For the last 10 days or so, I’ve been engrossed with a new game called ARK: Survival Evolved.
On the surface, the game is a cross between everyone’s favorite reality TV show (once upon a time anyway) Survivor and The Hunger Games, with dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures. In case you were still wondering what that all means, you’re transported to an artificially constructed island called ARK, in which you have to gather resources, create/construct things, tame dinosaurs and all manner of other creatures, ranging from raptors, stegosaurus, carnotaurus, tricerotops and of course the T-Rex, all the way through to giant turtles, coelocanths and even gigantopitihcus. And all the while, you have to contend with the very unpredictable weather of the ARK, since one moment you could be freezing, and a couple minutes later, you’re overheating. And you also have to keep yourself from dehydrating and starving to death as well by collecting local berries and consuming meat, so no pressure! In fact, the island itself is host to rivers, beaches, swamps, mountains, the occasional volcano, and even a tundra, with the appropriate plants and animals for each item, and you never know what might be lying around the corner, whether it be a swarm of poisonous insects, a titanoboa, a sarcosaurus (aka, the friggin huge crocodile from Hell with a penchant for destroying bridges), and if you feel like taking a chance swimming in the water, megapiranhas and megalodons.
You also learn new recipes for progressively more advanced things as you level (new engrams as they’re called are usually available every 5 levels, and you have to wisely invest points, since there’s no way you can learn all the engrams in the game), beginning with the basic torch, stone spear, and thatch huts, but you eventually can opt to learn to craft wood and stone buildings by felling trees and mining rocks from the local area, building a forge to craft metal tools, and even eventually creating electrical generators to have electricity and artificial lighting in your camp. Taming dinos and other critters requires you to craft tranquilizers to force feed them, and to use as beasts of burden or riding mounts, and in the case of pteranodons, riding mounts. In addition, if you and your friend come together in a tribe, you can find a defensible location to construct your own base, build houses, storage areas, and even holding pens for your domesticated animals to reside, and eventually breed.
The game also throws you the occasional bone by dropping supplies in random spots that last for a brief period from beacons of light that can be spotted from miles away. It’s a race to get to them, and depending on the beacon’s color (denoting what level you have to be to access the beacon), you get fairly useful stuff, including the possibility of getting recipes for items you haven’t learned yet.
The graphics themselves are quite good and realistic, very true to the forms of the different flora and fauna you would find on your artificial paradise. And while the game is still in beta release (official launch date is next summer), I fully expect this game to be a huge hit, and there are already tournaments for the game, in which tribes go toe to toe with each other, so don’t be surprised if you see tribes winning some big bucks. In fact, Steam has a free option to set up your own ARK server, so that, if you feel so inclined, you and your friends can privately play on the LAN (or however you have it set up) amongst yourselves without random people joining in. Customizing the settings is also a breeze, and allows you to set how quickly critters can be tamed, how long the days last, and the list goes on.