Review – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (Switch)
Back when the Switch was first unveiled, before I knew about its underwhelming hardware specs, I vividly remember daydreaming about the possibility of having three specific games on-the-go: Doom, Dark Souls, and The Witcher 3. After the specs were revealed, I only had faith in Dark Souls being ported to the console, although Doom ended up being the first one to show up on Nintendo’s system. I never thought The Witcher 3 would ever be playable on this mobile-powered system, let alone in a decent state. Guess I was wrong and I couldn’t be happier about it. The Witcher 3 is finally available on the Switch and it’s much better than I could have ever imagined.
Does The Witcher 3 need an introduction at this point? This is easily one of the best games ever made and arguably the single best western RPG to ever grace a console or computer. It’s a game that features one of the greatest open worlds ever developed, a pristine cast of characters, and a story that quickly grabs your attention, even though you most likely had never played The Witcher 1 and 2 beforehand.
It’s also a game that managed to win me over with its setting, even though I don’t like medieval fantasy franchises at all. Lord of the Rings? Don’t care. Game of Thrones? Pass. Yet, somehow, The Witcher‘s mixture of medieval Slavic fantasy, modern-day curse words, and myriad of current social issues that never feel forced (such as racism, xenophobia, war, homophobia, sex trafficking, and so on) have always captivated me. The lands of Velen, Novigrad, and Skellige are absolutely disgusting, yet I love exploring every single inch of them.
Now, onto the Switch port. This is the one game that I never thought would happen. I need to clarify that, yes, this is a technically inferior version of The Witcher 3. That much is obvious, but as far as ports go, I was expecting a lot less from it.
There are basically three types of Switch ports. The first is comprised of titles that look way worse than their original versions, feature terrible framerates, and cut content. Some examples are FIFA 20, WWE 2K18, Ark: Survival Evolved, and Monster Energy Supercross. The second group is comprised of games that, while featuring a handful of visual and performance compromises, are completely playable and worth your time and money. Games such as Doom, Dark Souls, and GRID Autosport.
There’s also a very small group comprised of games that actually run better on the Switch than anywhere else, either due to improved framerates or the fact that they feel best suited for portable play. Sniper Elite III, Ori and the Blind Forest, and Diablo III are the only games in this category. I was expecting for The Witcher 3 to fall into the first category. Luckily, it ended up falling into the second.
What impressed me the most is that the Switch version of The Witcher 3 runs pretty well, all things considered. Yes, it features slightly inferior textures. Yes, it features a smaller and dynamic resolution. Yes, the geometry isn’t as advanced as the one featured in the original games. It simply doesn’t matter that much.
The game still manages to look really impressive on the Switch, especially in portable mode. There are loads of trees everywhere, the number of NPCs in villages is still the same, the lighting effects are impressive, and even the water looks astonishing. The animations are still pretty good, even though they have been scaled back a bit: characters move as they should, Geralt’s Loreal-sponsored hair still waves around beautifully, and the trees even sway when the weather is windy.
The framerate was my biggest point of concern, because it seems that not even Nintendo games manage to achieve stable framerates on the Switch. Breath of the Wild was plagued with framerate drops, especially whenever you were in a town or inside the Lost Woods, for instance. The Witcher 3 manages to achieve a more often-that-not stable 30 frames per second, even when you’re in a densely forested area or fighting half a dozen drowners at once. The only places I’ve noticed some smaller framerate drops were Novigrad and Crookback Bog. In both cases however, the framerate did drop, but at least remained “stable”. There are some massive framerate drops during a few cutscenes as well, but considering they are not part of the gameplay, it doesn’t bother me that much.
I was also worried about the gameplay, considering how the joycons aren’t exactly the pinnacle of comfort and precision. For the most part, the controls and overall gameplay have been perfectly ported to both the joycons and Pro Controller, with the latter being a lot more comfortable, of course. I’ve only noticed a few instances of input delay whenever I pressed the A to talk to a character, as well as very occasional issues related to the framerate. Regarding glitches, I’ve only had a gameplay-related issue once, when Geralt didn’t want to dive to escape from a well. All I had to do was save at that exact spot, reload the game, and voilà, problem solved.
The sound department is as good as it has ever been. The entirety of the unbelievably epic soundtrack is present in here, making every single action in the game, from quietly sailing from one island to another in Skellige, to fighting a member of the Wild Hunt with stakes to the ceiling, a memorable occasion. The voice acting is still as good as ever, and even though you can notice a tiny bit of compression, it will never bother you. It certainly didn’t feel as grainy as the compression featured in the Switch version of Dark Souls, for instance. There were just a handful of sound effect glitches in a few fights against monsters, something that I clearly remember from the PS4 version as well. Besides that small (and rare) issue, the sound department is as fantastic as it has ever been.
When it comes to content, the Switch version of The Witcher 3 features everything that has been previously released. All the DLC items are here, all the extra bits of content are here, and both the Hearts of Stone and Blood & Wine expansions are included in one single cartridge. CD Projekt Red and Saber Interactive (the ones behind other decent-at-best Switch games like NBA Playgrounds and Shaq-Fu) did some programming sorcery in order to make everything fit into one single 32GB Switch cartridge. Despite the heavy amount of compression techniques implemented in here, the loading times never feel too long. The Witcher 3 does a good job at masking loading times with those epic monologues by Dandelion, so that also helped.
The Switch version of The Witcher 3 feels like the video gaming equivalent of the Guns n’ Roses reunion tour I attended a few years ago. I never thought I’d ever see that happen in my lifetime, yet it did, and it ended up being much better than I could have ever imagined. Being able to play one of the best games of all time in a very playable state on such an inferior handheld is just a dream come true. It is a testament to how everything is possible on the Switch as long you have talented people behind the porting process. It proves how far CDPR will go to please its fans. It is also one heck of an excuse to sink yet another 200 hours on the best western RPG ever made once again.
Obvious downgrades had to be implemented in order for The Witcher 3 to run on such an archaic hardware as the Switch’s, but all things considered, it still looks amazing, especially in portable mode. The framerate is also, for the most part, stable.
Controlling Geralt with the joycons is a lot less cumbersome than I would have imagined and controlling him with the Pro Controller is just fantastic. There are just a few input delay issues whenever you’re talking to a character, as well as the previously mentioned very occasional framerate issues.
There are a handful of harmless sound effect glitches here and there, but you’re still getting a fantastic soundtrack and phenomenal voice acting.
The Witcher 3 is one of the best RPGs of all time, if not the single best western RPG ever made, and now you can play this masterpiece, with all previously released DLC, on-the-go. Christmas came earlier this year.
Final Verdict: 9.5
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Switch.
Reviewed on Switch.
A copy of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was provided by the publisher.