ARK: Survival Evolved vs. ARK: Survival Ascended

ARK: Survival Evolved was released in 2015 and faces harsh reviews. Now, it has good reviews with thousands of loyal fans who keep coming back for more, even after the 2023 release of ARK: Survival Ascended.

There have been a lot of mixed signals and drama from Studio Wildcard over the past year regarding ASA and ARK 2. Because of this, a lot of ARK fans had no idea what to expect from ARK: Survival Ascended, and even now, after its release, it can be confusing, especially if you’re unable to play the game.

I myself have spent over 1200 hours in ARK: Survival Evolved and purchased ARK: Survival Ascended, and I am still discovering small differences. The games are extremely similar, but if you spend enough time in ASA, you’ll realize that they aren’t identical.

ark survival evolved vs ark survival ascended

Overview of ARK Differences

  • Graphics – The graphics are vastly improved in ARK: Survival Ascended.
  • Building – taller walls and easier-to-use snap points make ARK: Survival Ascended better for building.
  • Taming – though you can still knockout tame adults, there is also a new method of claiming orphan baby dinos.
  • Maps – there is a lack of maps for ASA.
  • Mods – there is also a lack of mods in ASA, and it likely will be for a while.
  • Price – ASA costs three times more than the original game.
  • Screenshots – The new Photo Mode makes taking screenshots a fun mini-game with terrific results in ASA.
  • Immersion – pathing of animals makes the dinos seem more realistic – though this is debatable.
  • Map System – an overlay system, coordinates, and pinging makes it easier to communicate and travel with ASA.
  • Tracking – you can now track your tamed dinos, so it’s less likely you’ll lose them.

Graphics Are the Biggest Difference

ark graphics tree ark survival evolved vs ark survival ascended

This is one thing that ARK: Survival Ascended did right, and that is to make their game look amazing. Of course, this is offset by the fact that it is almost unplayable with the highest graphic settings. But if you can play it, you can’t beat the graphics. It really is a gorgeous game that has few rivals. The problem is if it didn’t look so good, it would be a hard sell. But rather than get into that, let’s take a look at some of the other changes in ARK: Survival Ascended.

Building Materials Are Improved

ark base ark survival evolved vs ark survival ascended

Building is improved in ARK: Survival Ascended. The main difference that fans are excited about is the extra height of the walls, which allows all characters to stand without hitting their head on the ceiling. In ARK: Survival Evolved, players stacked walls in order to move freely in their houses. The way that materials snap is also better in ASA, making those who enjoy experimenting with building quite satisfied with the changes.

New Taming Method

ark baby parasaur ark survival evolved vs ark survival ascended

Though the traditional taming methods remain, there is a new way to tame certain dinos in ASA. Many dinos have babies that follow them around. If you attack these babies, their parents will attack you – even dodos. To claim the baby dino as your own, you must first tame or kill its parents. Then, you walk up to it and claim it just like it hatched out of an egg.

Lack of Maps

maps in ark ark survival evolved vs ark survival ascended

There is only one map in ARK: Survival Ascended – The Island. Because ARK fans have spent so much time at The Island, it’s safe to say we were not amused by the limits to said map. Of course, there will be more maps in the future, possibly ASA-exclusives. But for now – and for a long time – there is only The Island. The map gets old fast if you’ve played it as many times as most ARK fans have.

Need More Mods

ark shirley on sheep ark survival evolved vs ark survival ascended

There are way more mods in Survival Evolved than Ascended. Of course, this is partially due to the age of the old game compared to the new one. But mod developers are so comfortable with Survival Evolved that they put mods out like nothing. Now, there’s a whole new system, and they are coming in slowly. Though there are a handful of decent mods, it won’t reach ASE levels for quite some time – if ever.

Screenshots Look Amazing

ark survival evolved vs ark survival ascended photo mode ark

Taking screenshots is way better in Survival Ascended due to the addition of Photo Mode. This is similar to Gpose in FFXIV and other games with camera modes. You can create gorgeous images with the new Photo Mode that look like screenshots from a cinematic. It takes some getting used to, but if you play around with it for a while, you can master it.

