Ark Genesis is a DLC expansion for Ark Survival Evolved. It is available on Xbox One and Windows 10, PlayStation 4, and Steam. Joseph Pugh conducted this review on a standard Xbox One console and Windows 10.
Note: I normally provide my own screenshots when reviewing games but the nature of Ark makes it very time consuming to take a wide variety of them. All images are officially from Wildcard.
The Ark Rewind
I reviewed the base game, Ark Survival Evolved sometime ago. I’m bringing this up because it is very important for the context of this review. I’m not happy with my original Ark review and score. It happens, I’m not perfect and hindsight is 2020. Ark is one of my favorite games, I have numerous hours in it and I constantly go back to it. Yet I scored it low.
This is one of those instances where an arbitrary scoring number is very limiting and why reading the actual review is important. Ark has numerous issues. Yet as frustrating as they are, they have never impacted my personal enjoyment enough to stop me from playing the game.
A review is someone’s personal opinion, while I must acknowledge these flaws and make you, the reader aware of them. I also have to be able to limit the impact they have on my ending score assuming I still enjoy the game in spite of them.
A score is a reflection of how I feel about the game.
It was disingenuous to score Ark the way I did given the fact I can’t put the stupid game down. I will need to do a revisiting review in the future.
This review is focused purely on Genesis so why did I need to write this opening addendum? Because Genesis shares the same flaws. The offline raiding, the hostile community, the bugs, the imbalance, and the performance issues. The best way to enjoy Ark is still done by renting your own private server. So keep my earlier sentiment in mind as we dive into Genesis.
Ark Genesis places you in a simulation to train and prepare you for the future. The Genesis simulation map features 5 biomes that are very distinct compared to past maps. It also has new creatures, bosses, items and game mechanics. Much of Ark has always had a strong focus on PvP, Genesis is very clearly PvE focused and it honestly feels like a step in the right direction for the game.
Various missions are scattered throughout the five biomes. These can vary from checkpoint races, wave-based defense, hunts, escort quests and..basketball. Each one has several difficulties and rewards you with loot and hexagons for completing them.
Hexagons are a new currency you can spend through an in-game store to buy resources and loot crates. Don’t panic, there are no microtransactions, it is all in-game. Completing Missions are also required to take on the end game boss, in place of artifacts from previous maps.
Meanwhile, you need to contend with new more powerful X variants of existing creatures and the challenges of each biome in the harshest survival challenge found in Ark so far.
A Whole New World
Genesis has five biomes, each of which has a totally unique flavor in both mechanics and aesthetics. Unlike other maps, you cant simply walk from one biome to another. You have to teleport using a small robotic companion that is always with you, HLN-A. She has voice lines, another first for Ark, and will accompany you on your journey.
This might seem to limit but it actually works quite well, each biome is large and has multiple teleport points. It becomes a kind of metagame to figure out where best to spawn and move between bases and to plan expeditions to other biomes. Separating them allowed Wildcard to add a sense of atmosphere to each one that would have been impossible in a seamless world.
The Ocean biome features clear blue skies with a tropical flair, while the Volcanic biome has dark clouds with beams of light breaking through and lava-covered mountains in the background over the landscape.
Each biome has a variety of different sets of wildlife and new mechanics. The Bog is the most straight forward, a fog covered swamp with lots of water, massive trees with branches large enough to walk on and poisoned wastelands. Unique to the bog is easily the worst part of the entire expansion. Insect swarms.
Insect swarms are a new type of creature that spawns in the bog in excessive amounts, while they are hardly threatening they constantly assault you and you’re pets when you aren’t standing in water, forcing you to stop what you are doing and deal with them. I have, more than once, killed twenty swarms in a row as they just kept spawning.
The Snow biome is exceptionally cold and features avalanches. One half of the map is assaulted by a near-constant snowstorm making visibility rough. The Ocean biome has very little landmass with a huge focus on underwater shenanigans. Interestingly oxygen consumption and swim speed are both boosted here but you will need to contend with random whirlpools. You can build floating bases with the new ocean platforms.
The Volcanic biome is hot, harsh and filled with deadly creatures. Hazards include rock slides and burning projectiles when the volcano erupts. The Lunar biome is where Tek variants of creatures can be found and are made up of several floating islands. Gravity is very low so you can bounce around, but sunlight is radioactive and the shadows are incredibly cold.
