Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Ark Survival Evolved Update: New Map, New Version, and Lots of Mods

By Bixyl Shuftan

My friends play some games for a short while, and it isn't long before they lose interest and move on to something else. Ark Survival Evolved isn't one of them. After over two and a half years and a number of changes, they still like returning to an island filled with prehistoric creatures, braving the dangers, and making things with the resources there.

Those whom haven't played the game before may want to check my previous articles in July, August, and September 2016 and February 2017. The basic premise of the game remains the same: that of a human waking up on the beach of an island populated by dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures, with nothing but his wits and two bare hands. You won't be able to do much at first, and it's best to avoid even the smallest carnivores for the first few levels. So many creatures see you as a snack to chase down and bite and claw to death. But you'll soon get stronger, faster, and with learning new skills comes clothes, equipment, and the ability to make a home base. Complicating things is the kind of server you're on. Public PvE or Player versus Environment servers often have huge tracts of land claimed by others simply so no one else can use it, which can make finding a place to settle hard. Player versus Player servers, the people you'll run into can vary greatly. Some will help you. Others will wreck your place, steal your stuff, and skewer you just for giggles. Having no patience for the "PvP kiddies," many of my friends tend to stay in private servers, such as the one Nydia shares with her friends.

So much has changed since I last wrote about the game over a year ago in February 2017. For one, there's a new map: Ragnarok. This place is about two and a half times the size of the original map, also known as "The Island." Like The Island, there is a mix of terrains. But unlike the original area, there's a large desert area in the south, dominated by the "Deathsands" that can cause heatstroke and eventually death if you stay too long there. In the interior are some high mountain and plateau areas, with ice and snow, parts of it having super cold temperatures that can rapidly sink your health without cold climate clothes. Appropriately enough, the Ark Wiki calls  the areas "Murdersnow." On the northern part of the map is a barren, scorched area. One has to be careful in parts of this area as it's home to Fire Wyverns (first seen in the Scorched Earth map) that can set you, and any mount you may be riding, ablaze.

The recommended starting places are in the northwest and north-central areas, with temperate climates. In addition to the dilos that use blinding spitting attacks, players on the beach will have to contend with the thieving pegomastaxs and ichthyornis. Pegomastaxs are annoying, but as they're ground animals can be pursued and knocked out, though if they get away, the player will have lost an item, possibly a valuable on. I found ichthyornis to be more trouble as they swoop down on players from above, robbing them of food. While they don't steal items, they do knock tools and weapons onto the ground, and will attack players again and again, which is both irritating, and for a low level player dangerous as they have less HP to spare as it's attacks damage some.

A deadlier danger is the eurypterid that while usually on the sea floor occasionally comes onto the beach. Nicknamed "Larry the lobster" by my fellow players, this ancient aquatic arthropod can sting with a strong poison that will quickly knock out players, leaving them helpless as it eats them alive. Ranged weapons are recommended in taking these out, as it may get a lucky couple of hits on a player using a pike, which will be enough to knock out a medium to low-level player. Solo players with only melee weapons should avoid pairs. As dangerous as "Larry" is, one can find pearls on them, including black pearls. So some will brave the dangers, or use a lot of bullets. And then, there's the Giganotosaurus. These are rare, which is good as these monsters are several times larger than rexes and eats wyvrens for breakfast. Their size combined with their rage makes them a predator best avoided.

Fortunately, not everything new is necessarily out to rob, peck, and eat you. The cute jerboas from the Scorched Earth map are here. These critters do have a use besides being adorable fuzzballs. As Ragnorak gets hit by sandstorms, even in the north,their ability to detect weather can alert you to one. Appearing on The Island several months ago, and on Ragnarok is the otter, which makes a great and practical pet for both the warmth it provides and it's ability to get fish and pearls, including on occasion black pearls. There are other creatures from Scorched Earth here as well, Wyverns having a new variety: Ice. Like all wyverns, they are very dangerous opponents in a fight and valuable mounts that are tough to beat. They can only be tamed if raised from eggs. The mythological griffin has also been introduced. As one might expect, wild ones are best observed at a distance as they will attack. If one goes through the trouble to tame one, they do make a prize mount that can carry two people.

Resources are also easier to find. On The Island, metal was uncommon, as were oil spots, and I could find obsidian and crystal only in a few places. On Ragnarok, metal can be found all over, and obsidian and crystal can be found in more places. On the beach, one will find occasional loot crates that contain random items useful for beginning players, such as stone hatchets, bows, or if they're lucky an iron pike.

While The Island had a few occasional ruins that weren't always easy to find, Ragnarok has some large abandoned structures. One of the most prominent is the castle visible from Viking Bay that's located on a high plateau east of it. But as the place is filled with bats and spiders, it's highly recommended one bring armor, a gun with a lot of ammo, and plenty of friends. Safer but further inland is an abandoned bridge that's starting to crumble. Exactly who was using these structures is not yet known.

With Nydia and the "Furry Gamers" getting back in Ark, we got a private server with a Ragnarok map, or "Rag," as we sometimes call it for short. We set up a main base in a cave in the northwest with one of the three obelisks on the map just to the west. With over a dozen in the tribe working together, it wasn't long before the most active were strong enough to start taming some powerful beasties, such as some of the wyverns after grabbing some eggs. We made some notable structures, such as the "Hotel Bunnytickle" in Viking Bay which stood over a dozen stories high. We made a number of bases along the north coast and a few in the interior.

But there was more than a new island to explore and build on. Over the past year, Ark has encouraged the building of a number of mods. These can be mildly useful tweaks, to new maps, to new ways to build things, and more. The Ragnarok map got it's start as a mod. Structures-Plus, also called (S+) gives you more structure parts to build, as well as new versions of the old which you don't have to destroy to remove, but simply take down and either store it or place it elsewhere. S+ foundations are stackable, so one can make a really strong stone or metal fence. It can also allow you to build an underwater base, which is not exactly the easiest thing to raid in a PvP server.

