Reviewed by Thomas
- Developer: CD PROJEKT RED
- Publisher: CD PROJEKT RED
- Release Date: 15/10/2019
- Price: $59.99 / £49.99
- Review code provided by CD PROJEKT RED
Early August of 2019 I had the opportunity to fly to London for a special preview at Nintendo UK. There I would get an early look at the Nintendo Switch port of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Complete Edition with some hands-on time. It’s one thing to sit in a room using a developer provided console to check out a game under specific settings. It’s an entirely different experience to enjoy the game on your own system from the comfort of your home, or car or even the doctor’s office while waiting for a broken bone x-ray. If you’d like to take a peek at my preview published August 19, follow the link here. If you’d like to see how The Witcher 3 plays on the Nintendo Switch then by all means, read on for my review.
Switch Lite and Gooseberries
The Witcher 3 follows Geralt of Rivia, a monster hunter of some renown as he seeks his missing protege Cirilla, or Ciri for short. It seems she is wanted by the fabled Wild Hunt for dormant powers within her. Geralt must traverse a vast landscape dotted with grand cities, dense forests, murky bogs and everything in between. Ciri is out there and in danger but before the veteran witcher can track her down, he must complete tasks and bargain with others to pick up on her trail. From time to time the game will shift and you’ll get to relive some of Ciri’s adventures to find out how she came to the path she’s on.
The storytelling in the Witcher 3 is truly marvelous. The backstory and lore is highly detailed with character bios and a full glossary. You can read through the many books and scrolls you find and check out an in depth bestiary which unveils itself as you progress. Even the side quests had compelling stories which made it fun tracking down missing persons or ferreting out rogue arsonists. The Witcher 3 sets a high standard with its narrative and wastes no time drawing you into its fantastical world.
Hunting a Switch
The Witcher 3 is an open world action role-playing game. There is no shortage of things to do, places to see, or cards to win (if Gwent is your thing). The combat is fluid and your sword skills are supported with some basic magic attacks. Since you’ll encounter all manner of ill intending enemies, your fighting style will change a little bit. Mostly in the type of spells and potions you’ll use. You can also coat your blade with oils to prey on specific weaknesses.
When Geralt isn’t fighting he’ll put on his detective cap so to speak. You’ll often use your “witcher senses” to find clues to aid any given quest. These investigative forays were a nice break which added a lot to the story. They gave another sense of power to the skills a witcher possess. The witcher senses can also be used to help locate nearby enemies of items you can loot.
I’ll also point out that being the Complete edition of The Witcher 3, all of the downloadable content is available. Not only that, if you prefer a physical cartridge, the full game is completely available out of the box. Including the DLC. There was never a dull moment in the Witcher 3 and the Nintendo Switch version is packed with content so you can experience the full story.
A Switch Under Pressure
One of the main questions I’m sure I’ll hear is, “how does it look?” As I’ve only seen limited videos and captures from other versions of The Witcher 3 I can’t make a true comparison. What I can say, is it seems like the majority of concessions made to make The Witcher possible on Nintendo’s hybrid system came from the graphics. When playing in handheld mode the game looks great. There are times when you can tell background scenery and foliage have been scaled down but the main images are clear. Once I docked my Switch and played on my television those disparities became more obvious. It wasn’t as noticeable when fighting monsters since they look grotesque anyway, but fighting other humans revealed more distortion and often presented blurry faces. Regardless of handheld or docked mode, whenever I killed someone with a finisher, their body would transform from a man in detailed armor to a severed torso that looked like it was made out of clay.
Outside of combat, the story scenes maintained their integrity. Occasionally some items would pop in a split second after everything else loaded but it was usually in the background. There were times when transitioning from dialogue to the open world the character you were interacting with would slide away on-screen. The Witcher 3 isn’t perfect when it comes to the graphics and there’s a lot you could nitpick but I honestly had so much fun with the gameplay and story that it never bothered me. Plus it’s hard to criticize such a massive game when you’re demolishing a den of ghouls while waiting to pick up your children from school.
As much as I point out the shortcomings, there were moments of pure beauty. Overlooking a cliff to see a rich forest with wildlife rummaging around. Flocks of birds flying off into a picturesque sunset. Large cities crowded with folk everywhere you look. Even the flow of Geralt’s hair or the subtle changes in the weather. There was something magical in those scenes and I’m still in awe that my Switch Lite was delivering such a powerful performance. I thought some areas would be a bit more sparse to make the game possible on Nintendo’s console but I was surprised with how crowded it could get.
Echoes of the Switcher
If the art is where The Witcher 3 had to make reductions, the sound seemed untouched and polished. There were a lot of details in the audio. The wind whistling through trees and distant howls from wolves were a part of the open road. The voice acting was admirable and the cast does an outstanding job bringing the world of The Witcher to life. The music hit its queues and adjusts to the ever changing world around. I was astonished at how well the sound was done.
Besides the graphical issues mentioned above, I didn’t run into any other bugs or problems. The Witcher 3 had few loading screens. When starting up your game or reloading after meeting an unfortunate death, you had to wait but other than those times you could move seamlessly from the large wilderness to a town and even inside a building or dungeon. The Witcher 3 ran well both docked and in handheld mode. I played about 50/50 in each setting. At the time of this review, video capture was not enabled.
The graphics in The Witcher 3 have clearly been scaled back to perform within the confines of the Nintendo Switch. Aside from that, the full Witcher experience is impressive. Newcomers to the series have a perfect opportunity to jump in and see what amazing world awaits them. Fans who already own the game will have to decide if it’s worth picking up for the portability offered by the Switch. Fortunately with hundreds of hours of gameplay and all the DLC, CD PROJEKT RED gives an enticing reason to double dip.
- Incredible Storytelling
- Memorable Cast
- Beautiful Audio
- Massive World to Explore
- Inconsistent Graphics
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Complete Edition delivers a stunning open world experience and opens a world of possibility for Nintendo Switch.