Handheld gaming experiences have come a long way in recent years.
Gone are the days where a portable version of a game meant getting a completely different version entirely. With the Nintendo Switch, we can take — more or less — the same console and PC versions of games and play them on the go.
That’s the most impressive part of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt — Complete Edition on the Switch. Somehow, Saber Interactive — with assistance from original Witcher 3 developer CD Projekt Red — has managed to bring the entire incredible fantasy action-RPG experience to the Switch. Even better, because this is the Complete Edition, that means that the teams have thrown in The Witcher 3‘s equally outstanding Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine expansions for good measure.
All of this fit into 32GB, no less.
While there are certainly some concessions in the changeover, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt — Complete Edition on Switch a remarkable achievement that’s worth diving into.
For the uninitiated, The Witcher 3 follows Geralt of Rivia, an elite monster hunter known as a witcher, as he roams a war-torn land to find his adopted daughter Ciri. It’s a remarkably well-written story that centres a layered Game of Thrones-esque sprawling conflict with the intimate beat about a father and his daughter.
In terms of gameplay, Geralt rides around the gorgeous, detailed world on his trusty steed Roach and fights using an engaging mix of swords, magic, bombs, potions and more. None of this has been changed in the Switch version, so each of the game’s deep, branching quests and side activities that make up the 100-plus hour experience remain as compelling as ever.
What has changed, though, is the game’s technical specs. Naturally, the Switch can’t run such a massive game as well as a PlayStation 4, Xbox One or PC, so a number of downgrades were necessary. Chiefly, the resolution and frame rate take expected dips across the board.
While docked, The Witcher 3 on Switch displays at 720p and 30fps at the highest, with drops to 540p and framerate in the 20s in some of the game’s bustling cities, like Blood and Wine‘s Touissant. That said, the main draw of The Witcher 3 on Switch is the ability to play it portably, so I don’t suspect many people would even bother playing it that way.
In handheld mode, the Switch version is capped at 540p and 30fps, with framerate similarly dropping into the 20s in the game’s busier areas. While 540p might sound rough, it actually displays fairly well thanks to the Switch’s small screen. There is a general blurriness to the game’s visuals, to be sure, but specific details remain fairly crisp, like the sheen of Geralt’s chainmail or the glistening rivers in the countryside. The biggest issue, presentation-wise, is that cutscenes feature a bit of stutter and the occasional pop-in.
Thankfully, this doesn’t carry over to actual gameplay, with the game routinely keeping up with the often fast-paced hack-and-slash combat. If there is to be any slowdown, I’d rather it occur in cutscenes where I’m not actually doing anything. In fact, I was continuously taken aback by how well The Witcher 3 ran as I was actively playing it.
I kept expecting the game to chug as I raced through a city or fought off a half-dozen gremlin-like necker creatures, but that rarely — if ever — happened.
In a lot of ways, The Witcher 3 is actually a great game for the Switch. Many of its best moments are experienced during the brilliant penned and acted cutscenes or the moments of tranquillity as you ride through a vista and soak in the meticulously-crafted environment and Marcin Przybyłowicz and Mikołaj Stroiński’s beautiful, Slavic-inspired soundtrack. On Switch, these translate over well and suffer from minimal compromises.
The biggest compliment I can pay to the Switch version of The Witcher 3 is that it has me eager to replay the game on the console-handheld hybrid. While I could play a higher-quality version on my Xbox One X or PlayStation 4 Pro, being able to take such a meaty RPG on the go is just too appealing to pass up.
If you’re someone who’s on the move often, The Witcher 3 on Switch is absolutely worth getting into — for newcomers or returning players alike.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt — Complete Edition is now available on the Nintendo Switch for $79.99 CAD.