Title: ARK: Survival Evolved
Developer: Studio Wildcard
Publisher: Snail Games USA
Genre: Adventure, First-Person, Action, Multiplayer, Role-Playing
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Audience: Teen – Blood, Crude Humour, Use of Alcohol, Violence
Release Date: 30/11/2018
Price: £44.99– Rapid Reviews UK was very kindly provided with a review code for this game.
What the Developers say
Stranded on the shores of a mysterious island, you must learn to survive. Use your cunning to kill or tame the primeval creatures roaming the land, and encounter other players to survive, dominate… and escape!
TAME, TRAIN, BREED & RIDE DINOSAURS, IN A LIVING ECOSYSTEM
Over 80 creatures can be tamed using a challenging subdue-&-protect process. Weaken a feral creature to knock it out, and then nursing it to health. Once tamed, you can issue commands to your Pet, which it may follow depending on how well you’ve tamed and trained it. Pets continue to level-up and consume food, and carry Inventory and Equipment. Fly a Pteranodon over the mountains, race through the jungle with a pack of Raptors, or chase down prey on a T-Rex! Experience a dynamic ecosystem with its own predator & prey hierarchies. Breed Pets through successive generations to generate the best traits. Or put more simply, breed & raise Dino Babies!
FOOD, WATER, TEMPERATURE AND WEATHER
Eat and drink to survive, with different foods having different nutritional values (including human meat!). All actions drain food and water, and long-distance travel is draining. Inventory weight slows you down, and the day/night cycle and weather alter the environment. Craft clothing, build shelter, and use fire to protect yourself against damage & the elements.
HARVEST, CRAFT, AND PAINT ITEMS
Harvest trees, ore, and more to become a master crafter. Use your hands, a Smithy, or a Fabricator to craft increasingly complex and powerful gear. Build a massive base using modular pieces–ranging from Thatch, to Wood, to Stone, to Metal. Customize your base by painting it and placing signs that you can actually draw on. Weapons, clothing, & armor gear can also be painted to express your own visual style.
SUMMON THE ULTIMATE LIFE FORMS
Bring rare items to special Summon locations to awaken the ARK’s mythical creatures, who arrive ready for battle. These monstrosities provide an end-game goal for the most experienced Tribes and their Pets, and yield valuable items if they are defeated.
Level-Up your survivor by gaining experience through in-game actions to learn new crafting Engrams, or find higher level item Blueprints in the most dangerous parts of the ARK. Customize the look of your character with a complex character creation system.
Items have durability and wear out with use if not repaired. When you leave the game, your character remains “sleeping” in the persistent world. Your inventory also exists in the persistent world, vulnerable to theft. Death means permanent loss, and you can even enslave other players for your own purposes.
LARGE WORLD PERSISTENCE
On the 64 player servers, your character, everything you built, and your pets stay in-game even when you leave. Special themed events will occur in the world with corresponding limited-run items!
An hour into my time with ARK: Survival Evolved, I posted the following poll on Twitter:
The reasoning for this is simple: ARK does not look good – not very good at all. I was excited for its release once announced for the Nintendo Switch, and I was hoping Studio Wildcard would be developing a version of the game best suited to the switch’s capabilities. The early signs had been promising, and when the review code became available, I was first in line. Now, the poll, although limited to only 43 votes, indicates that two in every three participants are more accepting of poorer graphical quality on the Nintendo Switch. I too am willing to accept it: the perks of my beloved hybrid console mean it is something I am happy to overlook if all other elements are on point.
Confession time: I have registered over ten hours of playtime with Radiation Island, the mobile port by Atypical Games.
It seems pertinent that I share this information before divulging into what may be my biggest gaming disappointment of 2018. I am a firm believer of ‘ports’ on the Nintendo Switch, if only because I was able to experience Diablo III for the first time this year. When done correctly, it can revitalise a game, reach a wider audience or even enhance the gaming experience. When not so successful, it can represent empty promises and missed opportunities. ARK falls firmly into the latter, and not just because of its graphical inadequacies.
Looks and Sounds
Already alluded to in the opening gambit, the visuals in ARK: Survival Evolved are inferior. Couple this with the technical issues that plague the game from opening menu to crafting, combat and more, and we have a first-person adventure which has not been optimised for the Nintendo Switch. Acknowledging just how massive ARK: Survival Evolved is does go some way to understanding why these issues are apparent. However, I believe it is in no way a justification for them.
Known for its offerings with online multiplayer, I began my time with ARK by joining a server and getting stuck in. Unfortunately, this is where the technical difficulties were first presented. Navigating the menus felt cumbersome and slow, and it did not get any better when I finally joined a game. It regularly felt like the game was lagging behind my decisions, and I quickly decided that I would only be playing ARK locally to avoid this.
Loading a local single-player game was marginally better. I could move around freely and had a better grasp of what the game entailed. However, the look and feel of it was still disappointing. The textures popped in and out regularly, with some failing to load altogether, and the game was continually loading new elements to the sprawling landscape as I moved around.
Gameplay and Replayability
During rare occasions where the game caught up with itself, the real beauty of what the game could offer becomes apparent. The survival strategy elements are fantastic, and the physical demands of being on an island like this one are realised. The detailed, in-depth crafting system also makes for some excellent decision-making, and there has been a lot of thought that has gone into designing it. Gathering and harvesting resources have been made accessible and intuitive, and I was always on the lookout for what I could use next.
What I enjoyed most about the game was the harsh realities of survival. I was never more than a minute away from danger, and if a piranha wasn’t eating me, I was dehydrated and in desperate need of water.
It is most unfortunate then that any success I had with ARK: Survival Evolved was short-lived. I saw enough of ARK to know that it could have been my kind of game, yet it just has not been executed well. It is so poorly executed that it feels as if the Nintendo Switch version was an afterthought.
Because of the issues mentioned above, I find any replayability of ARK: Survival Evolved quite tricky. Released within the same four weeks as ‘AAA’ titles such as ‘Pokemon: Let’s Go’ and ‘Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’, as well as indie powerhouses ‘Monster Boy’ and ‘Horizon Chase Turbo’, it is safe to say that there is no place in the Nintendo eShop library for sub-par ports -especially those costing around £44.99.
On paper, ARK: Survival Evolved was one of my most anticipated games of 2018. It offers to combine survival, combat and crafting to provide an intense and challenging game, both thought-provoking and rewarding. In harsh reality, the game fails to meet expectations on the Nintendo Switch. In a somewhat rare occurrence for me, I would be looking to the PS4 and Xbox One versions of ARK in the hope they have not suffered the same plight. If a patch were to come along, that fixed the technical difficulties the game has an improved the graphics somewhat. I would be awarding this game 4 out of 5. However, in its current state, it is verging on unplayable and therefore the score will reflect this.
Rapid Reviews UK Rating
You can purchase ARK: Survival Evolved at the Nintendo eShop on the following link, https://www.nintendo.co.uk/Games/Nintendo-Switch/ARK-Survival-Evolved-1480530.html