The Witcher 3 is one of the most acclaimed RPGs of the generation and, against all odds, we now have it in a portable form. The move to less powerful hardware isn’t without its trade-offs but make no mistake: this is the full Witcher experience, including both expansions, right in the palm of your hand. If somehow you missed the game on other platforms, The Witcher 3 on Nintendo Switch is the most accessible version yet and a great jumping-off point for your monster-slaying dreams. This is our review of The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt for Nintendo Switch.
The Full Witcher 3 Experience
By this point, everyone already has the low-down on The Witcher 3. The game had more buzz than virtually any other RPG to release this generation and for good reason. It’s a sprawling open-world RPG filled with beautiful vistas, deadly monsters, rich storylines, and more intrigue than you could shake a griffon head at. Unlike many roleplaying games on the Switch, it’s third-person action battles and rich storytelling puts an emphasis on realism, including the grittiness and strife of being a commoner in medieval Europe. The Witcher 3 hides little and shies away from less. Instead, it leans into its mature themes without ever feeling gratuitous, able to pull off its fine wire dance thanks to some of the best writing and voice acting this generation. It over a hundred hours long and in a word, deep, from systems to story arcs. The Witcher 3 is a game you can get lost in.
I know because that’s exactly what I’ve done since its original release in 2015. Since then, I’ve put upwards of 80 hours into the PS4 version and purchase it a second time on the PC just to enjoy the gorgeous visuals anew with my 2080 Ti. It’s a game you can come back to again and again over the course of years and still find new places to explore and challenges to overcome. Or if you’re like me, storylines to finish.
The good news is that all of that is still intact in the Nintendo Switch version. This is the complete The Witcher 3 experience, including every story, area, item, side-quest, and mechanic. When it comes to gameplay, absolutely nothing has been sacrificed. If you’ve ever played The Witcher 3 on another platform, you know exactly what to expect here. They’ve done it: The Witcher 3 is officially a portable game.
That said, CD Projekt RED and Saber Interactive (who handled the port) did have to make some sacrifices to make this possible. The biggest hit comes in the visuals. In handheld mode, the game runs at 540p, which is a dramatic drop from the 1080p on first-gen PS4s or Xbox Ones. When the game is docked, you get a slight bump to 720p but by modern standards, even that is quite low. Likewise, the framerate has been capped to 30 FPS and at times drops into the mid-20s, especially when you’re in cities. Draw distance, foliage, and texture quality have also been scaled down just to get performance in the 20-30 range.
As a result, when played on a full-size TV, the Switch version is by far the worst looking version of The Witcher 3. Even on a 1080p screen, let alone 4K, the game takes on a blurry quality and those downgrades become all the more apparent. Transitioning to and from cutscenes is still smooth but knowing what The Witcher 3 should look like and what it does here, just makes me want to play it in handheld mode.
When squeezed onto the Switches 6-inch screen, a lot of those blemishes fade away. Yes, I still notice the shorter draw distance, slightly less foliage, and less texture detail but they’re harder to see – especially the textures, which are easily the most noticeable downgrade when playing in docked mode. As a result, I can’t help but feel like handheld mode is the way The Witcher 3 is meant to be played. It looks better and, as a result, the experience feels better.
At the end of the day, having an RPG of this scope on the Nintendo Switch more than justifies the decrease in visuals. The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt is still a beautiful game and being able to take the adventure anywhere makes the game more accessible than it’s ever been. The Witcher 3 always was and remains an amazing game.