If you plan to make a go of it on ARK: Survival Evolved’s island, and hope to stay alive for more than a few minutes at a time, you’ll need to get your hands dirty. Specifically, you’ll want to delve into ARK’s crafting and cooking systems, gathering resources and combining them to assemble essential tools, weapons, clothing, shelter and, of course, delicious, nourishing food. There’s a lot to take on board when it comes to cooking and crafting, however, so here are the basics to get you moving in the right direction.
Virtually everything in ARK that isn’t a raw material will need to be crafted before you can use it - whether that be a Water Jar, a wooden foundation to support your base, a fence to keep the undesirables out, a campfire to keep you warm and turn raw meat into delicious cooked meat, or even a saddle for your favourite angry carnivore.
Thankfully then, crafting in ARK is easy, and you’ll usually only require three basic components to craft a specific item: a suitable Engram, the relevant raw materials and, often, a special device to do the crafting in, such as the Cooking Pot or Fabricator.
Engrams (essentially item recipes) can be learned by spending the Engram Points that you accrue each time your character levels up. It’s not quite that simple, however; you’ll also need to have met the Engram’s listed level requirement, and in some cases, will need to have learned other Engrams first. A basic Campfire, for instance, can be unlocked using 3 Engram Points, but only once you’ve reached level 2. The Cooking Pot and Industrial Grill engrams, meanwhile, both require you to have learned the Campfire first.
Beacons And Blueprints
Blueprints are similar to Engrams, but don’t need to be learned before use. Instead, you’ll find them at Beacons scattered across the island - then, once a Blueprint is in your inventory, it can be used as often as you like.
Beacons, incidentally, are long, vertical beams of light that mark an incoming cargo crate as it descends from the skies. Alongside Blueprints, cargo crates also contain other useful supplies - but you’ll need to have reached a specific level before you can open them. White beacons can only be opened if you’re Level 3 or above, green beacons require you to be level 15 and up, then it’s level 25 for blue beacons, 35 for purple beacons, 35 for yellow beacons and level 60 for red.
Higher level crates usually contain better goodies and Blueprints, with some Blueprints even letting you craft more advanced versions of standard Engram items. There are six item tiers in total - Primitive, Ramshackle, Apprentice, Journeyman, Mastercraft and Ascendant - so it pays to keep an eye out for higher-quality Blueprints. Unsurprisingly, the better an item’s class, the higher its resource cost is compared to the standard model.
Once you’ve unlocked an Engram, you can craft that item as often as you like, provided that you have the required resources on your person - or, depending on the item, in the specified crafting receptacle. Luckily, resources are plentiful on the island and will continue to spawn in exactly the same place (unless a foundation has been laid nearby).
In the early-to-mid stages of the game, the raw materials you’ll be relying on most often are: Wood, Thatch, Stone, Flint, Fibre, Metal, Oil, Crystal, Silica Pearls, Hide, Pelt, Chitin, Keratin and Feces. However, as you progress further, you’ll require more exotic resources (such as pearls) and compound resources.
The latter materials are a combination of two or more resources - sometimes raw resources, sometimes other compound resources - that will likely require a specific crafting tool to make. For instance, Sparkpowder (which can be used as a fuel source and to power the Preserving Bin) is made by combining Flint and Stone in a Mortar and Pestle.
Resource Gathering And Tools
Mastering the art of resource gathering is key to your continued survival in ARK’s hostile world. Almost everything that you’ll do on the island - from building and eating to fighting and taming - requires that you first gather the necessary materials. As such, you’ll find the going much easier if you know exactly where to find the resources you need - hence the importance of familiarising yourself with the island as soon as possible.
Before you begin gathering resources, however, you’ll need to ensure that you’re suitably equipped for the task at hand. There are all sorts of tools (and creatures) that you can use to maximise your gathering efficiency, but the essential items are a pick and hatchet - not least because they make for excellent, impromptu weapons early in the game too.
The Stone Pick is the first tool you’ll be able to make, and is crafted using 1 Stone, 1 Wood and 10 Thatch. A basic Stone Hatchet, meanwhile, requires 1 Flint, 1 Wood and 10 Thatch. You’ll need to use your bare hands to gather your initial batch of resources, of course (you can pick stones off the ground, and punch trees for wood and thatch), but once you’ve got a basic set of tools, crafting becomes a whole lot easier.
Advanced Resource Gathering
Resource gathering can be made more efficient by using specific tools to improve the yield of different materials. For instance, wood (which, unsurprisingly, is most common in forests, but can also be found as driftwood on beaches or riverbanks) is best farmed using a hatchet - hitting a tree with a pick instead tends to produce thatch. Similarly, striking a rock with a pick will usually produce flint, while a hatchet favours stone. To maximise the amount of resources you collect each time you swing a tool, however, you’ll need to improve their quality - for instance, by using a Metal Pick instead of a Stone Pick.
