Ark: Survival Evolved
Ark: Survival Evolved (stylized as ΛRK) is an action-adventure survival video game developed by Studio Wildcard, in collaboration with Instinct Games, Efecto Studios, and Virtual Basement. It was released in August 2017 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, OS X and Linux, with versions for Android, iOS, and Nintendo Switch in 2018. In the game, players must survive being stranded on an island filled with roaming dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals, natural hazards, and potentially hostile human players.
|Ark: Survival Evolved|
|Engine||Unreal Engine 4|
The game is played from either a third-person or first-person perspective and its open world is navigated on foot or by riding a prehistoric animal. Players can use firearms and improvised weapons to defend against hostile humans and creatures, with the ability to build bases as defense on the ground and on some creatures. The game has both single-player and multiplayer options. Multiplayer allows the option to form tribes of members in a server. The max number of tribe mates varies from each server. In this mode all tamed dinosaurs and building structures are usually shared between the members. There is a PVE mode where players cannot fight each other.
Development began in October 2014, where it was first released on PC as an early access title in the middle of 2015. The development team conducted research into the physical appearance of the animals, but took creative license for gameplay purposes. Egypt-based developer Instinct Games was hired to facilitate the game's development. A companion app, titled Dododex, was released for mobile devices in August 2017. One of the game modes, Survival of the Fittest, was also released as a standalone game on PC the same month. Several expansions to the game have also been released as downloadable content: The Center, Primitive Plus, Scorched Earth, Ragnarok, Aberration, Extinction and Valguero. Two spin-off games developed by Snail Games were released in March 2018: ARK Park, a virtual reality game, and PixArk, a sandbox survival game. Ark: Survival Evolved received generally mixed reviews, with criticism for its "punishing" difficulty and reliance on grinding.
Ark: Survival Evolved is an action-adventure survival game set in an open world environment with a dynamic day-night cycle and played either from a third-person or first-person perspective. To survive, players must establish a base, with a fire and weapons; additional activities, such as taming and feeding dinosaurs, require more resources. The game's world, known as the "Ark", is approximately 48 km2 (19 sq mi) in size: there is approximately 36 km2 (14 sq mi) of land with 12 km2 (4.6 sq mi) of ocean.
There are currently 176 creatures that populate the world of Ark. In the early versions of the game, nearly all creatures were real dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures, however, as the storyline progressed, mythical creatures such as the wyvern, manticore, and phoenix were added. As expansions were released, completely original creatures, such as the Karkinos and the Velonasaur also made their way into the game as well as original robotic creatures such as the Enforcer and Scout.
One of the primary game mechanics of the game is taming creatures. The majority of creatures can be tamed by the player, though some, such as Meganeura or Titanomyrma, cannot. The taming method varies creature by creature. Most creatures are "violent" tames, meaning the players must knock the creature out using tranquilizing projectiles like tranq dart or by using blunt weapons, such as a club. Once knocked out, the player must feed the creature food their preferred food, such as berries for herbivores or raw meat for carnivores. Different foods help tame animals at varying speeds. Most creatures tame most effectively — and quickest — with a food called Kibble, which is an item crafted using eggs from another creature. Some creatures can also be tamed passively, by approaching them and carefully giving them food. Once a creature is tamed, it will follow the commands of the player who tamed them. As well, most creatures can be ridden, and therefore allow the player to utilize the creature's abilities, such as flight or fast underwater movement. When riding atop certain creatures, players may still be able to use weapons. They can also be used to carry items, and players can issue offensive and defensive commands to them; for example, a pack of Utahraptors can be assigned to defend the base, or a group of Triceratops can be ordered to attack an enemy's base. Some of the larger creatures, such as a Brontosaurus or Mosasaurus, can have a building platform placed on their back, giving players a mobile, though small, base. The game also features various other animals, such as the dodo, saber-toothed tiger, woolly mammoth, Meganeura, Titanomyrma, and Doedicurus. Every creature in the game has living ecosystems and predator hierarchies.
