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Ark: Survival Evolved

Ark: Survival Evolved is a sandbox survival game where players are stranded on a tropical island inhabited by dinosaurs. Gather, hunt, and build to survive the unforgiving wilderness. Compete with other players for precious resources and tame dinosaurs to ride and protect you.

Publisher: Studio Wildcard
Playerbase: High
Type: Survival
Release Date: June 2, 2015 (Early Access)
Pros: +Extensive crafting and building. +Tons of dinosaurs to fight and tame. +Tribal PvP.
Cons: -Demanding system requirements. -No tutorial makes learning mechanics difficult. -Several optimization issues.

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Overview

Ark: Survival Evolved Overview

Ark: Survival Evolved is a sandbox survival game developed and published by Studio Wildcard. Players are stranded on a lush tropical island inhabited by mammoth dinosaurs. Survive by scavenging resources to craft tools and build a home to withstand the elements. Pick seeds and plant them, collecting dinosaur excrement to fertilize your farm. Or build improvised weapons to hunt prehistoric beasts for their hides and meat. As you play you level up in RPG-fashion, earning points to increase your stats and unlocking new craftable items. Tame ancient reptiles with food to assist you as pack mules, or ride them to fly, swim, and run faster across the sprawling landscape. Every animal in Ark obeys a predatorial hierarchy and wanders a specific ecosystem; tamed Dodo birds won’t do much good against a pack of velociraptors. While dinosaurs pose a threat, it’s humans who will kill you without mercy or provocation. Join a tribe with other players and create a thriving community, sharing resources and working together to survive. Or, raid other tribes for loot, in fast-paced and brutal PvP.

Ark: Survival Evolved Key Features:

  • Tame wildlife - over 25 different kinds of dinosaurs to befriend and ride with more being added regularly.
  • Base building - simple tools make it easy to construct buildings so long as you have the required skills and resources.
  • Tribal PvP - join a tribe with other players to forge a community, or raid other tribe’s bases for rare resources and glory.
  • Huge open world - a gorgeous jungle landscape to explore and extensive underwater environments with hidden coves.
  • Dynamic weather system - endure the unforgiving heat, frigid cold, and monsoon rainstorms in an ever-changing environment.

Ark: Survival Evolved Screenshots

Ark: Survival Evolved Featured Video

Full Review

Ark: Survival Evolved Review

By, Sean Sullivan

A survival game set in a tropical nirvana, complete with sandy beaches, a gorgeous sunrise, and mammoth reptiles that ruled the earth 65 million years ago—finally. Ark: Survival Evolved builds on every sandbox survival trope that has existed since DayZ and Minecraft got between the sheets, but it adds a new element encased in amber. Explore an enormous island with dense jungles, build bases to store your loot, and kill the giants that once ruled the Earth. Its foundation is solidly rooted in survival sandbox mechanics. But Ark’s prehistoric spice may eventually make it the king of survival games.

Character Creation

The modern MMO needs a solid character creator, and Ark undoubtedly has one of the best in the genre. I imagine somebody over at Studio Wildcard played a Perfect World game, because creating an avatar is an absurd pleasure. You can choose between male or female, but I see no reason why you wouldn’t choose male in this game. Cro Magnon is a repugnant sight compared to the handsome manly-men you can create in Ark. My avatar’s veins flow with steroids, but his hands and feet didn’t receive the message. He looks like Baby’s Day Out stumbled into a Gold’s Gym in the 1980’s, and was only let back out two years ago. He is a beautiful specimen, like the wild man Enkidu. I dubbed him “gUMBLE” (due to a striking resemblance) and got ready to strangle velociraptors with my toddler hands.

Alpha Male Versus The Tree

As expected, you wake up with nearly nothing. An obsidian diamond is embedded in your left wrist, and I suspect some malevolent being is toying with all of the orally regressed man-children on the island. Oh well. I set about doing what you always do in survival games, collecting wood—by slamming some trees with my fists. As you beat palm trees into submission, your character takes damage, lowering your health. Go too crazy on the trees and you’ll end up buried beneath one. Your hunger, thirst, and stamina will also be dropping like the next recession just hit. Hunger will cripple you almost immediately, so forage berries and chow down. After you’ve survived for a bit, and stored some Thatch and Wood in whatever cavity your character deems worthy, you’ll realize this isn’t just a survival game; it’s an RPG

Level Up Is Available!

Performing tasks, whether it be killing dinosaurs or foraging berries, allots experience that translates into levels. In fact, just existing is enough to gain a minuscule amount of experience while playing. Each level lets you increase one of your stats. Some of those correspond with status effects, such as expanding your stomach to eat more food or increasing crafting speed. I like to throw points into Movement Speed, it lets me chase down cowardly Parasaur's with my spear. But you don’t just level up stats—no, no, no. You also unlock Engram Points, used to unlock new craftable items. Ark is not like Rust; you don’t start with a lexiconical knowledge fit for an engineer. You have to learn a trade, and each one costs Engram Points. Your first level will allot eight Engram’s, letting you unlock two of the eight initially available crafts. I always choose Stone Hatchet and Spear, so I can collect wood faster and kill easier—the two principal reasons I’m playing this game. As you level you unlock new blueprints for purchase, but the Engram cost increases as well. So, choose wisely because to craft the item you’re going to need access to the required materials.

