Open-world survival RPG Ark: Survival Ascended surprise launches on PC, also there's finally a gameplay trailer

 Ark Survival Ascended dinosaur fight.
Ark Survival Ascended dinosaur fight.

After a controversial reveal, months of silence, and an abrupt tease featuring one whole screenshot, open-world survival RPG remake Ark: Survival Ascended has finally released a proper gameplay trailer just in time for a surprise launch on PC.

Surprise! Ark: Survival Ascended is available on PC today (though Steam still shows "coming soon" at the time of writing), just barely making its previously announced October release date. Fans had begun to worry that the project had been internally delayed, but now they can see it for themselves – on PC anyway. As the aptly named Studio Wildcard revealed during today's Xbox Partner showcase, Ascended won't come to PS5 and Xbox Series X until November.

So yes, the launch trailer for Ascended is also its first-ever gameplay trailer, showing off its fully Unreal Engine 5-remastered forests and dinosaurs. Wildcard promises a game "that harnesses the cutting-edge power of Unreal Engine 5 (UE5) for huge improvements and enhancements to the visuals and gameplay. ARK's codebase has been fully rewritten, and its artwork recreated by hand to take full advantage of UE5, using high-end graphics features such as fully dynamic Global Illumination ('Lumen'), so that light bounces realistically off off hundreds of millions of triangles for extreme detail."

Yep, mhmm, yeah. I've been playing and writing about games long enough to confidentaly say: them's some graphics right there, folks. It's safe to say Ark has never looked better, with the possible exception of mods. Which is nice and all, but I'd imagine many players are equally or more interested in the gameplay-facing stuff in the upgrade, which includes:

  • Improved physics system with dynamic water, interactive foliage, and granular destruction

  • Quality-of-life upgrades such as UI redesigns, smarter creature pathing, photo mode, new map and camera systems

  • Additional creatures, structures, and items

  • Public multiplayer up to 70 players, private sessions for up to eight players, and local split-screen for 2 - 4 players

  • Cross-platform multiplayer (console and Windows PC at launch, Steam joining cross-platform pool in December)

  • Cross-platform modding via the in-game CurseForge mod browser

  • "Essentially, every inch of The Island has been redesigned," per this Xbox Wire post

On the content side, Ascended has launched with the original game's biggest updates: Scorched Earth, Aberration, Extinction, Ark Genesis Part 1, and Ark Genesis Part 2. "Subsequent expansion worlds" will be added "on a regular basis" going forward, with Ascended following "its own content roadmap including its own gameplay/QOL changes, new DLC, seasonal events, and more."

"With Ark 2's direction as a Souls-like adventure, we realize our community still wants and loves the original Ark," says Wildcard co-founder Jeremy Stieglitz. "[Ascended] enables that original Ark experience to thrive in next-gen quality with continued developer support as well as the exciting growth from UGC creators.”

As a refresher, Ark: Survival Ascended was once described as a free update, and then became a $50 remaster (stoking some review bombs in the process), and then a $60 remaster that also comes with DLC. Back in April, the devs said that "we understand what will really convince you is seeing screenshots and a gameplay trailer," and then proceeded to not release a gameplay trailer until the day the game launched. At least we finally got there in the end. Now Ark diehards can decide if Ascended was worth the move in the end.

Ark is still our top pick of the best survival games around. Will Ascended beat out the original?