Ambitious dino-riding survival-crafting game ARK: Survival Evolved debuted last year on Steam Early Access. Despite some growing pains and technical hiccups, the open-world title has been widely successful. Frequent patches and content updates have kept ARK near the top of the Steam sales charts for over a year. Though it remains in Early Access, ARK just received its first major paid expansion pack in Scorched Earth.

“While we’ve had Scorched Earth and future ARKs in the planning stages since the project’s inception, establishing its inter-ARK travel technology was the essential reason for making this content available to players right now,” said Jeremy Stieglitz, lead designer. “We encourage everyone to grab some trustworthy tribemates, don your safari hats, layer on the SPF-1000 sunscreen, and head into the great blazing desert!”

Scorched Earth takes place in an entirely new desert world. Water is much more limited, providing an extra challenge just to stay hydrated. The desert world contains seven appropriate biomes, from sandy dunes to dusty mountains and an oasis. More than fifty new items have been added, including new weapons like whips and boomerangs. And it wouldn’t be an ARK update without new creatures to tame and ride. Studio Wildcard embraces the fantasy desert theme with wyverns, sand worms, rocky giants, and “ARK’s deadliest boss to date – the ferocious manticore.”

Scorched Earth

One of the neater features of the DLC is the ability to travel back and forth between the desert and the main island. Players can take their items and even creatures to show off their desert prizes. Presumably all future ARK additions would be interconnected in this way.

Xbox One players will also receive last month’s v739 update. The update added the Allosaurus and Pelagornis, updated fishing mechanics, and the Primitive+ player mod.

This may be the first ever case of paid DLC for an Early Access game, and many players are not happy. The official release for ARK: Survival Evolved is currently scheduled for late 2016.

A life-size replica of the wyvern will be available at the Studio Wildcard booth at PAX West, and Scorched Earth will be playable at the show. ARK: Survival Evolved is currently 40% off on Steam and Xbox One through September 8.

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Eric has been writing for over nine years with bylines at Dicebreaker, Pixelkin, Polygon, PC Gamer, Tabletop Gaming magazine, and more covering movies, TV shows, video games, tabletop games, and tech. He reviews and live streams D&D adventures every week on his YouTube channel. He also makes a mean tuna quesadilla.