Did You Mean Abhorrent?
Alright, Wildcard Studios, listen. I gave you a pretty big break earlier this year with my Ark: Survival Evolved review. I knew the game still had a lot in the works in terms of becoming a fully fleshed out title, but it was clear you were at least on your way to something great. I believed in you, and the product you were touting. In a world laden with survival and inventory management games, your boldness made you stand out even when the innovation wasn’t quite there yet. But now, this. Now, I’m not so sure. Aberration is not the first, but second time you’ve given fans paid DLC when you should have given them updates, fixes, and tweaks instead, and frankly, I’m not sure how much more we should trust you to put forth more work into this product especially with rumors of one more on the way.
Did fans need Aberration? I would argue we didn’t. Not yet, at least. What we needed was better combat, resolution adjustments, and maybe some balancing. And that’s just for starters. Instead, we got dinosaur re-skins joined by some slightly outlandish creatures to battle, all while trying to survive on the latest, most cramped setting for ARK to date. Granted, the setting for Aberration is technically a busted ARK where life was forced to evolve underground, and it definitely has that feeling. Settings are generally dark, given a complete lack of sky and overhead light, when the player is not equipped with a light source, and – as already stated – the spaces are not nearly as expansive to roam as their Island and Scorched Earth counterparts. This means that for your first twenty-five levels or so your movement is going to be forced in only one direction, and likely into packs of bloodthirsty carnivores that will guarantee your demise until you and friends are leveled high enough to take the hordes on.
Sorry, fans. I hate to say it, but right now it doesn’t feel like Aberration brings enough to the proverbial table to offer an enriched gaming experience. It feels like a cash grab and a cheap one at that.
I’ve Come To The Land Down Under
Like every time before, your character awakens to find a mysterious stone lodged in their wrist. You’re practically naked, you’re alone, and you’re painfully vulnerable. Take ten steps in any direction and things are only bound to get worse.
You’ll notice almost immediately just how dark everything is; we’re talking the likes of an emo kid’s Tumblr here. Thankfully, most of the fauna and even some of the flora give off enough of a glow to attract your attention, so you won’t always be completely in the dark. However, if you’ve ever watched a Discovery Channel special you know how often things like this work in nature. Meaning this: death comes on black wings with a bioluminescence beneath. The only good news is that you will literally see your demise coming a mile away in Aberration, a luxury we didn’t have before.
If you picked the easiest place on the map to spawn, you’ll likely find water after ten to eleven deaths, either by dehydration or the animals you share this lost world with. When you get there, don’t dive straight in. The waters of Aberration are infested with things far deadlier than the other worlds. Giant piranhas, scorpions, and arachnid-crustacean hybrids (karkinos) are only literally scratching the surface of these bodies of water, and as per usual death awaits in the depths below.
Things aren’t all bad though. You do get some adorable new additions to the bestiary such as the bulbdogs, a strange combination of an anglerfish and a bulbdog – it’s cuter than it sounds I promise! I haven’t been able to tame one yet (no time as I run for my life from one locale to another) but they are in abundance so everyone should be able to get their own as they play.
Where Everything Glows And You Plunder
These aren’t the only additions to ARK of course, but they are one of the few cute ones. Next to these adorable little guys you’ll see things like thrashers, basilisks, the aforementioned karkinos, reapers, and seekers, just to name a few. Most of these beasts will be aggressive upon contact, so make sure to know your level and skills before approaching anything.
Ultimately, no matter what you do, just be prepared to die. A lot. And never get attached to your equipment. Again, the cramped surface area of Aberration means that you’ll have little reprieve when it comes to avoiding hostile animals. Your best bet is to run as fast as you can and hope for the best, but chances are high you will be dying often. When you do die, you have about two hours to claim your possessions before they disappear from the game, however, there’s an inherent problem with that.
The dinosaur pathing in Aberration is very limited, again due to that limited space issue, so that means whatever killed you is likely going to be hanging around for some time, making obtaining lost items incredibly difficult. You’re going to need a lot of patience in order to succeed in this Ark due to a higher level of complexity as well as some (in my opinion) poor design choices. If you’re ready for that, great, but if not, missing out on this DLC package right now isn’t that big of a deal. Yes, the visuals are neat, but ultimately you’re going to be trudging around in a dark area doing the same thing you did on The Island and Scorched Earth. Why start all over if you don’t really have to?
Can’t You Hear, Can’t You Hear The Thunder?
Something that is rather strange about Aberration is the periodic earthquakes that hit at random. These don’t do any real structural damage it seems, but various resources will literally rain from the sky when they occur. Most common are items such as stones and wood, though I do find the occasional crystal and one playthrough video a man claimed that a pistol fell as well. Items fall in single units in terms of visuals, but upon pickup, you may find that there was in fact anywhere from one to five of the given resource. Keep your eyes peeled when these earthquakes hit as you might get something good!
Furthermore, while I personally haven’t encountered it yet, radiation definitely another deadly factor in Aberration. Protective gear can be created once you’ve attained the appropriate level (and if you can find the necessary supplies), but without it the player can expect to take damage over time and eventually succumb to radiation sickness if exposed for long periods of time.
Lastly, as for the beast that can impregnate you Alien style (the Reaper?)…I haven’t come across that yet, and for the record, I’m not complaining! Aberration has enough to keep me busy and struggling to survive already. Everything in due time, thank you very much. I’ll stick to my lakeside hut and take down raptors in the meantime! There’s certainly enough already out there that can kill you.
Oh! And while we’re on the subject of things that kill you, be on the lookout for bright red-capped mushrooms. Simply walking through them stirs up a spore cloud that has you tripping instantly, followed very quickly by the sensation of drowning and quite literally shitting yourself to death. If you can remove yourself from the spore cloud (good luck because the world looks like you dipped it in acid) you might survive, otherwise, a strange death awaits you.
You Better Run, You Better Take Cover
In the end, my experience with Aberration was a strange and muchly not appreciated one. It’s the same thing as the last two worlds only condensed in terms of space with just enough bells and whistles tacked on to make it “new”. Yes, there are cool things you can use in this world that don’t exist in the others, but it’s going to be a long and arduous process to get there. It’s hard to feel like you’re ever making progress in Aberration and a daily grind amongst velociraptors and killer mushrooms isn’t really my cup of tea when all I have to show for it is another trek out into the wilds to find all of the tools I just lost.
I enjoyed my first foray into Ark: Survival Evolved and I maintain that to this day, but Wildcard hasn’t added anything that will make players want to stay with Aberration and that’s going to cost them in the long term. They need to start thinking more in terms of quality and not quantity if they don’t want ARK to end up sinking. Even the more obsessive players are eventually going to find something more satisfying than this experience, and that’s not where the money resides if they want to continue this project.
If you’ve got money, time to waste and are easily impressed by some reskins, Aberration is going to be right up your alley. However, if you were hoping for a little bit more game, as well as some tweaks to the core game, this DLC package is not for you. Wait and get it when the next DLC pack comes out (as this one will likely be on sale then) if you’re really curious, but otherwise, you can move on to something else friends.
Final Verdict: 2 / 5
Available on: Xbox One, PS4 (reviewed), PC; Developer: Studio Wildcard; Players: 1-70 (server limit) ; Released: Dec 12, 2017 ; ESRB: M for Mature ; MSRP: $19.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a PS2 review copy of ARK: Survival Evolved Aberration given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.