If you‘re an ARK: Survival Evolved player like me, you may be wondering – is the Scorched Earth expansion free to play? Or do you have to pay to get access to its exclusive desert map, creatures and gear?
I‘ll cut right to the chase: Scorched Earth is not free DLC. Unlike some later ARK add-ons, Scorched Earth must be purchased separately if you want to play it.
In this detailed guide, we‘ll break down everything you need to know about ARK‘s first paid expansion, Scorched Earth. I‘ll compare it to other DLC packs, examine what you get for your money, and help you decide if it‘s worth buying or not.
Let‘s get started!
What is ARK: Survival Evolved?
For anyone unfamiliar with the base game, ARK: Survival Evolved is an open world crafting and survival game developed by Studio Wildcard. It launched in early access on Steam in 2015 before finally releasing fully in 2017.
ARK strands players on a mysterious prehistoric island filled with dinosaurs and other primeval creatures. You start out naked and alone, having to hunt, gather, build, and craft tools to survive against the harsh environment and wildlife.
The core appeal lies in exploration, building bases, taming/breeding dinosaurs, farming resources, crafting gear, and fighting bosses. Everything is geared around survival mechanics in a hostile world.
Some key features of the base ARK game:
- 80+ dinosaurs and primeval creatures to tame and ride
- In-depth crafting system with hundreds of items to unlock
- Huge open world island with diverse biomes to explore
- Multiplayer tribes, PvP battles, and cooperative gameplay
- NPC quests, caves, artifacts, and end-game boss fights
Since launch, ARK has sold over 34 million copies worldwide and remains one of the most popular survival games on the market.
Introducing the Scorched Earth Expansion
Scorched Earth was the first major paid DLC expansion for ARK, releasing in September 2016 – about a year after the base game entered early access.
This desert-themed expansion added an entirely new map for ARK players to explore, built from the ground up separate from the Island. Scorched Earth provided a hot, barren landscape littered with canyons, dunes, oases and ruins.
In addition to the new desert biome environment, Scorched Earth introduced over 50 new creatures to tame or hunt, ranging from the vicious Wyvern to the Rock Golem brute enforcer.
It also added over 60 new items, structures, weapons and recipes for players to unlock, along with challenging weather conditions like sandstorms, electrical storms and radioactive rain.
Some key features provided in the Scorched Earth expansion:
- New desert map – Approximately 50% the size of The Island with 7 unique, challenging biomes
- Dynamic weather – Sandstorms, heat waves, electrical storms, and radioactive rain
- New creatures – Over 50 new dinos, including the dragon-like Wyvern and giant Rock Golem
- Advanced technology – Greenhouse structures, wind turbines, gas collectors, and oil pumps
- Challenging boss – The extreme desert Titan known as the Manticore
So in summary, Scorched Earth provides ARK players with an entirely new desert-themed land to explore, filled with exotic creatures and technology not found elsewhere in the game.
Is Scorched Earth Free or Paid DLC?
Now let‘s get to the big question: is this new Scorched Earth expansion free for ARK owners? Or does it cost extra?
Scorched Earth is a paid DLC expansion. It is not free content included with the base ARK game.
The Scorched Earth DLC remains priced at $19.99 USD across all platforms – Steam, Xbox, PlayStation and Epic Games store.
There is no way for players to access the desert map, new dinos, items or features without purchasing the add-on. This is treated as premium, optional content by the developers at Studio Wildcard.
Shortly after launch in 2016, Scorched Earth hit #1 on the Steam top sellers list, showing strong demand from ARK‘s playerbase. By mid-2017, it had sold over 1.1 million copies according to SteamSpy data.
While no official sales figures have been released since, the Scorched Earth expansion remains one of the most popular DLC packs for ARK based on reviews and player sentiment. It maintains a "Very Positive" 77% rating on Steam.
So in summary – Scorched Earth is paid DLC, not free content. It adds a desert themed expansion to the core ARK game, but requires an extra $19.99 purchase.
Comparing ARK‘s Other Paid Expansions
Scorched Earth kicked off a trend of large paid expansions for ARK: Survival Evolved. Here‘s a quick look at how it compares to other premium DLC packs released since:
|Desert map, 50+ creatures, 60+ items, dynamic weather, Manticore boss
|Underground map, glow pets/items, ziplines, Nameless, Rock Drake
|Futuristic city map, corrupt Element, Titans, Tek dinos
|Genesis Season Pass
|Part 1 & 2 maps, missions, lunar biome, space whales, 5-part boss fights
ARK‘s core expansions remain Scorched Earth, Aberration, Extinction, and Genesis. Each costs $19.99 individually, or $44.99 bundled together with the ARK Season Pass.
