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Crypt Ark Review (PS4)

Endless, the black gulfs of space are. In the sea of stars, there are the large black corners that have been left untouched since the universe began. What mysteries and secrets they hold, remains an unanswered question. Deep in these corners of space lie massive, floating husks, known as Arks. These gargantuan ships once belonged to an ancient and mysterious alien race, a species that has seemingly fused organic matter with technological systems, making them what could best be described as a civilization of cyborgs. While adrift in space for thousands of years, these arks are brimming with advanced technology, light years ahead of what anyone has encountered before. This technology is precious, and the ships’ ancient defense systems are still active, waiting to ward off any potential invader. Whoever can plunder these dangerous wrecks will be made for many lifetimes.  As a privateer, your job is to plunder shipwrecks and vessels for salvageable technology and loot. When a shadowy organization approaches you and your misfit crew with the payday of a lifetime, the offer is simply too good to pass up and you are thrust into a deadly, dangerous mission of conquering the arks in search of the biggest prize of all: The Crypt Ark. From the small, dedicated team of AlienTrap, makers of Apotheon, comes Crypt Ark, an action-packed but deadly roguelike where the greatest treasures lie buried in the darkest crypts.

Players play as an intergalactic privateer, skilled in the use of specially modified exo-skeletons, known as Gun Heads. Gun Heads are designed for navigation within shipwrecks, as well as any kind of threat that its pilot will encounter. These exo-suits are equipped with a variety of weapons and firepower, appearing in various configurations. Each suit has attributes in armor, weapons, and maneuverability. When players have chosen their preferred exo-suit, they are thrust into the dangerous expedition of pursuing the Crypt Ark.  Through five sectors of space, players will choose from one of several ships to explore. Each ship has a different arrangement of threats and loot. Some ships may be warships, equipped with dangerous weaponry. Other ships may have been tasked for colonialism, manufacturing, or science. The arrangement of each ship is completely different, making each ship a challenging endeavor, requiring patience, planning, skill, and a sliver of luck. As a privateer, you have a budget. That budget will go towards your exo-suit. This includes additional armor plating, weapons, ammunition, and health packs. The more you pack into your suit, the more costly the mission will be. If you are defeated mid-mission, you will be rescued but suffer a significant financial loss. If you run out of money, the game is over.

The gameplay in Cryptark is intense, aggressive, but nails a most important mechanic in gaming and that is to keep you coming back for more. The goal in each level of Crypt Ark is to neutralize the AI core of each ship. Destroying the core renders its defensive systems useless, leaving the vessel open for plundering and research. To do this, players must navigate the ship and take down various defense hubs. Each hub has a specific purpose, with tasks assigned to anti-air cannons, drone construction-defense shields, and auto repair. Players need to locate the hubs responsible for shielding the A.I Core. By destroying that hub, the players can move in an destroy the core. All other secondary systems, are optional to destroy, though, depending on the objective, keeping some intact will yield a higher bounty.

The gameplay has players navigate in zero-gravity environments, through the tight halls and corridors of the ancient vessel. While old and decrepit, these vessels have deadly traps and machines, dedicated to wiping out any intruder. Players will have to utilize skills, wit, and the right combination of close and long-range weaponry. Players will be able to acquire blueprints in each level and gain access to a multitude of weapons, from Vulcans to acid launchers to even tactical nuclear rocket launchers. Players need to be careful, as ammunition, while not scarce, is finite, and any weapon dealing with explosives runs the risk of affecting the player. This is notable with nuclear weapons and booby-trapped system hubs. Fortunately, you can find ammo packs and health in the vessels, but don’t rely on them.

Cryptark is difficult, and you will die repeatedly pursuing your goal, as well as the secondary objectives. However, the gameplay is rewarding. Players will feel like they are plucked into the dark and dystopic world of Ridley Scott’s Alien movies, as ancient machinery awakens to destroy you. Every enemy defeated and system taken apart feels rewarding. Oftentimes, I survived a mission with mere slivers of health left, creating a hell of a sensation of accomplishment. CryptArk is a white-knuckle experience, and a blast to play. Cryptark also happens to sport a unique presentation that makes the game distinct from others. Inspired by Alien and the works of movie-effects artist H.R Giger, who was directly responsible for the crafting and development of the most famous alien in movies: The xenomorph. Everything in CryptArk has a darker, ragged color, especially the ships with their alien-green tints. It gives the game an unsettling and mysterious look as player venture deep into these metal husks, with no knowledge of what they will find

If there’s any drawback, things can get a little “too” difficult. I found myself dying frequently, especially when I finally made it to the ultimate prize, the CryptArk. This was an absolutely crushing defeat, and I feel there could have been a small tweak to better balance the difficulty.  One of the secondary objectives requires players to only use a certain amount of their budget on a mission, which is extremely challenging. Additionally,  I would have wanted to see more variations of ships, and possibly terrestrial locations like asteroids, moons, and dwarf planets. The exo-suit variety is nice, but as the suit can transform, I could easily imagine using the suit to engage in a space-ship shooter mode to destroy aerial targets outside the ship. Overall, these are small gripes to make versus the larger aspects of CryptArk.

Crypt Ark is a difficult, but amazing action-packed title. Its gameplay harkens back to classic, white-knuckle gameplay, its presentation is unique, and the constant sense of reward is a trait players will continuously come back for. Out of all the rogue-likes out there, Crypt Ark is a game everyone should play, as it sets itself apart from the pack and puts players in the dangerous unknown.

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