When I was a kid, my family all went out to see Jurassic Park. I was still at the age when dinosaurs were almost mythical in status, like dragons and elves, so I was all for this family outing to see what would eventually be an Oscar award-winning movie.
10 minutes later I was crying in the lobby into a bag of popcorn. The first scene of the guy getting eaten by velociraptors scared the bejeezus out of me to the point that I’d fled the theater. My mother was forced to take me to see Dennis The Menace just so I’d calm down.
For the record: Dennis The Menace sucked.
Amazingly, the experience didn’t turn me off of dinosaurs. About a year later when Jurassic Park came out on video I watched it again and loved it. Then I played all the Jurassic Park games for the Sega Genesis (I was a particular fan of the Rampage Edition), and then Turok: Dinosaur Hunter on the Nintendo 64.
So when Ark came along and promised itself as the ultimate dinosaur survival simulator, I had to get my hands on it. And while I find a lot of its dinosaur simulation to be somewhat questionable, there’s no denying the appeal of a game that lets you ride around on a triceratops with a machine gun as lord of your domain.
Here are 10 of the best, and 5 of the worst, things you can make in Ark.
15 Best: Ghillie Armor - Sneak Like Your Life Depends On it
There’s a lot of different armors you can make in Ark, and each of them has their own special attributes. Some are good for cold weather, others are good for hot, while still others are good for keeping dinosaur claws from tearing out your entrails.
Personally, I’m a fan of the old maxim “you can’t kill what you can’t see.” With that in mind, the Ghillie Armor is some of the best defense you can have since it reduces the sight range of dinos by 50%. Being able to walk through a dark and scary forest with a far reduced chance of anything seeing you is a huge boon.
On top of that, the resource requirements are reasonable, and you get a great amount of heat protection and a fair amount of cold protection. You really can’t go wrong with Ghillie Armor.
14 Best: Bow - A Real Game Changer
When you spawn in Ark, you have nothing. Then you punch a few trees and gather a few rocks and manage to make yourself a stone pick-ax. Then you go around picking more trees and gathering more rocks and eventually make a stone hatchet and maybe a spear. So far you’re still basically a caveman trying to avoid starvation.
But as soon as you can make the bow your whole world changes. Suddenly walking up to a dinosaur is no longer a dance with death. You can even use tranquilizer arrows to make knocking out a dino far easier, keeping a healthy distance between you and whatever unfortunate creature you intend on making into your slave. The bow really is a game changer, and I think it’s where the game really takes off.
13 Worst: Assault Rifle - It’s Like Throwing Your Inventory At The Problem
In most games I play, I always gravitate towards an assault rifle. To me, it’s the weapon that just makes the most sense in terms of range, accuracy, and firepower. At least, for most games. But Ark is different from most games.
I have no complaints about the damage since technically the Assault Rifle has the highest DPS in the game. My complaint is, as usual, with the amount of resources you spend trying to kill whatever it is you’re shooting it. Every time you empty a magazine, you’re throwing away 200 stone, 360 flint, 360 wood, and 80 metal. Even at the end game it still takes a some time to gather that many resources, so you might as well use something that has a higher damage per bullet unless you want to spend most of your game punching trees. Or training dinosaurs to punch trees.
12 Best: Rocket Launcher - When It Needed To Be Dead Yesterday
Yes, the Rocket Launcher takes a ton of resources, and yes, it also weighs a metric ton thus taking away valuable storage space from other, more reasonable weapons. And yes, it also has a pathetic refire rate, so if you miss you’re probably going to die. And also yes, I concede that the C4 explosive can be just as effective in deterring large dinos from chasing you down and consuming you.
But there’s something about a rocket launcher that just makes you feel powerful in a way that a packet of C4 just can’t give you. I don’t know what it is - maybe it’s the fact that Rocket Launchers in other games are used to take out tanks, and C4 is usually just to blow open vaults (although not in Ark). Whatever it is, I like having a Rocket Launcher on me when I know things are going to get hairy. And they usually do.
11 Best: Pike - Poke Poke
There’s something to be said about having a big stick. I think those people are normally talking about guns, but I have a pretty simple mind so I tend to take things literally. Hence, the Pike.
Ark is a game about resources and ensuring you get the most gain for the least amount of loss. While you could certainly shoot everything that moves, you’ll eventually run out of resources and have to waste time gathering them up again. It’s sometimes better to use a stick to solve a problem rather than wasting bullets and arrows all the time.
The Pike is quite simply the best stick you can get. It’s durable, has a good amount of reach to keep you reasonably safe (you should be using a firearm if you’re tangling with something truly dangerous), and has a little more knockback than the sword to keep your critter at bay.
10 Worst: Tek Armor - It’s Like Wearing A Battleship You Can’t Afford To Lose
Technically, Tek Armor is the best armor you can get. It costs the most resources and provides you with the most defense. It even comes with built-in powers, like a jetpack and night vision, and you end up looking like some futuristic soldier.
But here’s the problem: Tek Armor costs so much in terms of resources that you just can’t afford to lose it, so you never wear it out into combat. It’s just like the problem with the little country’s navy: you can put all your resources into making one giant battleship, and if it ever gets sunk you’re out a navy, or you can put your resources into making a bunch of tiny ships and can afford to lose a few.
Since there’s always a risk of some jerk sneaking up on you, clubbing you out and stealing all your stuff, I always just keep it locked away in the vault. It might as well not be there.
9 Best: Flak Armor - They Really Shoulda Called It Knight Armor
You hear the term "flak armor," and you immediately think of a bulletproof vest, since flak is something I normally associate with guns. What I don’t think of is a suit of medieval looking armor that looks like it was taken straight out of Game of Thrones.
