The First 10 Engrams To Choose For A Balanced Start in ARK: Survival Evolved

In a lot of survival video games, a key mechanic is collecting resources in order to make tools, clothing, shelter, and food. Studio Wilcard’s ARK: Survival Evolved introduces an interesting system wherein you unlock the ability to build things as you level. These schematics are called “engrams” and are purchased with your experience points, and without them (or blueprints, sometimes found in supply drops) you’re out of luck.

When you start out, the engram for one of the more useful early tools, a stone pick, is already available. Start by gathering what you need to make one of those; you’ll probably hit your first level advance by the time you’re done. But once you hit the level cap, you’ll notice that a single person can’t earn enough experience to unlock every single engram in the game. You can get around this with a soft reset you can brew called a “mindwipe tonic,” but here are a few suggestions for which engrams to start with for a balanced playthrough.

10 Stone Hatchet

You can theoretically get by with just a pick or just an axe, but it will really slow you down. While they allow you to mine the same resources (similar to in Minecraft) each is better at gathering some things over the others; together, you get a good overlap.

A stone hatchet will become invaluable once you start feeding yourself and your creatures with meat, as it is best for collecting it from bodies. A pickaxe will, technically, get you wood and stone to improve your walls, but an axe will get you a better yield of both. So once you hit level one, make life easier and make a hatchet.

9 Spear

Defending yourself or hunting for food with an axe might sound pretty badass, but unfortunately, you’ll learn pretty quickly that there are creatures you would like to be able to stab from further away. Thankfully, there is an engram for that! Say hello to ‘spear.’

Spears give you more reach and can be thrown at approaching Dilophosauruses or Pegomastaxes who’ve nicked all your berries. With practice, you can even lob them at birds, and they make fishing much more efficient. They are also the prerequisite for the incredibly useful pike, which can be unlocked later on and has an iron head.

8 Campfire

It is a truth universally acknowledged that in any survival game, players generally feel safer when they have a source of light handy. While there aren’t many creatures in ARK that are more threatening in the dark, it can be very easy to get lost and it’s generally unsettling alone at night. You and your Dodo might feel a bit like Scooby and Shaggy.

The first engram you can get to help with that in any reliable way (torches are awkward since you need to carry them) is a campfire. You’ll need to keep it fed with something flammable. But early on, campfires are irreplaceable for seeing by, staying warm, cooking meat, and making charcoal, which is important in later recipes.

7 Sleeping Bag

Sleeping bags are the prerequisites for building beds, which are your spawn points in ARK. However, unlike real sleeping bags — unless you are doing some very heinous things with them — they are single use only. If you plan on going anywhere further than a minute’s sprint from your spawn point, you’ll find them a necessity when you start out.

You can use them indefinitely as a bed, but as soon as you teleport to a sleeping bag after you die, it’ll fall apart. When you die, everything you’re carrying remains on your corpse; which can be a bit of a mind trip, at first. One good tip is to drop a sleeping bag somewhere safe before venturing into unknown lands. That way you won’t have too much trouble finding your stuff if something goes wrong.

6 Thatch Materials

We’re cheating a little here because this one is a couple of engrams. But you need them in order to build with any other material, so as soon as you can start getting thatch material engrams, do so. The important ones are the wall, ceiling, floor, doorframe, and door engrams.

Thatch won’t stand up to a determined predator or an angry Triceratops or Brontosaurus. But so long as creatures don’t have line of sight on you — and you haven’t agro’d them — they’ll leave you alone in your home. All the same, upgrade to better materials as you unlock them.

5 Mortar & Pestle

If you want to craft any consumables later in the game — including the mindwipe tonic needed to retrain your engrams — you’ll need a mortar and pestle. Narcotics, stimulants, cementing paste, gunpowder, insect repellant and more are all made with a mortar and pestle.

Luckily, you won’t have to stand by them and actively grind your ingredients. Just fill them up (it’s good to have a couple of them) and come back and pick up your consumables later on. They’re like slow cookers for drugs, and you’ll be using them for a long time.

4 Slingshot

If you happen to have a lot of rocks in your inventory that are weighing you down, you’ll find a slingshot beneficial. This engram is needed to unlock all other projectiles as the game goes on. While it does more torpor damage than health damage, it can at least knock something out long enough for you to run away.

You’ll want to upgrade to a bow and arrows when you can, but a slingshot will do in a pinch. Using one is also good practice for aiming, because ARK utilizes projectile drop which can be disastrous and wasteful if you haven’t adjusted for it.

3 Narcotics

Most creatures that you tame, you do so via a process known as “knock-out taming.” This is pretty much what it says on the box. At first, this boils down to punching them asleep or hitting them with a slingshot or club, but most players don’t bother unlocking the engram for the latter.

Keeping them unconscious is the tricky thing. Until you have a farm going, berry-gathering is very inefficient and you need a lot of narco berries to keep something big asleep. As soon as you can, unlock narcotics. You still need a lot of narco berries, as well as spoiled meat, but the extra cost is worth it for how long their effect lasts. You’ll need it to make tranq arrows eventually too, which means you can put scary things down without closing into toothy reach.

2 Bola

Bolas are your best friend when it comes to taming anything fast. Got a Raptor going for your eyes? Bola it, and enjoy a good thirty seconds where they can’t pin you. Trying to take a Pteranodon and it flies off as soon as you look at it the wrong way? Bola it and ground it.

Bigger creatures require chain bolas and bear traps, but for most things smaller than a Triceratops, bolas will do the trick. They also won’t injure the creature, which means they don’t hurt your taming chances if they’re a bit delicate. They can provoke aggression once your target is loose. Tying a Raptor’s laces together does not make it like you.

1 Storage Box

Encumbrance physics are the bane of any gamer’s existence. Yes, it’s more accurate than imagining that a bag of holding exists in every setting, but there are few things more frustrating than looting an enemy and then discovering you can’t walk.

Storage boxes — and later, the large ones — aren’t very expensive to build. They have a limited inventory space but unlike you, don’t have to go anywhere. If you have a lot of walls to build but can’t carry them all, or need to stockpile flint for arrowheads, you can store them in boxes and then get back to work.

NEXT: ARK Survival Evolved: The Most Useful Single-Player Cheat Codes

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Lee is a writer, gamer and all-around nerd that escaped from Scotland and wound up in Nova Scotia. From a humble beginning as a level 1 barista, they’ve risen through the ranks of freelancing and multi-tasked their way to The Gamer. Lee spends their free time hunting for a shiny furret, hoarding apparel in Animal Crossing and closing the rift over Ferelden one more time while narrowly avoiding ninety nine side-quests.

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