ARK: Survival Evolved has a lot of great things going for it but, let’s be honest, all you probably really want is a dinosaur of your own. And yes, stomping around, terrorising people on a T. rex is brilliant fun - but, crucially, every creature on the island serves a multitude of practical purposes.
Most obviously, powerful creatures are essential for effective defensive and offensive manoeuvres. A tamed pack of raptors, for instance, can rip apart unwary base intruders (be they human or animal) in seconds. You’ll also want a powerful beast of your own to ease the pain of hunting for Raw Meat, Hide, Chitin and Keratin.
Vitally, however, almost every creature on the island can dramatically increase your effectiveness at farming specific resources when tamed. Mammoths, for instance, can net you thousands of pieces of wood in the time it would take you to gather hundreds by hand. The frog-like Beelzebufo, meanwhile, can turn consumed insects into precious Cement Paste. Indeed, acquiring the right critters can make your island life considerably simpler.
Of course, tamed creatures also offer the quickest means of traversing the island too. A Pteranodon with high movement speed, for instance, will get you from one side of the world to the other in a matter of minutes, while the crocodile-like Sarcosuchus can navigate waterways at incredible speed. What’s more, if you secure a fast creature with a high Weight stat, you’ll be able to ferry heavy resources around with ease.
There are several means of acquiring creatures in ARK - some relatively easy and some considerably less so. The simplest way to acquire a creature is to claim a previously-tamed creature once its ownership expires. Tamed dinosaurs revert to unclaimed status if their owner is inactive for around 8 days - at which point they can be claimed by another survivor. As such, it pays to keep an eye on your neighbours’ creatures as you play.
Depending on your chosen server and the tribes that populate it, you might also be able to acquire creatures through trades. Some tribes - particularly the larger, more established ones - are more than happy to hand over ownership of a creature in exchange for goods (such as Metal Ingots), services or other creatures.
Finally, of course, you can always put in some hard graft and tame (or even breed) wild creatures yourself. This latter option is easily the most satisfying method of building up your own menagerie - but it’s often incredibly time and resource intensive.
Before considering your first tame, it’s handy to understand how ARK’s levelling system applies to creatures. All wildlife on the island is assigned a random level - up to 120 - when it spawns. The higher a creature’s level, the stronger and more durable it will be compared to lesser members of its species. Note, however, that every species has a distinct base damage stat, meaning that - unsurprisingly - a Level 120 Dodo isn’t an even match for a Level 120 Tyrannosaurus Rex in battle.
Additionally, it’s worth noting that wild creatures are weaker and less durable than tamed creatures of the same species. With a bit of experimentation, you’ll soon learn which critters you can hunt and which you should avoid when out in the world.
Levels And Taming
A creature’s level is particularly significant when it comes to taming. The higher the level of a creature, the longer it takes to tame - a Level 1 Argentavis, for instance, can be tamed in around 20 minutes, while a Level 120 variant will take over 2 hours.
What’s more, creatures, like humans, have several different attribute stats - namely, Health, Stamina, Oxygen, Food, Weight, Melee Damage and Speed. Points are randomly assigned to each of these attributes depending on a wild creature’s base level - a high level dinosaur will naturally have better stats in one or more attribute categories. Note, however, that you won’t be able to see a creature’s stats until a tame begins.
Once a creature has been successfully domesticated, it will earn XP each time it performs an activity such as resource gathering or hunting. This enables it to level up an additional 59 times beyond its post-tame level. As with your own character, you’ll earn a skill point every time your creature levels up, which can be used to improve one of its attributes.
Things get even more interesting, however, when you factor in the Taming Effectiveness bonus - which enables a creature to go well beyond its natural Level 120 limit during a tame. By achieving a 100% Taming Effectiveness rating (which, in reality, isn’t quite possible, thanks to the nature of the process), your creature can gain additional levels equivalent to 50% of its base level. As such, it’s theoretically possible for a tamed creature to reach a maximum level of 238 - well beyond the natural Level 120 limit. Any attribute points acquired through these bonus levels are assigned randomly.
Managing Dinosaur Stats
As you might have realised by now, all this means that you’re able to, essentially, create a bespoke creature through taming - one tailored to excel at certain tasks. If you want a tank-style dinosaur for battling and defence, for instance, you’ll want the majority of your attribute points assigned to Health and Melee. Mules designed for weight carrying, meanwhile, will need a high Weight stat and, potentially, strong Stamina and movement speed. Through a combination of luck, scrutiny of base stats and manual points assignment, you’ll be able to fashion the creature of your dreams!
Once you’ve identified the creature and level you wish to acquire, it’s time to begin the taming process. Most creatures require taming through ‘violent’ means - a technique that involves three basic stages: finding your target, knocking it out and performing the tame.
Locating Your Target
To maximise your chances of finding a specific creature, you’ll need to know its preferred habitat. The Sarcosuchus, for instance, generally loiters around swamps, the Argentavis makes the mountains its home, while Mammoths and Direwolves prefer snowy climes. Before tracking down your target, however, you should craft a Spyglass (5 Wood, 10 Hide, 10 Fibre and 2 Crystal). This can be used to check a creature’s level from a safe distance - reducing your chances of being eaten while you identify your future pet.
