Firstly, how does one review a 2015 game that won over 250 Game of the Year awards in 2019? Admittedly, it’s all been said before and what we all really want to know is how this behemoth of an open world game – one that struggled to run well went ported to more powerful consoles – runs on Nintendo Switch. So, that’s what this review will be focussing on.
Arguably, the most important aspect of a game is the gameplay and how it runs. Some may argue that a game needs a compelling, multi-layered story or cutting edge graphics and whilst I wouldn’t say that those things aren’t important, I believe that a game needs to be fun and run well in order to not break the immersion. If we were to cast our minds back to that initial reveal of The Witcher 3 on Nintendo Switch at E3 2019, our apprehension was justified by the environments that lacked detail and the crow that looked like a PlayStation 1 model…
But after playing through The Witcher 3 at length, this graphical downgrade serves a purpose in ensuring that the game runs at a consistent 30 frames per second (fps) so that the core experience can be enjoyed without technical interruptions.
From a subjective standpoint, while Gerald and his horse Roach can feel stiff at times, the gameplay, the adventure and the myriad of side quests has arguably overtaken The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim as the best open world fantasy game to date – which, incidentally, can now both be played on the go.
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The HD Rumble is subtle, but definitely there if you pay close enough attention, and if you’re not paying attention, it still does a great job at subconsciously setting the atmosphere. You’ll primarily feel it during combat, but other subtle hints will also trigger some haptic feedback here and there, bringing the world to life.
The Witcher 3’s world is absolutely ginormous that spans across various islands. Considering that the map is now the biggest on the Nintendo Switch (that’s not procedurally-generated) and it’s packed full of side quests and areas to explore, The Witcher 3, with all it’s DLC included, packs hundreds of hours worth of quality content that can be consumed anywhere you’d like… isn’t technology amazing!
With The Witcher novel series now receiving a Netflix adaptation and the game being heralded for its faithful adaptation of the core material, it goes without saying that The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt ticks all the boxes for a beautifully-told fantasy adventure. This obviously doesn’t change with the Switch version, however many cutscenes feature horrendous frame rate dips when the action speeds up, giving key plot points the lack of justice that they deserve.
In terms of a video game fleshing out a fictional world, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt succeeds in almost every aspect, from personal characters and their relationships, to political intrigue between kingdoms, to optional lore in the Bestiary. All of this culminates into a rich and engaging experience that can be taken on the go, bringing the world that series author Andrzej Sapkowski has created to life.
Graphics / Art Direction
The graphical fidelity is clearly where the sacrifice has been made to get this behemoth of a game running on Nintendo Switch. In docked mode, the game will run at 720p 30fps and in handheld mode, 540p 30fps. It’s serviceable, sure, but it’s hollow textures and fuzzy outlines takes away some of the majesty that the game has the potential for. This then results in the cutscenes also taking a dramatic hit in visual fidelity, with them almost seeming like they’re running on previous generation consoles. At the end of the day, it was a necessity to have the game running so smoothly on a portable device, but it’s a clear difference even without comparing versions side-by-side.
A big concern with the console versions of The Witcher 3 was that due to the game being initially built for PC, the text and icons would be difficult to read and distinguish. That was especially a concern with the announcement of a Switch version as needing to squint to read the text off of a 6-7″ screen would not be good on the eyes. Luckily, this has been addressed to the point where all text and menu/inventory icons are easily distinguishable.
Music / Sound Design
The soundtrack is as vibrant as ever and it doesn’t take any kind of hit on the Switch version. If you haven’t played the game before, The Witcher 3’s soundtrack is up there with the greats. I personally could listen to it for hours on end.
Final Score: 90%
Sure it may have a graphical downgrade, but how much does that really matter when you’re playing The Witcher 3 on the bus? If the downgrade is a bit too steep for you, the game will always be available on other consoles or PC that will bring a much prettier experience; but rest assured that if you do decide to buy the game on Nintendo Switch, you’ll be getting one of the greatest games ever made in its entirety and all within the palm of your hands.
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- Belinda Cubitt