CD Projekt has achieved the impossible and brought The Witcher 3 to Switch but are the technical compromises too high a price to pay?
So here’s something we never thought we’d be reviewing: The Witcher 3 on Nintendo Switch. The likes of Doom and Wolfenstein II were unlikely enough but The Witcher 3 is one of the most technically impressive games on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 and, especially given its very adult tone, almost the last thing you’d expect to see on Nintendo’s console. But here it as and, while there are some significant concessions, it is, in almost every way that counts, as good as ever.
You can find the link to our original review of The Witcher 3 at the end of this article, but in short The Witcher 3 Is a third person action role-playing game that features large open world environments (which the previous two entries did not) and real-time combat. The latter has always been the game’s most contentious element, as it never rises above the competent – even though there’s an awful lot of it.
The story elements though are arguably the game’s greatest achievement, with some of the best side quests the genre has ever seen and some truly memorable characters that present a moral ambiguity that, for once in video games, is not just a euphemism for being amoral. Instead, everything is much more nuanced than that, where characters act and talk like real people, and few are entirely evil or purely good.
No matter what choices you try to make for protagonist Geralt, people rarely get exactly what they deserve and so compared to similar mechanics in games from the likes of BioWare and Bethesda, the moral decisions and conversations in The Witcher 3 seem far more realistic and engaging. It’s certainly well beyond anything in Skyrim, perhaps the only close comparison on the Switch, but then that game is eight years old at this point.
There are also surface similarities to Zelda: Breath Of The Wild, at least in terms of the presentation of the open world areas, but The Witcher 3’s approach to storytelling and character interaction is so entirely different there’s no chance of Switch owners finding it overly familiar. Although if you have played the game on other formats there’s nothing new here, not even motion controls or other common additions for this sort of thing.
There’s also little chance of anyone complaining about value for money, even though the other console versions can now be found for a considerably discounted price, several years after the game’s original release. But for your money you get the whole 50+ hour original campaign, two major expansions that last over 10 hours each, and a host of minor DLC extras like extra shaving options for Geralt’s beard.
The Witcher 3 is a classic, through and through, and so the only real question with the Switch version is how well the port has been handled. It’s been developed by Saber Interactive, who did the recent Ghostbusters: The Video Game Remastered, and while the resolution can go below 540p in handheld mode – which really is very low even for the Switch – overall performance remains impressively consistent even in areas, such as Crookback Bog, that had issues on the other consoles.
Even so, the experience can be an off-puttingly blurry and low-tech one at times, with lots of jaggies and low-resolution textures. The draw distance is also shorter, but the amount of on-screen characters, the general layout of the map, and the complexity of in-game objects – even some of the more high-tech lighting effects – seems to be largely identical to the original.
It’s worth bearing in mind that this is a game that didn’t always run perfectly even on a base model PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, so the fact that it offers such a consistent experience on the Switch is nothing short of, well… witchcraft.
The game can look genuinely impressive in portable mode, with the smaller screen flattering the visuals and seeming like a perfectly acceptable compromise for the downgrade in graphics. Nobody’s going to be impressed by the game in docked mode, on a big TV, but it still looks fine considering.
A final technical consideration is simply how to get the game onto your Switch. The download is over 30GB, which means there’s a good chance it won’t fit onto either your console’s internal memory, if it’s got anything else on it, or your memory card – so do make sure you know how you’re going to store it before you buy it digitally. The simplest option is to simply buy the physical version, since everything already fits on the cartridge, with no downloads necessary.
Of course, the other consoles and PC offer a far better representation of the same game but if they aren’t an option for you, or the portability is a priority, then The Witcher 3 on Switch is a must-have and a sign not only of Nintendo’s increasing third person muscle but the fact that good game design always shines through, despite minor technical issues.
CLICK HERE FOR THE ORIGINAL FULL REVIEW OF THE WITCHER 3: WILD HUNT – GAME OF THE YEAR EDITION
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Complete Edition review summary
In Short: The Switch is clearly not the game’s natural home and yet even with the graphical downgrade The Witcher 3’s innate quality shines through.
Pros: Some of the best storytelling ever in a role-playing game, especially in terms of the wide range of believable characters and situations. Huge open world areas with excellent side quests. Great DLC.
Cons: Combat is rarely interesting and doesn’t deserve the emphasis put on it. A slow start and the graphical compromises on the Switch need careful consideration, especially in docked mode.
Formats: Nintendo Switch
Publisher: CD Projekt
Developer: Saber Interactive and CD Projekt Red
Release Date: 15th October 2019
Age Rating: 18
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