Ark: Survival Evolved On Xbox One: Looks Awful, Runs Terribly, Still Fun

Ark: Survival Evolved On Xbox One: Looks Awful, Runs Terribly, Still Fun

A couple of days ago, technical experts confirmed that the Xbox One version of Ark: Survival Evolved runs like arse. The report came from Eurogamer's Digital Foundry columnists, who recorded a video of the early access (AKA unfinished) survival game and found the Xbox One version desperately wanting. You can watch that video here, but I'll summarise.

Lag: Constant.

Screen-tearing: Constant.

Resolution: sub-720p. (!!)

Frame-rate: Frequently dropping below 20fps.


As valuable as Digital Foundry can be in explicating the small but fascinating differences between, say, the PC and PS4 versions of a given big-budget game, few people really needed them to apply their high-tech magnifying glasses to this particular one. The shittiness of Ark's current Xbox One version is immediately apparent to the naked eye.

Ark is an open-ended survival game in which you explore a wild habitat filled with mysterious flora and fauna (by which I mean dinosaurs!). You hunt beasts; craft tools and buildings; seek out food and shelter; and eventually tame deadly creatures, ride them and keep them as pets. It's basically Minecraft + Rust + Pokémon + Jurassic Park, if that kinda thing sounds like it might float your boat.

My colleague Mike Fahey already did some playing on Xbox One a little while back, but I've been playing on PC, where it has plenty of technical issues even on my beefier rig. When I fired up the Xbox One version for the first time, I recoiled. Is that… is this really what this version looks like? Did I just see screen-tearing in the intro splash screens? Did the game just momentarily freeze? Are the textures loading in, or is this just… it? I laughed.

Then I played a little more. Gotta really see how it works, after all. I should probably see if I can craft a better fort, and gather some more fibre and berries. Hmm, I should probably go explore that jungle over there. I should probably clear out those trees, then hunt down some more food, then probably just keep playing for another hour or two. See if I can't level up. Whoa, check out that dinosaur! Maybe I can kill it. Say, I should craft some more stuff. See what's over there, or over there.

Which gets at the interesting thing about Ark: In its current unfinished, early access state, the game is an unoptimised mess. But it's a very fun, engrossing unoptimised mess. It's the kind of unoptimised mess that has a whole ton of people — more than 1 million downloads on Xbox One in less than a week — willing to overlook its flaws. The game's servers are usually packed.

It's easy to see why: This is a Minecraft-like crafting/survival game with seamless multiplayer, a sprawling map and dinosaurs that you can tame and ride. The promo art for this game is the most bodacious thing I've ever seen:

Ark: Survival Evolved On Xbox One: Looks Awful, Runs Terribly, Still Fun

Do you want to play that game? Hell yeah you do.

In their analysis video and accompanying write-up, the fellows at Digital Foundry repeatedly stress that Ark is still very fun and popular despite its current terrible lack of polish. There as well as on various subsequent blog and forum posts slagging the Xbox One version, the game's supporters are sure to remind everyone that Ark is still in early access, which it is.

Will Ark developer Studio Wildcard actually hit their planned June 2016 release date and put out a polished, finished product? Or will this game be yet another early access fad, destined to languish unfinished and eventually be replaced by another survival game that also won't ever get a proper release? If history is any guide, the latter is probably more likely than the former. I'm hoping it will make it, though.

I'm hoping that for the same reason that I and so many other people are playing Ark in the first place. As I found when I got sucked in by the Xbox One version, it turns out I'm more than down to play a game with laughably shitty optimisation, sub-Xbox 360 resolution, near-empty textures and gameplay-derailing freezing and lag. I'm down for all that, because even at its jankiest, Ark is already fun; it's already addictive and sprawling and weird and funny, and I'm already having a great time with it. It can only get better from here, and if "better" never quite means "as polished as a AAA game released by a major studio", well, I'll probably be OK with that.

