The weekly newsletter out of ARK: Survival Evolved is arguably a tale of bad news, then interesting news, then worse news. On the bad news side, the sequel has been pushed back, but the good news is that the original game is getting a UE5 re-release, but that launch ultimately means a maintenance mode of the original title.
There’s a lot to unpack here, so we’ll get to the delay first: Studio Wildcard has decided to push ARK 2 into sometime in 2024 while it gets a handle of Unreal Engine 5 and adjusts pipelines accordingly. Incidentally, this means that there will be no showcases of gameplay or screenshots out of the sequel this year, though the post notes that ARK 2 has “pretty significant design changes from the original game” and hints that these design changes may not be appealing to those who are looking for a more serious or hardcore experience overall.
With that said, the devs are kicking the tires of UE5 and padding the time between now and 2024 with ARK: Survival Ascended, a “next-generation remaster” of the game for PC and consoles that takes advantage of the engine. The game will have the original Island and Survival of the Fittest with more “non-canon” DLC maps added over time, as well as various features like cross-platform play, cross-platform mod support, the promise of new seasonal events, and multiple quality-of-life enhancements. This remaster is scheduled to launch in late August.
However, this does mean that players are going to have to re-buy the game. SAA will first be available for a year in a “Respawn Bundle” for PC and Xbox X|S that packs in the remake and pre-purchase of ARK 2 for $50, while PS5 players can get a standalone SAA release for $40. Expansions will also be sold separately in two bundles – an Explorer’s Pass with Scorched Earth, Aberration (Q4 2023), and Extinction (Q1 2024); and a Genesis Pass with Genesis Part 1 (Q1 2024) and Genesis Part 2 (Q2 2024), both of which are priced at $20 each.
Furthermore, this signals the effective end of major updates for the original ARK. The game will be seeing its final major update in June when it celebrates its eighth anniversary, followed by a shutting down of official servers for PC, Xbox, and PlayStation in August when SAA launches.
This doesn’t mean that the game is going offline wholesale, as players will be allowed to snag save states of official servers to play privately, or the game can be played in single-player and on unofficial servers. Otherwise, updates will be restricted to crash and bug fixes.
As one might expect, this news doesn’t appear to be going over well with the vocal ARK community. The game’s subreddit is absolutely awash with dismay, questions, rants, and memes. Lots and lots of memes.