Level Up: Review of ARK: Survival Evolved, Scorched Earth

By Samual Cale on September 29, 2016 from Level Up via Connect-Bridgeport.com

I've been playing ARK: Survival Evolved off and on since it was released on Xbox One, and had lost interest mid-way through the summer. My interest was renewed in early September when a paid expansion was released without warning. Not even the sponsors knew until about 30 minutes before it was released. This expansion is called Scorched Earth and has a desert theme. It was brought to my attention by a friend who sent me the trailer video. Upon watching the trailer I said “take my money” and bought Scorched Earth from the Xbox Live online marketplace.
Like the regular ARK: Survival Evolved maps, one is surviving in a world filled with prehistoric creatures ranging from the well-known Tyrannosaurus Rex to the more obscure Doedicurus (a creature similar to an armadillo, its shell coming to about the height of a human). However, instead of awakening in a tropical climate, one awakens in a hot and arid place that is for the most part a wasteland. Scorched Earth is a dangerous place to survive, as the heat is oppressive, water is scarce, and there are few creatures incapable of killing a poorly equipped player. But if one knows how to co-exist with the desert, a smart player can thrive.
This expansion adds a whole new map to explore, which is a few square miles above ground, with a large system of tunnels beneath and ten new creatures, some of which have multiple variants. The terrain consists of cactus dotted hills, rocky mountains, rolling sand dunes, and an anomalous chasm known as the “World Scar.” Throughout the land, small ruins can be found, but they are the easiest to find in the dunes. However, one must be wary in the dunes, as creatures called Deathworms will spring from the sand and devour whole any soul unfortunate enough to cross their paths. Like the previous two maps, there are three structures that tower into the sky known as obelisks. These obelisks are used to summon bosses, download characters and creatures from other servers, and to navigate.
ARK: Survival Evolvedhas in the past had elements from the fantasy genre, such as the dragon boss, but has mostly been based off creatures that are known to have existed, or could have existed. Scorched Earth has deviated from this generality with some of the newly added creatures. The previously mentioned “World Scar” is a chasm of black stone with a river of lava at the bottom and is home to monsters known as wyverns, which are a close relative to dragons.
Wyverns are great flying reptiles with two legs, two wings, and an elemental breath weapon. They come in three varieties: fire, lightning, and poison. All three are deadly. Another creature of myth is the Rock Elemental, a hulking giant made of stone. They disguise themselves as normal rock formations on mountains, but when approached they reveal themselves and attack with the entirety of their massive strength, smashing intruders with fists or thrown boulders. Even a Tyrannosaurus Rex is no match for a Rock Elemental, as their stony bodies turn aside most blows. The Deathworm is also a creature of fantasy, likely inspired by the classic story of Dune.
Last on this list of mythical creatures, but not least is the new boss---the Manticore. The Manticore must be summoned and fought in a special arena. The arena is teeming with Deathworms and Rock Elementals, and the Manticore itself is a terrifying force. It has the wings of a dragon, the tail of a scorpion, and the face of a human with a mouth full of fangs. The Manticore also has the ability to launch spikes from its tail that inflict a tranquilizing effect.
Also, over fifty craftable items were added. Some of these are critical specifically to desert survival, such as water wells and desert cloth clothing, and some would be useful in any setting, such as the whip, boomerang, tent, chainsaw, and flamethrower. There is a whole new set of structures that can be crafted from clay. The clay is created from sand and cactus sap in a mortar and pestle. A majority of the recipes for the items exclusive to Scorched Earth will call for materials obtainable only in Scorched Earth, so sadly you cannot have a whip or boomerang on the standard ARK maps.
In Scorched Earth, more detail was given to the weather and the environment in general. The temperatures typically soar to over 110 degrees Fahrenheit in the day, and drop as low as 40 at night, like they would in a real desert. There are also four storm patterns, three of which are unique to Scorched Earth. There are rainstorms, which are a blessing but can be a curse. They bring much needed water, but they also bring the cold. Then there are electrical storms, which consist of an intense blanket of clouds and constant electrical discharge in the clouds. This causes any and all electronics you have to cease to function for the storm's duration. The other two weather patterns are more deadly. First, the heat wave which causes one to take more damage over time from being too hot if one’s already too hot, and accelerates the rate at which one loses water. Finally, there is the sandstorm. The sandstorm greatly reduces visibility and movement speed, while completely inhibiting sprinting and stamina regeneration. The sandstorm will also drain stamina and place sand in one’s inventory. These storms can spring up seemingly from nowhere; however, there is one little creature that can predict the coming of a storm---the Jerboa. The Jerboa is an adorable creature that is easily tamed, can perch on one's shoulder, and will make sounds to indicate a storm is coming. Jerboas make a specific noise for each kind of storm, which can be valuable at times.
Graphically, Scorched Earth is about as pleasing as a desert can be. A majority of the creatures look lifelike, and the landscape is fairly convincing. The music is catchy and  a welcome change from the old theme music. There are a few things that bug me though, and those are the animations for the Deathworm moving when submerged in sand, and for the Rock Elemental entering and exiting its disguise as a rock formation. Both of these animations look kind of..... cheesy which is the best word I can think of for it. Also, one creature that is essentially a giant praying mantis has a relatively long-range pounce attack, and when it performs this it looks like it is gliding just above the ground before it strikes its target.
With all of these factors in mind, I give Scorched Earth, an expansion for ARK: Survival Evolved, an 8/10. I feel that Scorched Earth has renewed my interest in the game by giving me a new challenge to face. Before, I felt like I had nothing really meaningful left to do because I was powerful enough to do whatever I wanted. Scorched Earth gave me an opportunity to start fresh with a greater challenge on my hands. It has good content, and looks appealing in the way that desolate landscapes somehow do. I can say that for me Scorched Earth has been worth every bit of the $20 I paid for it.  

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