Azurephile gives this a solid "Rad" on the Ghost Scale
This is fun, with very few issues, and is well worth your time.
Azurephile gives this a "Rad" on the Ghost Scale
This is fun, with very few issues, and is well worth your time.

  • Recommended, especially if you have a PC that can run it +1

  • Survival, crafting, and taming dinosaurs and other creatures!
*Update 12/2019*

This was written during Ark’s Early Access period, which is now over. The game has multiple expansions and at least two more coming. It’s also now available on PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. Today’s hardware is also much more suitable for running it and the game is better optimized.

How I found out about Ark: I can't seem to recall playing any kind of sandbox survival game before Minecrat and Terraria. My son was playing Minecraft before me and it took me a while to jump in. Before doing so, I watched a series on YouTube called “How to Survive and Thrive” (in Minecraft) by Paul Soares, Jr. Apparently, he was the first (or one of the first) to post a Minecraft guide series on YouTube. It was excellent and afterwards I thoroughly enjoyed playing Minecraft.

I kept watching Paul's videos and have learned about a few cool games because I've watched him play them. I previously wrote about two Early Access games, which fit the “sandbox survival” genre, called Salt and Stranded Deep. In those games you need to survive out in the ocean among groups of islands. However, I have just experienced a new one called ARK: Survival Evolved.

What is Ark? Ark can be best described as a survival game that includes dinosaurs mostly, but also other creatures from millions of years ago such as Dodos and Trilobites. Some of the currently featured creatures include Trikes (Triceratops), Raptors, Dilos (just like in Jurassic Park), Mammoths, many more, and more to come.

Creature taming: Perhaps one of the things that sets ARK apart, too, is that you can tame these animals and ride them, fight with them, or give them some of your inventory to carry around. Hunting and taming is a challenging process, especially among things that are trying to eat you. However, you can tame your own small army and take over!

Single and multiplayer PVE and PVP: While the game contains a single player mode, it also features quite an extensive multiplayer mode. Players can connect to official or unofficial ARK servers and join others by creating Tribes (teams). Tribes can go PVP or PVE and it sounds like an interesting experience that I have not yet tried.

Video settings: The wiki contains a link to a great guide on Steam. I also found other guides on Steam quite helpful in setting my video settings so that the game ran smoothly. There are presets and each one lists the name of a GPU that users may need for those settings to work properly. I ended up finding a guide and changing many of the game's settings along with some other minor out-of-game configurations. Now the game seems to be running much more smoothly. The thing to remember is that this is an Early Access game and may not yet be fully optimized.

The game is coming soon to PS4 and Xbox One. Paul Soares, Jr. said that it was the highest rated game on the Steam Store the day it became available for download. So, it does seem to be quite popular even though it has mixed reviews. Some players have complained of the difficulty. While it seems the map is not yet randomly generated, the creatures and item placements are. Therefore, you can most certainly spawn in a place and be instantly eaten to death by something dangerous. Still, I think with experience and “research,” the game is actually fun.

ARK: Survival Evolved

Paul Soares Jr.'s ARK playlist:

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 08/09/2015 at 04:17pm

Both of the games that I've backed because of dinosaurs (The Stomping Land, and Orion: Dino Beatdown), ended up flopping, so I'm wary. ARK does look interesting, though, and I might give it a chance at some point. That Unreal Engine is awful pretty :). Good review!

jdodson   Admin wrote on 08/09/2015 at 04:38pm

Nice thing about ARK though is that it's out in some form and can be played. I had another friend that backed The Stomping Land, I think more than a few people were upset about that one.

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 08/09/2015 at 05:26pm

Well, yeah, Stomping Land was pulled from Steam eventually, but it was playable before the dev went silent. Orion: Dino Beatdown was playable for quite some time, but has since been re-established as Orion: Prelude, which is apparently doing relatively better (at $.99, the expectation/risk isn't that high). ARK looks like it has much more polish than both, and the price seems reasonable.

Azurephile   Super Member   Post Author wrote on 08/09/2015 at 11:38pm

Thanks for the comments! The devs of ARK seem to be serious, new content comes out frequently. The game is popular and the multiplayer aspect of it is huge, so I'd be very surprised to see this game not complete Early Access. The fact that it's coming out on current gen consoles seems to support that.

One of the things I really liked about a trailer I saw was someone riding a Pteranodon. Paul also met up with a T-Rex in one of his videos. Those would be awesome to have!

Azurephile   Super Member   Post Author wrote on 08/11/2015 at 01:54am

I've taken two screen shots of the two families I've been able to capture on screen together. My son said he's impressed. I'm happy to have a Dilo, Trike, and Parasaur. The Dodo's a little added bonus, although the Dilo attacked me when I was away from camp (camp=also where I was taming trike) and so ended up joining me (it was tamed quickly being such a low level).

