The Best Way to Play 'ARK Survival Evolved' Is the Kindest

A cutthroat game of open-world survival become something else if you're just willing to be open to it.

by Jack Yarwood
Aug 10 2017, 3:00pm

screenshots courtesy of Studio Wildcard

They're outside. I can hear them. In a matter of seconds, they'll have broken through and will have raided my entire base. All of the weaponry I've spent ages on—gone. The facilities I've built—broken. The hours spent gathering resources—time completely wasted.

Death is an inevitability in Ark: Survival Evolved, the online survival game from Studio Wildcard. Whether it's an aggressive dinosaur in search of a snack or some opportunist players looking to score some free loot, the outcome is nearly always the same. You'll die again and again, and have to motivate yourself to press on regardless.

Of course, there are some ways to protect yourself. You can avoid certain dinosaurs, like Troodons, Therizonosauruses, and Carnotauruses; or hide away in alcoves and pray that other players won't stumble across your crudely constructed base. You can even try to live modestly so that your neighbours won't want your goods.

Though none of these techniques guarantee you'll be entirely safe from harm and they really aren't compatible with having a great experience of the game. Instead, they're a recipe for stress and disappointment, making you flinch at every human sound and giving you unnecessary grief whenever you see your hard work come undone. What's the alternative then?

In my opinion, you really shouldn't take the game too seriously. Sure, it pays to be tactical, but that shouldn't get in the way of experiencing all the game has to offer. Talk to people and get involved.

At its core, Ark: Survival Evolved is a ridiculous title. It gives players plenty of opportunities to improvise and experiment. You'll spend your time fighting dinosaurs, pooping, and communicating with other players over voice chat and through the limited gestures made available to you. Have fun with it, and don't get caught up in winning or building the biggest strongholds.

After my base was destroyed, instead of starting again in a more secluded spot, I went to one of the most populated areas on my server: the southern beaches where new players descend upon first joining to punch wildlife and get into scraps.

I'd had enough of hoarding items. Instead, I was determined to welcome newcomers to the server and help them get over the initial difficulty hump that had frustrated me in my early hours. With just this slight change in perspective, my experience of the game improved dramatically.

Whereas before I'd panic every time I loaded up the game, expecting to find big red letters announcing my death, now I was genuinely excited about who I'd encounter on my travels and the interactions I'd have with them. I'd throw gifts to newcomers and even kept a large storage box filled with extra clothes and building materials for people starting out fresh.

Truth in advertising. (screenshot by author)

This approach to playing a lot of other benefits too, beyond just the satisfaction of helping out. For starters, I've now earned the trust of most of my neighbours, meaning I've been raided far less. People tend to just ask for stuff if they need it, and if someone does try to raid me they're almost always happy to settle for peace offerings or have conversations to reach an agreement. Additionally, some more experienced players on the server have even donated rare items to help me in my task and offered their protection.

I've also levelled up significantly. The way levelling works in Ark: Survival Evolved is that you can either earn experience by violent or non-violent means. Crafting all those extra sets of armour and additional tools has therefore given me tons of added skill points to improve my stats and get better engrams: engrams being the blueprints needed to make more complex items. This has made the experience of starting again seem far less daunting.

It's extremely easy to get disheartened at Ark: Survival Evolved. The game has a very steep learning curve. It's painfully obscure. And it's often punishingly difficult. You really need a sense of humour, creativity, and some patience to get the most out of it. Without these, you'll probably tire of it fairly quickly, and want to move onto something else.

There are long periods where you'll probably get nothing done in the game, spending time waiting for the night to end, for your respawn counter to drop to zero, or for your torpidity to decrease so you can move again. It can be a real turnoff for some players, especially if you prefer your gameplay to be much faster-paced and action-orientated.

To help deal with this, it's important to set yourself little goals here and there. Realistic ones. Not the "Try to take over the world" kind. Aim to reach a certain level in the game. Get an engram. Join a tribe. Or try to tame a specific creature.

You can even search for explorer notes hidden around the map. These are obtainable from chests, and give you a large boost to your experience, as well as reward you for going outside your comfort areas. This makes them a great objective to work your way through, if you're struggling to set up a home base anywhere specific.

Ark: Survival Evolved is often seen as a game that demands a heavy time investment—and that can be true—but it also has a lot to offer players who just want to mess around, explore, and interact with people online.

Sure, some players will just want to steal your stuff, but there are many more who will stop and chat, exchange items, or invite you to take part in fun activities. These players are what make Ark: Survival Evolved's servers worth visiting and are one of the best arguments for staying engaged.

If you're having a hard time keeping motivated, try to relax and let the game carry you. Look out for other players. Speak to them and help each other out. Not only will you make your own experience better, you might just influence someone else's too.