Ark is a non-voxel survival game. It is set on an island known as the Ark in an unknown timeline in an unknown universe. Ark has your typical survival game themes, farming, hunting, mining, foresting, etc. You can build houses or get meat in similar ways to other games in the survival genre. There are no zombies however, in Ark your natural enemies are carnivorous dinosaurs, that you can tame, and RIDE!
What makes are unique among survival games I’ve played is that craftable recipes aren’t automatic, you have to unlock them by spending engram points (earned by leveling). These unlocked recipes are called engrams. Your character can’t know every engram so playing a tribe with others is extremely beneficial. As you advance in levels (current max level is 70) you gain attributes like melee damage, or speed, or health. You can also choose to put points in some other unique things like food, water, or fortitude.
Fortitude brings us to another of Ark’s interesting properties. When you think survival PvE is a big part of it. In Ark PvE is literal. Heat and cold temperatures affect or even damage your character. If you are swimming you will tire, putting points into O2 (how long you can hold your breath) and stamina (how much energy you have) will make your character better able to swim. However, water is cold and if you dumped all your points into O2 and Stamina you will freeze to death on the ocean floor. This makes leveling both tricky and interesting.
Ark is heavily geared toward PvP combat as well. Many of the engrams you can learn have little use when defending against dinos but are quite useful when defending against other players who belong to other tribes. Items such as traps or even metal walls can be useful tactically during dino fights, but the resource cost to build them makes such a use potentially ill advised.
This brings us to the non-voxel resource gathering. In a voxel game, you typically just dig (think minecraft) or plant trees (think 7d2d) to gain a primary resource supply. In Ark you cut down trees, but they don’t drop seeds and you have to wait for them to grow back. You may break mineral rich rocks for metal, or splinter granite for flint but those boulders take a while to re-appear. As such in Ark you may have to venture further for resources than in some other games. This is particularity true for large quantities of metal, obsidian, or oil which tend to be found on mountain tops or in the vast network of caves under land and sea in the game.
Ark runs the Unreal4 engine. This engine is both extremely pretty and extremely resource intensive. In this early stage Ark is unplayable on older systems and doesn’t perform particularity well on newer video cards. We’ve tried it on nVidia 970m and AMD 7970m. With some tweaking it can be made playable, especially on nVidia chips, but it has a lot of optimization to go. As the game is early release, this is to be expected.
Another note, the Unreal4 engine has some glitches under linux. The engine itself is still in development so that is not surprising but in Ark it can make spelunking in caves almost impossible due to the lighting effects being messed up, as you can see here.
EDIT: This has been mostly mitigated by Toefur’s excellent research. You can read how to fix it here.
Still, the game is quite fun but can reach a point of grindy after a number of hours of play.
You can connect to the Lost Dorks private Ark server by selecting the unofficial server list in game, enabling display of password protected servers, and searching for “LostDorks”. It uses the standard game password.