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ARK: Ultimate Survivor Edition review for Nintendo Switch


Platform: Switch
Publisher: Snail Games USA
Developer: Grove Street Games/Studio Wildcard
Medium: Digital/Cartridge
Players: 1-64
Online: Yes
ESRB: T

ARK: Ultimate Survivor Edition is playable on the Switch.

That may not seem like much, but when you consider the state in which ARK: Survival Evolved arrived on the Switch back in 2018, that’s actually a huge accomplishment. The original version of this game was essentially unplayable. It looked terrible, it was completely unbalanced, it had absurdly long load times, and it looked really, really terrible – and I’m repeating that last point twice for emphasis, since I still don’t think I’ve seen anything that matches the original port in terms of being hideously ugly. That Grove Street Games were able to take that garbage and turn it into a port that works is pretty incredible.

(Side note: Grove Street Games also worked on last year’s absurdly bad GTA trilogy port, so this makes ARK: Ultimate Survivor Edition doubly redemptive – not only does it show that the game isn’t half bad, it also shows that the developers aren’t anywhere near as bad as their previous work might have led you to believe.)

What’s more, they’ve turned ARK: Ultimate Survivor Edition into a game that’s actually fairly nice-looking. While there are definitely games that look better, it’s clearly moved to a point where it’s no longer the clear winner for ugliest game on the Switch.

Likewise, the load times are no longer unbearable. When you die – and you will die, quite frequently – you no longer have to sit around and wait forever for the game to respawn you. Again, it’s not a seamless process, but it’s no longer at a point where the game is barely functional,

And now that ARK: Ultimate Survivor Edition works, I can say this: I’m terrible at it. My characters die constantly, and not just from dinosaur attacks. They drown, they freeze, they accidentally kill themselves from punching trees and rocks. If there’s a way to die in this game, odds are good that fate has befallen one of my creations.

But that’s the point of the game. It has “Survival” (or, in the newer version’s case, “Survivor”) right there in the title. This is a game about learning how to survive in the most absurdly hostile environment imaginable, and now that it actually works, it’s able to deliver on that promise.

Mind you, that means that there’s another complaint to be leveled against ARK: Ultimate Survivor Edition: that it’s almost impenetrably difficult. To say it doesn’t hold your hand would be an understatement. Rather, it only gives you the barest outline of what you can do, and expects you to figure out the rest. There are a few pages of text that give you a rough idea of what you need to do, but if you want anything more than that, you need to puzzle it out yourself. As someone who’s not great at survival games at the best of times, this made ARK seem punitive – rather than simply punishing – in its difficulty.

But honestly, that’s a “me” problem, not a problem with the game. And seeing as a few years ago, ARK wasn’t even functional on the Switch, the fact that they’ve gotten it to a point where it’s possible to separate out personal issues with the game from broader issues that everyone will have is pretty impressive. ARK: Ultimate Survivor Edition still isn’t a game for everyone, but at least now it can be said it’s a game that some people might enjoy.

Snail Games USA provided us with an ARK: Ultimate Survivor Edition Nintendo Switch code for review purposes.

Grade: B

ARK: Survival Evolved BL NSW (Video Game)

Manufacturer:  Nintendo
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