Feature: The Witcher 3 on Switch is now a true console competitor

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Because getting one of the most celebrated fantasy RPGs ever made onto Nintendo Switch wasn’t enough technical wizardry, a couple of weeks ago developer Saber Interactive released a new patch that further allows players to improve The Witcher 3’s graphical ability.

Personally, I didn’t think the port looked that bad when it originally released last October, but I did mention in my review that “compromises have been made, with a lot of textures looking flat, lacking detail and quite literally appearing rough around some edges”. Despite this, however, these technical blemishes in no way took away from the artistry that CDProjektRed’s Magnum Opus first unleashed onto the world back in 2015.

However, making a good-looking game appear even more stunning will never be a bad thing, so I’m pleased to report that Update 3.6 easily blew past my expectations of what I thought was possible with Switcher 3 aesthetically. You see, in addition to being able to alter the HUD layout and general brightness levels, now when popping into the port’s display settings you can do such things as switching motion blur on or off, adjusting the depth of field both in-game and during cutscenes, alongside various other tweaks that work to improve general image quality. The Geralt bathtub scene has never looked better on Nintendo Switch!

I’m ashamed to admit that I eventually abandoned my Switcher 3 some time ago, only around 10 hours in, when another game caught my attention. But, when I think about it, that turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as I can now enjoy the snowy heights of Skellige without the Vaseline-like smudge the game had going on previously. It of course still looks at its best when played in handheld mode, but whereas before foliage and fields tended to blur as Geralt raced past them on the back of Roach, now environments are easier to become lost in.

Especially when you up the visibility range, there’s a lot less pop-in when you’re moving at speed and there’s a far higher chance that you’ll be able to actually see what you’re heading towards thanks to a better draw distance. Switcher 3 had already left me impressed with its strong lighting and shadow effects but Update 3.6 even manages to make these subtle elements look better, with there now being the option to turn light shafts and underwater effects on and off as you please. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was loved by so many precisely for the acute attention to detail in flourishes like this. And while the Switch port still can’t match its home console counterpart, these marginal gains make a lot of difference.

All these enhancements combine to make the act of playing Witcher 3 on Switch a far more practical and appealing experience, as no longer does it feel like the game’s visuals are working against you. Yes, everything looks prettier, but the added graphical flair makes tasks like tracking creatures for monster contracts much clearer, exploration a lot smoother and engaging in combat less of a chore. Prior to the patch, it wasn’t uncommon for the game to struggle with swift movement whenever Geralt was swarmed by Nilfgaardian soldiers. Thrusting and dodging always placed him at risk of transforming into a haze. Now, though, fights and hunts can be enjoyed with better clarity.

If I had to nitpick a problem that’s still persistent with Switcher, oddly it’d be the limited brightness settings. This is an open-world game where the passage of time plays an important role, often dictating when and where you can begin certain side quests. Nevertheless, as things grow darker in the Continent, I still find myself having to squint at times – even with the gamma turned all the way up. This could be a problem resolved by playing on a Lite or the slightly superior OG Switch model introduced last year, but that doesn’t help day-one purchasers that aren’t looking to upgrade. It’s a minor issue, sure, and you can always just wind the clock forwards most of the time, but you’ll lose out on much of Switcher’s excellent night-time atmosphere.

The last thing I’ll mention about the new and improved Switcher 3 is that, even with a lot of these new visual tweaks active, framerate drops seem to be less frequent and it hasn’t crashed once in the five or so additional hours I’ve since put in. It’s clear that Saber Interactive has listened to feedback and worked hard to get the port in a much more stable state than it was at launch, acting as a nice cherry on top of the cake that is now The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt on Nintendo Switch.

More about the topics: CD Projekt, Nintendo Switch, Switcher, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt