ARK: Survival Evolved on Nintendo Switch: Beginner's Guide

If you just picked up ARK: Survival Evolved on Nintendo Switch, congrats! You are about to embark on a new adventure on a remote island that's infested with...large dinosaurs. Think of it like Jurassic Park, except for the whole "theme park" aspect. You're also pretty much on your own, where everything, and even everyone else, is trying to kill you. It's a tough world out there, but don't worry! We have some beginner's advice for starting your adventure in ARK: Survival Evolved.

Pick your server type carefully

In ARK: Survival Evolved, there are two different server types: PvP and PvE. PvP is player-versus-player, while PvE is player-versus-environment.

If this is your first time playing ARK: Survival Evolved, it's highly recommended to start with PvE, so you can get used to the game mechanics and understand how to play without having to worry about other players out to kill you. Once you get the hang of things, then you can make a new character on a PvP server if you wish. But if you don't care about being competitive, then PvE is fine.

Your starting location matters

The world of ARK: Survival Evolved is vast and quite frankly, a tad overwhelming. If you're new to ARK, then you should know that your starting point in the game determines your overall enjoyment in the first few hours. That's because you either start in an area that's plentiful with resources to get started, or you face repeated deaths.

For newbies, it's highly recommended to start on the south coast. You'll find plenty of resources to get started with and fewer deadly predators to worry about.

Don't be afraid of death

Speaking of deadly predators, you will die a lot in the game, regardless. It's just inevitable. When your character dies, you have two options: start a new character or continue with your current one while maintaining all accrued levels, skills, Engrams, and privileges.

If you choose the latter though, there are a few things you'll need to do first. Early on in the game, you're stuck with the random re-spawn point, but later on, you can choose where you want to re-spawn at. Then you'll need to track down where you died so you can gather up your possessions. You also only have about 20 minutes to do this, so don't waste time! Otherwise, all of those possessions you had will be gone forever.

However, if you had crafted a Bed or Sleeping Bag item, then you can re-spawn on your dead corpse directly, saving a lot of time and trouble.

Pay attention to your first few minutes

ARK Survival Evolved Switch 1

ARK Survival Evolved Switch 1 (Image credit: Snail Games USA)

Since ARK: Survival Evolved is a survival game with no real objective (no story and no hand-holding), it's important to pay close attention to your first few minutes on the island. While it's fairly straightforward, it basically teaches you everything you need to know for the rest of your time playing the game.

In the first few minutes, you'll see how the leveling system works, as well as how to keep yourself hydrated, fed, and protected from the harsh elements of the island. You can explore and observe your surroundings as you figure out how to hunt, forage, and build. Eventually, you'll be taming beasts too, which are great for transportation around the island.

And then there's ARK's robust crafting system. Start off with a Pick, that way you can still defend yourself while gathering resources for other tools and weapons.

Earn experience doing pretty much anything

If you're worried about not being strong enough to do anything in ARK, don't worry! Everything you do in the game earns you experience points, so leveling up isn't too much trouble. Just hit pretty much everything, kill things, gather resources, craft, expand your base, or just go on a ride with your own tamed dinosaur.

If you're doing anything in the game, you'll earn experience. So play the game at your own pace and watch those experience points rack up.

Try to find a Tribe or Allies

Since ARK: Survival Evolved is an online game, you're going to meet other players (even on PvE) on the island. It's actually beneficial to you to try and prove your trustworthiness to others though because you'll definitely want some Allies on your side.

Allies will be able to sell you dinos for cheap, help you with resources in a pinch, or anything else you need. But don't take advantage of them! You'll need to offer to help them out when they need it, too.

If you get close with some Allies, they may even offer to invite you into their Tribe. When you're in a Tribe, you can work together on the game's more tedious game mechanics, such as taming, breeding, and resource gathering, in shifts when needed, rather than working alone. Experience points are also earned whenever a tribe-mate does a task, so it's in everyone's interest to work together as a team.

But getting into a Tribe takes time, so don't expect it to happen right away. If you can get a few of your real life friends to get the game with you, then you can all start your own Tribe together, forgoing the process of finding a clan of strangers.

Get all the Engrams and Blueprints

Engrams and Blueprints are incredibly vital to the entire game of ARK: Survival Evolved. They're recipes that you turn into items once you have all of the required resources. You'll need both to craft items like tools, weapons, clothing, base items, and more.

You get Engrams as you level up, and these are used more frequently than Blueprints. Engrams are purchased with the Engram Points that you earn each time you gain a level, so you'll want to level up quickly!

Blueprints are less-used than Engrams, but still valuable to have. They're found in Beacon cargo drops only.

You should get a Trike

ARK Survival Evolved Switch 6

ARK Survival Evolved Switch 6 (Image credit: Snail Games USA)

We mentioned that the South Coast is a good starting point, but it's also a good place to set up your base. Triceratops (Trikes) are found in the south zone, and they're a great dinosaur to tame if you're staying around there permanently.

Not only are Trikes just cool, but they can hold a lot of material for you as you gather and bring the mats back to base. Trikes are also capable of knocking down trees and bushes so you can stock up on precious berries, Thatch, and seeds. Trike's horns are also great weapons, allowing them to defend themselves from smaller predator dinosaurs. They're also pretty easy to tame, as all you need are a few Tranquilizing Arrows.

Understand the different stats and attributes

As you level up, you not only get Engrams, but you'll get upgrade points. Like other RPGs, these upgrade points are spent on improving your character's stats, and most of these are shown on the status bar on the HUD. In ARK, there are core stats and then there are the less visible attribute stats.

The stats and attributes are the following: Oxygen, Weight, Water, Food, Stamina, Health, Torpor, Melee Damage, Movement Speed, Fortitude, and Crafting Speed.

Oxygen determines how long you can hold your breath underwater and your swimming speed. It only shows up when you're under water, and once the oxygen is depleted, you gradually lose health until you get back to the surface for more oxygen. The average time spent underwater is about 30 seconds.

Weight is how much you can carry before you become encumbered, thus reducing your movement speed. Every item has its own weight value, so you need to take that into consideration before carrying something back to base.

Water is your hydration level. You can restore hydration by consuming items like Stimberries, or finding fresh water. When you get dehydrated, your health depletes and Torpor levels get high, meaning you'll pass out.

Food is similar to Water, but it also affects your Stamina. If you're hungry, the Stamina will deplete faster if you overexert yourself. Once you're starving, health depletes and Torpor levels rise, also making you lose consciousness.

Stamina is the amount of energy that an activity requires. Everything will deplete your stamina, but some are more work than others. However, it does refill over time, but remember, if you're hungry, you'll need to get a bite to eat or it will keep draining quicker than normal.

Health is self-explanatory and shows you how not dead you are. It will deplete gradually if you're dehydrated, starving, drowning, or just get attacked by predators.

Torpor is a measure of how conscious you are. It starts off at zero, but the higher it goes, the more likely you are to faint. Avoid this if possible!

Melee Damage is how strong your fists, tools, and weapons do in a single hit. Movement Speed is how fast you move, whether it's walking or running across the world. The higher this stat is, the faster you can move without using as much Stamina. Crafting Speed changes how fast you're able to craft things, but it's not something you should worry about since most items don't take long anyway. Fortitude is your character's resistance to extreme weather conditions, and this is directly affected by the clothes you wear.

Time to start your journey on a dino island

ARK: Survival Evolved has been out on other platforms for a while now but has just debuted on Nintendo Switch. If you haven't played this awesome dinosaur-filled action-adventure survival game yet, then this is the perfect time to jump in and experience it for yourself! This guide has all the info you need to get started with your new adventure too.

Are you playing ARK: Survival Evolved? How do you like it so far? Sound off in the comments!

Christine Chan

Christine Romero-Chan was formerly a Senior Editor for iMore. She has been writing about technology, specifically Apple, for over a decade at a variety of websites. She is currently part of the Digital Trends team, and has been using Apple’s smartphone since the original iPhone back in 2007. While her main speciality is the iPhone, she also covers Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac when needed. When she isn’t writing about Apple, Christine can often be found at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, as she is a passholder and obsessed with all things Disney, especially Star Wars. Christine also enjoys coffee, food, photography, mechanical keyboards, and spending as much time with her new daughter as possible.