It’s no secret that I enjoy Ark: Survival Evolved. But the beginning was somewhat frustrating, even coming from a background of Rust, Minecraft, and Don’t Starve. The constant danger in the form of aggressive dinosaurs doesn’t really play a role in the other survival games.. Minecraft gives you your first day basically trouble free, Don’t Starve is much the same (unless you get a bad seed), and I haven’t played Rust since it was a zombie game, so I don’t know how to comment on that. The early danger means Ark gives the player a sense of urgency, as death at early stages usually means starting over fresh. I’ve come up with a quick list of the 5 most important things to do early game.
1. Find a source of water without piranhas.
Piranhas will tear you apart in the early game. They’ll eat your corpse and make gathering your stuff before it expires difficult, if not impossible. But water is critical in the early game, as you’ll dehydrate and die without a constant supply. Rather than spending points on irrigation systems you don’t need yet or a waterskin that requires valuable hide, just find a peaceful pool, river, or lake to drink from and use that as your starter home.
2. Craft and place a campfire.
A campfire is the only way to cook meat early game, and meat is going to quickly become your primary source of food. Berries are great for the first day but their side effects start to make it a challenge to manage your inventory of good and bad berries. A campfire requires only the most basic materials: thatch, wood, stone, and flint, and can be fuelled by thatch or wood (use wood, it lasts much longer). The campfire will also provide a source of heat to prevent freezing at night and a source of light when you want to harvest nearby rocks and trees.
3. Craft a torch.
Torches last a long time and are easy to fix when they expire. Since night is so frequent and so long, it’s important to continue working, even at night. Use the day to explore and find areas with dangerous wildlife, then use the night to harvest in the “safe” zones you identified during the day. The torch provides a small amount of warmth, but it’s not enough to prevent you from freezing—only slow it down. You’ll have to put the torch away to harvest with a tool, but the torch does allow you to pick berries/fiber and stones off the ground, so if you find yourself in unfamiliar territory, keep the torch out and just gather what you can.
4. Spend your first hides to craft bolas.
Forget about the early clothes, slingshots, saddles. Bolas are a powerful tool when paired with a spear or hammer. The bola allows you to “trap” some dinosaurs in place so they can’t run away. The Parasaur is especially vulnerable to a bola, usually requiring only one throw. Once the dinosaur is stuck, you’re free to wail on it with a spear. Be careful! If you bola a dinosaur that fights back you’re still going to take damage. This is a tool best used on pacifist herbivores, like the aforementioned Parasaur. The 3 hide you invest in a well-thrown bola will pay for itself fivefold after one Parasaur kill.
5. Keep your storage containers organized.
The UI in Ark could use some work. Until it improves, it’s a clunky mess that is best when not interacted with very much. The easiest way to avoid UI problems is keep all your materials organized in boxes. Although a storage box can hold 15 different items, use it to hold 3 or 4, sorted by resource type or function, so you can quickly grab what you need and deposit when you return to base. You can make wooden signs to label your boxes so you can quickly run around and move things you need. An organized home is a happy home.
BONUS: Don’t play your first game online.
Online is great fun, but if you’re trying to learn the map and the crafting, don’t subject yourself to the random nature of online play. Consider offline mode your “tutorial” to learn the basics before you add the possibility of being killed by a sniper from 100 yards away