ARK: Survival Evolved is one of the most popular games you’re probably not playing. Consistently in the top ten games played on Steam, this survival title takes place on a secluded island, where the player arrives, naked and shivering, on a cold beach surrounded by prehistoric life. From there they must build their camp and generate resources in order to bear the harsh landscape, fending off predators, finding food, crafting weapons and tools and ultimately creating a farm / fortress home base from which to rule their world.
The game is already well populated by a large number of Steam users, but with the official release still on the way and updates happening monthly, by no means have you missed the boat. Here are several beginner’s tips to get you started in ARK: Survival Evolved.
Your biggest struggle in learning to play ARK: Survival Evolved will be figuring out what to do with yourself. There’s no Story Mode, and much of the game’s conflict is driven by either self-imposed personal goals, or the chaos of the open server multiplayer community. Always be taming more dinosaurs and building more defenses for your home base. This will both preoccupy your time and toughen you up for the horrors to come.
You’re going to die a lot, especially at the lower character levels of the game, and especially when you re-spawn on the beach. Go with it. It’ll be frustrating at first but after awhile you’ll get used to the failure. Next time you respawn, make it easier on yourself by fetching the possessions off your dead body. As with games like Diablo, ARK will save your inventory after you die and once you revive, you can find your “old” body and grab the items you left behind. Be aware though that the body decomposes after a short time, and that predators or hostile creatures don’t always leave an area once they’ve killed you, meaning they may still pose a threat in the location where you died. It can also be hard to find your body once your character is randomly respawned in a zone so take note of any identifying landscape features.
The first few minutes of ARK: Survival Evolved play out like Minecraft. Once you awake on the beach, there’s a clear order of operations you should follow. First walk over to the shoreline and spam the hell out of the E button until you collect a few rocks. Then walk over to a tree and punch it until it falls down. Repeat about 4 or 5 times, then use the materials you’ve collected to build a pickaxe. Once the pickaxe is made, walk over to a rock and hit it several times with the pickaxe until you have a nice stash of flint, then make an axe.
The five materials you need the most in this game are Thatch, Wood, Stone, Flint and Fiber. Thatch and Wood are both collected from trees, with the Pickaxe granting more Thatch over Wood, and vice versa for the Ax. The Pickaxe will also mine Stone and small amounts of Flint, while the Ax will net large amounts of Flint and some Stone. Fiber is picked up from the many bushes lining the beach and forest. When collecting Fiber, hit the E button and continue to pick materials until the entire bush dismantles.
Raw Meat and Hide are the next two vital materials you’ll need to improve your living conditions on the ARK. In the earlier stages of ARK, you won’t have the necessary weapons schematics (called Engrams, which are bought with points at every level) to take on anything stronger than the Dodo bird. It’s defenseless and can be killed with a few punches, and provides Raw Meat, a much better source of nutrition and healing than the many berries you can find in the bushes. The Hide can be used for more sophisticated weapons like the Slingshot and helpful tools like the Waterskin, or saved for clothing to protect you from the elements.
I’m fond of a little section of the map called South Zone 3. In that area there’s a cliff overlooking the shore that is well protected by foliage and large rocks obscuring you and your dinosaurs from other animals. As the fork of two intersecting rivers, it also provides enormous resources by keeping you in close proximity to key building materials.
South Zone 3 is also home to a number of Trikes (the Triceratops), which are the perfect dinosaur to tame if you’re crafting a permanent lair. Not only can they hold a lot of stored material, they can also knock down trees and bushes with their horns, allowing you to rapidly build up supplies of berries, Thatch, and seeds. Their horns are also fairly adequate when used for protection, and the Trike can generally hold their own against the smaller predator dinosaurs. They can also be easily tamed with a few Tranquilizing Arrows, but watch out using the Club, as a Trike can very quickly maul you to death.
Taming a Trike will also help with taming other dinosaurs and animals in that you can easily build up a stash of Mejoberries and Narcoberries, both of which are vital to the taming process.