The Eco Decorative and RP allows you to create plants, bushes, glowing crystals, and huge trees. The Castles, Keeps, and Forts Mod allows you to build medieval era-structures. As dinos are sort of like dragons, this allows you to make places out of fantasy novels, complete with jousting matches, on dinosaurs. The Steampunk mod allows you to use steam technology, which can allow you to build things out of a Jules Verne novel. Among which are huge skyships. Pimp My Home allows you to decorate your home base in new ways to make it feel more like a home. It can be a little surreal to have a dino in a kitchen with modern appliances, but here it is. Conquer the Seas allows you to build a number of boats, as well as a small airship. The dredger can get you resources from the ocean bottom, and fishing boats allow you to get both certain resources, and of course fish. The Crystal Isles Mod gives you a new map in an area filled with crystals. The area is beautiful, but Ark being Ark can still be quite deadly.

There's too many mods for me to mention, others including the useful Dino Tracker and the amusing Dodo Rider. Butthey've allowed Ark players in private servers a world of possibilities. One small problem: a lot of mods may lag some players. So they're not for everyone. You can find a list of the mods on the Wiki (here). Twinfinite also gave a list of thirty mods, ranging from very useful to mildly interesting.

Then there's the Tek technology. Appearing last year, these an a space-age/alien tech element to the game. The engrams and the material "element" needed to make them are available only by killing boss creatures. Tek armor can make you very difficult to defeat in a fight, with jets to make you fly, and energy weapons. You can also get Tek armor for tamed animals such as the T-Rex and sharks ("Dinobots" and sharks with frikin lasers anyone?). There's Tek equipment, such as a replicator which takes fewer materials to build things than in a fabricator or smithy. There's a cloning chamber, which you can clone a creature if you have enough element. Teleporters allow you to teleport yourself, and other people or creatures close by, to another teleporter, but unlike beds you can keep your clothes and inventory. And there's more, including tech windows and doors which open when you're nearby.

Needless to say, Tek technology does scare some who play public servers. Raiding parties with machine guns and explosives are bad enough, but rocket jets and energy weapons gives people the idea of raiders whom can smash up a well-defended base with impunity. So there are some PvP servers that are labeled Tek-free.

Scorched Earth has also been joined by a second alternative version of Ark: Aberration. Players find themselves in an "Ark gone wrong." Somehow the Ark has been damaged, and the surface is bombarded with harsh radiation during the day, driving all but the most resilient life forms underground, which live in lush biomes. There are a number of kinds of mushrooms, the larger which chopping can give you fungal wood, which can be used like regular wood. There are smaller kinds of mushrooms, some providing small benefits when eaten, but others can cause hallucinations and temporary inability to breathe. There are gas vents one can harvest congealed gas balls from, but be careful as you could suffocate by inhaling the gas. There are gems you can harvest. Earthquakes can rain down resources from above such as stone, regular wood, obsidian, and crystal, but can also damage your base or knock you down when climbing a wall.

The radiation has created new creatures that can help or hinder. The bulbdog is a friendly creature that can be a source of light as well as a pet. The goblin-like nameless are a constant threat in many areas, but can be held at bay by light sources. Ravagers are a kind of canine that can really hurt you as they're usually in packs, but a valuable ally if tamed. Rock drakes are large creatures that can climb walls, glide distances, and have a stealth ability that can allow them to sneak up on you, and possibly make short work of it's target. But like wyverns, they can be tamed if raised from an egg, making them a powerful mounts. Reapers are dangerous alpha predators that low and medium level players don't have a chance against, and queens can "impregnate" a player with their young, which if left untreated will eventually burst from the player like the creature in "Alien." It's *possible* to tame the young, but very difficult.

It is possible to transfer creatures from single player games to private servers. One of my friends brought over some rock drake eggs, of which I ended up with one resulting "rocky." With no hostile players around, there's no need to camouflage, but it's fun to glide around and climb walls. With this creature well over level 100, he makes lunch out of any T-Rex he encounters. He's the best fighter at the base I stay at.

There are more survivor notes to discover, the latest from a woman from Medieval Japan and a man from Ancient Greece. It seems the activity in the PvP servers was a factor in their stories as the woman describes most of her encounters with others as hostile, some trying to kill her on sight. The Greek man in one entry describes himself as waking up away from his house on the beach, without items, and finding his home broken into and robbed - he'd been raided and killed, and somehow came back to life.

There are also some tales going around of a developing plot. One youtube I came across, the narrator says he had heard stories that it was becoming clear that the Ark was a kind of alien experiment in which extraterrestrials had been preserving dinosaurs and other ancient creatures in hopes of improving them, and were recently abducting humans with the purpose of hoping to improve them as well. Right now, this should be taken only as an interesting rumor. There's also a rumor that eventually the game will have a way for players to return to Earth.Time will tell.

The Ark as an alien experiment? Who knows what they would think of those PvPers who kill for the sheer pleasure of it in contrast to those who give helping hands to neighbors in need. As always, this survival game seems to bring out the best and worst in those who play it. But unlike "Rust" which looks like it's set in the abandoned runs of some once populated area, Ark at least seems to have the potential for a better tomorrow with it's shiny technology.

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And finally, there's been a few songs done about the game. Among them, "Survivor Evolved."

That's all for now from Ark. Stay safe, watch your back, always know a line of retreat in case trouble shows up, and it never hurts to have friends.

Source: Ark Wiki , Twinfinite, Steam
Image credit: Nydia Tungsten

Bixyl Shuftan