The Switch has been a great success, even if it’s a bit underpowered. Having full games like Doom, Wolfenstein 2,and Super Smash Bros Ultimate on the go is a tantalizing prospect, and you can see why some publishers would find the prospect enticing. However, not every game can run on the Switch without issue. Thanks to the tireless work of Digital Foundry, we can firmly place Ark Survival Evolved in that company.
Words barely do justice to John Linneman’s findings when looking at Studio Wildcard’s dinosaur survival game. At the best of times, the game runs at 360p, a resolution comparable to PlayStation 2 games. The frame rate ranges from 20 to 30 frames per second, which is comparable to the game’s other console ports but well below the PC standard. Shadows produce a garbled mess of black blotches across the landscape and shift constantly as you move from place to place. It’s a certified mess.
This is all looking at the docked version of the game streaming out to a TV. Ark Survival Evolved somehow gets worse when you take the Switch portable, although that effect dampens somewhat due to the small screen on the handheld. Still, it’s easy to see pixel edges and other artifacts on the blurred image produced by the game. Linneman compares this to the iPhone version of Ark, which has less technical features turned on but produces a much more recognizable experience.
In the final segment of the analysis, John pulls up Contra 3 on Sega Genesis and almost makes it through the entire first stage while the game makes its initial load. That’s a load time that’s coming up on three minutes, and it occurred no matter what configuration he threw at the problem. Ark Survival Evolved is running a full $50 price tag on Nintendo Switch and may be worth that price to the morbidly curious. You’re certainly getting a completely different experience than you are on any other platform.