The developers of Ark have revised their plans for the release of Ark: Survival Ascended, an Unreal Engine 5 enhanced edition of their dinosaur survival sim. It will now cost $60 rather than the previously planned $50, is no longer bundled together with ARK 2, and will instead include the remasters of Ark: Survival Evolved’s several expansions – although most won’t be available at launch.
Studio Wildcard also went into more detail as to why this upgraded version is no longer a free update, and why they feel it’s necessary to shut down Ark: Survival Evolved’s official servers.
Last week Wildcard announced that Ark 2 would not release in 2023 as initially planned, but instead had slipped until late 2024. Instead, this autumn, they would release Ark: Survival Ascended, an Unreal Engine 5 remaster of Survival Evolved. This remaster had previously been expected as a free upgrade, but it would now cost $50, only be available in an “ARK Respawned Bundle” with the unreleased Ark 2, and it would cost $90 in total if you also wanted the upgraded Survival Evolved expansions.
Players were quick to criticise the cost of re-buying games and expansions they felt they already owned, as well as the requirement to purchase Ark 2, a game that won’t get its first gameplay trailer until next year.
“First things first, we are scrapping the ARK Respawned Bundle,” says today’s response to the criticism. “Our bad; we recognize how combining ARK Survival Ascended with ARK 2 and requiring further DLC upgrades wasn’t optimal, especially since you wouldn’t be able to judge ARK 2 as no gameplay or content would be available yet.”
Instead, Ark: Survival Ascended will now be available to purchase separately from Ark 2. However, it will cost $60 – more than the previous bundle with Ark 2 – and it will now be bundled together with the expansions, which were previously being offered separately. Players who purchase Ark: Survival Ascended will receive Survival Of The Fittest (Ark’s battle royale mode) and Scorched Earth expansion at launch, while four others – Aberration, Extinction, Genesis Part 1 and Part 2 – will begin releasing in “Q4 2023” and end in “Q2 2024”.
On the subject of the update not being free as indicated earlier this year, the announcement says that while they had originally planned a simple graphical facelift, Survival Ascended is now more ambitious and includes “critical design changes” which will invalidate save data and may break some mods. They didn’t want to amend the original game “for those who prefer it or are unable to upgrade”, and wanted to create an “evergreen classic ARK experience, one that can continue to grow over time on a cleaned-up code base.”
They likewise write that Ark: Survival Evolved’s official servers, on which a “minority of players” play, “require significant development resources and time for our teams to operate & maintain.” As such, they “have to make the difficult decision of sunsetting ASE and the Official Network in order to provide that truly long-term and evergreen version of the game through ARK: Survival Ascended.”
The post also reiterates some of the features that Ark: Survival Enhanced will contain, including a “creature pathfinding overhaul”, photo mode, DLSS support, quality-of-life fixes, and better character creation. It’s not clear if all of these features will be available at launch, but other features which may come later remain unannounced.
I’ll be honest, I’m not sure this is any better than what was announced last week. It’s good that you no longer need to buy an unreleased sequel – one that is due to be available on Game Pass, no less – but you instead have to pay more money in order to get a bunch of DLC that won’t be ready at launch. Studio Wildcard also mention that this remaster includes “critical design changes”, but their own list of features are just graphical upgrades or QoL changes that don’t sound worth the cost of a whole new game.
For context, Ark: Survival Evolved is a survival-crafting game in which players sink hundreds of hours to make progress with a character, to tame dinosaurs, to build a base, and to form relationships with other folks on the same server. If you’re one of the minority of players on an official server, that community is still likely to be fractured and your progress rendered meaningless even if you can download your save and continue in singleplayer or on an unofficial server. If you already play on an unofficial server, then you can keep going with Survival Evolved if the remaster doesn’t sound worth it to you, but you’re still faced with your community potentially being split as some players do make the transition. It’s this that makes the whole thing feel like being asked to buy a second ticket to stay aboard the same train.
Game development and server operation cost money, but the reluctance to sell Survival Ascended for $20 – which is what it would seemingly cost if not bundled together with an unreleased Ark 2 or several unreleased expansions – also makes the whole thing feel icky.
“At the end of the day, these are just words and, frankly, may not mean so much,” ends Wildcard’s explanation. “That’s okay; we understand what will really convince you is seeing screenshots and a gameplay trailer, and you will in time. … It’ll be worth the wait!”