Game Reviews

The Witcher 3 Switch Review

The Switcher is here and it showcases the technical limits of the console.

by William Schwartz

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt will likely go down as one of the best open world RPGs of this generation.  It wasn’t necessarily the most innovative game of the generation, nor the most technically proficient, but what it lacked in those areas it made up for with incredible characters and story in an incredibly intricate and immersive world that was full of deep gameplay systems.  It was also an impressive looking game on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 with a really gorgeous experience reserved for PC players with capable kits, however it was also marred by a movement system that gave the game a clunky feeling.  That in itself was either one of those things that you either dealt with because you enjoyed the other aspects of the game or you just didn’t play the game.

I played a good bit of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt way back when, but never finished it due to my distaste for said clunky controls.  The combat never really gelled with me, but I absolutely loved the characters and story of the game.  It has an open world that begs to be explored, and a lot of off the beaten path content to partake in.  I was also one of those who played it on PC, and for a 2015 release there were moments of beauty in The Witcher 3 that we just weren’t seeing in other games at that time.  A lot of time has passed since I’ve played this game, but a lot of what’s good about The Witcher 3 has made it over to the Nintendo Switch.  The characters and writing are still top notch.  The big open world fits great into the palms of your hands and the game feels as deep and engrossing as it ever was, primed to reach a whole new audience on Nintendo’s handheld hybrid console.

The one thing that everyone likely knows at this point is that the Nintendo Switch isn’t quite as powerful as the consoles that this game was designed for.  It’s not even close to the PCs that were running The Witcher 3 in all its glory back in 2015.  Like the ports of Doom and Wolfenstein that made their way to the console, sacrifices have been made.  I’ve not been the loudest champion of these ports on the Switch.  While it certainly feels like a technical feat to bring The Witcher 3 to the platform, it’s certainly not the ideal way to play it.  Like these other games, it works just fine IF you are willing to look past the obvious degradation of the visuals.

If you’re a gameplay over graphics person, The Witcher 3 is a fine port on the Switch.  After putting the game through its paces in both the docked and handheld modes I walked away from the game equally impressed by the feat of this massive game crammed onto the console and disappointed at just how big the visual sacrifices have been.  Everything else is there though.  From what I could see, this is the exact same game that was released in 2015.  So if you’ve never played The Witcher 3 and want a massive role playing game to sink your teeth into, there isn’t anything like The Witcher 3 on the platform.  So long as you know going into it, that this game has seen some serious dialing back on the visual fidelity to make this a possibility.

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Regardless of whether you are in the docked or handheld modes, The Witcher 3 on Switch has inferior visuals to these other platforms and it’s apparent whether you’re looking for them or not.  If you’ve ever heard of “jaggies” before, it’s a term used for artifacting that you’ll find in video games of a certain era The Witcher 3 on Switch has it in spades.  The game also only manages to look its best when everything is blurred to reduce the horsepower necessary to output the beautiful source material.  The Witcher 3 often looks like you’re playing the original game on capable hardware as if you were wearing goggles that have been smeared with vaseline.  While that may sound harsh, it is the reality of this game being able to run on the Switch.

Beyond the graphics, The Witcher 3 on Switch is still enjoyable.  Maybe even more than something like DOOM, Wolfenstein, or Mortal Kombat because most of the game is slow-paced.  Sure, combat is a big part of the experience, but I wouldn’t say that it’s a bigger part than the cinematics, conversations, or travelling in the game.  These aspects aren’t necessarily fast paced so the game still has the opportunity to look good in spots, sometimes even impressive.  On the smaller screen of the handheld, The Witcher 3 looks best.  The smaller screen makes the game look sharper than it actually is.  This becomes very obvious when switching to a TV or monitor as the game just doesn’t look very good at all on a 1920x1080p screen and looks blown out in a way that feels like you’ve entered a time machine to 2005.

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I can’t recall if I experienced the problems in my first go round with The Witcher 3 that I actually experienced on the Switch version of this game, but there are some technical issues that I encountered that required numerous restarts.  Playing The Witcher 3 I saw a screen that I’ve never seen on the Switch console telling me that the software has malfunctioned and needed to be closed after a hard freeze.  The game just locked up on me and the console became unresponsive for a couple of minutes before throwing the error.  A second instance of something similar occured in the tutorial area where this section couldn’t be completed because the tooltips on the screen became out of sync with the on-screen action.  The solution was a restart of the game.  No hard crash that time though.

Another weird thing about this game is that I actually had to go out and purchase a memory card to install the digital version.  While this isn’t a deal-breaker.  I had been just fine with the default storage on the Switch.  This is a massive game and if you don’t already have a memory card for the console you will need to go out and purchase extra storage.  Even if you remove everything that is installed on your Switch, it still won’t have enough internal memory to fit The Witcher 3.  In trying to find out about this, I couldn’t find a single piece of news about it so it was a surprise.  A surprise that for someone who clicks on this game on the E-shop and purchases it, could be a rude awakening when a game goes from costing $59.99 to that plus the price of additional memory.  In trying to squeeze this game onto the internal storage I deleted every game I had, every screenshot, and a good bit of the saves I had.  No dice.  Perhaps if I was willing to go all the way and delete every single thing off of the internal memory it would’ve fit, but I wasn’t, and I don’t think any Switch owner in their right mind would either.  So it’s hard to tell if it was possible at all.  I don’t think it was, at least that’s what the Switch OS prompts kept telling me.

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Regardless of the trials and tribulations of getting the game up and running on the console, the technical issues, and the visual downgrade, The Witcher 3 is still an impressive game on the console. This is still a fantastic role playing game with plenty of substance to make up for the visuals and some technical hiccups.  There aren’t many RPGs as engaging or well-written as this one, and to have it with the ability to play anywhere is a certainly a plus.

The Verdict

The Witcher 3 has made its way to the Switch and like the other games that have not been developed with the technical specifications of this console in mind, there are some obvious downgrades to the visuals.  The Witcher 3 is a game that still impresses though as it has many qualities that shine through and translate well to any platform.  It’s definitely not the best way to play it, but if you’ve yet to experience The Witcher 3 and wonder what you’ve missed this will give you a decent representation of that.

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The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

  • Available On: Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox, PC
  • Published By: CD Projekt
  • Developed By: CD Projekt Red
  • Genre: Role Playing Game
  • US Release Date: October 15th, 2019
  • Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch
  • Quote: "The Witcher 3 looks pretty bad on the Switch, but it's still an incredible RPG that shouldn't be missed if this the only way to play it."
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