Picking Berries With Barney

Harvesting goods is straightforward. Luckily it's also fast paced, and the animations are entertaining to watch. Bare-knuckle boxing a tree tips it over into oblivion, chipping at rocks with a pick shatters them like glass, and scavenging ferns obliterates them into their leafy components. Every gathering action has force behind it, like the roid-rage compels you to stuff your pockets with bric-a-brac as fast as possible. It never felt too tedious compared to other survival games like DayZ, where gathering loot each spawn can become a chore if you don’t know where to look. After dying a few times it’s easy to rebound, without feeling you have to trudge through a collection phase. Part of that enjoyment owes itself to Ark’s phenomenal environments.

Gorgeously Primitive

Ark has one of the most beautifully polished environments, not just for a survival game, but in any game. Unreal Engine 4 is fully utilized and my framerates showed. The sun shimmers off of every surface, glaring as it creeps around objects and blinding as it rises over the horizon. Torch embers scatter like fireflies as you sprint through the darkness, and virescent vegetation is thick and detailed, making you question the whereabouts of the next raptor.

Ark does an excellent job at veiling its world in mystery, as if every tree and shrubs hides some undiscovered opportunity behind its foliage. Offshore, the game’s world is littered with underwater caves, with air pockets for player-built bases. The sense of exploration is overwhelming, with the science fiction obelisks jutting into the sky, inviting you to question their purpose. And the environment’s mystery compelled me to leave my safehaven-starting zone and venture forth.

Night fell as I was beginning to feel settled, when a coruscant beam of white light shot towards the heavens in the distance. I had to know what it was. Traversing the beach, careful to avoid salivating Dilo’s, I scaled a cliff to greet the beaming light. I thought, “this is my ticket out of here. I’m going to have to turn around.” But it was a supply box, containing a Phiomia Saddle, a creature unfit to ride. It’s events like the seemingly random supply boxes that give the game a sense of fantastical awe.

But you pay for the awe-inspiring mystery and spectacular graphics. Ark suffers from serious optimization issues; not at the level of DayZ but enough that new players ought to consider their rig’s specs before purchasing the game. You’ll need a powerful system to appreciate Ark’s environments. Rubberbanding abounds as well, due to the servers seemingly giving up momentarily, before being cooed by a developer. Ark is not unplayable and I’m sure this paragraph will be deleted in the future, so long as the developers don’t fall into the Bohemia Interactive trap.

Poking The World

What good is a gorgeous game if it's not fun to slaughter the dinosaurs that inhabit its world? Combat is straightforward, equip a weapon and left-click to use it, or right-click to use its secondary action. Starting off, you’ll have access to spears, whereas later on you’ll storm the jungle with an assault rifle. And taking down dinosaurs is entertaining enough, but due to the nature of the game it can seem a bit underwhelming at times.

Trikes—or Triceratops—look like formidable beasts, capable of goreing me on their horns like a Spanish bull. So, I poked at one with my spear; and easily defeated the oversized lizard, almost too easily. All RPG’s suffer from the same problem. Rather than fearing the design of an enemy, you fear the number next to the dinosaur’s name. And that gives a false sense of your capacity as a human in this world. I was Indominus Rex, stomping down the beach and slaughtering everything in my path—for sport. I was awake in Ark, and couldn’t tell who the Alpha predator was.

Dinosaur and creature levels are internally relevant to the beast you’re fighting. While I can spear a level 12 dodo with one well-aimed poke, a level three raptor takes a fury of Bruce Lee punches to quell. So, I headed inland into the thick and humid jungle, a decision I grew to regret. Once in the depths of the inner jungle, the level cap quickly rises. I threw my spear at a Carnotaurus—one-shotted, I was dead. Dinosaurs don’t require a tactical edge, beyond being the right level and having the right gear to conquer them. Which isn’t a problem; they’re part of the environment and function as a tool to level-up, invite exploration, and serve as tameable beasts. It’s the unscripted actions of other players that makes combat exhilarating.

Solo Bad, Tribe Good

To make it in Ark you’re going to want to team up with other players and form a Tribe. They’re essentially guilds that band together to share resources and defend against other players. Because, while dinosaurs pose a threat it’s humans that are the most dangerous game. And base raiding is an intricate part of Ark’s game play, just like Rust. You learn about raiding in the first five seconds of joining any server; the chatlog is a spam feed of players demanding intruders show themselves, and raiders laughing in their faces. No matter what survival game you play, there’s always a minority in the community devoted to becoming supervillains. And I appreciate their effort, because it makes base raiding guilt free.