The variety that the five biomes provide more than makes up for the fact that they aren’t sewn together seamlessly and each one provides a unique aesthetic and gameplay environment. I really hope to see more like this in Genesis part 2.
Ark Genesis features five new tamable creatures. The blood stalker is a bog spider that can swing around like spiderman, no joke. Grapple other creatures, walk on walls and hold you upright while you use weapons.
The Ferox is a cute little gremlin type creature that hulks out when fed element. Growing in size and power. They can leap long distances, climb walls, throw boulders and smash creatures. But the rage only lasts a short time before they revert into their cuddly little selves.
The Megachelon is a huge sea turtle that you can build a base on once you tame it. It provides its own gravity field and oxygen to those on its back
The Magmasaur is a volcanic lizard that acts like a walking forge and artillery cannon. They can swim through lava and smelt metal. The Astrocestus is a friggin space whale that floats through the sky, they can warp around, mounted with turrets and treated like a sky bomber.
Each of the new creatures has somewhat of a unique taming method which is interesting. I am disappointed that there are only five new creatures, there are technically more if you count bosses and insect swarms but I would like to have seen more new core creatures to fill out the unique biomes.
There are X variants of some existing creatures that are tougher and look really snazzy. One really strange design decision though, you can’t mount flying creatures in Genesis aside from the new Space whale.
I actually like this, I never felt flyers were probably balanced for the style of game that Ark is. The issue is, Genesis features flying creatures including X variants with no in-game indication that you can’t fly them. It’s odd and likely frustrating for those that didn’t realize it until they took their time to tame one.
Should You Choose To Accept It
Missions are probably the most significant change from the standard Ark formula and a welcome one at that. They are a good way to break up the grind and reward you with a currency you can use on resources. They allow players to have overarching goals to work toward and frankly, they are a lot of fun.
You can take part in a variety of creature races, wave-based defense where you can’t use your own weapons (you have to pick up power-ups), hunt brute creature variants, exploration missions and more.
Some of them allow you to use your own gear and tames, and others don’t. Its a good balance and each one has several difficulties and the rewards increase with each one. You have to complete a certain number of missions to take on the end game boss at varying difficulties.
The missions and hexagon store are another aspect I want to see continue into Ark Genesis part two. They are fun, serve a purpose and add a lot to the experience. The game needed a PvE focused expansion and Genesis delivers that in quite well. The mission areas need some tweaking though, you can’t build in them and they honestly take up a large amount of space.
Furthermore, as always. Performance is poor on the standard Xbox One and while playable, it does make some missions nearly impossible. Notably the races. This isn’t acceptable. If a game is sold on standard consoles, it needs to run at an acceptable level.
As usual, many problems can simply be negated by playing on a private server, including building in mission areas and enabling flyers if that’s your wish. I stand by my previous comments, private servers are the best way to play Ark.
Ark has seen a lot of expansions and updates. For all the problems the game has, Wildcard has continued to support the game. Ark Genesis is a clear evolution of the Ark formula and a breath of fresh air it direly needed. It still has several issues. Playing on official servers is an exercise in madness due to the unregulated chaos of it.
There are a lot of bugs, Wildcard squashes swaths of them every week but there always seems to be more. Performance on the standard Xbox is still poor. Yet Ark remains fun, it provides experiences you can’t find anywhere else and Genesis builds on that in great ways.
The new creatures and items are fun, the missions and hexagon store are excellent additions and the varied biomes are seriously fantastic. Even with its flaws I still recommend Ark and especially Genesis as the amount of joy I siphon from the game is hard to quantify. Just be aware of what you are getting into and I highly recommend playing on a private server.
If you have the option, play it on Xbox One X, PlayStation Pro or a decent PC simply because it performs better there. There may be a day that I stop playing Ark, today is not that day. Tomorrow doesn’t look good either.
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- Unique and varied biomes each with their own aesthetic and mechanics
- New Mission system and hexagon store are excellent and enjoyable additions
- The new tamable creatures look great, feel great and have interesting taming methods
- The focus on PVE feels like a natural evolution and step in the right direction for the game
- The Teleportation system adds flexibility to the game and more than makes up for losing the ability to fly
- Just like the base game. Genesis suffers from bugs, imbalances and performance issues, especially on standard consoles
- Five new creatures is a bit low
- Build restrictions are a bit heavy and having flying creatures that can’t be mounted is weird
- I’ve had it with these mother Feroxing insect swarms in this mother Feroxing bog