The Nintendo Switch has become a renowned breeding ground for both a mass of quirky indie titles and ports of AAA titles you’d never have dreamed of playing on a handheld. Joining this ever-expanding catalogue of such games is Ark: Survival Evolved, a prehistoric sandbox survival title from Studio Wildcard.
To recap, Ark sees the player stranded on an enormous island inhabited by monsterous dinos and other prehistoric wonders. As its name depicts, survival is the very essence of the game. In your travels you’ll contend with the pronged jaws of countless ferocious dinos and battle to endure harsh dynamic weather elements and other hazards that skulk throughout the far reaches of the map. Furthermore, should you embark upon an MMO journey in one of Ark’s online servers, there’ll be plenty of steadfast survivors to be wary of too.
In the grand scheme of things, Ark has a lot to offer. It’s myriad of creatures to befriend and utilise will keep you on your toes and its levelling and crafting mechanics are both wonderfully rewarding and practical. The speed at which you level equates to the amount of work you put in, provided you don’t tamper with any default settings of course. The more you let loose your fierce and formidable inner survivor, the faster you’ll find yourself ploughing through levels. This aspect of Ark truly serves as its drive and equally executes the strong sense of replayability that reflects the game’s sandbox nature.
Although Ark: Survival Evolved is now available on all platforms, it’s hard to deny which platform it feels most at home on. The game’s jump to console really brought to light underlying issues with performance and the general difficulties of transitioning the controls. The inability to recreate the cursor mechanic via a controller makes navigating inventories tedious and well… a real chore. Moreover, whilst exploring the vast, menacing maps available across both PS4 and Xbox One, it becomes abundantly clear through an array of instabilities that consoles simply doesn’t have the ability to provide a smooth Ark experience.
PC may play host to the most optimal version of the game, but Switch at least does a commendable job of ruling out the control related issues. The novelty of the touch screen allows you to click and drag items in your inventory, stepping in for the incessant mashing of the D-pad required when playing on PS4 or Xbox One. A small and insignificant blip in a herd of issues you may argue, but you’ll soon learn to appreciate this nifty feature when removing stacks of resources from your trusty Rex after a prolonged venture out into the wilderness. Ark is a colossal time sink and well mapped button layout further accentuates the port’s proficient adaptation of its controls, ensuring maximum comfort as you lose yourself in dino-shenanigans of all kinds.
Sadly, it pains me to admit that it’s as far as the positives go with this Switch port. All of the same general instability from the other consoles remains, and it’s made even worse when undocked. The visual potential of Ark’s gorgeous, versatile environments remain utterly untapped, and what you’re getting on Switch is an ugly, stripped back substitute.
The world of Ark is unruly and unforgiving and in turn, definitely one best explored while being able to actually see any looming threats and without the daunting fear of randomly freezing at any point. Other general glitches and bugs that crop up as you play directly compromise your experience, making for bumpy and unpredictable gameplay – not ideal for a survival title.
Even as an Ark aficionado, it’s difficult not to slump in disappointment as you play the Switch rendition of what can be a fantastic title. The touch screen may allow for better control functionality as far as the other consoles go, but it doesn’t make up for the ugly visuals and general instability. Ark: Survival Evolved is and will remain one of those titles that shines brightest on PC and only there can it gain the appreciation it truly deserves.
Version Tested: Switch – also available for PC, Xbox One and PS4