Back in 2018, the Switch received one of its worst and most unplayable ports in the console’s history, a remarkable distinction considering how many rough games there are on the platform. You might know it because it’s a pretty popular first-person open-world survival simulator called Ark: Survival Evolved. Now four years after its initial release, coffin there’s a new Switch port using a newer version of Unreal, and it might be one of the most impressive upgrades to a Switch game I’ve seen.
There have been some miraculous Switch ports. Games like The Witcher 3 and Word 2016 not only do they look good on the outdated portable hybrid console, they play well too. This is not easy to do, mind you. The Switch is old and not very powerful, so running modern, big, fantastic looking 3D games on it is a challenge. I mean, even Nintendo published games like the new ones Pokemon fight on it. So it’s no surprise that for every wonder port there are a dozen bleh ports of big games. But there are also the truly terrible ports, the ones that make you wonder why they were ever made. And perhaps the worst of the worst is 2018 Ark: Survival Evolved.
coffin on the Switch in 2018 wasn’t just bad, it was really, really terrible. Many websites and critics called it one of, if not the worst port released for the Switch. It features an incredibly low resolution and a terribly poor frame rate, with tons of stuttering and stuttering.
Even when it was going well, it looked like shit, with lots of blurry objects and fuzzy shapes floating around. Some of them were obviously meant to be dinosaurs or trees. It was hard to say. This Digital foundry video from 2018 is a great look at the port and how badly it plays. Fast forward a few years later and this month a brand new version of the popular survival game is coming to the Switch. And folks, it’s impressive how much better things are.
Eurogamer and Digital foundry I took a look at this new port and spoke with the developers behind it. Apparently, the entire game was rebuilt from scratch in Unreal 4. In fact, according to the developers, nothing remains 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 hated, wavering GTA Trilogy remasters from last year…) also uses dynamic resolution scaling to help things look sharper and run better on Switch.
The new port of coffin features better looking shadows and less pop thanks to the new tools available in UE4. Even better, infamously long loading times have been cut down to just around 30 seconds. That’s still a lot, but consider that in the original port it could take up to nearly 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 powerful 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 portable gaming or who only have a Switch, it’s nice to see a publisher go back and spend the money and time to completely fix and replace a bad port with something much better. It’s not something you see very often, and even if the new port still has its issues, the new version is a night-and-day improvement that should be applauded.