Life is incredible. When The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt came out in 2015, I wasnt a gaming journalist yet. I read the reviews scattered across the web like questionnaires on a map, but I didn't think that someday, I would myself have the chance to give my opinion of the very same game. And yet, here we are, the year of our Lord 2019, four years after the original release. The Wild Hunt for Nintendo Switch hits the market, and I get a contract for Geralt.
- It's the same, critically-acclaimed Witcher, the undisputed game of the year 2015;
- Controls are easy to master;
- After all these years, it's still just as compelling for dozens of hours;
- The graphics have their moments (weather and sunsets).
- The downgrade is sometimes too overt;
- Framerate also dips during cut-scenes;
- Rather blurry on a TV.
This was not going to be an easy contract. To say that The Wild Hunt has been thoroughly reviewed by now would be an understatement. Still this game launching for Nintendo Switch is sort of a big deal, in more than one way. The Switcher as the community soon dubbed the project until recently was just a whim; an argument in the debate between fans of Nintendo's latest console and their opponents. The latter usually claimed that chances for Geralt gracing the hybrid system from Nintendo are exactly zero, pointing to the console's specification which was actually a valid argument. And the former? Well, they probably didn't much care about the Witcher after all, you don't get the Japanese console to play multi-platform ports.
And yet, here we are. The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, followed Skyrim, and released for Switch along with all its expansions and it is hella playable. Sure, such a port is mostly about the art of compromise. But I think this compromise is as fair as possible.
Shopping before hitting the trail is always a good idea, says the Witcher codex. You can't run The Witcher 3 on Switch without a memory stick. The game requires at least of 28 gigs, which you will not get by erasing all your games and screenshots you've collected over the years... I should know. Be smarter than me spare and additional buck for a microSD.
When I got the code for The Switcher, I was actually during my playthrough of The Witcher 3 on PC, with graphics set to uber. How shocking a change was it? Not that much. The graphical downgrade isn't as glaring on the smaller screen of the Switch, so I soon found myself completely engrossed in the game, just the same. "What can you do?" The conversion was not gentle for character models and equipment. Armor sets aren't as dazzling, and the swords of the witcher have lost some glam.
The first impressions are really good. We have the same intro, then, the exact same main menu. This is actually the first time you might "wow," as Saber, the studio responsible for the conversion, already at this point prove they're not a bunch of amateurs. The graphics may not be razor-sharp, but it was much, much better than I expected. Meanwhile, we hold the good, old witcher in our very hands; corners might have been cut in the graphics department, including the render distance and the resolution, but still. The first moments spent in Kaer Morhen and White Orchard are just as magical. I'll emphasize again: this is exactly the same game, with the same cut-scenes, animations, dialogs, Gwent, and the open world. Sunsets are still stunning! Rays of light rebound from blades, guards, and pieces of armor, the trees are still fabulously flimsy, and the NPCs go about their usual business. Everything's the old way, and if you haven't played The Witcher, and a 50" screen, or 4K at 60 frames per second isn't your ultimate goal in gaming, then don't even hesitate The Switcher will last your for months..
A few hundred hours of joy on a small cartridge
The Witcher on Switch, comes as the core game plus the two big expansions: Hearts of Stone, and Blood & Wine. After clicking "New Game" you'll be able to start the game from the very beginning, or dive into one of the expansions right away. Nothing stops you from heading directly to Toussaint to have a bottle of mandrake tincture with a certain vampire. There is also the New Game+ for those who enjoy learning games by heart. Unfortunately, Nintendo still doesn't have achievements, so if you like "tangible" rewards for the hard work and invested time, you'll be disappointed.
But still fitting one of the best RPGs of the 21st century on a small piece of silicon requires sacrifices. After a few hours of exploring Toussaint, I felt a bit... drunk? Not with happiness. The limited render distance takes a visible toll the world is foggy and blurred, reminiscent of an impressionistic painting. The movement itself takes some getting used to, and combat even more so the figures are tiny, subtitles tinier, and the dim depth of field further makes you feel as if Geralt really had a few before the fight.
The real shock, however, only comes when you run The Witcher 3 on a TV. I was able to bear it for like two hours, only for the purposes of this review. Playing this way makes all the trade-offs stand out like a sore thumb from poor textures and framerate, through blurry backgrounds and characters, to loading of elements near the player. Playing on the handheld itself is a much better experience. The console's small screen paradoxically saves the day first, it's easier for us to accept all the compromises when we're holding a device the size of a bigger GPU, and second, all the pitfalls that stem from the downgrade aren't nearly as conspicuous.