In 2018, the Switch received one of the worst and most unplayable ports in console history, a remarkable accolade considering the number of gritty games on the platform. You might be familiar with it, as it’s called quite a popular first-person open-world survival simulator Ark: Survival Evolved. Now, four years after its first release, Ark has a new Switch port that uses a newer version of Unreal and it’s arguably one of the most impressive upgrades to a Switch game I’ve ever seen.
There have been some wonder ports on the Switch. Games like The witcher 3 and Doom 2016 not only looks beautiful on the aging portable hybrid console, but also plays well. That’s not easy to do, mind you. The Switch is old and not very powerful, so running modern, big, fancy 3D games on it is a challenge. I mean, even Nintendo published games like the new one Pokémon struggle with it. So it’s not surprising that for every wonder port there are a dozen meh ports of major games. But then there are the really terrible gates, the ones that make you wonder why they were made in the first place. And perhaps the worst of the worst is that of 2018 Ark: Survival Evolved.
Ark on Switch in 2018 wasn’t just bad, it was really, really awful. Many web sites and critics have mentioned it one of, if not the worst ports released for Switch. It had incredibly low resolution and a horribly poor frame rate, with lots of stuttering and stuttering.
Even when it ran well, it looked like shit, with lots of blurry objects and fuzzy shapes floating around. Some of these were apparently meant to be dinosaurs or trees. It was hard to say. This one Digital foundry video from 2018 is a great look at the harbor and how badly it played. Fast forward a few years later and now this month there’s a brand new version of the hit survival game on Switch. And folks, it’s kind of impressive how much better things are.
Eurogamer and Digital foundry took a look at this new port and talked to the developers behind it. Apparently, the entire game was rebuilt from the ground up in Unreal 4. According to the developers, there is actually nothing left of the original game. Instead, this port is based on a newer Xbox build of the game. New port developer Grove Street Games (yes, the same people behind the hated, crazy GTA trilogy remasters from last year…) also uses dynamic resolution scaling to make things look sharper and work better on the Switch.
The new port of Ark has nicer shadows and less pop-in thanks to new tools available in UE4. In fact, the notoriously long load times have been reduced to just about 30 seconds. That’s still a lot, but keep in mind that in the original port it can take almost three minutes. So yeah, big improvements all around.
To be clear, this is still a rough way to play Ark: Survival Evolved compared to more capable platforms. Of course, playing the game on newer, more powerful consoles or a powerful PC will provide a much better experience. But for people who prefer mobile gaming or who only own a Switch, it’s nice to see a publisher go back and spend the money and time fully fixing and replacing a bad port with something much better. You don’t see this very often and even if the new port still has its own issues, the new version is a day-by-day improvement that should be applauded.
Ark: Survival Evolved – Ultimate Survivor Edition is now available on Switch and is available for free to previous owners of the old port. Could be The outside worlds can get a better port next?