Azurephile   Super Member   Post Author wrote on 08/11/2015 at 11:42pm

My curent dino family includes 2 Trikes, 2 Dilos, 2 Dodos, 2 Parasaurs, 2 Philomia, 1 Raptor, and 1 Sarco (croc). Doubles mean I have mates, which means those get mate bonuses. Changing some of the world settings really helped. I did die w/ this character and world a few times, but this is currently as far as I've been able to progress. I do have a lot of Engrams unlocked, so I can make things like wood and stone housing.

I was careful in an area where there was a Sarco, but I eventually found it or one again stuck on a tree trunk or so. It was only level 4 and I was able to tame it. So, now I'm not so afraid of the area where I found him.

I also wrote a Steam review for the game, because I believe it's an excellent game despite some negative reviews. So, I thought I'd help with a small and positive review.

Azurephile   Super Member   Post Author wrote on 08/17/2015 at 03:44am

Oh, I really love this game! I have been fully immersed in it for a while now. There are a few things I thought I'd mention.

I do strongly recommend the game. Maybe there will eventually be a demo, that would be great because then people could at least give it a try. If you want a smooth out-of-the-box experience, it's probably best to wait until some time after it gets released, or even just get it for a new console. Otherwise, you're going to want to (easily) research settings to use to optimize the game's graphical settings to reach the balance between performance and quality you want. Just look on Steam, there are some helpful guides there that show the game's settings and what someone recommends you set them to.

I saw another recommendation that adding "-USEALLAVAILABLECORES -d3d10" to the launch options really helps. It was also recommended to put the game on High priority in Windows Task Manager, which is easy enough to do. However, I thought it'd be cool to be able to launch the game automatically on High priority, and so I set up a new shortcut for the game that does that and includes the game's optional launch options I was using.

I must say now the game loads a lot quicker. It runs pretty well, not 100%, but still pretty well. I expect the game to be more optimized upon graduating from Early Access and being released.

The really game scares me and keeps me anxious, which isn't something I'm used to while playing a game. I've seen some really big and nasty dinos that can tear me and my dino pets apart in a matter of seconds. I've been watching a Tyranosaurus (not Rex) take out multiple Brontos. I've also seen a Spinosaur tear into some dinos. I have been killed plenty of times, too. The game is about survival and being careful is usually a good idea, so always watch your back!

Azurephile   Super Member   Post Author wrote on 08/17/2015 at 04:47am

Here's the guide I used to help configure the game for my PC. I strongly recommend this guide for any PC as it contains some important in-game configuration settings as well. Also, even though the person who wrote the guide is using a Titan GPU, I've found these settings to be excellent even on my 690.

I also created a new shortcut for the game which looks like this, which opens the game with recommended launch options and as a High priority process:
Target: C:\Windows\System32\cmd.exe /c start "ShooterGame.exe" /high "C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\ARK\ShooterGame\Binaries\Win64\ShooterGame.exe" -USEALLAVAILABLECORES -d3d10

Azurephile   Super Member   Post Author wrote on 08/25/2015 at 01:19pm

I'm so excited right now. I noticed that, in his videos, Paul was using a whistle to tell his dinos to eat what they killed and I couldn't figure out which one he was using. So, I posted a comment on his latest video asking. Google didn't help me find the answer I was looking for, but later I found an answer in the Steam community forums. Still, someone replied with what I needed to know. No only that, but Paul did, too! Wow!

Azurephile   Super Member   Post Author wrote on 08/27/2015 at 10:55pm

An free weekend for ARK comes along with a tournament. Some in-game prizes include Steam keys for a discounted or free game. Further details:

jdodson   Admin wrote on 09/26/2015 at 04:47am

Damn. That's intense. How long have you owned it now? People at work have been raving about it. Definitely going to pick it up at some point!

Azurephile   Super Member   Post Author wrote on 09/26/2015 at 11:50am

July or August. There's a big update coming this weekend, which adds new dinos and biomes.

jdodson   Admin wrote on 09/26/2015 at 05:03pm

Are you playing this single player or online? Looks like it's pretty hard on shared severs with others.

Azurephile   Super Member   Post Author wrote on 09/26/2015 at 06:48pm

100% single player. I'm kind of stuck right now because I want SCUBA gear so I can go looking for a Plesiosaur, but that gear requires level 75 to unlock and I'm only about 70. So, I'm not really sure what else to do to get extra XP (although I am using options that have increased that multiplier). Right now I'm waiting on that big update. The new biomes are going to change a few places and I'm concerned that my dino pen may be affected. I have a home in one place w/ some dinos, but a pen I made for other dinos in an area that is receiving a change and thus my structure (pen) in the area may be destroyed.

Anyway, I think it's a great game!

Azurephile   Super Member   Post Author wrote on 06/03/2018 at 07:48am

Ark turns three today!! What an amazing three years of gaming with Ark, it's been. I've spent much more time playing Ark than any other game ever and I'm still loving it and playing it! I'm so grateful! I'm looking forward to what's to come and reflecting on what has come.

It's funny looking back at these old comments when I was happy to have 268 hours of gameplay. My current logged hours are actually 2687!!!! This just has to be my favorite game!

jdodson   Admin wrote on 06/03/2018 at 01:41pm

Yeah with that kind of playtime I’d say so.

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