To use Photo Mode, just hit the menu (ESC) and go to Photo Mode. It really is that simple. From there, you can adjust settings, move the camera around, and feel like you’re a professional in-game photographer.

Immersion through Pathing

ark survival evolved vs ark survival ascended ark mammoth

There are a few features that make Survival Ascended more immersive. One of those features is dino pathing. So far, I have seen improvements, but others have not. What I notice is that the dinos seem to move more naturally and are able to reach you better if you attempt to outsmart them by hiding behind rocks or cliff edges. Of course, there are mixed reviews on this aspect, so it may be hit or miss, but one thing is clear – the pathing is different.

Map System

ark survival evolved vs ark survival ascended map overlay ark

The map system in the new ARK is lowkey amazing. It’s slipping through the cracks, too, which is a shame. It is now possible to make your map transparent and walk around with it in the UI. This makes traveling much easier because you can see where you’re going without pulling your map out on your arm and forcing yourself into first person without being able to see what’s going on around you.

There is also a new pinging system that makes playing with friends better. You can track dinos, mark locations, find your dead body, and more, making it easier to communicate and avoid getting lost. In PvP, it is kind of overpowered because you can ping other players and track them for a short time beyond trees and rubble.

Another feature I think is great is that the latitude and longitude show up on the map. So you don’t need an S+ Spyglass to know your location or tell friends your location. This should have been implemented into ARK a long time ago.

Tracking Your Companions

ark survival evolved vs ark survival ascended track death in ark sa

The tracking system for dinos is going unnoticed by many. But you can now track the dinos that you own. There is a new system in the main menu between social and logs that allows you to track dinos that you have tamed. You can see their health, food, location, and more.

It’s super easy to use and leads you directly to them. This allows you to track any dino in your tribe, but you can also sort it by creature type or by name. So if you want to find a specific creature, you can. The whole system is super helpful and worth using if you tend to leave your dinos on wander and let your Anky fall off cliffs like I do.

Steep Price in Comparison

The price of the two ARK games vary, but on Steam, there’s a $30 difference at launch. ARK: Survival Evolved is $15 right now at full price, whereas ARK: Survival Ascended is $45 for what many call essentially the same game. It does often feel like you’re paying $45 for a wacky patch, so I understand why many refuse to pay it.

To be fair, ARK: Survival Evolved was around $40 at release, spiked to $60 sometime later, and then finally dropped to $20 in 2021. It didn’t reach $15, not on sale, until late 2023. So yes, the price is because it’s a new game, but the uproar is because Studio Wildcard initially mentioned that it would be free with ARK 2.

New Dinos

There are a handful of new dinos already announced for ARK: Survival Ascended. A lot of people are saying that the Rhyniognatha, an aggressive swamp flyer, is new, but to be fair, it was added to Survival Evolved before ASA came out. Other dinos for ASA have yet to be released but are in the works.

Yi Ling

ark survival evolved vs ark survival ascended yi ling
  • Map – Aberration
  • Tameable – No
  • Temperament – Aloof

Yi Lang is the new raptor-like creature, which is always a great traveler and fighter. It seems that Yi Lang will be a lot like a Deinonychus with the ability to climb walls, but not much else is known about the least interesting new dino.


ark survival evolved vs ark survival ascended shastasaurus
Shastasuarus Concept Art by Studio Wildcard
  • Map – The Center
  • Tameable – Yes
  • Temperament – Curious

The new The Center ocean creature is going to be big and work like a submarine with the right saddle. It will be possible to have a base on the Shastasaurus with a saddle similar to the platform saddles but with a cover from the water. To tame it, players must scrape barnacles off of it to earn its trust.


gigantoraptor ark survival evolved vs ark survival ascended
  • Map – Ragnarok
  • Tameable – No
  • Temperament -Territorial

This unique creature will adopt baby creatures that do not have parents – wild ones, that is. So if you kill a creature’s parents and the Gigantoraptor is nearby, it may take the baby under its wing. You can’t tame the adults, but you may be able to win over their biological babies. Because of its mothering abilities, it’s possible there will also be nanny-like benefits to having a Gigantoraptor.