Is the Xbox One version of Ark inferior to the PC version? Absolutely. Is the PC version still kind of messed up? Yep. Does the poor performance make the the game harder to play and enjoy? Yes. Are a whole ton of people playing the game on Xbox One and having fun anyway? They sure are.

I've written before about some of the ways that technical things like resolution and frame-rate matter. And while those things are indeed important, they aren't always the most important. As if to demonstrate that, here comes Ark, wandering into the building with its hilariously low resolution and rampant screen-tearing, stumbling along as its frame-rate plunges toward the single digits. "Who wants to party?" it asks, punching an Ankylosaurus in the face.


    Welcome to ARK. Possibly the most addictive game I've ever played. Seriously that shits like crack. Yet the framerate is abysmal even on pc, the resolutions could be a lot better, the textures need work and optimisation is something that needs drastic attention...

    Yet it's so goddamn fun still.

      its a clear cut case of gameplay beats graphics.. just like DDDA on PC Graphics suck big time being a 2012 ps3 game ported to PC, but the gameplay is bloody awesome

        Pretty much. I have no doubt Ark will improve with time, I mean seriously, the frame rate HAS improved drastically since launch (I used to get 15fps for example, now I get 30ish, sometimes even 40 depending on the area). And it's in alpha after all. So by the time it hits full release hopefully, hopefully they hit that sweet 50 -60 area.

        I give them full credit, I cant say bad words against them, they update very regularly, the content is amazing, it's always quality and they're so open about what they're doing and they 100% embrace the modding community on pc. They're a fans dream.

    I tried playing the xbone version. I can forgive most things, res and framerate don't really bother me having grown up with the n64, but I simply cannot abide screen tearing. So gross.

    It also ruined many a game on the ps360.

    I tried the measely 1 hour trial on the xbox one. What a shit show that was.

    Apart from attempting to find a server that wasn't full, the game explains exactly 0 of how to play it. Once I was in I died over and over in the "easy" area to dinos and bugs that were levels way higher than me with no way to defend or attack. The only time I managed to run away from everything that was trying to kill me, 5 minutes into finding out how the hell to craft things, my time was up.

    "I managed to bash a few rocks together and knock down a tree or two with my bare fists" - 11/10 IGN.

      This seems to be a increasing trend on PC games, especially these early access ones. For all the shit people gave Destiny about needing you to log on to a separate device to find a fire team or read the lore, I haven't played many early access PC games that don't make a wiki in a separate window a necessity for learning the basic mechanics of them. This isn't engaging open-ended gaming or player empowerment, it's just poor design.

      Last edited 23/01/16 3:18 pm

    It is already expected it will run like shit. Just fanboys keep saying the game is perfect in Xbox one. Like it runs like shit on my 980ti. I'm more shocked at why the hell did it get released on console which is weak as hell.

      Yet to see one comment about any game being perfect on X1. I'm sure the reason that any game is released on any platform is the same. Money.

      I'm more shocked at why the hell did it get released on console...

      Really??!?! Really you're shocked??? Pretty obv why heh :P

      Probably not the consoles fault for not being able to run a poorly optimized game which doesn't even look or run that great on high end PC's.

      IMO, just sit back and hope that some of the optimizations that are necessary to get it running on console will make their way to PC as well.

      Everyone stands to win!

      Another pc crybaby. You don't see the rest of the world crying over ox exclusives. Buy a console also it's your mothers money anyway.

    Ark runs like garbage on more or less anything. Though the Xbox dipping bellow 20 fps at sub 720p resolutions is pretty woeful.

    I had about 600 hours on Ark PC before our tribe got hammered and I couldn't bring myself to start over again. The graphics sucked a lot of the time but my care factor was zero

    Every one always talking about resolution and frame rate and get on their high horse as soon as a frame drops even .1 of a frame then game is bad and the "Devs don't know what they're doing!" enough is enough just enjoy your damn game for once and stop bitching about graphics. Sorry for the rant

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