The Witcher 3, a game that initially released back in 2014, will be arriving on the Nintendo Switch this October. Saber Interactive have managed to port this huge title, adjusting the game so that it runs on Nintendo’s console. We were able to spend some time with the game and have collected our first impressions on the port.
Firstly, it’s worth mentioning that this is the exact same build as the most recent one released on the PS4. CD Projekt Red haven’t added any additional content to the Switch version, it’s just the ‘Complete Edition’, meaning that you get all the DLC as well as the main game in a 32GB package.
Utilising dynamic resolution, the game will run at 720p when docked and 540p handheld. I spent a few hours playing this in handheld mode and it’s quite impressive to actually see this game running on the Switch. As you can see, the foliage and textures have undergone significant adjustments to make the game easier to run. Taking a look at how the game runs docked at 720p compared to the lowest settings on PC, you can see there’s a huge difference. Everything on PC is still much sharper, evidenced in the details of the foliage and even just the flooring. The anti-aliasing on the Switch version is also noticeably lower and the shadows and SSAO have been greatly tweaked. So, to put it very simply, we’re looking at settings that are even lower than the lowest possible settings on the PC version of the game, here. It’s also running at 30FPS, opposed to a solid 60FPS on PC, but considering that both the Xbox One X and PlayStation 4 Pro both run the game at 30FPS, with noticeable dips in the PS4 version, this isn’t a huge downgrade compared to what console players are currently used to.
Something that stuck out for me was the loading times when switching between saves in different areas. A few saves loaded as quickly as 15-20 seconds, however others took closer to a minute, which will likely feel inconvenient when you’re just trying to carry on where you left off on your train journey home from work. Of course, we can’t expect lightning fast loading for a port as ambitious as this one but one minute still feels really long when you’re looking at the loading screen.
Another thing that I noticed while playing in handheld mode was that the battery seemed to drain quite quickly. With a game this demanding, it’s not surprising that the console would need charging relatively frequently. While I wasn’t able to find out how many hours we can expect from a full charge, I imagine it’s similar to that of Breath of the Wild, maybe. Of course this is just an estimate from me and has not been confirmed by CDPR.
As someone who hasn’t played The Witcher 3, I’m not entirely sold on all the compromises I’d have to make just to play this on the go. The Witcher 3 is a beautiful game and as someone who primarily plays games on PC and greatly values performance and graphical quality over convenience, I think I’d happily continue to play this on PC. I wouldn’t personally want to make all of those compromises on my first playthrough when better versions are already available and have been for some time. The game has also been really cheap recently because it’s over four years old so spending £50 on this version doesn’t seem as attractive as purchasing it on sale on another platform where it’ll definitely look a lot nicer. That said, if you’ve played the game before and just want it on-the-go or don’t own any other consoles, the game is still entirely playable. I really like that it exists on the Nintendo Switch and I’m confident that those who are looking to buy it, won’t regret it.
Overall, having the complete edition of The Witcher 3 on the Nintendo Switch is a huge technical accomplishment. Saber Interactive have demonstrated how far developers can push the Nintendo Switch and have also shown how far a game like The Witcher 3 can be scaled back to accommodate a much weaker console than the game was initially developed for. It’s always nice to have additional options when playing great games and having this one on a handheld will make it possible for even more people to enjoy it, which is a win in everyone’s book.