The Witcher 3 Switch Preview: This Ambitious Port Sets An Outstanding Benchmark For Nintendo’s Console
I still can’t quite believe that it’s happening. Even after retailer listings and rumors had gathered pace in the lead up to E3 2019, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Complete Edition is actually coming to Nintendo Switch. Along with games like DOOM, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, and Warframe, CD Projekt Red’s open-world role-playing game becomes yet another ‘impossible’ port to hit the ever-popular portable home console.
Showered with critical praise and winning more than 250 Game of the Year awards, I have wanted to experience The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s fantasy universe for a while. But, despite starting it twice – once on PlayStation 4 and a and an even less successful second attempt on Xbox One X – I have never managed to find the time, much to my own disappointment. Now that I can play it wherever I go, hopefully, I can right that wrong.
I’m sure that there are many others that feel the same, especially considering the estimated 150 hours that you can expect to set aside to see everything that has been generously crammed on a 32GB game card for this Complete Edition – which, for those that missed it the first time around, includes the Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine story expansions. No extra download required.
That’s no small feat, and, having had the chance to play through the game’s opening hour in Handheld mode, while understandable sacrifices have been made to get the game running on the console, it’s hard not to come away resoundingly impressed. To some, those compromises will dissuade them from even considering this Nintendo Switch port, but, seeing it in motion, it would be a shame to dismiss it without experiencing it firsthand.
Saber Interactive has worked in “close cooperation” with CD Projekt Red to make it happen, a developer that you may recognize from their work on NBA Playgrounds, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Quake Champions, and more. Their expertise has been brought to bear with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Complete Edition and, while the porting process has seen the game running at 720p while docked in TV mode or 540p in Handheld mode, the end result has exceeded my expectations – far beyond what was achieved with The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition on Xbox 360.
Whatever arcane magic has made this port possible, the experience targets a steady 30 frames per second. I’m told that the assets will dynamically scale back to maintain that framerate based on how demanding the on-screen action is, but we’ll wait to see how the final build performs. Whether it be that bathtub scene, racing against Ciri along the ramparts, sparring with Vesemir, fighting ghouls, or mounting Roach to gallop across the Continent, it was hard to fault this preview build, however.
The combat remains fluid, the HUD has been expertly adapted to suit the Nintendo Switch screen, and, after the criticism that Fire Emblem: Three Houses has received, the text size is perfectly legible – meaning that you can play Gwent on the move without squinting. Even after loading a save file later in the game to visit Novigrad was a surprise. Exploring the free city has become notorious as place for frequent framerate drops and stutters on other platforms, but, with the Nintendo Switch port, it felt steady.
What it lacks in graphical fidelity, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Complete Edition makes up for in the convenience of its newfound portability on Nintendo Switch. This is a port that has gone above and beyond expectations, and, at least from an early impression, looks destined to set a new benchmark for what can be achieved on the portable home console.
Sure, for those that have a high-end PC, PlayStation 4, or Xbox One, playing on the go may not be enough to sway them to pick up Geralt’s adventure on Nintendo’s console. But then, this port wasn’t for them. It’s for those that, thanks to Nintendo Switch, now find that most of their gaming time is spent playing on the move. The witchcraft that has made it even possible will open the chance for many, like myself, to now hopefully have the chance to see it through to its conclusion. And for that, I am excited for the adventure that awaits.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Complete Edition will release on Nintendo Switch worldwide on October 15th.