Of the many survival games to spring up in the wake of DayZ's success, there are few that have garnered as much attention and players as ARK: Survival Evolved. It takes all the best elements of a good survival game, such as resource gathering and base building, and then throws in a vast island full of dinosaurs for you to defeat and tame. Who doesn't want to tame an army of raptors?
The core game itself has been in Early Access for a while, and the developers have been adding content at a fairly frequent pace. Sure, you could argue that it's sometimes untested and unoptimised, not to mention the whole business of having a paid expansion pack for an unreleased game... but it's still a game that the developers are continuing to work on. There's plenty of fun to be had here.
Of course, the fun of the base game may eventually grow stale and familiar. Sometimes you want to spice up the game with something new and interesting. Thankfully, ARK has a solid modding scene that is constantly delivering balance tweaks, new features and even total overhauls.
We've taken the liberty of assembling a list of some of the most interesting, creative and popular mods or conversions for your playing pleasure. With luck, you'll find something that piques your interest!
So your tribe has made it to the late game and wants to build something more impressive than their basic houses and forts. Clearly, the answer is to construct a massive and ornate castle to show their dominance.
Winner of the official ARK Mods Contest, Advanced Architecture lets you do just that. Starting at Level 40, players get access to the Royal Engineer's Workstation, which lets them construct all the parts and pieces needed for such massive feats of construction. Their resource costs are expensive and time-consuming, but the end results are truly impressive to behold.
This is best used on a PvE server with a friendly tribe to help you out. I'm not responsible for what happens if you attempt to build this with enemy players around.
STARK WARS: Survival Evolved
Soaring through the skies on the back of a pterodactyl is a fun experience, but there are times when you want something a little more impressive. Something with more firepower. Something like, oh, an Imperial TIE Fighter!
This mod adds a host of Star Wars themed items to construct and wield. From Stormtrooper armor, to lightsabers or blaster rifles, to Star Wars themed building blocks -- and all the way up to a pilotable X-Wing or TIE Fighter -- this mod gives you plenty of fun crossover silliness to indulge in.
Departing from game changing mods for the moment, I introduce you to Valhalla, the most notable and acclaimed player-made map in the ARK library. More than twice as large as a standard map, Valhalla provides a sprawling landscape consisting of multiple biomes to discover, explore and make your own.
It's fairly easy to find servers running this map, and it was promoted heavily by placing first in the map category of the official mod contest. Sadly, however, this mod is no longer being worked on. The creators have started on a new map that will hopefully fix a number of issues in terms of project development and optimization that Valhalla struggled with.
Until that's ready to go, however, Valhalla is still a fantastic map and well worth your time.
NPC Bush Peoples
It can get kind of lonely on The Island, especially as a solo player. Sure, there are plenty of dinosaurs around, but what if you want the company of other humans without having to deal with other actual live players?
NPC Bush Peoples seeks to overcome this issue by populating the wilderness with human NPCs that function as any other creature would. They will roam, clash with dinosaurs and each other, and generally make the world seem like a bigger and more involved place.
These humans all technically work the same way that dinos do, which means you are also able to tame them and equip them like a personal army. Hilariously, you can even use them as mounts... or, ahem, encourage them to breed. However you choose to utilize them, NPC Bush Peoples adds another interesting element to ARK.
Ark Pirate World
It's a known fact that pirates are awesome. Despite this, it's surprisingly rare to find a good pirate-themed video game without reaching back to the likes of Sid Meier's Pirates! Thankfully, Ark Pirate World is working to add at least one more title to that list.
A total conversion mod with options for both solo and multiplayer, Ark Pirate World has a completely unique map dotted with islands that house all sorts of settlements and treasure to plunder. Acquire a ship, explore and raid other ships, go treasure hunting or establish your naval tribe and build your own personal port town.
All of this and more is on offer in this mod... though unfortunately, the dinosaurs are disabled, so you can't assemble a pirate T-Rex crew. Maybe in a future update...
You may have built a base, tamed some dinosaurs and bested all the threats that ARK had to offer. But there's still plenty of technology and untapped ideas to explore, and that's where Futurism comes in.
Adding a large variety of advanced technology, players can assemble armies of drones, harness fusion power to enhance their base, build a network of plasma turrets or even assemble a fleet of spider tanks. It's very detailed, expertly modeled, and incredibly cool.
Unlike other total conversion mods, Ark Remastered doesn't seek to add anything too massive or introduce a large amount of new content. Instead, it serves as an overhaul of the entire base game of ARK, rebalancing just about every facet of the game.
Creature stats have been adjusted, crafting and material costs are altered to be more consistent, carnivorous dinosaurs now behave more intelligently instead of mercilessly slaughtering entire maps. This and many other adjustments have been made, and ARK feels like a completely new game for all its efforts.
Better yet, this mod should be compatible with most maps and most other mods too. Even if you want to keep your modding experience fairly light, Ark Remastered is an excellent starting point.
Play As Dino!
I had to save the best for last. Sure, existing among the dinosaurs on The Island is a lot of fun, but don't you wish that you could play as the dinosaur instead? Your wish is this mod's command.
Offering the ability to play as many of the species in the game, be it an allosaurus, a dragon, or even a dodo, Play As Dino has it all. You're able to take your dinosaur character through the world, find others of your kind, breed with others and ultimately form a pack to survive.
The mod also offers a number of boss creatures for you to overcome if you're a solo player, or else you can battle your friends for dominance to become King of the Dinos. However you choose to play it, this is a very neat addition to the ARK experience.
And so we reach the end of our adventure through the modding community of ARK: Survival Evolved. I've attempted to keep the mod selection diverse and made selections based on high quality. I assure you that this is only scratching the surface, however, and that there are countless other projects out there for you to find.
All sorts of crafting and dinosaur mods are available, as well as a host of new map options. Even the official mod packs such as Survival of the Fittest and Primitive+ can offer you plenty of additional play options. If all else fails, just grabbing some friends and joining a random server is likely to provide you with some entertainment.
Whatever the case, this has hopefully been a good entry point into seeing what's available to enhance your ARK experience.
Have any mods or playstyles I've neglected to mention in this list? How about some fun ARK stories to tell? Share with us in the comments below.