If you’re stuck twiddling your thumbs in ARK and find yourself without much to do, you should be taming and killing dinosaurs to level up and gain more Engrams. Start with herbivores or small carnivores, then work your way up as you gain more weapons and types of protection.
An animal or dinosaur needs to first be knocked out before you can tame them. This requires a weapon, usually something dull like the Wood Club. If you inflict too much damage, the beast will die instead of pass out, so try not to harm them excessively. Injury will also reduce the effectiveness of your taming, making the process slow or impossible to complete. Keep them intact as much as possible.
Next you will need to give the sedated animal food to keep up their strength. You will gain their trust as they eat the food placed in their inventory. Narcoberries (which they will not eat voluntarily—use remotely while placed in the beast’s inventory) are necessary, and for herbivores you will need Mejoberries as well. Carnivores prefer Raw Meat, or sometimes, Spoiled Meat. Once the Taming progress bar is filled while they are in an unconscious state, they will be yours to command, however be aware that you will not be able to ride them until you make a proper saddle, and that requires both Engrams and Hide.
Narcoberries not only are used to sedate the beast so that you can earn their trust, but also to make Tranq arrows, which make the process go much faster (Tranq arrows also require spoiled meat, so hold on to that Raw Meat even after it’s gone bad!) Mejoberries meanwhile seem to be the favored berry by most herbivores. A Trike can also provide much-needed backup protection while you’re taming another dinosaur.
Hostile or casually destructive players aren’t the only threat to your domicile out there in the ARK. If you piss off a particularly strong dinosaur or prehistoric beast, they have no qualms about destroying your house and belongings. I once got cornered by a Sarco and cowered in fear as I watched her destroy my entire Thatch hut before she killed me. So, while it’s not wise to venture too far from your den early on in the game, it’s also not wise to shit where you eat, figuratively speaking. Try to avoid starting a fight with a dangerous animal if they’re near your shelter. If they do get near your hut, try to lead them away. But don’t get too far—if they can’t find and attack you, they will figure out where your “nest” is and deliberately destroy that instead.
It will also help to build your home out of stronger materials and protect it with walls made of Stone, but that will come later in the game as you progress and purchase Engrams. If playing on a public server, you also need to lock all your items down, either with PIN numbers (as is the case with doors and chests) or with massive stone walls connected to locked doors. Especially do this with your water supply lines but be aware that it will also give away your location quickly to other players.
It may seem like a good idea to cut across a stream in the woods or walk along the shoreline poaching for Coel, but beware. There are Megapiranhas, Megalodons and Saber Toothed Salmon lurking everywhere, and since the water greatly slows down your movement speed, it’s difficult to escape them. They can surround and kill you quickly so be sure to take a peep underwater (preferably while wielding a Spear) before you dive in.
On the right hand side of your screen there are several display icons. These will tell you the status of your character’s health. You must pay attention to their water and food intake, their Stamina (used for running and performing actions like chopping wood), their “Torpor” (a measure of general fatigue or weariness, caused by sustaining blows or other forms of damage; it will cause the player to pass out), their oxygen levels (primarily used during swimming) and their carry weight. For an overview of each, you can press the H while in-game to see the HUD.
As with most hotkey set-ups, find a dedicated spot for each of your most-crafted items, and stick to it. The ability to rapidly cycle through weapons and tools may save your life.
There are none. That is, until you build a bed (which you will need to invest by putting points into the appropriate Engram). The sleeping bag can be used to fast travel to a location, but it is one-use only. A regular bed will make the spawn point permanent, however it is subject to a cool down rate once used. If fast traveling between two spawn points, you will also be required to drop all your items, so choose this option wisely.
For more handy tips ARK: Survival Evolved Wikia.
Holly Green is a reporter, editor, and semiprofessional photographer living in Seattle, WA. She is also the author of Fry Scores: An Unofficial Guide To Video Game Grub. You can find her work at Gameranx, Polygon, Unwinnable, and other videogame news publications.