Finding the perfect server in ARK: Survival Evolved (and my top 5 picks)

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I always see people complaining about their experiences on Official Servers in ARK: Survival Evolved. Since the game is in Early Access, they don't have all of the protection needed to deal with griefers and trouble makers.

When any game is in Early Access, the best experiences are usually found behind the doors of Private or Unofficial Servers. However, there are many people who scoff at the idea of playing on anything labeled "Unofficial".

It's not the custom settings that make Unofficial Servers "better", but the server owners themselves. Rather than managing hundreds of servers over a huge network, private server owners run a handful at most and can spend a lot of their time making the overall experience better for their community.

That's not to say there aren't a few bad eggs out there, but that's why I shaved days off my life getting eaten by raptors on dozens of different servers. Everyone deserves a server experience they can enjoy.

I hunted down and hand-selected a few of my favorites, though there are so many servers out there it's impossible to call any of them the best. So stick around until the end and I'll teach you how to track down the perfect server for you and your Tribe!

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SkyArk

  • Game Mode: PvPvE
  • Max Wild Dino Level: 120
  • Progression: Continually Re-Balanced 2~3x Rates
  • Transfers: Manual Character Transfer Only
  • "Public Places"
  • Weekly Events

This server was the only one I logged into that successfully harbored creative and public building in a full PvPvE environment without breaking the flow of player-on-player combat.

I was on a mission: to visit every public building on the server. After reaching my first destination — an Arena atop the island's volcano — I found someone working on renovations.

Upon investigation, I found out that he was in charge of building all the public facilities and he offered to take me on a tour. He climbed up onto his Pteradon and flew off, with me in its talons.

They had places to park your water dinosaurs, a central trade center, an enourmous bridge to that ghastly island in the North-East, and more places all built for the community to utilize. He even showed me a Zoo he was working on!

After the last stop, I took off into the wilderness to create a base that no one would ever find. I managed to find a nice spot behind a couple of rocks, and logged off after building a snug little hut. Onto the next server I went!

Tekecraft

  • Game Mode: Weekly PvPvE/PvE Swap
  • Max Wild Dino Level: 57
  • Progression: Vanilla Rates with 2x Taming Speed
  • Transfers: Manual Character and Dinosaur Transfer
  • 'War and Respite' PvP System

Logging into Tekecraft, I was surprised and delighted to find that I wasn't surrounded by terrifyingly high-level dinosaurs. Upon exploring the beaches, however, I quickly came across an Alpha Raptor terrorizing a few turtles on the shore across from me.

I notify the online players through global chat and a woman who was busy setting up her own restaurant nearby came to check it out. By the time she and her T-Rex arrived, it was too late — the Alpha Raptor had fled from my noob-ish presence.

After that, she escorted me back to her restaurant — or at least she tried to. I didn't exactly survive the trip. On the way, we were attacked by swarms of bugs. The T-Rex could handle herself against a few bugs, but once they set their sights on me it was all over from there.

From what I could gather, I logged on during a PvE week and many people were spending time repairing their structures and stock-piling provisions — basically preparing for war.

DM21 - Major League Survival

  • Game Mode: PvPvE Hardcore and SotF
  • Max Wild Dino Level: 120
  • Progression: Vanilla-like w/ Gathering and Taming tweaks
  • Transfers: Not Allowed
  • "Perma-Death"
  • Weaker Tamed Dinosaurs

I don't need to tell you why you should try a Hardcore server on ARK: Survival Evolved. The topic has been beaten to death, and it makes sense. Hardcore servers naturally weed out toxicity all on their own.

Logging into the Hardcore server was delightful. I recreated my character four times before writing this, and couldn't help but laugh at all of my deaths. Even though the server boasts level 120 dinosaurs, the higher leveled beasts don't start showing up until you work your way inland.

The most interesting thing about DM21's server are the tamed dinosaur re-balances. In the vanilla game, tamed dinosaurs are overpowering and you don't really stand a chance without one. They are a lot weaker here, but the taming speeds are increased to make up for that.

DM21 also offers a full Survival of the Fittest tournament bracket called Major League Survival. This ranks players over 6 months of tournaments all leading up to a grand finale match with prizes for the top three contenders. Their first "season" starts September 5th.

ARK Syn Survival

  • Game Mode: PvPvE and PvE
  • Max Wild Dino Level: 120
  • Progression: Vanilla with Minor Tweaks
  • Transfers: Manual Character Transfer Only
  • 2 Unique Servers

My time on Syn's servers was largely spent on the "main" PvPvE one. The progression felt pretty natural for ARK, and a lot of people I met there were rather friendly.

I quietly spent time building a base out in a clearing, and people would roll up on giant dinosaurs from time to time. They often brought gifts, too! That's when I found out I built right next to their secondary base!

When I popped into the PvE server, I found the experience to be much different. You're capped out at level 200 with Engram in the game unlocked. The rates were ludicrously high as well, all to provide a leisurely time for someone who just wants to get to know the game better.

ARK Havoc

  • Game Mode: PvPvE
  • Max Wild Dino Level: 120
  • Progression: 10x Rates
  • Transfers: Not Allowed
  • Raised Level Cap
  • Boosted Dinosaur Spawns

With all of the rates as boosted as they are, I thought it would be easy to get by, but the boosted dinosaur spawns quickly proved me wrong. Within only a few minutes of each respawn, I quickly found myself in the maws of yet another prehistoric beast.

That didn't stop me from leveling like a mad-woman though. I was level 12 before I knew it and had to seriously tone down my habit of over-gathering. I only needed to pick a few berry bushes and I could make myself a full set of clothes!

This server was all about getting to the action fast, and everyone was taking advantage of it. There is a heavy focus on end-game PvP, and everyone seemed to ignore anyone below level 40.

How to find the Perfect ARK:Survival Evolved Server

Everyone has different tastes, and ARK's strong support for custom servers lets everybody have exactly what they want. I guarantee somewhere out there is a server that is perfect for you and your Tribe — and I'm going to teach you how to find it!

Here are a few tips on finding an Unofficial server that's right for you:

  1. Search Online - Picking a server randomly from the in-game list may be fun, but it's like going on a blind date: you don't really know what to expect. Check /r/playarkservers, or even a website dedicated to ARK servers.
  2. Use Keywords that Define your Desired Experience - It may seem like a no-brainer, but there are tons of servers out there and using Keywords really helps narrow the list down.
  3. Look for Servers with Websites/Forums - A personalized web-page or forum is a strong indication that the server owner truly cares about the server and community they are building. (If your server still needs an internet HUB, you can always check out Gamer Launch.)
  4. Log In and Interact - The only way to truly figure out what a server's community is like is to log in and interact with its players. A few hours of doing this will give you a clear idea of what to expect whenever you log on in the future.

And that is how to find the perfect server for ARK: Survival Evolved. There is a world full of different experiences for you to enjoy, take advantage of them!

What is the best time you've ever had on an ARK Server?

I love playing with dinosaurs in ARK: Survival Evolved, and it's even better when I'm playing with friends. What are your favorite moments while playing on an ARK server? Share your best prehistoric adventures with the world in the comments section below!

Published Aug. 15th 2015

Featured Correspondent

Autumn is a freelance writer that grew up on GameFAQs walkthroughs trying to suss out how to get through her favorite PC and Nintendo games. These days she's a capable game pioneer, mapping out guides and tips so players of all skill levels can join in on the fun.

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