Review – Ark: Survival Evolved (Switch)
Ark: Survival Evolved is a survival PvPvE game that draws inspiration from games such as Rust whilst giving it’s own unique spin on the genre. I’ve played Ark before and enjoyed the unique and interesting Sci-Fi world. However after just a few hours of the Switch version, I’ve encountered a host of technical issues and am deeply underwhelmed.
I was initially impressed to see how Ark ran on the Switch. Other platforms have their own issues trying to run this game, but the Switch takes it to a new level. Right from the start, things were worrying. I first loaded into a single player save to see how it runs. After the brutally long loading times I was greeted by some of the worst visuals I’ve seen in this console generation.
Playing in handheld, textures looked flat, trees in the distance were only partially rendered, and it was all incredibly blurry. It was a mess that was painful to look at. When docked, things looked better but not by much. After playing for a few minutes, it only got worse with a ton of pop-ins even at very close distances and constant framerate drops that made the entire game unpleasant to play. No matter what mode that you play the game on the technical issues are always present, but I highly recommend playing it in docked exclusively as it becomes somewhat playable.
So how about the gameplay? Well Ark: Survival Evolved is your run of the mill survival game. You spawn on a beach nude and have to collect resources, eat food, and drink water to survive. This is the core gameplay loop that will take up the vast majority of the early game. The world of Ark is filled with dinosaurs which at an early level can absolutely destroy you with ease, but as you progress you will be able to take on and even tame many of them. In multiplayer, the world will also be populated with up to 70 other players. Unless you plan on spending a lot of time with the game, starting your own save is preferable because when you leave a server your character, items, and structures will stay behind in that server at the mercy of other players. This way you can play at your own pace without having to worry about connectivity or other players.
The default difficulty is brutal and surviving the opening missions can be a challenge. Often your survival meters will drain incredibly fast and it just feels cheap. Thankfully when playing solo or hosting a game, you have tons of options where you can significantly tweak almost every difficulty setting from survival meters to resource gains and the amount of damage you deal. It just gives you a lot of room to breathe and makes the gameplay experience much more enjoyable.
You will need to spend a lot of time in the menus to craft new weapons, cook food, and level up. The progression is surprisingly solid. As you perform actions, you gain experience and this can be used to improve one of twelve skills as well as learn new crafting recipes. When you start you will only have access to primitive tools and weapons such as pick axes and bows. As you progress through the world and level up, you will slowly gain access to much more advanced weapons such as assault rifles and snipers. Though the menus are slow and clunky, it’s clear that there was no streamlining done to make navigation easier on the Switch. It can be a bit of a chore to navigate.
There is no defined goal, quests, or NPCs to interact with; the ultimate goal is up to you. Do you want to build up your home base, tame dinosaurs, or progress through the games story by taking on world bosses? That’s completely up to you. It’s a good thing that the starting island has so much to see because the Switch version doesn’t come packaged with any of the DLC released on other systems.
Ark: Survival Evolved is a good game, but it just doesn’t suit the Switch platform at all and it’s hard to recommend to anyone. I might be able to recommend it if the visuals and performance gets improved, but right now it’s a no go.
Whilst handheld mode looks so bad it crosses to the point of being unplayable, the docked mode just looks really bad.
A run of the mill survival game that can stand out from the crowd with some unique elements.
At least the sound design is pretty good.
Fun Factor: 4.0
It’s a shame Ark has so many technical issues because there’s some serious potential here.
Final Verdict: 4.0
Ark: Survival Evolved is available now on PC, PS4, Xbox One and Switch.
Reviewed on Switch.
A copy of Ark: Survival Evolved was provided by the publisher.