When ARK: Survival Evolved was first released for the Nintendo Switch in 2018, the quality was disappointing, to say the least. Earlier this month, Studio Wildcard released the Switch version of ARK: Ultimate Survivor Edition, which bundles three expansion packs: Scorched Earth, Aberration, Extinction, and Genesis parts 1 and 2, as well as an updated version of ARK: Survival Evolved. Including a patch for players who already had the game, this version was created using Unreal Engine, and according to reviews, it is a drastic improvement.
The team at the YouTube channel, Digital Foundry, described the 2018 version of the game as “one of the worst ports [they have] ever tested, plagued with image quality issues and low performance.” The newer version of the game was sent their way to review again though, and they had a lot to say about it.
Brand-new port in order to improve the game’s performance. The new developer is Grove Street Games, a team perhaps working to redeem themselves after their work on the “not-so-well-received” Grand Theft Auto trilogy. It looks like they got their redemption because the 2022 ARK: Survival Evolved Switch port is much cleaner. Grove Street Games actually started from a new base for this updated version and used nothing from the prior Switch release. As we mentioned earlier, this version was also built using a recent version of Unreal Engine, so it already has that advantage.
The image quality was greatly improved by using Unreal Engine’s TAAU system. The Temporal Anti-Aliasing Upsample (TAAU) shader is responsible for the sharper image quality by performing temporal integration and then doing a primary spatial upscale at the same time.
Besides the image quality, the textures were also improved. Because ARK involves truly massive maps, things like loading times and texture can be hard to handle, especially on Switch. In this new version, the team used Unreal Runtime Virtual Texturing, which is great for huge open landscapes, as well as Adaptable Scalable Texture Compression, decreasing texture size by about 2/3rds. Using these two together spells smaller loading times, creating a significantly faster performance. Stutters were also decreased by fixing these texture qualities.
In the old version, the environments just looked so terrible because the Level of Detail was equally poor up close as well as far away. The trees would be these blurry messes even while players were right in front of them. Now the details are far clearer and like a real video game. With more shadows to create distance and even improved user interfaces, this open-world game is much better in this 2022 release. That sounds like a success story!