Look at a list of the biggest sellers on Steam this year and you will see lots of the expected names. DOTA 2, GTA, Civilization, Skyrim and many more. There is one name that I’d not expected to see in the top ten for 2015 so far selling well over a million copies – an Early Access game Ark:Survival Evolved.

The easiest way to describe Ark is that it is what you get when you add the creation of Minecraft to an openworld PVP shooter. You start the game dumped naked on the beach and have to collect and craft the things around you to make clothes, cook food, make weapons and bigger and bigger buildings and creations. And there are dinosaurs. Some you run from and some you can fight but all are trainable – knock them out (and keep them unconscious) and feed them and they become yours to command.

That’s the theory. The intro video looks amazing and makes you want to jump straight in and play but what is it really like?

At it’s base the game is a PVP MMO. That means when you start off unless you get lucky you’re going to get killed. A lot. An awful lot. Every time you die you lose everything you have – including clothes and the contents of your bags but you luckily do not lose your skills, level or anything you’ve built or put in storage boxes. The key is to persist enough to get over that first hump and then start building yourself spawn points and leaving yourself basic sets of kit. Build your first hut and start exploring and the game starts to become fun.

I’ve been playing for a week and a half and while I’ve only scratched the surface of whats available I can come to some conclusions.

First there is a potentially a good game here but it’s not ready yet. The game runs and looks good on first sight but there are two problems. The first is technical – on low quality I was able to get the game to run relatively smoothly but the frame rates are up and down and it has a tendency to lockup for a second or two when things get busy. Like in combat. This is fixable and looking at the comments on the forum is improved since the game first became available in June.

The second problem may be more serious but is familiar – it needs balancing. If you started playing when the game became available you’ve harvested every possible material, trained every dinosaur and are generally unbeatable. The server’s have relatively small populations (up to 70 at once) and once they are a few weeks old become covered in old construction with a few tribes fighting each other and wiping out any newbies. Log off few a few hours and when you get back in you find all your dinosaurs killed, your buildings and supplies destroyed and need to start near again.

Despite these teething problems – and don’t forget it’s Early Access – ARK is fun to play. There’s nothing unique in any part of it but it’s put together well and you find yourself really wanting to get the next recipe or survive combat with the next dino.

Product Information

Price: £22.99

Access the Early access beta. This is expected to continue to around July 2016 at which point you will have access to the full game.

Retailer: Steam

About Developer: Studio Wildcard

Studio Wildcard was formed in December 2014 with the idea of developing an openworld dinosaur PVP game. ARK:Survival evolved reached the stage where it could be put out for Early Access in June 2015 and it was decided to do so to coincide with Jurassic World. The game was a huge success selling over 400,000 in the first month and over a million copies by this point. Ark scheduled for its official release June 2016 on Xbox One, PS4 and Steam. They have commented that at this point the sales already made have put them into profit.

The Ergohacks Evaluation


The game is not immediately accessible to people with diverse abilities but has some potential. The developers are open to mods and add ons and several have emerged via the Steam Workshop. These are currently mainly cosmetic in-game items, building supplies and new maps but there is no reason why accessibility mods could not be developed. In addition as well as the mainly PVP servers there are some official PVE servers and a number of unofficial servers with drastically different rules – no nighttime, 25 times XP, friendly dinosaurs and almost everything else. These unofficial servers are allowed by the developers and should make for a much wider game experience in the long term. Finally it is possible to play locally in your own island.

It’s design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and circumstances.

ARK is simple to install and the defaults are all logical and sensible. I would recommend turning the graphics down as far as you can stand to cut down on the pauses but this is hopefully something that will be resolved later into the development cycle.

Ergonomic Design

ARK has a standard MMO ergonomic design with the ability to easily remap keys and use third party controllers such as N52s. The inventory, crafting and menu systems are generally large with white or light text on dark green backgrounds. There are some keyboard shortcuts but are some areas where a mouse is required. Item and engrams in menus (recipes) typically have both an icon and a label but on the HUD are not labelled and in a few cases are very unclear as to what they mean.

Good reaction time is need to play.


As far as we know, no environmental principles were employed during the creation and distribution process by anyone involved in the project. Studio Wildcard is based in the US Seattle region but employs a number of staff worldwide both to help maintain twenty-four hour servers and to help recruit.


ARK is currently available for £23 on Early Access. There is always a danger buying on early access that the game will never get finished or will not live up to its potential. This is of course possible with ARK but the indications so far are that this not happen the developers are already secure financially, are actively recruiting staff to fill their gaps and expand and perhaps most importantly are putting out regular updates that have made positive gameplay and stability enhancements. As such the price seems reasonable for a game to have some fun on now and revisit when it is finished.

Ark options


Players: Multiplayer with PVP and PVE servers
VR Support: Yes
OS: Windows, OSX or Linux (Ubuntu)
Full controller support
Mods and addons: Allowed
Language: English primary but there are servers with other languages being dominant
PEGI /ESRB rating: Unrated
Platform: PC (Windows/Steam), Mac, Later PS4 and Xbox One

Minimum Recommended spec

OS: 64-Bit Windows 7 Service Pack 1, or Windows 8
Processor: 2 GHz Dual-Core 64-bit CPU
Memory: 4GB RAM
Graphics: DirectX 10 Compatible GPU with 1 GB Video RAM
DirectX: Version 10
Hard Drive: 20000 MB available space

OS: OSX 10.9 or Higher
Processor: 2 GHz Equivalent CPU
Memory: 4GB RAM
Graphics: OpenGL 3 Compatible GPU with 1GB Video RAM
Hard Drive: 20000 MB available space

OS: Ubuntu Equivalent Distro
Processor: 2 GHz 64-bit CPU
Memory: 4GB RAM
Graphics: OpenGL 3 Compatible GPU with 1GB Video RAM
Hard Drive: 20000 MB available space

ARK Inventory


The basis of the game is simple – survive, craft, PVP, ride and train dinosaurs. ARK:Survival Evolved does not contain any really original elements and getting killed over and over as a low level character can be frustrating but – and it’s a big but – when you get past the first speed bump the game starts being fun. Build your first shelter, knock out and train a Dodo and then a dinosaur and the game starts being fun. Like every MMO it’s a game that’s going to reward time and grinding and there are frustrating moments but they are worth it. I’ve been playing a week and a half and have barely scratched the surface but am enjoying almost every moment. There are rough edges as expected in an Early Access game but they are not show stoppers. Recommended for survival game players, PVPers and those wanting something a little new. With dinosaurs.

Product: ARK:Survival Evolved | Developer: Studio Wildcard | Platform: Currently PC – Windows and Linux and Mac – Planned for XBox One and PS4 | Genre: Survival PVP | Language: English | Players: Multiplayer or single | Release Date/Last Update: Early access release July 2015, regular updates, expected full release July 2016 Content Rating: not yet rated