Is the the End of Early Access ARK in Sight?

The launch of ARK: Survival Evolved’s latest patch (v258) sees Studio Wildcard finally reach the endpoint in their list of revealed dossiers, with 100 creatures now being available to tame/fight in the dinosaur survival title. So, with all the content finally having made its way to ARK, could we finally be seeing an end of Early Access for ARK?

Before we dwell on the end of an era, let’s first take a look at what was added in the latest update and what it could mean for your continued ARK survival:

Starting with the released dinos, while the Yutyrannus may be the most impressive looking of the additions, it is the Megalania that I feel will have the greatest effect on the ARK landscape.

In building on the ability given to the voracious Thylacoleo, Studio Wildcard have introduced an even more agile climber to the mix, albeit with a few extra features: most notably the ability to scale both walls and ceilings with equal ease which, coupled with the ability to shoot from dino back (which is impossible on the Thylacoleo on wall grab stance), we should soon see the Megalania become an integral part of scouting parties (at the very least).

Next up on my list of useful additions from this patch has to be the Hesperornis – the water duck. While at first glance this little duck seemed to be yet another non-ridable that would join the ranks of the Compy, however, some research into the little fiend revealed some interesting things about the speedy water dweller: “When fed to a small non-rideable tame, the egg gives them a temporary 500% increased experience buff. Humans and bigger creatures can eat it as well for a 10% buff” (source: Everything You Want To Know About v258!).

While not the most exciting of mechanics on its own, what this buff does mean is that non-ridable creatures (like the Dimorphodon, Purlovia, Onyc, Microraptor, and the new Hyaenodon) will be easier to level and thus should see more use in PVP or PVE situations.

Speaking of non-ridable creatures, while the Hyaenodon look like useful creatures to have around I do not see them seeing any major use in a PVP situation (aside from being the cleanup crew in already breached bases). This goes the same for the chitin harvester, the Megatherium. While it may be handy for getting that much needed cementing paste (a staple in late game) I just feel that, unless it can farm double the amount that something like a Sabertooth can (and it can cave as effectively), I do not feel like this mount adds much to the game that wasn’t already there.  

In terms of items though, the Harpoon gun is something that has been missing from the game for what seems like an age (ie something more effective than a crossbow for underwater taming) and I feel like the addition of the tranq spears should make the oceans just a little more tolerable in times to come. Combine this with the new Motorboat and we should start seeing a bit more emphasis on oceanic combat, and the advantages that go with having a fully mobile base.

Moving away from the patch additions we have to wonder: now that all the revealed dossiers have been made an in-game reality, is the time finally here for the development team to focus all their attention on optimising the game for official release?

Optimisation has always been something that Studio Wildcard have struggled with, given that every addition to the ARK had the potential to break something else, so the addition of what seems to be the final creature (for now) should mark an ideal time for the team to start focusing on the final release of the title from Early Access.

The volcano pre patch v257

The last few patches have seen a number of quality of life changes made to some of the ARK’s oldest inhabitants (primarily focused on improving the traditional harvesters) as well as updates to the UI, Survivor levels, the face of the Island itself and more. Could all these things point towards the nearing of a final release? As a day-one player of this extremely addictive (and excessively frustrating) title, I can only hope that the end of Early Access (and those huge updates) is finally in sight.