Year of the Console: January-February Review. Ark: Survival Evolved & Far Cry: Primal

I am beyond excited about The Year of Console Gaming that we are having on TLYW, which is actually going to involve 14 games in 14 months, extended from 12, so that I could fit everything in.

As you know, we are following a trajectory through history this year, in terms of the period in which these games are set. I now know the timetable! January and February are (were) pre-history. March is Antiquity. April is the Middle Ages. May is the Enlightenment. In June we enter the 20th century. WW1 in July. 1940s in August. September brings us into the 1990s. October is the 2000s. November and December are the present decade, January 2018 is the future (how appropriate) and February 2018 is fantasy. There will be a mix of retro games and newer releases, with a total of 9 games on the PS4 and 5 on the Xbox 360. A year from now, I will be a far more skilled and knowledgeable console gamer than I was two months ago. We finally return to PC gaming in March 2018 and I already know what I am playing on that date. All will be revealed!

Today marks the end of February, which means I’ve just come to the end of my month with Ark: Survival Evolved. As I approached the end of the month and realised I was running out of time, I became much bolder with my gameplay. I stopped worrying about building a secure base and rounding up escaped dodos and went exploring instead. I built a raft, sailed around on it and got lost. I visited an island that I’d previously only viewed from a distance. I killed various dinosaurs and even managed to tame a couple and ride around on them. Finally, I tamed a pteranodon and used it to fly all the way up the map, from the luxurious south beach to the snowy mountains in the north. When I arrived, I killed a T rex and a bear, started to build a little house, got caught in a snowstorm and froze to death. The scenery was spectacular and most of your game time is outdoors, so it was right up my street. Final souvenir photos:

Notes to myself, so that I can remember what I thought of these games when I want to come back to them.

Far Cry: Primal, Ubisoft (2016), PS4. A single-player, open-world action-adventure game set in pre-history.

Plot and setting: Early humans run around mountains and valleys, spearing rhinos and firing arrows at members of rival tribes.

General remarks: A gentle introduction to console gaming. I was able to take my time learning the handset and controls while still making in-game progress. I brought the game almost to completion within a month, eventually tiring of the final boss fight.

Thumbs up: Lots of time outdoors in attractive scenery. I was guided through various well-structured quests and the story was quite involving.

Thumbs down: I spent too much time viewing the attractive scenery using hunter vision, which makes everything grey and yellow. At times the story felt a bit constraining and I wanted more freedom to decide what to do next.

Return to? Probably not as I more or less finished it, but I would play other games in the Far Cry series.

Ark: Survival Evolved, Studio Wildcard (2017), PS4. I played on single-player mode, but there’s a multi-player option. An open-world, action-adventure, survival game set in pre-history.

Plot and setting: Humans co-exist with dinosaurs, are attacked by T Rexes and fly around on pteranodons while building elaborate houses and inventing firearms.

General remarks: A pleasure. Very restful. I say this despite the horrendous and constant dinosaur attacks in the central and north parts of the country. The southern beaches are lovely and you can sail around in your boat relatively undisturbed.

Thumbs up: Lots of time outdoors in attractive scenery. Complete freedom to do what I want, at my own pace. Genuinely open-world, lots of exploring with an amount of combat to suit the individual player. Sophisticated options for tweaking the gameplay settings on single-player mode.

Thumbs down: This is a new release that will benefit from a few patches. My two biggest gripes were the near-impossibility of placing or sometimes even seeing fence foundations and the magical ability of dinosaurs of all sizes to intersect walls, rather defeating the point of the wall. Minor bugs resulted in things like my character getting stuck on top of ladders.

Return to? Definitely. In a year from now, hopefully some patches and bug fixes will have resolved some issues.

Stay tuned! Tomorrow we’ll begin a new game, as it is 1 March.

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