While ARK: Survival Evolved is less visually impressive in 2023 than at launch, no one can deny that it was a gorgeous and very ambitious game for its time. Unfortunately, these elements, combined with the confines of Unreal Engine 4, resulted in some pretty hefty performance issues, as the engine strained to simulate life on a massive scale.
While performance has improved as more powerful hardware has become available, ARK: Survival Evolved struggles to perform well at high visual settings across a wide array of hardware, something the developers undoubtedly hope to address in ARK: Survival Ascended.
ARK: Survival Evolved has one of the most iconic (loudest) soundtracks in the history of gaming, and the menu theme has become a meme unto itself, with even Studio Wildcard getting in on the joke of being unable to hear what anyone is saying due to the near defining menu theme, a common occurrence for friends playing together on VIOP while the game is loading.
I lost count of the number of times I have told others I cannot hear them over ARK: Survival Evolved menu music, and likewise, I have been told the same many times, but despite all this disruption, it is too good to mute, high praise to indeed for the work of Garth Coker!
One of the reasons that ARK: Survival Evolved has remained so popular on PC is the size of its modding community, with thousands of high-quality mods being available to download for free; however, sadly, the console community has been unable to benefit from the work of modders until now, with Studio Wildcard confirming that cross-platform mod support is coming with the launch of ARK: Survival Ascended, something which I am sure will help to make the purchase price of the controversial remake more palatable for many.
ARK: Survival Evolved is a massive game with near-infinite replayability, and it’s not uncommon for longtime fans of the series to have well over 1k hours of playtime recorded, with many veteran players having played for over 10k hours.
While much of ARK: Survival Evolved’s narrative is scattered throughout the official maps in the form of various lore snippets, the most recent extension pack (Genesis) introduced players to narrative-driven gameplay for the first time.
Unfortunately, the success of the Genesis DLC convinced Studio Wildcard to create ARK II as more of a narrative expierance than a survival one, something that is sure to not go down well with long-term ARK: Survival Evolved veterans who were hoping for a sequel that improved upon the ARK formula instead of changing it entirely.
While some in the community were unhappy that ARK: Survival Evolved received several paid DLC over the last eight years, such complaints are honestly entitled, and the fact that in that same period, ARK: Survival Evolved received hundreds of updates and multiple free expansion packs, in addition to a very generous sponsored mod program that saw Studio Wildcard pay modders thousands of dollars to create high-quality content for ARK: Survival Evolved.
Unfortunately, we are now at the point where ARK: Survival Evolved official servers are closing, support is ending, and the remake is a paid standalone title because of this excessive (forced) generosity.
ARK: Survival Evolved was envisioned as a moderate-sized survival game that somehow turned into a live service title without any systems supporting its long-term success.
As a result, as sales dwindled, expenses remained steady, and Snail Games and, extension, Studio Wildcard, have found themselves in a horrible position, being on the verge of bankruptcy and faced with the knowledge of everything they must do to avoid bankruptcy will anger the most vocal elements of the ARK community.
What does this mean for the future of the franchise? Honestly, I cannot say, but I would not rule out a cash shop, paid DLC, skins, and perhaps even a battle pass in the style of Conan Exiles.
While this is not the ideal future for ARK, it was Studio Wildcard’s desire not to upset the most entitled elements of the community that has brought us here, and unfortunately, because of that mistake, the future of ARK as we know it is uncertain at best and non-existent at worst.
ARK: Survival Evolved is a huge game in every meaning of the word, with a mod-free install of all paid and free DLC coming in at around 422GB, a figure that becomes all the more daunting considering that ARK: Survival Evolved does not run well on traditional HDD, and SSD or M” drives are preferable, both of which are more costly, much smaller than hard drives.
To cut costs, Studio Wildcard closed all official servers in September 2023, a move that was poorly received by the community, even if some can understand why it was needed, with the long-term success of ARK: Survival Evolved resulting in massive server bills, long after revenue streams had started to run dry.
According to some with insider knowledge, ARK: Survival Evolved official servers were costing Studio Wildcard and Snail Games as much as $350k, a sizable sum when revenue is dropping, a large team still needs paying, a sequel is in development, and your parent company effectively has nothing left in the bank with $9M of loans due in the next 12 months.
