Ark: Survival Evolved is one of those games that I’ve enjoyed for the past year with no intention of stopping. What’s not to love about having an army of dinosaurs following me into battle or exploring a newly created map? While I’ve enjoyed an immense variety of other games in the past and explored different genres, Ark is just one of those titles everyone young and old can enjoy.
Waking Up on The Island
Right now, there’s not much of an over-arching story to Ark: Survival Evolved beyond the four floating obelisks and explorer notes scattered throughout the world. The main character wakes up in a chosen location with nothing except a strange implant embedded in their arm. Once they’ve awoken, the fight for survival against other creatures on the island, and even other survivors, begins.
The focus of Ark: Survival Evolved mainly falls to base building, taming, and (for those who do PvP) base defense. I’ve always erred on the PvE side of Ark because it’s easier to handle. One aspect of Ark is the constant grinding that never ends, either harvesting wood to expand a base or running to collect metal to upgrade to the strongest building material; it takes a significant amount of time to gather anything. Not to mention the constant slew of updates and additional creatures thrown in nearly every month, there’s always a reason to expand the base for “one more creature.”
The world of Ark is dangerous, but it’s addicting too. Taming has become varied enough that certain creatures are easier or harder to obtain depending on what they can do for you. These creatures make it easier to build, gather certain supplies, or produce certain items. Taming falls into one of two categories: Active Taming and Passive Taming.
Active taming is when the player must venture out to hunt down a creature and shoot it with tranquilizer arrows or darts to knock it unconscious. Once the creature is knocked down, the right food or kibble has to be placed in the animal’s inventory to tame it. Starting out, beginner survivors will usually only have access to berries or meat, which increases the taming time of the creature they’re trying to obtain. The next level to cut down taming time is using vegetables that have to be grown in the game or obtaining prime meat by killing certain creatures like mammoths, brontosauruses, and other large animals. The level above prime meat and vegetables is kibble and obtained by using main ingredients like eggs, vegetables, berries, fiber, and a certain meat.
Passive taming can be easy once players get the hang of it, but it requires a different set of skills to master. Once again berries, kibble, meat, and even rotten meat can be used to tame other creatures to add to a dinosaur army. Passive taming involves sneaking behind a creature and constantly following it and feeding it once a prompt pops up. Depending on the level of the creature and the type of food being used, passive taming can take anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of hours.
Players who progress further will find it easier to survive in the world of Ark once they’ve obtained certain creatures and start to learn the ‘ecosystem’ of the world to make kibble and craft items. Dodo eggs, for example, are the main ingredient for making kibble for the Ichthys and mesopepithecus. The eggs of a dilophosaur are the main ingredient for making kibble to tame the doedicurus and ankylosaurus. The eggs of the ankylosaurs are the main ingredient for making kibble to tame the carno, and so on and so forth.
Base building is another science in Ark that has endless variations depending on who’s doing the building. I’ve seen everything from a basic box to massive castles with storage areas, a crafting room, dinosaur parking, and more. The bigger builds are quite impressive but can take dozens of hours to complete even with bumped up rates on some servers. Even a base with just the essentials can take a good ten to fifteen hours to get everything up and running. Not to mention the walls that have to be set up around a specific area to house creatures and expand regularly when bigger tames are obtained.
The World of Ark
When Ark first launched, I was lucky enough to have a PC that could run the darn game at a decent frame-rate. The game is more optimized now than it was back then, so my single-player campaigns don’t look like a stop motion picture most of the time. While players do still need a semi-decent dedicated gaming machine to take full advantage of the beauty of Ark, when playing on a server it’s possible to get acceptable frame rates without having to turn every setting down to low.
When Ark runs at high, or epic settings, it’s simply gorgeous. There’s lush vegetation, small details like seashells buried in the sand, and the weather effects range from sunny skies to rainy nights. The atmosphere of the world sucks players right in from the start and keeps them playing into the wee hours of the morning.
On another note, for a dinosaur game Ark is not gory, which makes it safe for most children to play. While attacking and killing creatures does cause blood to show up on their bodies, the crimson lines have the appearance of splashed on red paint. When a creature is killed it simply ragdolls and once the body is harvested it disintegrates. While fighting with a T-Rex clipping into a brontosaurus does get old after the umpteenth time, there’s no flash of guts or bone for parents to worry about. Ark keeps it clean and it’s a game that everyone can enjoy for a few hours regardless if they’re a dinosaur fanatic or just love animals in general.
The grinding can be a chore in Ark, but with the ability to change gathering rates and throw in extra mods it’s easy to cut down on this part of the game. While I’ve taken a couple of weeks off from Ark to play other games, it’s a title I’ve always come back too. The constant addition of new creatures and items keeps the gameplay fresh and exciting with each new adventure. Each time I’ve logged into Ark there’s always been something different and exciting to either explore, tame or create.
The focus on the creatures in Ark is not a feature I’ve seen many titles attempt, with Riders of Icarus being a main exception. While the game does make use of guns, rocket launchers, and other weaponry there are other game modes like Primitive Plus that remove these items. This gives Ark a more ‘authentic’ feel to it for players who may get tired of the constant grind for metal and cementing paste. Being able to utilize certain creatures for battle and to gather key supplies is damn impressive in my book. Who doesn’t want to be known as the crazy saber-toothed lady?
The community for PvE and PvP can be hit and miss depending on the type of server and the players who frequent it daily. On the PvE side of things, I’ve come across many solo survivors who were more than happy to help a fellow player while others preferred to keep to themselves. With PvP, I found there could be quite a bit of trolling, arguments, but other players were willing to be ruthless to stronger tribes that picked on newer players who were still in the thatch hut stage. I’d say tread with caution, be polite, and check the rules for each server.
How good Ark: Survival Evolved looks depends on what type of system it’s played on. Optimization updates have made the game run smoother and it definitely looks better on weaker PCs now. Players who prefer consistent results may want to take a look at the console versions of the game that are now available on PS4 and Xbox One. I personally prefer the PC version for the mods and easy access to new maps as they come out, but there are benefits and drawbacks to both versions.
Value for Money 10/10
I bought Ark when it was $20 and I’ve put well over a thousand hours into it. Even though it’s been bumped up in price since then – currently $30 on Steam – it’s still an excellent investment in terms of money spent and time played. I’ve personally known dozens of players who have left Ark for a few weeks only to come back after their hiatus to pick it up and start playing it regularly again. It’s just one of those games that once you feel you’ve done everything there is to do, you find yourself craving more of it out of the blue.
Ark: Survival Evolved is the ideal game for people who like to build, survive, and have a multitude of creatures at their disposal. Ark is clean enough to play with the kids and people seeking a challenge can turn to the PvP side of things to shake it up a bit. What’s not to love about having a T-Rex at your beck and call?
-Lots of grinding & gathering
-Experiences can vary for new players
Related: ARK: Survival Evolved, Review, Steam, Studio Wildcard, Survival