ARK's Aberration Looks Amazing, But Is It Worth Picking Up?

Will Studio Wildcard's sci-fi DLC for ARK: SE be worth the $19.99 price tag? It depends on what you want out of the expansion.

ARK: Survival Evolved may have had a rocky Early Access development phase, but the adventure survival game was finally released last month for PC and current-gen consoles. 

Not long after, Wildcard announced the upcoming release of the game's science fiction, alien-themed expansion pack, Aberration, which will take players to a damaged, malfunctioning ARK with no internal atmosphere to shield the world from radiation. The biomes in this ARK have been mutated by the intense radiation, resulting in an unfamiliar landscape inhabited by alien creatures.

The launch trailer for this expansion looks pretty sweet, but a lot of players are wondering if the Aberration DLC (which will cost $19.99) is going to be worth their hard-earned cash. So let's break down what this expansion is going to offer to decide whether or not you should consider picking it up. 

The Cons

Studio Wildcard's announcement of Aberration just days after the game left Early Access raised quite a few eyebrows -- especially given how the game's previous expansion release unfolded.

When it first launched, the Scorched Earth DLC was not very well-received. It came out during ARK's Early Access phase, which was a pretty controversial move. Many players were indignant that Studio Wildcard would release a paid expansion pack for an unfinished game that wasn't ready for a full launch. 

Sitting at a review rating of "Mixed" on Steam, ARK isn't the most well-regarded survival game on the platform -- and the general sentiment of reviewers seemed to be that the game is a mismanaged, buggy mess that the developer only "released" so it could double the game's price and push more DLC onto the playerbase.

What's more, ARK has been plagued with bugs and performance issues since the beginning -- and while players were initially willing to let those issues slide, they were continually left unaddressed even after the game left Early Access and made its official release. 

This has some fans concerned that the Aberration DLC will just be more of the same that they got with Scorched Earth. They're wondering if Studio Wildcard will actually be fixing any of the long-standing bugs with the base game, or if this new venture is simply going to serve as a sub-par distraction from issues that should have been remedied by now. 

It's certainly possible that Aberration will simply be a reskinned version of the same buggy game that lots of players have struggled through so far -- and that's something you'll want to be aware of before you fork over your money to get this expansion. 

The Pros

There's not much good to be said about the recent trends in the Early Access survival genre. And though ARK is probably responsible for inspiring a lot of the really bad games we've seen hit the service recently, this dino-hunting experience stands at the top of the pack in terms of gameplay. 

Some fans have been able to look past all the game's problems, and a few more simply haven't encountered as many bugs as other reviewers. If you're one of these players, then you probably recognize that ARK is a fundamentally solid survival experience that's packed with fun and varied gameplay.

As poorly as its Scorched Earth DLC was received by fans who were hoping for a plethora of bug fixes, very few of ARK's players took issue with the game's actual content. Most of the negative reviews were more centered around how grossly mishandled the expansion's release was, and didn't give much critique to the actual experience. From what we can tell right now, Aberration looks like it will follow much of the same trend. 

While this DLC probably isn't going to fix many (or even any) of ARK's optimization and performance troubles, it does look like it will further expand on the gameplay in the same way that Scorched Earth did. And it seems to be offering a lot for players who want more content to sink their teeth into -- including a beautiful new map with brand-new themed creatures, items, locations, and hazards.

Verdict: If You Want More ARK Action, It's Probably Worth It

If you've got some serious issues with either with how the game runs or how Studio Wildcard has handled both the bugs and the community in this game, Aberration likely won't do anything to change that (and may even reinforce those views). 

Provided you can get past that, though, $20 for the amount of new content in this DLC seems like a pretty fair deal -- especially if you're digging the sci-fi aesthetic that the Aberration expansion is bringing to the table. It looks set to be a fantastic addition to the game that will bring a fresh feeling to the ARK experience you're used to.

If you're willing to put up with persisting issues that might mar the experience for other players, then you'll probably be glad that you spent your money. 

Published Sep. 12th 2017

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