Do you like trapping innocent, extinct animals in diabolical, broken worlds of your own devising, miring them in a purgatory of genre comparisions from which they may never escape? Because Ark: Survival Ascended developers Studio Wildcard and Grove Street Games are promising/threatening to “put the power of unbridled game creation directly in your hands” with the game’s next major dev kit update, which will release by the end of January.
This will greatly expand the game’s moddability, though concrete details are thin on the ground. It’ll ship with a “Mario-inspired” platformer to show you how. There’s also a dev kit update planned next week for multiplayer spin-off Ark: The Survival Of The Fittest. This will allow you to “sculpt the ultimate battlegrounds where your fellow ARK survivors will fight to see who will be the ultimate survivor”.
“By the end of this month, we’re unleashing a colossal-sized dev kit update that’ll put the power of unbridled game creation directly in your hands,” gushes a Steam announcement post. “Imagine it: crafting not just ARK mods, but entire custom Unreal Engine games to be made available inside ASA.” Can you imagine it? I’m struggling, mostly because it’s Monday and this is only my first coffee, but I do like the sound of “Mario-esque rampages through Crystal Isles” and “PvP arenas where Tek Rexes joust against Spinos”.
The new set of tools will let you “design custom main menus, host and browse your own multiplayer game sessions from within the mod, and even create a mod that progresses (seamless travel) from one level to the next – the sandbox is officially yours to play in,” the post continues. “Get ready to unleash your inner game dev, push the limits of ARK’s potential, and build experiences that will leave the community speechless. We can’t wait to see what you cook up!” As for next week’s SOTF update, this will let you “craft custom arenas” and “create devious new battle-royale style game modes”.
Less grand, still important plans for Survival Ascended include improving the server performance – “expect continued improvements throughout January, and know that we’re constantly monitoring and tweaking to make the Official Network stable” – introducing new hack and exploit detection and prevention measures, and improving network movement for both human characters and the dinos.
Full server transfers on official servers are coming on 24th January, allowing players to download items and creatures onto the map without restriction. At the end of February, Studio Wildcard will introduce the new Center area, and a new breed of retro reptile, the “gentle” but very territorial Gigantoraptor (see in-game illustration above). The Center is summarised thusly: “Lush jungles teem with hidden secrets, treacherous ice peaks pierce the sky, and crystalline caverns beckon with untold treasures.”
On 1st April, meanwhile, we can expect the Scorched Earth update, which is billed as “an unforgiving desert where every oasis is a hard-won prize and every sandstorm a test of your grit”, and introduces “ultimate desert steed” the Fasolasuchus. Yes, it’s cowboy-themed, and so are the outfits and accessories found in the accompanying Frontier Adventure Pack. Also in the Frontier Adventure Pack: the ability to build trains. Can dinosaurs drive trains? I guess they’d better learn.
All told, it’s an exciting/worrying time to be a massive lizard of the antique persuasion, though I’m not sure it’s enough to appease fans of the original Ark: Survival Evolved, whose servers were shut down when Survival Ascended went on sale last year. The game was originally announced as a free upgrade for Survival Evolved, bundled with ARK 2, but it was subsequently upgraded into a standalone premium $60 purchase, which was then discounted in response to player outrage and the delaying of some accompanying DLC.
The original Survival Evolved remains one of our best survival games on PC. The Survival Ascended remake has earned a Mixed reception on Steam since its early access launch, partly in response to the above controversies. ARK 2, meanwhile, is out later in 2024, and is said to be more of a Soulslike than its predecessor.