Combatting other players becomes particularly intense because your enemies have their own trained dinosaurs. They can command their dino partner to defend their base while they’re offline, or attack you on sight. One mountaintop encampment was protected by four Argentavis hawks. Raiding the base sent the birds screeching towards players, attacking mercilessly. If you’re tribe builds a base you better tame dinosaur bodyguards.

Jurassic World’s Raptors

One of Ark’s main attractions is taming the dinosaurs, like your Jurassic World’s scroungy rebel. In fact, taming could be considered the game’s objective, or win-state. “Gotta catch ‘em all!” Knock a dinosaur unconscious with tranquilizer arrows or a slingshot, and proceed to shove its mouth full of food, until like a Pavlovian dog it follows you around. With the right saddle in your inventory you can hop on the dino’s back and ride it, or use it as a pack mule, or park it outside your base to stand guard. Some dinosaurs do take an insanely long time to tame. One player told me that the Plesiosaur can take three hours to earn your trust. A temporal investment always feels rewarding, whether it's justified or the result of cognitive dissonance seems a question for another post. And constructing a solid base can take just as long.

Primitive Construction

If you’ve played one first person survival sim, then you know how building a base works in Ark. Collect the needed supplies and drag them to your hotbar to select and lay down parts of your base. There are tiers of base-building materials, beginning with thatch and ending with metal. Of course, the higher the tier the more durable it is against player attacks. And most structures are covered in spiky barricades to deter intruders. Plenty of niche parts are available, like the Dinosaur Gateway that bears an uncanny resemblance to Jurassic Park, and trap doors to hide rooms from hasty intruders. But no base is impenetrable, no matter how many spikes you line its walls with. And building a structure is a timely investment, so be sure to secure it with ample protection. Because when you’re offline somebody somewhere is going to consider breaking in.

And that’s somewhat of an issue. Player fortresses are a little too susceptible to attack. Unless you build in a secret underwater cave, you will likely log back on to a village in despair. Being open to attack is part of the game, an intricate one that adds a heightened sense of tension. But securing your base rest-assuredly requires a hefty time investment, and even metal bases can be demolished by a high level player and their T-Rex. Structures need a little more durability, or ought to require specialized items (such as Rust’s C4) to break into—at least for metal structures. That way, raiding a player’s base requires a forfeiture of expensive resources on the part of the player, instead of the free-for-all it currently is.

Final Verdict - Great

Ark: Survival Evolved is a great addition to the never ending catalog of sandbox survival games. It’s the game fans of the genre have been asking for, for a long time. Gorgeous environments with roaming packs of prehistoric giants invites you to explore for hours. The RPG leveling system provides an incentive to gather, build, and hunt even after restarting thanks to a malnourished Tyrannosaurus. Tribal PvP is brutal, and protecting your resources while offline is nearly a pipedream. While optimization issues may deter new players, Ark: Survival Evolved is definitely worth watching as it's developed.

Screenshots

Ark: Survival Evolved Screenshots

Videos

Ark: Survival Evolved Videos

Coming Soon!

System Requirements

Ark: Survival Evolved System Requirements

Minimum Requirements:

Operating System: Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7
CPU: Core 2 Duo E4400 2.0GHz or Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core 3800+
Video Card: GeForce GT 730 v2 or Radeon HD 6670
RAM: 4 GB
Hard Disk Space: 20 GB

Recommended Requirements:

Operating System: Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7
CPU: Core i5-3470 3.2GHz or FX-8350
Video Card: GeForce GTX 660 or Radeon HD 7870
RAM: 8 GB
Hard Disk Space: 20 GB

Music

Ark: Survival Evolved Music & Soundtrack

Coming Soon...

Additional Info

Ark: Survival Evolved Additional Information

Developer(s): Studio Wildcard
Publisher(s): Studio Wildcard
Distributor(s): Valve Corporation (Steam)

Engine: Unreal Engine 4

Creative Director(s): Jesse Rapczak
Composer(s): Gareth Coker

Other Platform(s): Linux, OS X, PS4, Xbox One (Unreleased Versions)
Release Date: June 2, 2015 (Early Access)
Steam Release Date: June 2, 2015

Official Launch (Left Early Access): August 29, 2017

Development History / Background:

Ark: Survival Evolved is developed and published by Studio Wildcard. Development began in October, 2014. The development team consulted friends who studied the biological sciences when creating the game’s species. Ark is Studio Wildcard’s first game, but its members are industry veterans. From the beginning the game was designed with VR in mind. And the development team will be releasing the game on PS4 with Project Morpheus support. Ark: Survival Evolved does currently support Oculus Rift.

On March 15, 2016 Ark: Survival Evolved split into two games, with Ark: Survival of the Fittest becoming an independent, free-to-play king of the hill game, while Survival Evolved remains buy-to-play. In Survival Evolved up to 72 players fight in a shrinking arena until only one "Tribe" remains. The mode is designed for the growing competitive eSports scene.

Ark: Survival Evolved left Steam Early Access and officially launched on August 29, 2017.