But whatever you think of it, Flak Armor is the most amount of protection for the least amount of resources. With the low price of some metal, fiber, and hide you can give yourself an amazing amount of defense - 500 armor points to be exact. Riot Gear, the next tier of armor, only gives you 75 more armor for a full set while costing a ton more in terms of resources.
Plus you get to look like a knight riding a tyrannosaurus. How cool is that?
8 Best: Simple Pistol - This Island Is Only Big Enough For One Of Us
Ark really likes to stuff as many themes as it can into one game. The Flak armor made us look like knights riding on dinosaurs, while the Simple Pistol will make us look like cowboys riding velociraptors. Not that I’m complaining.
What again makes the Simple Pistol stand out is how few resources it takes to get an insane amount of damage. A little wood, a little hide, and a little metal, and you’ve got yourself a fine six-shooter piece. The bullets themselves take a little bit of gunpowder, despite the fact they appear to be ball bearings rather than real bullets, but that’s just me splitting hairs.
If you want a solid, reliable mid-range gun, the Simple Pistol can’t be beat.
7 Worst: Sign - It Might As Well Say “Come Here And Shoot Me”
Look, this is The Island, not an interstate freeway. There’s no point in putting up giant billboards with clever little messages. All that’ll do is waste resources and alert any opposing tribe that there are people around with enough resources to spend on building stupid signs so they might as well come rape and pillage your base.
Plus, Ark is a video game. Nobody reads signs in video games! They need cute little animals to provide clues during helpful tutorial sequences. Or at the very least a faceless narrator describing what the player should do for the first 10 minutes of the game. Signs just get ignored at best, and at worst result in the death of everything you know and love. Skip them.
6 Best: Bolas - Your “Get Out Of Being Eaten” Card
Another early game weapon that is simply indispensable is the bola. Why? Simple: if you’re running around in the forest and accidentally come across a dino that’s way higher level than you, you can toss this thing in its face and tangle it up for 30 seconds, giving you ample opportunity to flee the scene.
But it can also be used for more offensive purposes. If there’s a particular dino you want to tame, bolas it first, club it unconscious, and then start force feeding it narco berries until it loves you.
That’s basically the rough schedule for how all my dates go. I’ve only been arrested seven times.
5 Best: Vault - What’s Mine, Stays Mine
Ark is more than just a game about riding around on dinosaurs like a Jurassic Park fanboy. If you take Ark online it also develops a weird sub-genre where warring tribes fight for dominance of resources.
Being raided is a real problem in online play, which requires the player to build ever more elaborately defended bases to stay safe. But no base is impregnable, and what a player can’t take by force they’ll steal with guile. That’s why building a Vault should be high on the priority list of any tribe.
The Vault is a virtually impossible to destroy storage locker that keeps the most valuable items safe and secure. It takes 15 C4 charges just to destroy this bad boy, the cost of which alone makes it prohibitive for warring clans to try and bust open.
4 Worst: Spoiled Meat - Who Doesn’t Like Spoiled Meat?
Nobody. Nobody likes spoiled meat. Spoiled meat is used for one thing: narcotics. Everybody loves narcotics, but nobody likes spoiled meat. It’s smelly, disgusting, takes up inventory, and makes you sick if you eat it. Well, technically it just makes you take damage if you eat it, but in the world of Ark, that’s essentially the same thing.
That said, there are some creatures that for whatever reason seem to really enjoy spoiled meat: Scorpions, Spiders, Arthroplueras, and Vultures. If you really want to tame one of these disgusting creatures, then I guess you should keep some spoiled meat around. For the rest of us, this stuff is gross and shouldn’t be in your inventory.
3 Best: Mortar and Pestle - The Key To Alchemy… And Drugs
There are a number of items that help you build things in Ark, but none of them are more useful than the simple Mortar and Pestle. With this item you can make the most important thing in the game: drugs.
The Island is full of Narcoberries, a berry which bears a remarkable resemblance to blueberries, only they get you high. Actually, they put you to sleep, which is sort of like being high. They also put everything else to sleep, making them invaluable for taming dinosaurs. Combine a few berries, some spoiled meat, and some Mortar and Pestle magic and you’ve got it, the magical green goo that puts everything to sleep and a required ingredient for tranquilizer darts and arrows.
The Mortar and Pestle is also necessary for the second most important thing in the game: explosives. Drugs and explosives - you can see why I’d find this item particularly awesome.
2 Best: Tek Replicator - Tea, Earl Grey, Hot
I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge fan of Minecraft. Running around collecting resources and then buildings things is really not my bag. I’d prefer the things to already be made so that I can run around killing things instead of waiting.
That’s why the Tek Replicator is one of the best items you can get. That sort of seems obvious, since Tek gear is all end-game stuff, but the Tek Replicator does something amazing: it builds things faster. No more waiting around for your fabricator to build a bunch of bullets - fire up your Tek Replicator and get them all in the blink of an eye!
I know this sort of goes against my whole ethos of using resources wisely, since the Replicator needs Element just to run, but I’m a busy guy who wants to get his murder on and I’m willing to cut a few corners to do it fast.
1 Worst: Human [REDACTED] - Do I Really Need To Explain This?
When a survival game takes the whole “survival” aspect a little too far, you get human "waste." Ark’s handling of evacuating one’s bowels is particularly humorous: from time to time your little guy or girl will just leave a stinking pile of manure wherever they are. They don’t even squat first.
As amusing it is to be able to hold this junk and even eat it if one so desired (which, by the way, is the easiest suicide route for anyone taken prisoner by a rival tribe), there’s little other use for this particular item other than fertilizer, and even then it’s not the most desirable. It only contains 1,000 fertilizer units which won’t keep your garden fertilized for very long.
It’s almost like this item is literally... yuck.