Every generation, we get a handful of games that completely define it, and will be remembered as some of the best of their time. The Witcher III: The Wild Hunt is not only such a game, but a lot more, as it will in no doubt go down in history as one of the best of all time.
And never in our wildest dreams did we ever imagine being able to play it on the go, short of hauling a beefy gaming laptop with everywhere we go, but here we are. The Witcher III: Wild Hunt – Complete Edition is now available on Nintendo Switch, and has been for a while now. And I had the honour of taking it for a spin.
An incredible experience
I might not be quite as vocal as somebody else on the team, but The Witcher III is one of my favourite games of all time. While most of this review will be about the technical aspect of the Nintendo Switch port, I want to take a moment to tell you why this game is worth your time, regardless of the platform, and why you should play this game now, if you haven’t done so already.
The Witcher universe is set in a mythical, medieval world based on Polish and Slavic folklore full of monsters and magic. It was originally envisioned by writer Andrzej Sapkowski and the novels are currently being adapted to a Netflix show. It’s always had a following amongst fantasy fans, but it gained serious mainstream attention because of the video games, especially The Witcher III: Wild Hunt.
The game is a massive open-world action RPG, unlike anything before it. It gives you an incredible sandbox to play in, but at the same time manages to weave a beautiful and emotional narrative into it, making you care much more for characters than ever before. The people at CD Projekt RED did something unthinkable by making this gorgeous game, filled with life and side missions with so much depth to it that it puts other full games to shame. Almost everything you do has some kind of impact on the world or narrative in ways that you would never imagine. Even if you’re not into high fantasy stories, but like incredibly deep stories with great RPG mechanics and decisions with actual consequences, then you owe it to yourself to give this game a look.
You play as Geralt of Rivia, a Witcher who has undergone mutations as a boy that gives him the ability to fight and slay monsters. The story evolves around him setting out to find his adopted daughter Ciri, who is being pursued by the Wild Hunt because of specific powers she possesses.
I cannot recommend this game enough purely on my previous experiences, but I will give you some insight and thoughts on the Nintendo Switch port, which is fantastic but does come with some issues.
Down to the technical stuff
The Witcher III: Wild Hunt – Complete Edition is exactly what the name would imply. You get the base game, the two incredible expansion as well as all the free DLCs and addons that CD Projekt RED released. So the Complete Edition is a lot of bang for your buck. It is essentially the same as the Game of the Year Edition on other platforms, so you’re not missing out any of to content available. The port was done by Saber Interactive.
Just to be clear, this includes both the Heart of Stone and Blood and Wine expansions, the latter coming with a map so massive it could have been its own game.
The game runs in 720p while docked and 576p when in handheld mode, and this is where the big differences start coming in. Playing in docked mode, the difference between the Nintendo Switch and the PlayStation 4 (not event the Pro) is massive. The resolution is downscaled a lot and the experience can be quite jarring at first. Especially when playing on a 4K display, which makes it even worse. I did plug the dock into a 1080p monitor for some comparison, and it does look a bit sharper, but the differences are still there.
This game absolutely shines in handheld mode. Even though the resolution is even lower, it somehow just works
But somehow, it still works. After a while you get used to it and you still notice some nice details left in the game, like moving trees and the incredible sunsets that the game has to offer. It also runs very smoothly, and while it is nowhere near the coveted 60fps, it is pretty stable, without dropping to unplayable framerates, even when venturing into more busy places like Novigrad. I will also note that cutscenes do seem to have a slightly higher resolution, or just look a bit sharper, but I don’t know if that’s just my imagination.
But this game absolutely shines in handheld mode. Even though the resolution is even lower, it somehow just works, and it looks much closer to the original version on other platforms. It is almost as if this was what CDPR was aiming for, and they absolutely nailed it. This was especially the case when cranking up the screen brightness and draining the battery faster than an idling Hummer. Something I noticed as well is that the control scheme has been changed to suit the Nintendo Switch, with the A button confirming in menus but Y and X used for combat. It works and feels natural and the effort in this regard is very welcome.
Overall the experience is rather pleasant, but the game does come with a few bugs and glitches that I experienced. One was an issue where I couldn’t climb a ladder, and had to quit the game and return in order to progress, it’s minor, but still there.
Another, and rather bigger problem I experienced was when playing Gwent, the excellent card game built into The Witcher III. When ever I challenged somebody to a game while docked, the screen would go blank, with just audio coming through, if I removed the console from the dock, it would work fine and I could continue, and when I was done playing cards, I could return the console to the dock and it would work fine again. So it seems to have an issue with the Gwent interface, and I hope this is something they fix pretty soon.
Other than that, the port is pretty solid and the game plays exactly as it should and does on other platforms.
Is the Switch version worth it?
This question is really one you should answer yourself. My answer is yes, because it’s more The Witcher III. But if you’ve already played it on another platform, and don’t care for the mobility of it, then the answer is no. The Nintendo Switch version is not the best version of the game, but it is the only one that allows you to play while on the go and it does an incredible job.
If for some reason you haven’t played this game yet, and you own only the Switch, then this is an absolute no brainer, as there are few games that will give you such an incredible experience.