Review: The Witcher 3 on Nintendo Switch is a fantastically impossible port

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CDProjektRed impresses once again with the impossible port of The Witcher 3 on Nintendo Switch. 

Having previously redefined what a fantasy RPG could be capable of when The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt originally released back in 2015, CDProjektRed are once again hoping to make video game history by doing the impossible: porting the game to Nintendo Switch. Thankfully, they’re not alone in the endeavour, having recruited the technical talent at Saber Interactive to somewhat ease the process. I’m please to report that their efforts have not been in vain. Witcher 3 for Nintendo Switch (or “Switcher” as it shall affectionally be called) is a modern marvel, retaining all the game’s grandness and allure despite a few technical drawbacks.

I could spend this review explaining all the things The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt does better than any other open-world RPG. About how its spiralling quest design is some of the most inspired seen in the genre, how your actions can carry exceptional consequences in the story, or just how richly this setting has been conceived. The truth is that most people already know all this, instead wanting to know how the game translates to a primarily portable experience. Pretty well, as it happens.

Let me be clear that, while great, the visuals and performance in Switcher 3 aren’t perfect. Loading it up for the first time it quickly becomes clear that certain compromises have been made from a graphical perspective, with a lot of textures looking flat, lacking detail and quite literally appearing rough around some edges. Luckily this does nothing to detract from the overall beauty of the game’s art style; witnessing the sun set in the opening area of White Orchard, for example, doesn’t feel any less evocative, it’s just everything looks a little blurrier.

You’ll only explicitly notice most of the smeared details when playing the game in docked mode. Comparing this version side-by-side with either its PS4, Xbox One or PC counterpart will always end in disappointment, but doing so is kind of missing the point. Many other ambitious ports such as Diablo III, DOOM and more recently Divinity Original Sin 2 have similarly sacrificed visual fidelity to make the journey to Switch, the only difference in CDProjektRed’s attempt is that slightly more scaling back has been needed to get it here due to the incredibly large scope of the game.

Speaking of which, it’s no secret that completing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt can take as many as 60 hours. And while I didn’t quite muster that for this replay, being able to roam through all six of the game’s expansive regions without ever bumping against a single load screen remains impressive. Only when dying, fast traveling or moving between regions should this unfortunate instance happen to you. I played on the lowest difficulty to test whether the same would be true on Nintendo Switch – it most definitely is. Draw distance is reduced but it’s never distracting; you can still look ahead to, say, the Bloody Baron’s castle in Novigrad from quite a way off and still see its impressive stature.

The technical performance of Switcher 3 is a lot less hit-or-miss, by comparison. The game runs smoothly at a solid 30 fps either in docked or on the big screen for the most part, only ever dipping to less whenever the action gets heated. One area early on, for example, saw me surrounded by around five or six low-level Wargs, and this was enough to have Geralt stutter when slicing off one of the beast’s heads mid-kill animation. It’s less than ideal but is no less of an inconvenience than what Nintendo Switch players recently saw in The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening.

With all that said, there’s no denying that The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt on Nintendo Switch should be considered a resounding achievement. While far from the definitive version, what’s here is very much the complete experience, DLC and all. It’s easy to see how players would prefer the convenience of undertaking Geralt’s journey on the go, either from the very beginning or as someone who missed out on Hearts of Stone or Blood and Wine and are craving a way to jump in right away. Switcher 3 is the ultimate fantasy RPG and the ultimate in convenience.

More about the topics: CD Projekt RED, Nintendo Switch, Saber Interactive, The Witcher 3: Complete Edition