ark survival evolved vs ark survival ascended fasolasuchus
  • Map – Scorched Earth
  • Tameable – Yes
  • Temperament – Aggressive

The Fasolasuchus is a dino with armor penetration and sand-swimming abilities. It shoots acid and will be ideal for fighting Rock Golems. However, it will be difficult to tame as it is immune to narcotics, so it must be tamed in a way similar to that of a Rock Golem.


ark survival evolved vs ark survival ascended dreadnoughtus
  • Map – Extinction
  • Tameable – Yes
  • Temperament -Territorial

Sauropods are no strangers to ARK, so it’s no surprise they are adding one soon to ASA. What we know about it so far is that it will be able to mount turrets or some type of artillery on its back. It may also be able to absorb damage to charge its attacks. So, in short, it’s a military tank in dino form.

Small Changes

  • Movement Speed – on official servers, you are no longer allowed to increase movement speed. This is not a good change for early-game players like me, but it does even the playing field against most dinos.
  • Interface – the overall interface, menu, and inventory screens are different in ASA. I can’t say that they are better, but they may be more user-friendly for new players.
  • Water Irrigation – the new system makes it easier to irrigate your crops. You don’t need long pipes that run across the beach anymore. You can use the tap and intake within a certain range and have them work without connecting them.
  • Cross-Platform – ARK: Survival Evolved never made it to full crossplay. But Survival Ascended lets you play on PC with your friends on Xbox and PlayStation.

Which Is Better? ARK: Survival Evolved or ARK: Survival Ascended

ARK: Survival Evolved is the clear winner here when we take everything into account. Primarily because Ascended is so difficult to run that half of ARK fans can’t play it – which means more than all of the benefits and upgrades of ARK: SA.

The graphics are the only strong contender here because everything else could have easily been a small patch for ARK: Survival Evolved. There’s a reason why people are still playing Evolved and a reason why I still recommend Survival Evolved before I mention Ascended.

Alternatives to ARK: Survival Evolved and ARK: Survival Ascended

  • Rust is the most similar game to ARK when it comes to PvP and survivability.
  • Conan Exiles has most of the same components yet was set in the Hyborian age.
  • Smalland is a lighthearted survival game that may rival ARK in the future due to its companion and base system.
  • Valheim is one of the most popular survival games that is alluring to one of the widest selections of gamers.
  • Subnautica is another survival game that has taming, building, and basic survival methods that ARK players love.


Question: Is ARK: Survival Ascended the Same as ARK 2?

Answer: No. ARK 2 still doesn’t have a release date. It is still expected in 2024, but not confirmed. The game is vastly different than either ARK game and is the installment that stars Vin Diesel.

Question: Is ARK: Survival Ascended a Remake or Remaster?

Answer: Though there is a debate, most agree that ARK: Survival Ascended is a remaster due to the graphical overhaul. A remake would likely have more changes than ASA made to ASE.

Question: Which Unreal Engine Do ARK Games Use?

Answer: ARK: Survival Evolved uses Unreal Engine 4, while Survival Ascended uses Unreal Engine 5. The new UE is the reason the new game was made and explains the incredibly superior graphics.

Conclusion: Survival Evolved Didn’t Need an “Upgrade”

ark se vs sa conclusion

ARK: Survival Evolved and ARK: Survival Ascended have a lot in common, but it’s what sets them apart that people are noticing. ARK: Survival Ascended looks a lot better than ARK: Survival Ascended and has a few relatively minor quality-of-life features. But because it is so hard to run and comes at a steep price for the minimal differences, it is not yet where

I’d hoped it would be at release. I doubt it’s where developers want it to be. Is it a bad game? Not at all, if you can run it. But the number of people that can is quite low.

Continue reading:

Ark: Survival Ascended Turkey Trial Guide

Ark: Survival Ascended Mammoth Guide

Ark Survival Ascended Taming Guide

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