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.
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.
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.
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