Watch this gameplay preview of ARK: Survival Evolved, coming to Xbox One next year

Dinosaurs are big right now. Of course, they've always been physically large (except for the little ones like Compsognathus). But the recently-released Jurassic World movie broke all kinds of box-office records (despite featuring some unnecessary cruelty). People just love dinosaurs, and yet they hardly show up in movies or games.

If you do dig dinos, then indie developer Studio Wildcard has just the game for you. ARK: Survival Evolved, currently available via Steam Early Access and coming to Xbox One next year, is a cooperative survival game featuring all manner of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures. Players will have to work together to survive, build shelter, tame or kill primeval beasts, and ultimately escape from the island that time forgot.

We recently grilled ARK's Senior Technical and Gameplay Designer about dinosaurs, development, and much more. Read on for our quick impressions with an exclusive interview and gameplay video!

Welcome to the island

ARK: Survival Evolved is a large-scale online multiplayer survival game, much like Day Z, H1Z1, Rust, and others. To begin with, you'll select a server – each one supports up to 70 players. Local single-player is also supported. After creating a character, you'll wake up on the beach of an island known as ARK.

ARK: Survival Evolved

The ARK is a mysterious island that exists outside of time, where dinosaurs and other long-dead species (including dodo birds, which jerk humans hunted to extinction!) still survive. The island contains all manner of fauna and biomes to explore, including underwater regions. Strange and alien pylons (called beacons) dot the landscape as well. Some unknown entity drops supply crates near these beacons at regular intervals.

Being a survival game, ARK requires players to manage several needs to survive. First and foremost, you'll have to find sources of food and water. Players also need to manage their temperatures, with rain causing coldness and torches and campfires giving off heat. Temperature varies across different regions on the island as well.

ARK: Survival Evolved

Harness the power

Beyond exploration and survival, a huge part of ARK's appeal comes from its wildlife. At present, the game features 13 species of dinosaurs, such as Ankylosaurus (one of my faves), Brontosaurus ( science says we can call them that again), Stegosaurus, and of course, Tyrannosaurus Rex. Some of the 26 non-dinosaur creatures currently available include Mammoths, Sabretooth Tigers, and Pteranodons. Just typing some of those names gives this dinosaur fan chills!

As you'd expect, herbivores are generally friendly, and carnivores see players as food. During my first time playing, I was forced to punch an attacking Dilophosaurus to death on the beach. "That one's for Nedry!" I might have said. Many of ARK's dinosaurs and creatures can even be tamed, after which they will act as pets or mounts. Amazingly, players can even saddle and ride the Megalodon, a gigantic prehistoric shark.

Taming dinosaurs, fighting boss creatures, and constructing shelters are some of the tasks in ARK that encourage player cooperation. Those tasks take time, and your fellow players can protect you while you work. Unlike the other survival games I mentioned, ARK is mostly meant to be played cooperatively, and players can't kill each other (PvP servers exist as well). When you run across another human on this island, you'll think about how you can help each other instead of how to kill and rob him or her.

ARK: Survival Evolved

More evolution to come

ARK: Survival Evolved is a Steam Early Access game, so it still has a lot of development to go through before it officially launches on PC and consoles next year. The UI needs a lot of work (as does controller support for menus), and the game currently requires a fairly beefy system to run well. The developers tell us they plan to address these issues over time, in addition to adding lots of new content and more than doubling the dinosaur and creature count.

Dinosaur fans with the hardware to run ARK: Survival Evolved will definitely want to give it a try. If you can't run it or only play on consoles, you can still look forward to the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions in June 2016.

  • ARK: Survival Evolved – Windows PC, Mac, and Linux – $29.99 – Steam Link

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!

  • What about Plesiosaurs? Pterodactyls? Raptors? I ran out of Dino names.
  • ARK has Plesiosaurs and Utahraptors! No Pterodactyls, but it does have Pteranodons, which are another kind of Pterosaur and pretty similar anyway.
  • Is that the one in the first Picture? (Upper right side)
  • Yes it is.
  • Cool. Can we ride them too?
  • According to the game's Wiki, they are indeed rideable.
  • Heck yeah.
  • The game is still in alpha, and they have been patching and adding content quite frequently, so by release time I think they will have a lot of dinosaurs available.
  • It would be cool if they brought it to the Xbox preview program
  • I completely agree. I would love to hear I the developers would consider doing that.
  • I'd like to see it there as well
  • Looks good
  • I can finally one up Chris Pratt and have a pack of T-Rex
  • Lmao
  • I love this game, clock around 140hrs and totally addicted
  • Would you reccommend this solo play, as in not forming a tribe on multiplayer servers, or is it really only fun with friends?
  • It's doable solo, but taming dinos takes a hell of a long time. So tribes helps with that, building, and gathering. But if you're cool with a tiny Hut and you have time to grind for stuff you can do it. Of course, on a PvP server playing on your own is a death wish. You won't he outright attacked by people, you just won't be able to keep up. Sloths fight leopards. You can't open a bag of chips. Clearly humans are the weaker species.
  • Any chance you could describe what PC you're running it on? I'm thinking of getting it but I'm not sure my old clunker will run it (I've got the XBox One but.... this game looks awesome so I would rather not have to wait haha!)
  • Looks good. Nice early heads up.
  • I remember a survey Ubisoft sent out a year ago asking about different settings gamers would like to see and one was a dinosaur island.
  • I want indominus rex!! Lol
  • I asked them about it in the video! I hate that dinosaur though. Real dinosaurs are cool enough on their own. ;)
  • That's what Chris Pratt's character said in Jurassic World.
    Lol Posted via the Windows Central App on my Lumia 640 XL
  • Paul - can you eventually build villages, settlements, towns? Looks that way from the final photo
  • Yep, players can build settlements. I understand the devs hope to take the building aspect even further in the future. More details: ARK Wiki Building Page
  • I've watched about 20 minutes or so if this in a Twitch stream.  Sounds cool but it definitely does seem like it has a far way to go even on PC, before it gets to Xbox.  I ended up buying H1Z1 in the Steam sale and they have weekly patches for that game but that also seems so far away for console (they've said PS, maybe Xbox)
  • Love the compy reference! Glad this is coming to Xbox
  • I was interested in this until I read the reviews basically saying that you can expect all of your gear to be stolen, houses burned to the ground, and all dinosaurs killed... and all that happens when you're not even playing!
  • I think there are ways around that. If everybody just got wrecked every time they stopped playing, it wouldn't be as popular as it is.
  • I've been playing this game with an i7-2700K, 8GB of ram and a Radeon 6870. I have to run it on low/medium settings, but it is still a ridiculous amount of fun to play for a Dino fan like me. It's also improving daily with optimization and other bug fixes/patches which allows even me with my relatively ancient GPU to play the game and enjoy it. I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a really cool survival game and need a break from Zombies. Historical inaccuracies be damned!
  • I really want to play this game, look so good. This is also the beginning of Dino games, 2106 will be the year of dinosaur games. 
  • Just saw Jurassic World. So now I'm in the mood for some dinosaurs!