Category: Adventure, First Person, Action, Multiplayer, Role-Playing
Release Date: December 10, 2018 (EU & NA)
You awake on a desert island with nothing but a loincloth to your name and a strange diamond-like object on the underside of your arm. You must scavenge whatever materials you can find to make primitive tools and build yourself a shelter. It’s doesn’t stop there, dinosaurs and long since extinct animals roam the land you have found yourself on including aggressive, carnivorous T-Rex, Raptors and even Sabretooth Tigers. Welcome to our ARK: Survival Evolved review for Nintendo Switch.
Created by Studio Wildcard, ARK: Survival Evolvedwas one of those “What If?” kind of games. Like “What if you woke up on a desert island roamed by dinosaurs whilst strange obelisks float in the skies above?” and “What if we made it a survival/crafting/first person/third person/action shooter?” ARK: Survival Evolved is a combination of all these things and it certainly had my interest from the get-go.
Ark: Survival Evolved began development back in October 2014 and was a collaborative effort between Studio Wildcard, Instinct Games, Efecto Studios and Virtual Basement. During the middle of 2015, It became available as an Early Access title on STEAM. It went on to have a wide release in 2017 on PS4, XBox One, Microsoft Windows, Linux and OS X. It later released on iOS and Android earlier this year and has now made its way onto Switch.
Aside from the game, a mobile app known as the Dododex was also made to be a companion app for ARK: Survival Evolved. It contained information and images of all items, resources and animals you can find and encounter in the game. It was also featured on the British video game panel show Dara O’ Briain’s Go 8-Bitas one of the guests’ requested game. It was since watching that episode which, aired on the TV channel DAVE in March 2018, I have been wanting to experience the game for myself.
Now, it’s time for the scary part which does include a bit of bashing on the performance and rendering. ARK: Survival Evolved sounds pretty incredible on paper but its execution onto the screen is not exactly the perfect “happy ever after” fairytale. the game is famed for having performance issues on consoles like Xbox One and even PS4. Some say it is due to the high demand that the game needs to render the world around the player. To be fair, there is a lot of different models from bushes to trees, Dodos to Brontosauruses. These all require constant CPU memory to render and the more assets that appear on screen, the more performance issues players will experience.
The first thing to diminish rapidly are the visuals. In an attempt to maintain frame-rate, the visual properties of everything around begin to lose textures and appear blurry. When too many assets are rendered, frame-rate begins to drop as well and you can become disorientated as the world around you becomes a slow blurry mess. Eventually, everything will return to normal, but if you were in the middle of an intense fight with a dilophosaur or bigger, then chances are you have just been killed, hence why everything has returned to normal and you are now no longer wearing any clothes again. Talk about that recurring dream of stark naked and no idea where to run to.
The music is nicely done, as well as the sound effects. Lighting up fires and hearing the cackle of the flames gives you a sense of accomplishment. The sound of the animals groaning and roaring in the background makes the atmosphere tense as you don’t know whether it’s an aggressive T-Rex or a docile diplodocus until you see it with your own eyes. The real tension breaker of course, is when you are stuck in the dark and you can’t see where you are going. You are cold and hope that you are alone and all of a sudden, you hear a “pfff” sound where your character has defecated. I don’t know why it humors me but it does break the tension up until a nearby dinosaur just so happens to hear the sound and comes in to investigate.
Gameplay can be quite tough until you get a handle on how things work. The only tutorial per se, is found on the main menu and is only given in brief on what you are supposed to do. Ideally, you are to harvest as much as you can so you can find warmth, and stave off hunger and thirst for as long as you can. You earn experience relatively easily by just walking around and foraging whatever you can get your grubby little hands on. You don’t have tools to start off with, so you have to punch the trees in order to get enough wood, so you can make your own pick-axe and hatchet to make getting resources easier.
As you gain experience and level up, you will be able to choose which attribute to level up. You can choose to expand your health, weight capacity, hunger meter, hydration or stamina amongst other attributes. You will then earn points on which you can purchase Engrams. Engrams are like blueprints that will allow you to craft better items as long as you have enough resources to do so. You need to unlock as many engrams as you can so that you can craft better weapons or structures so you can protect yourself easier.
The better engrams that you unlock will also require much better resources in order to craft them. You will also have to create a Smithy bench or Fabricator to make even more advanced weapons, outfits and other objects like assault rifles or wet-suits so you can breathe underwater. ARK: Survival Evolved is a grind and creating your perfect fortress will take a long time, unless you know how to access Admin Command that will allow you to spawn items with relative ease. However, you do have to put in the code manually in the admin command panel in order to spawn items.
Another big part of gameplay is exploration and there is plenty to explore. From mountain summits to the ocean floor, you can find all kinds of creatures and items to scavenge. If you play online, you may even bump into other players but be warned. Some may be happy to help you out and have you join them, others may just kill you and rob your carcass. Hunting large “Boss” animals is the real aim of the game. Building tribes with other players allows you to work together to take on Big Bosses and reap the rewards together or to build a really cool settlement for you all to call home.
With so many animals around, you can either kill them for food or even try and tame them so that they will follow your orders and in most cases, even let you ride them. My favourite thing to do of all is to tame a Brontosaurus and then mount a platform harness on them. It allows you to build small structures on top of them which, is pretty awesome though animal welfare may not agree with me.
Being a PC game first, ARK does have a lot of controls and menus to navigate and work your way around. It can be a lot to take in to begin with and any slight angle on the Joystick can throw the highlighted cursor out from what you were trying to access. One such example is when creating your avatar. You have so many options to alter your character and as you try to move the sliders left or right, the sensitivity of the joysticks can push the cursor up or down onto a different parameter. It seems menial but when there are literally a hundred different parameters that you can alter it can get quite tedious when your cursor decides to go for a “walk”.
The controls are a little confusing at first. A is to jump, B is to access inventory and other menus. X is used to interact with items and holding the button on certain objects can bring up other options. The Trigger buttons will allow you to use weapons that you have equipped. You can also add weapons, structures and items to the hotkey bar. The D-pad allows you to access items on the Hotkey bar. Holding down L allows you to use the other part of the Hotkey bar.
ARK: Survival Evolved has so much potential but it its graphical and performance issues really do bring the quality of the game down. It gets even worse in handheld mode to the point it can become unenjoyable to play. The limited draw distance compared to other console versions doesn’t both me too much but the failure to render textures or item icons completely, is pretty poor. This is not a case that it is only in the Switch version that has these issues, they are very prominent in other versions of the game as well.
Even now, these issues have yet to be resolved and they really should have been. Studio Wildcard have pumped out DLC to expand on the game but have yet to actually address the problems the game has. The Switch version has yet to have the DLC included with the game and is very expensive for what you get. The port was a success as regards to getting it running on the Switch and its limited capabilities but to what cost? I don’t believe that it is utter garbage like many other people believe it to be but it is too flawed to be recommended to those looking to buy the game.
My time with ARK: Survival Evolved was not a complete waste of time. I enjoyed my experience with the game and could easily lose myself for many more hours hunting and taming dinosaurs and constructing my own personal mansion. Unfortunately, because of the issues that I myself can put aside and still allow myself to enjoy the game, I can’t recommend that ARK is worth picking up, not at $49.99 with so many bugs that it should be fumigated. You can also purchase the game much cheaper on other consoles and even more so on PC. Never have I been so divided when playing a game before but if you are on the fence about getting ARK, you will most likely regret buying it if you did if you only wanted it for amazing graphics and super smooth frame rate.
THE VERDICT: 7/10
*Review Key Provided by Studio Wildcard
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