Players must keep track of various meters, such as health, stamina, oxygen, hunger, thirst, and "weight", or how much they can carry. Should players take damage, their health meter will gradually regenerate if they have consumed the necessary food, or if they craft items that regenerate the health meter at a faster pace. Otherwise, a player's health meter will gradually regenerate slowly over time. Players can gain experience through harvesting materials, crafting, killing, or discovering explorer notes. Once the player has obtained enough experience, they will gain a level point, which can be spent improving one of the players stats, which include max health, max stamina, max oxygen, max food meter, max water meter, max carry weight, melee damage, movement speed, and crafting speed. As of January 2019, the maximum player level is 105, plus an additional 30 levels to be gained by defeating end-game bosses. Tamed creatures can also gain experience and level points, which can be spent on similar stats. Creatures spawn into the game at levels ranging from 1 to 150, and, when tamed, can gain up to 75 more levels by gaining experience.
Players can build structures throughout the world. To build a base, players must acquire structure components—such as floors, doors and windows built with the resources littered throughout the world—which are earned as they progress and gain levels, then collect the necessary materials to make them. These components can then be crafted and placed in the world. Players can create any structure, as long as they have the logistics and resources; the structural integrity of the building is compromised when the pillars and foundations are destroyed. Structures can be built from various tiers of materials, with better tiers providing more protection, but costing more resources to create. Players start out by creating thatch structures, then moving on to wood, stone, metal, and finally tek, a futuristic and late-game material. There are also glass structures that can be used to gain a greenhouse effect on plants grown inside. Adobe structures block heat from outside for an ideal temperature in the building. Players can also craft items in the game, such as weapons, by collecting the resources and technology required for crafting. In addition, players can craft and attach accessories to their weapons, such as a scope or flashlight for a pistol or machine gun.
Preliminary work on Ark: Survival Evolved began in October 2014. Studio Wildcard, the Seattle-based team behind the game, co-opted Egypt-based developer Instinct Games to facilitate development. When researching for information about the game's prehistoric species, the development team read "general audience books" and online articles, and sought assistance from friends who studied in the fields in biological sciences. When creating the species and world, the team took creative license for gameplay purposes, although there is an in-game reason that the species have diverged from their historical counterparts. Many of the development team members were inspired by dinosaur films such as Jurassic Park and The Land Before Time.
The team added features to the game that would appeal to all players, as opposed to specifically players of the survival genre, such as the ability to simply explore the island and compete against large bosses, as a reward for uncovering secrets of the island. They also added an end-game for players to strive towards, as they felt that most survival games lack a final goal. They wanted to "provide a depth and scope that allows for the world to not just be a means to an end [...] but also a place to explore", said creative director Jesse Rapczak.
The game, powered by Unreal Engine 4, contains "tens of thousands" of artificial intelligence entities, according to Rapczak. It also features support for virtual reality (VR) gameplay; Rapczak, who has almost three years of experience with head-mounted displays, described the game as being designed with VR in mind from the beginning.
The game was initially released through Steam Early Access for Microsoft Windows on June 2, 2015, shortly before the theatrical release of Jurassic World later that month. Rapczak said that the game's release was scheduled to take advantage of the "dino fever" that was present with the film's imminent release. The game subsequently received an Early Access release for Linux and OS X on July 1, 2015, and through the Xbox Game Preview Program for Xbox One on December 16, 2015; a PlayStation 4 version was released on December 6, 2016. The final game launched in August 2017; it was originally intended for release in June 2016, but was delayed in April. The game launched with support for Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR, and the Xbox One version was released via the ID@Xbox program. Android and iOS versions were released on June 14, 2018, and a Nintendo Switch version is due on November 30, 2018.
The game left early access on August 29, 2017, for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. The standard version was released alongside an "Explorer's Edition", which included a season pass with three expansions, and the "Collector's Edition", which included a season pass as well, a necklace, a map, a notebook, a development team poster, a wooden chest packaging, and the game's official soundtrack.
