Ark Adventures: The Confessions of a Recovering Dinosaur Rider

When I was younger, I was an obsessive gamer. One of the first games I played hardcore was Chrono Trigger, but the first online game I played was Ragnarok Online, a Korean pseudo MMO that I played with my cousin for a while before branching out on my own. Long story short, that led to a long-lived love through games such as Final FantasyLeague of Legends, Guild Wars, BloodborneBorderlands, and various other RPGS, JRPGs, MOBAs, shooters, tactical games, and so on.

I’m one of those rare people with eclectic taste whose interests vary from day to day, week to week, and I’ll play, read, or do anything that catches my fancy at the time. I’m not such a big gamer anymore, but I do have a handful of guilty pleasures that I partake in from time to time.

One of those guilty pleasures is Ark: Survival. Earlier around New Year’s leading into 2022, Alex and I started up a private server with the goal of finally actually playing through the game’s mini storyline, beating all the world bosses, over all of the maps and expansions, and putting the game to rest for good since there is supposed to be an Ark 2 coming out.

It’s been a while since I’ve last played Ark, I don’t think I’ve touched it since 2020? 2019? The years are really starting to blend together these days.

Anyway, whenever I play Ark, it always becomes a HUGE time sink…. and a sign of trouble. This will be the first of many blog posts recounting my adventures through Ark on what I expect to be my last complete playthrough of the game.

Buckle up and get ready for a wild ride.

***

If you’re unfamiliar with Ark, it’s a survival game with dinosaurs. Basically, you’re thrown on this deserted island and told to survive the masses of bitey things with not even a “good luck!” fading behind you as you descend into madness… Think Jurrassic Park, but if you get eaten by a T-Rex, you just respawn without your clothes somewhere else on the island.

I used to play the game way too much during the steam early access (so when the game was hardly anywhere close to done, but they were basically allowing people to play and break the game while they were developing it) and boy has the game changed a lot since then. Even in the last year or two since it’s been more or less finished. I haven’t played all of the expansions and new maps and such, some of which implement some high-tech equipment and structures to play around with such as teleportation and cryopods.

My favourite dinosaur is the stegosaurus (they just look so cool) and of course they’re fun to ride around on in Ark, too! Their spiky tails go swoosh swoosh and gather lots of berries and other important resources. Unfortunately they’re not the most useful outside of that and for being mildly tanky, which is pretty disappointing, but thankfully there are lots of other cool dinosaurs such as the BIRDS!

Quetzalcoatlus are my favourite out of the birds. They are very big bois, so big, in fact, that you can build a house on their back if you really wanted to. Yes, I have done it before. Unfortunately I don’t have any screenshots, but I will build one somewhere throughout my adventures and show you because that’s always fun. That way I can show you just how insane they can get!

Alex and I are playing with a couple of our friends with the ultimate goal of, for the first time since playing the game for the first time all those years ago, beating all of the game’s bosses on all of the difficulties. On all of the maps. We’ve never beaten the bosses at all, in fact (besides some servers we’ve been on where the bosses persist in the world and we’ve beaten them up with wyverns, breathing fire on them, handily from out of reach) so this will be a new adventure for us. It’s a different goal from a lot of the other times we’ve played the game where our only objective was just to build a cool base and tame some dinosaurs.

Beating the bosses is the long-term goal, but in the meantime? Shenanigans. Lots of them. So many, in fact, that it will take me several newsletters just to detail what’s happened over the last couple of days. Let’s start with one of our earliest adventures and go from there.

Bows, Arrows, and Zero Survival Instinct (in a survival game): Spinosaur Edition

Ark Survival is filled with varying biomes with varying dinosaurs, creatures, resources, and difficulty of survival. The easiest area to start is the south beach, which is typically filled with passive herbivores, dilophosaurus (the little things with the wing flaps that stretch out and then spit out acid globs–if you’ve seen the original Jurassic Park movies, you’ve seen these little buggers), and the occasional raptor depending on where exactly on the map you’re situated.

Raptors are a pain in the butt, but we’ll talk about those another day. Same with the piranha-infested waters, which have consumed many an adventurer who tried to cross their depths (including me. Many times).

In any case, we chose to start on the beach with the intention of moving somewhere more permanent when we’ve levelled up and tamed more dinosaurs. In some beach areas, however–usually those that form deltas or estuaries near the swampy biomes–there also exist these lovely, large dinos called Spinosaurus. They are very large, semi-aquatic beasties with this huge fin on their back. Google will assist you with more information about these creatures than I can provide, but they’re very cool and worth looking into.

Near the spot we built our temporary base, there happened to be several spino spawn points. Which is fine, actually. All of us have put enough hours into this game to know how to deal with them, even with no equipment, weapons, or dinosaurs to help us. Typically the answer is simple: just avoid them completely, or run past once they’re distracted with some other poor soul.

Instead, we decided that we wanted to tame one.

Indeed, we wanted to tame a spino when, in fact, we had nothing more than a couple of bows (nicely upgraded ones, I admit, because of a mod we have installed on the server), arrows, and an assortment of small dinosaurs that would not have been very useful in the fight (such as dodos, dilos, and a moschops) which we opted to leave behind for this adventure.

I’m sure you can imagine what happened next: three butt-naked characters (actually we might have had cloth or hide armour, which is still fairly close to naked) running toward this massive creature about three or four times taller than us with dinky little bows.

Not trying to kill it, but to knock it out so we could force feed it with meat and make it our friend.

As we approach, in our voice chat, Alex says something to the effect of “okay, we all need to get headshots for our first hit” (which increases damage and therefore torpor damage, the latter of which we needed to knock it out). But pretty much as he’s saying that, I release my first arrow and hit the spino in the butt. Oops. For some reason, all of my desire and thought to strategize fazed out in face of this monstrous creature and instinct took over.

So then everyone’s freaking out, and they release their arrows too, and since they’re the most recent shots, the spino starts chasing after them. I’m shooting her from behind still, but it’s got Alex and our friend–who calls her character Teemo (yes, after the LoL character)–in her sights. They get a couple of arrows in, but she quickly proceeds to monch them, delivering them to a death screen and the option to respawn at our base. But without their equipment, which is dropped on death in this game, they’re no help anymore in knocking the spinosaur out.

It’s solely left to me, as I am the spino’s last target, and she’s now turning around to monch me next.

I get two arrows in her face before her teeth wrap around my poor fleshy body and I’m torn apart, also sent promptly to the death screen.

A minute or so later, everyone is alive again, laughing at the big, utter failure we just participated in. We were also surprised that, considering how many narcotic-laced arrows we shot her with, that she didn’t fall asleep before murdering us all. But when we all go back to look for the spino, hoping to retrieve our equipment… the spino isn’t there.

We soon find that in my last dire efforts to defend myself before dying, I managed to pump enough arrows into her face that she ran away, to the other side of the river (yes, the piranha-infested one) and passed out into the soothing embrace of sleep.

Upon inspection, we discover that the reason she didn’t fall asleep sooner was that she was… drum roll… level 100. The maximum is 150, and we were expecting her to be maybe 30 or 40, around that range, tops.

In the face of death, and many laughs, we did somehow come out of this endeavour victorious… and with a new powerhouse of a spino for us to play around with in the days to come.

Okay, so I might not be recovering from anything yet. We’re only just getting started.

—Erynn

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