steam Workshop's awful UI.


Okay the elephant in the room - this game runs truly awfully. I was worried it was going to be the case, but hoping that all the incredible tech in UE5 such as Nanite would pull things together and make it run alright. But the minimum/recommended specs are a bit of a joke - and the fact it runs awfully even on a top end system from a year or so ago is beyond crazy. I'll leave some numbers below for those interested based on my PC.
The in game UI looks good overall - but some aspects are a bit harder to read, and it overall feels a little slower/clunkier. Opening the inventory seems to take more time and that really adds up to be very irritating.
Some settings really just seem to hog most of the performance. I can get the game in a pretty good looking state, but it will run at 35fps. If I change General Shadows from High to Medium, I immediately start getting 60fps. This is a shame, because having shadows on anything lower than High makes them look awful. Medium shadows just creates a very visible cut off radius around your character where no shadows are rendered, so everything in the distance just looks totally incorrect. But it's the difference between 30 and 60fps.
There doesn't seem to be a way to raise the difficulty/max level past 150 currently. Maybe you can edit an .ini file, but there is no setting that you can change in the menus when setting up a world.
You can increase the difficulty by going to
C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\ARK Survival Ascended\ShooterGame\Saved\Config\Windows
Opening GameUserSettings.ini and underneath add OverrideOfficialDifficulty=5
The number can be anything, multiply it by 30 to get your max level. So 5 * 30 = 150. If you want max level of 180, use 6.
I also can't find a setting to increase the number of dino spawns, I really haven't ran into many dinos.


The new building parts are great, and a lot of improvements have been made to the building system. However I do still think that there are just some incredibly obvious pieces missing. Why are quarter floors added when there's no quarter foundation, or even a half foundation?
You are able to place 2 quarter floors in the same square that a foundation would fit in - so surely adding in a quarter foundation which can do the same can't be that hard, right? It really limits the usability of them imo because it doesn't connect nicely to anything.
Same with quarter size wall slopes.
Maybe I'm the crazy one - but it seems that if you are going to add a building item such as a "quarter size" structure, it makes sense to add the entire set of items so that any one of them actually has something to connect to in a way that makes sense and fills gaps left otherwise.

Overall - I really wouldn't recommend the game in it's current state unless you have an absolutely insane PC built within the last 12 months.
Some rough numbers:
For reference - I have a Ryzen 7 5800x, RTX 3080ti, and 32GB of RAM. The game is installed on an M.2 SSD. I run the game at 1440p.
The following numbers in no way are a proper benchmark, they are just rough averages for where I happened to be in game at the time I was testing this - but it should give you an idea of what to expect if you run a similar system to me.
Epic Settings - No DLSS - 1440p - ~15FPS
Epic Settings - Performance DLSS - 1440p - ~25-30FPS
Medium Settings - Performance DLSS - 1440p - ~40-45FPS
Low Settings - Performance DLSS - 1440p - ~60-75FPS
Low Settings - Performance DLSS - 1080p - ~70-75FPS
They've since released an optimisation patch that invalidates these numbers. Check the spreadsheet mentioned above instead for more detailed numbers.
I know the game looks phenomenal but I really do think there is more to be done to make this game run better than it does. Most of the reason for the remake was the increase in graphical quality - and when most of your players, pre-existing or not, are not going to be able to use most of the graphical upgrades, it's a total waste and defeats the point.