On March 16, 2016, the Survival of the Fittest game mode was released in early access as a free standalone game with no microtransactions; it was scheduled to fully launch in mid 2016, but was eventually merged back to the main game as the development team did not wish to monetize on its release, and wanted to ensure that modders can apply the development kit of Survival Evolved to create mods for Survival of the Fittest. There will be various eSports tournaments of the game mode, with a prize pool of US $50,000. Players who played Survival of the Fittest before it was merged back into the main game can continue to play the game without paying an extra cost, while new players must pay before getting access to it. It will be available for every player who purchases the main game.
On March 25, 2019, game developers announced a new mode of gameplay: Classic PVP. The new game mode was made available on PC April 2, 2019. The update aims to revert the PVP meta back to the younger days of Ark via clustered servers with limitations such as: no official tribe alliances, limits to tribe size, lack of evolution events, un-tame-able Tek dinos, no access to Aberration and Extinction content, no Tek Engrams and reduced scaling of weapon damage. 
On September 1, 2016, Studio Wildcard released the paid downloadable content (DLC) Scorched Earth. The expansion includes a new, desert map as well as several desert-themed resources and items. It also features ten new creatures, some of which are fictional, like the Wyvern. The release of paid DLC for a game still in early access caused negative reaction among players of the game, resulting in lots of negative reviews on Steam right after the expansion launch.
On December 12, 2017, the paid DLC Aberration was released, adding a new underground/alien-themed map and 15 new alien/underground themed creatures, as well as new items such as climbing hooks and glider suits to navigate the hostile terrain. The largest map in terms of playable area, Aberration also allowed players to continue the story line of Ark and discover more of the truth about the Ark worlds.
On November 6, 2018, the third paid DLC expansion, Extinction was released. The expansion takes place on a future, dystopian Earth that has been corrupted by "Element"; various creatures have been infected by this Element and will attack the player regardless of their normal behavior. The DLC introduced a new mechanic to the game: PVE events in which the player must defend either orbital supply drops from space or Element mineral veins for loot and resources, respectively. The final bosses of Extinction are called "Titans", powerful fictional creatures that are several magnitudes larger than any other creature in the game, and that can either be killed or temporarily tamed.
Ark: Survival Evolved received "mixed or average" reviews for the Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One versions, while the Switch version received "generally unfavourable" reviews, according to review aggregator Metacritic.
TJ Hafer's 7.7/10 review on IGN stated that "When I'm having a good time in Ark, I'm having a really good time. The problem is that those moments are usually one part to every nine parts menial grinding and crafting – especially at the later tech tiers. Having to repeat so much work after failing an attempt at a boss feels far too punishing, and some really dumb dinosaurs can take a lot of the challenge and sense of danger out of the many primal locations. Even with all of those quirks, however, I'm still hungry to play more after the 60 hours I've spent so far. There aren't a lot of survival games that have legitimately held my attention that long."
GameSpot gave the game a 6/10, saying: "This outstanding sense of place and mood is offset by the sheer difficulty of everything that you have to do, the spectacular amounts of time necessary to experience even a tenth of what the game has to offer, and the randomness of death constantly destroying everything that you have built." Ian Birnbaum of PC Gamer gave the game a score of 72/100, stating it to be "a bloated, grindy mess, but so packed with options that a better game is hidden inside it."
The Switch version was panned by critics for being notably downgraded in order for it to adequately run on the console, being criticized for its low resolution and frame rate, minimal level of detail, blurry texturing, low poly models, stability issues, and loading times. Eurogamer likened the port to a "poorly compressed JPEG version of an impressionist painting".
Within a month of its early access release on Steam, Ark had sold over one million copies. By August 2016, the game had over 5.5 million sales across both Windows and Xbox One, with about 1.5 million from the Xbox One platform.
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