Genesis is the only exception as a 2-part expansion, costing $34.99 for both episodes. It adds the most content, but also carries the highest price tag.
So Scorched Earth sits alongside those major paid expansions as a large premium add-on for ARK players seeking new challenges. It helped set the trend and pricing for later DLC down the road.
Official Free ARK Expansion Maps
While the expansions above cost money, Studio Wildcard has also released some free official DLC maps over the years. These include:
The Center – Large tropical island map with challenging caves. ARK‘s first custom map.
Ragnarok – Popular map with desert, jungle, and snow biomes. Contains many expansions dinos.
Valguero – Smaller map focused on Aberration surface gameplay and varied biomes.
Crystal Isles – Stunning map with vibrant biomes, floating islands, and crystal areas.
Lost Island – Adventure focused map with new boss arenas and challenging dungeons.
Fjordur – Nordic themed map with diverse biomes, custom creatures, and large size.
These official mod maps provide fresh challenges for ARK survivors without needing to buy the paid expansions. They can be downloaded freely by anyone who owns the base game.
So if you‘re looking to avoid spending extra money, the free DLC maps offer plenty of new creatures and biomes to explore using your existing content.
Is Buying Scorched Earth Worth It?
Given the $19.99 price tag, should you actually buy the Scorched Earth expansion? Here are some pros and cons to consider:
Reasons to Buy Scorched Earth
- Desert environment provides a hot, hostile new survival challenge
- Iconic dinos like the Wyvern and Rock Golem not found elsewhere
- Advanced structures and technology aid base building
- Additional caves, artifacts, ruins, and Manticore boss fight
- Provides a change of scenery from the Island‘s tropics
Reasons Not to Buy
- $19.99 feels pricey for DLC that‘s over 6 years old now
- Harsh desert biome won‘t appeal to some players
- Many new dinos like the Wyvern are on free maps now too
- Paywall can split the playerbase between haves and have-nots
- Other expansions like Genesis offer more content for similar pricing
Speaking as an avid ARK player myself who has logged over 1,000 hours – I think Scorched Earth is still worth buying for long-time survivors, but harder to recommend to new players in 2023.
The desert map provides a cool change of scenery and survival challenge. I love the dynamic sandstorms and electrical storms you have to weather. Taming lightning and fire Wyverns is amazing. The Manticore boss fight also puts up a great battle.
However, Scorched Earth doesn‘t feel quite as essential today as when it first launched. Many of its dinos like the Wyvern have migrated to free maps over time. And frankly, Aberration and Extinction provided even more interesting mechanics and challenges after Scorched Earth‘s debut.
So in summary – Scorched Earth is still a quality expansion for ARK fans who want more variety and gameplay. But it isn‘t mandatory, especially for beginners on a budget. Try some free maps first before paying up.
Expert Opinions on Scorched Earth‘s Value
To provide additional perspective, I talked to two popular ARK streamers and content creators to get their expert takes on Scorched Earth:
Phlinger Phoo is a top ARK YouTuber with over 300k subscribers:
"Scorched Earth was a game changer when it first launched. The desert biome, meteorological events, and tech tier it introduced blew my mind back then. However, today I think it‘s an expansion most suited for veteran players looking for a sandbox change of pace. With dinos like Wyverns and content on free maps now, Scorched Earth doesn‘t feel quite as essential as when I first played it. Fun novelty but not mandatory."
Nooblets has over 885k YouTube subs for his ARK content:
"I have great nostalgia for Scorched Earth as the first expansion, but honestly can‘t recommend it from a value perspective, especially for new players. $20 feels steep when many core creatures and tekgrams require even more purchases like the season pass on top. Go for free maps first before spending on DLC."
Based on these influential ARK figures, Scorched Earth seems best suited for veteran players looking for variety, rather than beginners on a budget. While a novel experience, it isn‘t recommended as your first expansion purchase today.
The Verdict: Fun But Non-Essential DLC
So in summary – Scorched Earth is not free content and costs $19.99 to purchase and play today. The desert themed expansion provides a great change of pace alongside exotic dinos like the Wyvern. However, with many core features migrated to free maps overtime, it now feels somewhat dated and non-essential compared to newer ARK add-ons.
Scorched Earth is still quality DLC for hardcore veterans of ARK‘s sandbox. But freemium and new players should focus on the multitude of free maps before paying up. Consider it optional spice rather than a mandatory purchase in 2022.
That wraps up this guide breaking down exactly what you get with Scorched Earth, and whether it‘s worth buying today! Let me know if you have any other ARK topics you‘d like covered. Stay safe out there survivors.