Stuff I’ve Played: Ark – Survival Evolved

Anyone who knows me knows that the game I talk most about is Elite: Dangerous. In my heart I’ve always been a spaceship captain, flying around in a bucket of bolts I call home, getting by, and maybe doing a bit of good. But it’s far from the only game I play.

Another addiction of mine used to be Minecraft. I spent ages playing that in Hardcore mode, because that was the style that appealed to me.  The idea of surviving in the game and that if you ever died, even once, your game was over and world erased was appealing to me.

But of course, it was what you could do in that world that made it worthwhile.  It’s one of those games that, if you wanted, you could avoid combat altogether 99% of the time, and focus instead on gathering resources and building.

That unexpected 1%, however, could be nerve-wracking if you were caught off guard and risked losing everything because of it.

I play Elite in a similar way. Games are just more interesting if the focus is on not dying at all. We’ve gotten soft with instant respawns and save points, and get used to the idea of challenge being measured by how often you end up dying.

Now, with that said, I don’t think I could play Ark: Survival Evolved without respawns.  This game is HARD.

Ark is a lot like Minecraft with more realistic graphics. You gather resources, build things, and learn to build bigger, better, and more complex things.  Like Minecraft, the goal is survival as well as carving out a niche for yourself.

But Ark adds dinosaurs.

You start off waking up naked on a beach on an island filled with extinct animals from various eras (up to and including dodos).  There is a weird gem in your arm which is a computer interface, allowing you to upload skills matrix style when you’ve earned enough XP.

While there are passive animals about, the ones that will attack you will kill you dead in short order unless you keep your wits about you. It is all too easy to get killed.

You will die. A lot. At least on your first runthrough.

Ark is best played with a group on a server, where the entire world is persistent. Whenever you’re not there playing, your body remains, and can be dragged about, robbed or kidnapped by other players if you happen to be playing on a PvP server.

Personally I think this game is best played cooperatively. PvE instead of PvP, and thankfully for those who want to play with a friend at home, there is split screen play available.

Surviving on your own abilities is just the start, however. To really get ahead you need to set your sights on taming animals.

Taming is a highly sophisticated process that involves clubbing a mofo unconscious and then stuffing food down its mouth till it loves you.

It’s actually a bit more complicated than that in that you need to make sure it stays unconcious until the process is complete. Later on there are more advanced ways of taking animals out. Tranquilizer arrows, for example, or narcotic paste to keep them under instead of using narcoberries.

Each animal has its own uses. Some are only good for laying eggs or being cute pets while others can be used to gather resources, carry goods, and best of all, fight to protect you. Believe me, after getting murdered a half dozen times I was more than happy to set my eyes on finding someone to fight for me.

There is a larger story of sorts in the game. Basically it centers around why you are on this island in the first place. Giant obelisks can be seen on the horizon, where various boss battles occur. Those are your end game goals, not unlike The End stage in Minecraft.

But ultimately the real story comes from your own actions. Your day to day goals, triumphs and defeats, working towards whatever it is you’ve set your mind to. That’s where the real game memories will come from.

Basically if you like playing survival mode in Minecraft, but wish there was a game that looked more realistic, was a bit more complex in its crafting, and had giant frickin dinosaurs in it, Ark is worth checking out.

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