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- ARK: Survival Evolved
ARK: Survival Evolved is the dinosaur video game you've always wanted, or at least that's what Studio Wildcard is shooting for. As a self-described "open-world dinosaur survival game," the newly announced ARK is what Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon would be if it were treated like a main Far Cry game… with a little Turok and DayZ thrown in for good measure.
Co-founder and technical art director Jesse Rapczak, in an one-on-one interview with yours truly, incorporated many influences into the development of ARK like Lost, Don't Starve, Far Cry, RUST, Legend of Zelda, and even a little bit of Pokémon. By merging multiple genres together and having a vast open world—it takes about 30 minutes to walk from one side to the other—that's not procedurally generated, he and his team of around 40 international members hope to create a survival game that's more than just surviving and will allow you to create their own dinosaur storyline.
Formed in December 2014, Studio Wildcard was specifically made to develop this game concept and has already made enough significant progress to have a solid working build with hundreds of hours of gameplay when ARK releases on Steam Early Access in a few weeks. I asked Rapczak about the unfortunate downfall of The Stomping Land, another dinosaur sandbox that fell apart on Steam Early Access last year, and he believes that the "scope of that game may have been too large," without a full plan in place to complete it. Whereas TSL didn't deliver, he believes that ARK "can deliver" the quintessential dinosaur video game.
ARK pits you on a lush world with other survivors, ancient secrets, and hulking reptiles—all powered by Unreal Engine 4—where you must hunt animals, harvest resources, and build shelters. The wildlife is hostile, the ecosystem harsh, the weather tempestuous. One moment a ravenous raptor might barge into your home, and the next you might be saddling that same raptor and riding it toward the mountains to explore a dangerous cave.
That said, you will start the game naked and hungry (that's a double whammy!) on the beach of a mysterious island of hungry dinosaurs. The action will move much more like Far Cry than, say, Skyrim, except that new players will begin with rather primitive weapons like bows, spears, or maybe a nearby rock with sharp edges. First order of business, though, is securing food and water so that your health doesn't drop too low and constructing a shelter to shield you from the ravages of the dynamic day-night weather system. Avoiding larger dinosaurs who may be chomping on each other in the robust ecosystem is probably the best option. Besides, all you have to explore the island is a map to show you where you are in a vague sense, though you can make a compass and even a GPS given enough investment in research and technology.
As your character survives the elements and tames the wild, he or she will accumulate items that can be stored at home or earn skill points that persist even after death. It's your choice whether to gather herbs, cut trees, and collect materials of your own, or take down other players and steal all of their goodies (maybe a little of both, really). Creating a structure using wood, metal, or one of the more exotic materials of the world is just as important as growing crops for a sustainable food supply.
But let's not linger too long before discussing the real point of the game: dinosaurs. Most larger predatory dinosaurs will attack you on sight, so most of your interactions with them will be attempting to kill them, or more likely, escaping and evading. If you find yourself alone against a Tyrannosaurus Rex, Rapczak recommends distracting it by intentionally running into its prey. A team of players, however, can trap it and, over 3-4 hours of continuous work, tame it. (And you'll want to do it fast before another tribe steals your tamed T-Rex in the fourth hour. Those bastards!) I, on the other hand, can't wait to tame a megalodon and surf the waters, laughing at the poor folk on the beach.
Currently, sixty dinosaurs and prehistoric beasts can be tamed, with the game boasting that you can fly over snow-capped mountains on a squadron of Pterodactyls. Or destroy a rival village on a Brontosaurus or your rampaging Jurassic-era titan of choice. More peaceful tamers can use their dinosaurs to traverse terrain like steep mountains to access areas in the archipelago that you won't be able to reach otherwise. So, yes, in a way they are like chocobos.
While you could fly solo and attempt to survive as a lone wolf, Rapczak believes that joining a tribe is a better strategy. Since there are limited number of skill points a character can earn, a natural division of labor occurs. Crafters will harvest resources and make items, some which require a machine bench or a forge. Foragers can tend to farming, water supplies, and herbalism. Warriors can defend a base, hunt game, and scout new areas (or rival tribes). All members of a tribe share resources, tamed dinosaurs, and spawn points in the form of sleeping bags throughout the world.
Studio Wildcard hopes to release ARK: Survival Evolved on Early Access around June 3rd with a final release slated for early 2016 release on Xbox One, PS4, PC, Mac, and Linux. It also plans to feature Steam Economy and a robust Steam Workshop for custom maps and mods, and will have mod support well before the final release to support the modding community. If that wasn't enough, ARK: Survival Evolved will be compatible with Project Morpheus and has plans to support virtual reality devices on PC. What those VR devices are and what the price point will be on each platform are still under wraps, but ARK already looks like it could one of this year's sleeper hits.