Fortunately, players who are attached to their bases and tames can download official server saves, and Nitrado is offering a 20% discount for communities who wish to see their former official server live on as an unofficial server, which, to be fair, is a valid option, albeit one that may be expensive for small groups or those with limited incomes.
I must preface this by saying that while, as a consumer, I dislike it when a developer goes back on previous promises, such as when the ARK: Survival Evolved remaster was officially teased as a free upgrade to ARK: Survival Evolved before later announcing that it would be a standalone premium title and that official support for ARK: Survival Evolved was ending, and all of its official servers would be closed came as a bit of a shock.
As awful as this news was, and as difficult as it was to take, Studio Wildcard has little choice in the matter, as their parent company, Snail Games, is on the verge of bankruptcy and, as a result, has borrowed against the future success ARK: Survival Ascended, in exchange for a $4M loan that was used to pay salaries and overdue hosting bills reportedly in excess of $1M.
If ARK: Survival Ascended is not released by Halloween 2023, Nitrado will receive a large stake in the future of the company and possibly gain full control over access to unofficial servers, and while I would have preferred ARK: Survival Asecnded to have been a free upgrade If I had to choose between Nitrado gaining effective control over ARK: Survival Evolved, or receiving 20% of the proceeds from ARK: Survival Ascended, I would choose the latter without hesitation.
While I have nothing against Nitrado, the unofficial community is very mature at this point, and forcing thousands of server admins to relocate to a Nitrado (many of whom are likely paid many months if not years in advance at their current hosts) would all but ensure the near-total destruction of the ARK: Survival Evolved unofficial server community.
I will personally be purchasing ARK: Survival Ascended, as I feel I more than got my money’s worth from the original, and the expected performance gains, visual improvements, and, most importantly, crossplay and cross-platform modding capabilities of the Unreal Engine 5 remake does sound very appealing, even if it means that I will be forced to pay for it, unlike what was originally indicated.
That said, while my play time on ARK: Survival Evolved will likely diminish, I cannot imagine ever fully abandoning my favourite survival game as long as there are active community servers to play on, new friends to be made, and (mis)adventures to be had.
ARK: Survival Evolved is a survival video game developed and published by Studio Wildcard, it was released on 2 June 2015 and retails for $19.99.
ARK: Survival Evolved is available on the following platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, Playstation 4, Playstation 5, XBox One, Xbox Series X|S.
While there may be a few stability patches, ARK: Survival Evolved is no longer in active development, with all resources being reassigned to ARK 2 and ARK: Survival Ascended.
ARK: Survival Evolved is incredibly popular, and while we do not know how many people play ARK: Survival Evolved on console or the Epic Game Store, the PC community frequently peaks at 55k+ concurrent players, a figure that was considerably higher (70k+) before the closer of the official servers, indicating that while a sizable percentage of the community lost interest in the game once official servers were shut down, the game continues to thrive on all platforms.
ARK: Survival Evolved is far from dead and is likely to remain active for a very long time to come, with neither ARK: Survival Ascended nor ARK II being unlikely to attain a strong enough position to decimate the ARK: Survival Evolved unofficial server community for several years, if ever, considering hope badly the community reacted to Nitrado being the exclusive unofficial server host for ARK: Survival Ascended and ARK II being designed as a third person open world narrative title, with souls-like combat.
ARK: Survival Evolved supports:
ARK: Survival Evolved offers the following matchmaking options:
The following peripherals are officially supported:
ARK: Survival Evolved is rated PEGI 16+ and contains the following:
ARK: Survival Evolved is perhaps the best survival game ever made, and while it has struggled with performance issues since launch, many of these issues are due to just how ambitious ARK: Survival Evolved was for its time, and honestly is still a very ambitious title today, with many survival games allowing nowhere near the same amount of spawned creatures and building components being active at any given time.
While it is less accessible today than in 2022 due to the closure of all official servers, there are hundreds of excellent unofficial servers to choose from, many of which have been active since the first days of ARK: Survival Evolved early access journey.