PixARK – Preview

PixARK didn’t have the best start to life on the Xbox One, initially it was deemed a buggy mess, but as the months go by updates have started to improve the game and things are looking up.

The Minecraft-like pixellated interpretation of the fantastic Ark: Survival Evolved, will have many drooling from the fangs, but priced at just over £20 (about 30% more than Minecraft and similar titles Subnautica and Portal Knights) there’s a lot resting on how well Snail Games brings the dinosaur taming gameplay to the younger generation.

Let’s not beat around the bush, if you’re after a high quality dinosaur themed survival game, then the aforementioned ARK: Survival Evolved is already established as the best on the scene and if water’s your thing, Subnautica is another game you’ll want to add to your list.  Those looking for the creative direction probably already own Minecraft and like me have been considering Portal Knights for far too long.

So where exactly does PixARK “fit in”.

Obviously the dinosaur taming, survival gameplay of ARK can be pretty daunting for younger gamers, and adding the creative simplicity of a pixellated world positions PixArk in a perfect middle ground, however PixARK currently feels like a large box filled with almost everything you can do in both ARK and Minecraft and it all needs a bit of organisation.

Just like Mojang’s beast you can smash rock with your bare hands without a single bruised knuckle, and then craft your materials to create all manner of tools and weapons. Starting off with the simple pick axe and working your way up to workbenches, foundations, houses and all manner of wares to help tame a wide variety of dinosaurs.

The core gameplay is quite simplistic and will suit Minecraft fans much more than Ark, the large, pixellated graphics where a hit with my step son (6) and while I found the game quite awkward and clunky to control, he really enjoyed playing, sadly the general layout and navigation was just as awkward and was far too complicated to use for a 6 year old, after a little trial and error and moving to my character instead of the stats required to level up, we started to unlock some of the more advanced crafting options and where soon starting to build a little home.

Unlike ARK’s often brutal community there’s a much more serene feel to PixARK, giant dinosaurs just strolled across the top of our house without causing damage, while others would chase us half-way across the globe because they decided to walk in front of us while we where digging, or merely because we walked within 50 metres of them..  Maybe it’s down to the younger target audience, but it was nice to see a much less toxic atmosphere as random players would combine to help each other and work together but unfortunately it was more often than not only a few players in each server.

Playing online with PixARK is a lot of fun, working together to build a base, tame dinosaurs and level up your characters is much less daunting than ARK or playing solo, if you know of a few friends who play regularly or plan on joining you, then you can look at the potential of PixARK in a completely different way, but if you’re planning on venturing out into the world alone and hoping to have a wide selection of online players to assist you, you might be better waiting until a little further into the game preview program or even a full release.

Graphically it’s not disappointing to look out, but I did encounter quite a few performance issues, even on the Xbox One X, as soon as you spawn and float down to the ground you’ll be greeted with multiple frame-rate drops, and the collision detection and clipping still need some work..

The overall aesthetics of the pixellated world work incredibly well, but there’s a few loose ends that will need sharpening up but everything feels quite ‘fixable so fingers crossed development continues in the right direction.

There’s sadly quite a negative on world spawns which I wasn’t aware of until joining a random server, with each world offering a handful of spawn points, it’s not all lost, but you may well find yourself spawning next to extremely overpowered dinosaurs that your bare-knuckled fists can’t compete with, find a nice spawn and you’ll soon find the space to level up, but find an area littered with strong dinosaurs (miles beyond your earlier levels) and you’ll find the constant flurry of deaths lead to nothing more than frustration.

Thankfully PixARK is in for the long-game and you’ll want these areas as you level up, but when starting out, you might feel forced into a corner as you scrape together materials and experience.

Bottom Line:

PixARK is still relatively early in development so we might see plenty of changes before a full release, for me £20+ is quite a steep entry point for what’s currently a mish-mash of features found across Minecraft and ARK : Survival Evolved.

If you’re looking for ARK that’s a little more child friendly, PixARK could become the perfect solution, the problem is it’s going to need more than a french maid to really tidy things up and make everything feel a little more appealing compared to the aforementioned titles.

Outlook:

In its current state, PixARK would receive a score around 7/10 and solely for those too young to enjoy ARK.
With careful management and ongoing development that could well rise to 8/10 so it’s well worth considering if you wish Minecraft was a little more Jurassic.

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