Ark: Survival Evolved has never run well. On PC, the Unreal Engine 4 survival game suffers from huge performance issues. It’s the same on Xbox One, PS4, PS4 Pro, and Xbox One X. If the One X, the “world’s most powerful console” can’t handle the game, who in God’s name decided to port it to the Nintendo Switch?

Whoever did obviously made a bad decision, but Ark’s Switch port feels like a remarkable achievement. On base Xbox One, Ark runs below a native HD image – under 720p. With a low, blurry, aliased image, Xbox One still manages to bring in sub-par performance.

No matter whether you’re playing in docked mode or portable mode on Nintendo Switch, Ark: Survival Evolved runs about as well as the Xbox One version. It’s dark magic, horrible magic, but with every bout of dark magic, there is always a cost. In this case, it comes at the cost of visuals.

At first glance, Ark: Survival Evolved looks rough – really rough. Level of detail settings are practically non-existent with foliage only popping into a conceivable form of “plant” when you shove your virtual face right into it. In Ark on Switch, everything looks more like an unfinished Bob Ross painting than a 3D video game.

Without the HUD, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was a discarded watercolor painting.

It wasn’t until Digital Foundry’s analysis of Ark’s Switch port yesterday that we discovered just how low resolution the game really is. During play, Ark is blurry – it constantly looks like it’s shifting in and out of existence due to aggressive artifacts. But why is this?

Ark has an adaptive resolution on Switch, but it is always low. The highest resolution that the Eurogamer team counted came in at 432p in docked mode, not the worst on Switch, but the lowest pixel count was just 304×170. Not in handheld mode, in docked mode.

“Jump over the handheld mode and the problem is exacerbated with even lower pixel counts,” said Digital Foundry writer and personality John Linneman. “Everything is pared back to the point where it’s barely recognizable.

Ark doesn’t run well. Ark looks horrible. If you want to play Ark portably, pick up the mobile version. If you want to play Ark on a console, play on Xbox One X – although that won’t be smooth either. If you really want to play Ark at the best it can be though, PC is the way to go. Just know, that no matter which version you play, it’ll always be rough.

Sources: Digital Foundry, Ark: Survival Evolved (Switch Port)

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