An Impromptu Feature Piece of Ark: Survival Evolved
Ark: Survival Evolved is an action adventure multiplayer game by Studio Wildcard, which can also be played in a single-player mode. It is a truly masochistic game, and I say that with love in my heart. For those that like to PVP, I’d even venture to say it’s a sadomasochistic one, but I’ll get back to my original point and you’ll soon see why.
This game is incredibly unforgiving if you are alone and aren’t on a heavily modified server. It doesn’t coddle you or walk you through things step by step, you just get dropped off on a beach without any sort of gear and merely in your grubby undies. The learning curve on this is incredibly steep, particularly when on your own and that can be incredibly aggravating if you weren’t expecting it. Even the “starting zones” aren’t particularly safe, especially now that they’ve introduced new tiny swarming dinosaurs to the game, which I discovered the other day when I decided to pick the game up again.
I still remember the first time I ever played Ark. I’d come back from Pax Prime 2015 and rushed to buy the game the moment I got home, despite the fact that I didn’t have the best time at their booth (a story for another time). Nothing was going to keep me from getting a pet dinosaur. Nope, nope, nope.
I fidgeted with excitement as I downloaded and installed the game, rushing about to make sure I had everything I needed for the long haul. Beverages, snacks, my phone in case of an emergency and telling my partner that I’d be occupied for awhile. In other words: Do Not Disturb!!!
Back then my graphics card wasn’t as snazzy as the one I have now, but the graphics still looked relatively good. I loaded in, amazed at the details on the hand, the sand and the foliage around me then it hit me…the lag. After fiddling with the settings, I got the game to a manageable level (I can play it on max now without issue) and made my way along the beach.
Minecraft taught me that punching trees = wood and it was clear that it was the way to go here as well, not to mention that I’ve seen plenty of tree punching while glancing over people’s shoulders at their booth. The concept of punching trees hasn’t ever made sense to me really. It made even less sense here when it came to the copious amount of blood that spews from your abdomen while doing it. I don’t think the person in charge of that did any research on anatomy or how different injuries manifest. Just in case that they’re reading this: Punching =/= major blood splatter from the body.
Proud of myself, I felt that this would be a breeze, I’d gathered some stones, leveled up, made my first tools and even made myself a shirt. It wasn’t until I heard a beautiful chirp like sound behind me that I learned how wrong I was. I turned to see what wonderful creature it might be only to hear something spit and my vision blurred and green just before the sound of my character being killed.
That’s right, I had my first encounter with the freaking frilled lizards of doom, dilophosaurs.
I brushed it off, it was my first death which was no big deal, I could handle it. I went to equip my things again only to see it was all gone. “Ah, so this is it’s going to be, eh?”
After checking that I still had my levels and learned abilities, I sighed with relief when I saw you didn’t get deleveled on normal and went right back to showing trees who’s boss, collecting rocks and fisting ferns.
It wasn’t long until heard the familiar trill again. This time, I was prepared: I had made a spear! Confident in my weapon I turned to fight the wretched beast only to see he had brought a few friends. I shoved my spear at their faces and dodged their spitballs as best I could only to hear my weapon break. I blamed shoddy craftsmanship (mine) and accepted my fate.
Eventually, I tamed my first parasaur. He was a reliable mount that helped me build a decent little base, but things were boring on my own, even after I’d created a dilo army. So I decided it was time to find a server.
Oh, multiplayer…both the bane and blessing of my gaming existence. I’d picked a PVE server to be safe for my first go. I was still inexperienced and I mostly wanted to find a server that my friends and I could play on safely while we learned the ropes. The last thing I wanted was to have the frustration of people killing me for giggles while I was just trying to mind my own business.
My first server was interesting, to say the least. There was an assortment of players, from responsible adults that just did their thing and had an amazing grasp of the game, or immature children that thought picking up scorpions to drop on newer players was the best thing on earth.
Regardless, I had made a few friends and I learned a lot from them and my experiences, despite the few trolls on the server.
There’s something incredibly satisfying about building things from scratch while working with animals you tamed by slightly questionable means. Admittedly, official vanilla tame times are ridiculous in my opinion, no one has time to wait up to five real-time hours for a bronto to tame. Now before you think this isn’t a big deal, let me explain. You can’t just knock a dinosaur out, load it with food and leave it for five hours and expect things to go smoothly while you’re gone. Not unless you’ve got it sealed up safely and the food you’ve got on it is something with a decent shelf life, like kibble. Good luck having something large enough to shove a bronto in by the way.