Knocking Out Your Target
Before you begin taming a creature, you’ll need to render it unconscious. Early on in the game, this can be achieved by attacking your target with your fists or a weapon. However, this hands-on approach can prove time-consuming and, if you’re not careful, deadly. It’s generally safest and most effective to bring down your target with a narcotic - for instance, by striking it with a tamed scorpion’s tail. It’s safer still to attack at long-range, using tranquilliser arrows or darts launched from a bow.
Choosing A Taming Spot
Unconscious creatures are still susceptible to attack from other animals and players - and, if your target takes damage during a tame, its Taming Effectiveness meter will drop, reducing any potential bonus levels that you might earn. As such, you’ll want to lure your target to a safe spot (such as a secluded area or, ideally, a specially-prepared taming pen) before knocking it out. If possible, bring a well-armed friend to watch for assailants too.
Starting The Tame
Once a creature is down, a floating taming panel will appear on its body. This features three important elements: the taming progress bar, the unconscious meter and the current Taming Effectiveness level. You’ll want to keep a close eye on each throughout a tame.
To begin the tame, access the creature’s inventory then place food and some form of narcotic inside. During the tame, your target will intermittently eat from the food supply, causing the taming bar to increase and the Taming Effectiveness level to decrease each time. The unconscious meter, meanwhile, will steadily deplete.
If the creature runs out of food, the unconscious meter will decrease more rapidly - and, once it’s empty, the creature will wake, ending the tame in failure. You’ll need enough food, then, to last the duration of the tame, and you’ll have to administer narcotics throughout to prevent the creature from waking. To use a narcotic, simply highlight it in the creature’s inventory and hit the ‘Remote Use Item’ button below.
Once a creature’s taming bar is full, the tame is complete and the animal is yours to do your bidding. Name it then prepare for the journey back to base. If a creature is ridable, you should craft an appropriate saddle beforehand. If it isn’t - or you forget to bring a saddle along - you can simply whistle at your new charge to make it follow along behind. It’ll be slow, possibly perilous going, but you should get home eventually.
A Note On Narcotics
There are two types of narcotics in ARK - Narcoberries and Narcotics. The former can be picked directly from bushes, while the latter can be made by combining 5 Narcoberries and 1 Spoiled Meat at a Mortar and Pestle. Narcoberries increase a creature’s Torpor meter by 8 points during taming, while Narcotics add 40 points to the meter. Needless to say, Narcotics are preferable - if only for the fact that you won’t need to hammer the ‘Remote Use Item’ button quite so frequently.
How Food Affects Taming
Taming gets a little more complicated when it comes to food. While it’s fairly obvious that carnivores should be fed meat and that herbivores should be given berries, you also need to take food values into account. The higher an item’s food value is, the less a creature will need to eat during a tame; the less a creature eats, the higher your Taming Effectiveness meter will be once a tame is complete - granting you additional bonus levels.
As far as carnivores go, Raw Prime Meat (farmed from larger dinosaurs) is the most effective foodstuff during a tame, although it spoils extremely quickly. If you don’t have Raw Prime Meat to hand, use the less effective Raw Meat, Cooked Prime Meat or Prime Meat Jerky. Herbivores, meanwhile, prefer Mejoberries (although any berry will ultimately suffice), and scorpions and spiders favour Spoiled Meat.
There’s one foodstuff, however, that trumps all others during taming: Kibble. Kibble is made by mixing eggs and other ingredients in a Cooking Pot - and every creature in ARK has a favourite Kibble type, made from a specific egg. The T. rex, for instance, prefers Kibble made from Pulmonoscorpius Eggs, while the Pteranodon loves Dodo Kibble.
Every Kibble type is created from a unique recipe (Bronto Kibble, for instance, is made using 1 Bronto Egg, 1 Rockarrot, 1 Cooked Meat Jerky, 2 Mejoberries, 3 Fibre and 1 Water) so the full list is outside the scope of this guide. Wikis are your friend here!
By using the correct Kibble during a tame, the process will be around five times as fast as usual - a Level 120 Carno can be tamed in around 2 hours using Ankylosaurus Kibble, for instance, rather than the standard 10 and a half hours. Additionally, you’ll achieve maximum Taming Effectiveness, provided that your creature doesn’t take damage during the tame. In other words, to get the best possible results always use Narcotics and Kibble!
Of course, there’s one small problem here: where will you get those eggs? It’s entirely possible to trade eggs with other tribes on a server, but this can be costly. Instead, most established players will farm their own eggs by taming a male and female of each species, then keeping them together back at base. These creatures will produce unfertilised eggs throughout the day, ready to be gathered and stored in a Refrigerator. As you might imagine, reaching this stage can be a long, involved process - so many players are happier to fly around the island, stealing eggs from others. As such, if you plan on creating an egg farm, it’s often wise to build a fully enclosed structure to house it first.
Several creatures in ARK (namely the Araneo, Gigantopithecus, Ichthyosaurus, Mesopithecus and Onyc) are tamed through non-violent means. Unlike the standard method, nonviolent taming doesn’t require you to knock a creature out first. Instead, you should place you target’s favourite food in the right-most slot of your hot bar then approach. Once you’re close enough, simply use the item to begin taming.
When the creature is hungry enough to eat again, you’ll be prompted to give it more food - continue feeding it until the tame is complete. You should note, however, that nonviolent taming differs slightly from creature to creature. You’ll need to apply Bug Repellant in order to approach the Araneo and Onyc, for instance, while the Gigantopithecus and Mesopithecus will attack and run away respectively if you get too close.