Most Useful Dinosaurs
For the absolute best results when resource gathering, you’ll want to employ the services of a tamed creature. Almost every dinosaur on the island has its own gathering speciality, meaning that you should strive to tame creatures that collect the resources you use most frequently. Mammoths, for instance, are unsurpassable when it comes to amassing wood, while the Doedicurus is the king of stone gatherers.
As a side note, all resources have a weight cost, meaning that you can only carry as much as your current Weight stat allows. Even if you don’t have a specialised resource-gathering creature to hand, it’s often worth taking a tamed beast (such as a Phiomia) on your foraging expeditions to use as a pack mule. This way, you’ll be able to collect and carry more resources before you’re forced to return to base and stash them away.
On page two, a quick glance guide to where to find resources and how quickest to harvest them, plus top cooking tips.
Resources At A Glance
|Material||Farmed From||Best Location||Best Tool||Best Creature|
|Stone||Stones, stone piles, rocks||Everywhere||Hatchet||Doedicurus|
|Flint||Stones, stone piles, rocks||Everywhere||Pick||Ankylosaurus|
|Fibre||Plants and grass||Grassland||Metal Sickle (or hands)||Gigantopithecus|
|Hide||All creatures (bar insects and fish)||Everywhere||Hatchet||Sabertooth|
|Pelt||Mammoths, Direwolves, Megaloceros||Snow biome||Hatchet||Direwolf|
|Chitin||Insects, Spiders, Scorpions||Swamps and caves||Hatchet||Sabertooth|
|Ketatin||Creatures with horns and shells||Everywhere||Hatchet||Sabertooth|
|Metal||Golden-seamed rocks, small round stones in rivers||Mountains||Pick||Ankylosaurus|
|Oil||Black, pillar-like rocks||Underwater, snow biome||Pick||N/A|
|Crystal||White crystals||Mountains and caves||Pick||N/A|
|Obsidian||Small black rocks||Mountains||Pick||Doedicurus|
|Silica||Pearls||Ocean, underwater caves, snow biome shallows||Hands||N/A|
You won’t just be gathering resources to craft items, however; if you want to survive on the island, you’ll also need to eat. Like any other resource, food must be collected manually - either hand-picked from bushes or, in the case of meat, forcibly removed from your fallen prey. There’s only limited nourishment to be gained from raw ingredients, however, so you’ll want to get cooking in order to create the heartiest, most beneficial meals.
During the early hours of the game, you’ll likely be forced to rely on berries for sustenance. These commonly-found foodstuffs can be handpicked from the bushes found almost everywhere on the island. Most berries (that’s the Amarberry, Azulberry, Mejoberry and Tintoberry) restore 1.5 units to your Food meter and 1 unit to your Water meter.
Stimberries and Narcoberries, however, are slightly different. Narcoberries raise your Torpor by 10 (and will cause you to pass out if you consume too many), while Stimberries have the opposite effect. These berries increase your Stamina by 5 and decrease your Torpor by 10 - at the expense of increasing your thirst by 10. As such, you should avoid using Stimberries and Narcoberries as a regular food source.
Berries are great in an emergency (or even as your core diet, provided that you can farm them in significant enough quantities), but seasoned island dwellers will favour Cooked Meat as their food of choice. Each Cooked Meat increases your Food meter by 20 and restores 8 Health. Additionally, it takes far longer to spoil than Raw Meat, especially if stored in a Preserving Bin or Refrigerator.
To produce Cooked Meat, you’ll first need to hunt creatures in order to gather Raw Meat (which, incidentally, will increase your Food meter by 10, but reduce your Health by 5). Next, you’ll need to cook the Raw Meat on either a Campfire or, much later in the game, an Industrial Grill. A Campfire (crafted using 12 Thatch, 1 Flint, 16 Stone and 2 Wood), can cook one piece of Raw Meat roughly every 20 seconds. The resource-hungry Industrial Grill, meanwhile, can produce one piece of Raw Meat every 1.4 seconds.
Although Cooked Meat will likely form the basis of your diet in ARK, it’s far from being the fanciest foodstuff on the island. By following the game’s dozen or so Rockwell Recipes (most frequently found by slaying creatures) you can combine specific ingredients in a Cooking Pot to produce extra-special delicacies. These dishes don’t just decrease your hunger when eaten; they also have unusual, beneficial effects when consumed.
For instance, by combining Water, 20 Tintoberries and 2 Narcotics in a Cooking Pot, you can create Medical Brew which will heal you over time. Meanwhile, a stamina-boosting Energy Brew can be cooked using Water, 20 Azulberries and 2 Stimulants. Some recipes have even odder effects, however; the Shadow Steak Saute, for example, makes you impervious to extreme temperatures and will briefly allow you to see in the dark! If you’re curious, it’s made with Water, 3 Cooked Prime Meat, 20 Mejoberries, 8 Narcotics, 2 Rare Mushrooms, 1 Savoroot and 1 Rockarrot.
Incidentally, these last two ingredients can only be produced by delving into ARK’s surprisingly in-depth farming system and growing them yourself from seeds. We’ll be looking at farming in more detail shortly.