In general, you need to not only succeed in knocking them out before you shove food down their throats (because that’s how we get things to love us, right?), you need to guard them to ensure nothing attacks them. Meanwhile, you pump them with drugs to ensure that they don’t wake up during this entire process. This is supposed to encourage team effort and for people to join clans but you shouldn’t have to write out a taming schedule for your clan mates where you can tap in and out for who’s going to monitor the tame. Not to mention that “life happens” and sometimes people have to go AFK and we all know that Murphy’s law dictates that the moment you go AFK, bad things will happen.
If you don’t already know: the bigger the beast, the longer the tame and the harder it is to defend. You can fence around something small, you can make taming pens, but that’s a bit hard with a mammoth. So it isn’t surprising I mostly played on unofficial servers with increased tame rates. Which is, of course, a simple solution to this problem, just avoid playing on any server that doesn’t have multiplied tame timers. Just like if you don’t like PVP you should play on a PVE server.
Regardless of where you play, one thing stays the same: The level of utter heartbreak you feel when you’d lose any beast. After all, you had spent so much time to tame or breed as well as train something you can lose in a mere moment. It’s absolutely gut wrenching when you lose something that could have been avoided too.
The AI isn’t the brightest, the fact a Rex can get stuck on a small rock is mind boggling. Whoever designed the glare/flare effects is clearly trying to burn out your corneas. There are also some serious clipping issues and the amount of brain hemorrhages I’ve had because foundations just wouldn’t snap right is astounding.
Despite all these things that drove me mad, I kept playing. No matter how frustrated and angry I’d get with something I just…kept…playing. The level of addiction was strong and that was pretty clear by the sheer amount of hours I was pouring into it. The day they made it so you could breed your beasts and have little babies got me hook line and sinker.
The only thing that could have even remotely pulled me from it was playing League of Legends and that was if my ranked team was calling my name. Otherwise, I’d wave the person off or ask them to wait til I was done whatever I was doing. Sometimes I’d just leave the game on in the background while I played whatever game my friends tried to yank me into. This was fine until we were playing “Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes”. I forgot my stream was still running and I got caught red handed running around my base while we were supposed to be disarming a bomb. In my defense, I’d already finished helping them pass the section I was in charge of!
I’d catch myself looking up information on Ark’s Wiki when I was at work because I couldn’t wait to get home and start trying to tame the next dinosaur. It was bloody ridiculous! I felt guilty because I had other games to review, ones where the publisher had actually given us copies of their games to review them and there I was taming a sabertooth instead while feeling the eyes of Tim-Sticky Buntons editor- eyeing my name on Steam. Every time he’d send me the message “You really like that game don’t you?” I would hear “Aren’t you supposed to be playing ____ for review instead right now?”. But I would choke that guilty feeling down as hard as I’d ram kibble down the throat of a Sabertooth.
I’m still not sure whether my partner decided to start playing the game out of genuine interest for it, or just so he could have a bit of my time. In the end, I had to cut myself off cold turkey. Which really resulted from me switching to playing Fallout 4 non-stop.
I think I might have a problem.
In the end, I’d recommend the game to anyone that has a seriously high pain tolerance or likes a challenge. Only if you have a really good computer of course. If you don’t, you’ll feel like you’re in a claymation universe. It’s great for those that like building things, taming animals and exploring. If you like PVP, there are plenty of servers for that, but you need to be careful since there are cheaters/botters, so choose your PVP server carefully. There are even RP servers for those so inclined, which have amazing builds, townships and economy systems. In short, it’s a great game to play with your friends since there is pretty much something for anyone.
Just remember that there’s one incredibly important thing you need to both succeed and stay sane in this game, and that is patience. Everything takes time and hard work to attain. You will not be able to load in the first day and go find yourself a Rex right off the bat since you’ll just end up being RexChow. You have to work your way up gradually to be successful. If you go in there thinking that you’ll be able to just conquer everything, you’re going to have a really bad time.
Be patient, take your time, accept the fact that the weather system is insane and that the world is quite literally out to get you. Once you’ve accepted that, you’re golden.
Have fun taming!