The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt first enthralled gamers back in 2015 on the PS4, PC, and Xbox One going on to win numerous game of the year awards for its gripping dark fantasy story and polished gameplay. Four years since its initial launch, The Witcher 3 graces the Nintendo Switch this week as The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt — Complete Edition. Aside from being a mouthful of a name, how does it live up to its more powerful counterparts? We spent some quality time with the Nintendo Switch’s version of The Witcher 3 to find out.
If you’ve never heard of the Witcher games before, they’re based on a series of novels by Andrzej Sapkowski. The Witcher 3 has you in the role of Geralt, a monster hunter who finds himself embroiled in an epic tale of political intrigue, the supernatural, and of course monsters galore. And despite the ‘3’ in its name, you don’t need to play past games to get into this one.
First up, it’s obvious that no corners were cut in terms of content, the entire game plus its two expansions — Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine are available from the get go. You can even skip the main quest and try out either add-on first if you so choose.
The no compromises approach extends to the game’s presentation and feature set save for a photo mode. From cut-scenes to dialogue and even its many menus, if you’ve played The Witcher 3 on PS4, PC, or Xbox One nearly everything is faithfully replicated on the Nintendo Switch.
Where it does differ on Nintendo’s hybrid console however are in its visuals or rather, their consistency. It make a strong first impression during its opening section what with the village of White Orchard presented with some compromises. There’s a bit more fog to mask the fact that you can’t see as far ahead as you could on other consoles and PC, while everything from grass to character’s faces and even the monstrous griffin you face off against looking a bit duller and softer than what long-time fans are accustomed to.
And while the first few hours of The Witcher 3 look passable, it’s not a uniform experience. Areas such as the city of Novigrad suffer the most. Streets and city squares have its citizens apparate as you walk by and even moving the camera results in some rather obvious slow down in addition to an image that has every element from buildings to roads looking blurry, like the dreamlike soft edges from Link’s Awakening was applied en-masse. All of these are exacerbated when you hook up your Nintendo Switch to a big screen in docked mode. There are imperfections aplenty and they’re glaring in certain locations like Novigrad.
The Witcher 3 fares better in handheld mode though thanks to the Switch’s smaller screen hiding its many cutbacks. With our launch day Switch losing around 15 percent of battery over 30 minute sessions, it isn’t too bad and perhaps the best way to play The Witcher 3 if you plan to get it on the Nintendo Switch.
Whether you play it in docked or handheld mode, The Witcher 3 on the Switch is a watered-down looking version of the initial 2015 release, but it really doesn’t take away from the immersion. This is because the frame rate holds up where it counts. Outside of walking through Novigrad, combat and exploration in The Witcher 3 sticks close to the 30fps outlined by series creator CD Projekt Red.
If the Nintendo Switch was a console with the specifications to match even the standard PS4 and Xbox One we wouldn’t recommend The Witcher 3. However when you consider that one of the grandest role-playing games ever has been crammed onto a 32GB cartridge and runs on what is essentially mobile hardware that was cutting edge in 2013, it puts a lot of the decisions made by its developer Saber Interactive (who was enlisted by CD Project Red to port it to the Switch) into perspective towards making it playable.
The decision to prioritise smoother gameplay and frame rate over eye candy was the right call because it does well to keep you hooked in addition to CD Projekt’s great story-telling that shines through.
The Witcher 3 on the Nintendo Switch not the best of the game (that’s reserved for the PC version) but it’s good enough. Even more so when you look at the state in which most big budget multiplatform games launch on the Switch. They either lack features like FIFA 20 or are abysmal to play like WWE 2K18. If you own a Nintendo Switch and want to get your fix of The Witcher 3 on the go. There’s a host of compromises, but they’re the right ones.