ARK: Survival Evolved Overview
Your Guide To What ARK Is All About
If you’ve ever wanted to live with dinosaurs, ARK is the game for you. Not only do you live with them, but you depend on them for survival. ARK is a survival game where you start stranded on a beach with literally nothing. You must gather rocks and wood to fashion tools, fibers and hides to fashion clothes, and tame dinosaurs for travel and protection. ARK is an indie video game title, meaning that a smaller group or company is working to develop the game. Unlike traditional AAA titles, there isn’t a huge developer team or money to sink into features and timely development. Think of it in terms on independent films. It may not be a blockbuster movie, but it still has an interesting and unique story to tell. There are actually two ARK games, which we’ll cover later, but this article mainly covers ARK: Survival Evolved.
What You Do In ARK
ARK is a struggle. The very beginning is a very harsh existence, and you will die a lot. A LOT. That’s OK though, because your progression is saved through death unless you choose to create a new character. If you can find your corpse in time, you can also retrieve all your items. ARK has a rough learning curve, but once you understand the fundamentals, you’ve cracked the code to the rest of the game. Progression follows the same formula throughout the game. I like to think of your ‘life’ in ARK as breaking down into three stages.
Stage One: Establishing Yourself
The first thing you do in ARK is cobble together tools to build a shelter, then a shelter. Keeping dinosaurs and weather are equally important to your survival. Next up is probably taming a dinosaur to use either as a ride, pack mule, or for protection. Meanwhile, the entire time you must scrape together enough food and water to keep yourself full, as well as any animal companions, to prevent starvation.
Stage Two: Making Your Mark
This is the stage where you start to get ahead of things. You double up on the height of your base walls. Maybe you transition from wood to stone, to keep out even the strongest dinosaurs. Your hide-wrapped clothes turn into armor, offering much better protection against elements and animals. You can now ride and tame more powerful dinosaurs too. The ones that can gather wood and stone by the PILE. Basically, you start to accrue a little wealth.
Stage Three: Hardcore Exploration
Just like it sounds. You’ve done all you can to better yourself. Now it’s time to go out into the world, and see what’s in store. This is the end game in ARK. Travel into deep, underground caves, or find yourself an aquatic mount and discover what lies in the ocean depths. Land is only the beginning in ARK. Find rare materials that let you craft even rarer items. Tame a Tyrannosaurus or Spinosaurus for yourself. Maybe even capture a flying mount to travel the skies. Become the top of the food chain.
You can play ARK solo, in an offline world hosted by your computer. It will be a bit rough though. In my experience, the game is made exponentially easier by adding even one other player. It can still be done though, as most of my ARK experience has been solo.
Things are just so much easier when playing with a friend. If you create a clan for your group, you’ll be able to access and share bases, animals, storage, and just about everything under the virtual sun. Having backup for carnivore attacks, or just protecting the dinosaur you are trying to tame, having someone to play with can change the whole experience. Pooling resources to make huge bases, and organizing which engrams (blueprints) to learn between yourselves can really speed up your progression, and lighten the load of some of the more tedious survival tasks.
If you want to go for the multiplayer route, ARK has several options. Each ARK world is hosted on a server. Each world is different, based on what players have already developed on them. The ecosystem adapts as player built structures. Plants don’t re-grow, and animals come around less often in areas of heavy development. Choosing a server is very important, and equally difficult. I’ve chosen servers that were wiped after several days of progress. In fact, three servers I chose in a row were wiped after I made a decent amount of progress. Additionally, there are a few considerations to keep in mind when choosing a home. Different server types, different game modes, different worlds, and servers with MODS.
- Official servers – These servers are hosted by the game developers. They can often be full, and hard to start out on due to so much of the ideal habitable areas being claimed by veteran players.
- Dedicated Servers – Also known as private servers, these are servers that are paid for by players, hosted through game server companies. When someone forgets to pay the bill, these shut down. Be careful!
- Non-Dedicated servers – These are servers being run directly from players computers. When the player goes offline, so does their server. When they come back, the server does too.
- PvE – This server type does not allow players to attack each other. This is kind of the standard server type.
- PvP – These servers allow players to attack each other. PvP servers can be heavily dominated by clans/guilds, making joining one almost a requirement to survive.
- Hardcore – When you die, you’re dead. You must create a new character.
- Extinction – A giant meteor impact recreates the dinosaur extinction every month!
- Primitive – Your tech tree progression is limited to only the lower, more primitive items. IE spears, but no guns.
- Survival of the Fittest – This is actually a separate game. It’s the same ARK mechanics, but you battle other players in an arena styled after The Hunger Games movies.
Currently ARK has two maps. The Island and The Center. These offer distinctly different worlds for you to explore and survive in. There will doubtless be more maps to come.
Mods are player-made modifications to the game’s mechanics. These could literally be anything. They could change the way your stone axe looks, increase the amount of resources gathered at a time, or decrease the amount of XP needed to level. Mods can vastly change the gameplay. Choosing mods, or not, is purely personal preference. They generally make your life easier compared to the standard settings. Mods are added by server owners. If you want to try a particular mod, you must find a server running it.
A Tale Of Two ARKS
As noted above, ARK actually has two games. The persistent, open world experience that never ends is ARK: Survival Evolved. Staying alive means you are winning the game. The arena styled ARK: Survival Of The Fittest is a free to play PvP based game. The last player standing in the Arena wins the match. Steam will be required to play the game no matter which version you get, or where you buy it.
Where To Buy ARK: Survival Evolved
The persistent dinosaur world of ARK: Survival Evolved sounds interesting at this point. Now you want to know where to find a download for it. You can find ARK on Amazon.com and Steam. The Amazon link provides a commission to support the site, and doesn’t cost you any extra! Retail price for ARK: SE is $29.99, but it goes on sale just like anything else. Black Friday and the Steam seasonal sales (June/July and December) are generally guaranteed sale times. If you’re still on the fence, I’ve found the video below to be a very honest representation of what ARK is, and the music is just fantastic.
Can You Survive The ARK?
Construction, patience, and a sense of wonder are all skills required to play and enjoy ARK. Building your base can require a little creativity to deal with uneven terrain. Transitioning between the stages I mentioned above can probably be measured in days, not hours. And once you have done everything you can in your little corner of the world, it’s time to apply everything you’ve learned and travel forth into the unknown. Gathering food and materials can get a little repetitive, but you’ll still need your wits and a few dinosaur pets to survive the wilderness. There are any number of perils waiting for you as you push farther and farther away from the safety of your home. If your computer can handle it, the game has truly stunning visuals. Crank it up to the max and just watch the eye candy glisten around you. The best part about ARK is that it’s still early in development. Released in June 2015, this game already has an incredible feature set. Development appears to be going at break-neck speed, sometimes resulting in multiple updates a day. I feel like ARK already rivals AAA titles. If the developers keep up this pace, ARK will start to surpass them very soon.