Temeria isn’t how I remember it. The cloudy skies still evoke majestic wonder and the trees still sway in the wind but the details are blurry. It’s surreal, like a dream, but it’s still good to be back.
It’s been almost five years since CD Projekt’s fantasy epic launched to critical acclaim. Once heralded as a flagship for next-generation gaming, the third game in The Witcher trilogy has been expanded upon, modded to hell and even inspired a spin-off or two.
For those unfamiliar with the series - The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is an epic open-world action RPG where you play as a grizzled monster hunter named Geralt, who is tasked with searching the war-torn Northern Realms in search of his adopted daughter and protege, Ciri.
Now, the game come to the Nintendo Switch - albeit in a significantly down-rezzed form. It’s still a technical showpiece but of a different breed.
For the first time, you can take one of gaming’s most lavish and expansive action RPGs on the go with you. This is great because it lets you chip away at it rather than binge it.
And like Skyrim or DOOM, this Switch port of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has an almost mythic appeal to it. It feels like something that shouldn’t be possible given the Switch’s limited hardware. It invites questions.
What couldn’t make the cut? What compromises were made? Even if this isn’t the best version of the Witcher 3, is enough of that core experience intact that you’ll still want to invest the eighty or so hours it takes to see the adventure through to the end?
The short answer? Yes, I think so.
Up-front and to the surprise of no-one, the Switch port of The Witcher 3 doesn’t look nearly as jaw dropping as the other versions. Even at the best of times, this game looks rough. The UI looks sharp but everything else looks blurry and smudged. It looks and feels like you’re running The Witcher 3 on a PC that meets the minimum spec requirements for the game - but only just.
There’s a lot of texture pop in and, specifically during cutscenes with lots of dynamic lighting, the frame-rate can jump around a fair bit. If you stop and take a second to squint at the finer details, it isn’t hard to see the seams that just barely hold this thing together.
And yet, when it comes to the actual moment-to-moment gameplay, the Witcher 3’s Switch port nails the things you’d want it to get right.
The controls on this version of the game are more or less in line with their Xbox and Playstation counterparts. There’s no touch screen integration. If you’ve played either, you’ll probably feel right at home. If you’ve only played the game on PC, the shift to joystick controls might take some adjusting.
For the most part though, the in-game framerate on The Witcher 3 manages a clean and concise 30 frames-per-second. It might wobble from time to time but it’s mostly stable enough that you’re able to relax and enjoy yourself.
This isn’t the best version of The Witcher 3 but it’s still The Witcher 3.
Nothing’s really changed. The writing is still incredible. The music and voice acting is top notch. The game is still enormous in scope and the Switch version of the game does include all the DLC plus the two main expansions: Hearts of Stone and Blood & Wine.
Even with one hand metaphorically tied behind its back, the world of the Witcher 3 was one I was happy to fall back into. Like Skyrim, the ability to nibble away at the game in small bursts makes for a big difference. I’ve wanted to jump back in and revisit The Witcher 3 for a while now, the ability to do it short sessions across a longer period of time goes a long way towards getting me to actually go and do it. It feels less like you’re working your way through a really overwrought TV series and more like you’re nibbling away at a good book.
Gwent was unsurprisingly a highlight here. The Witcher 3’s game-within-a-game remains incredibly fun and well-suited for the Switch’s portability in a big way. It continues to shock me that CD Projekt Red haven’t looked to port either Thronebreaker (review here) or Gwent proper to the portable platform.
The one thing I will say is that, should you choose to pick up the Switch version of The Witcher 3, you’re going to want to pair your Switch up with a good set of headphones. The audio design and music in The Witcher 3 contributes a lot to the overall vibe and cinematic atmosphere of the game and playing without those elements hurts the magic in a way that feels much more pronounced than any of the graphical caveats attached to this version of the game are.
The Nintendo Switch version of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt isn’t without compromises but it’s more than good enough to not infringe on the appeal. It doesn’t set a new bar for how good a Switch game can look but it does set a new standard for the kind of fully-featured and ambitiously scoped games you can play on Nintendo’s portable.
The Switch port of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt isn’t the best version of the game but it is the only one you can take with you.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Complete Edition is available now on Nintendo Switch via the eShop, through retailers like EB Games and JB Hi-Fi and online through Amazon.