The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt on Nintendo Switch impressions: Hardly bewitching

The first Witcher game on the Nintendo Switch chugs along the best it can, but this is hardly the optimal way to enjoy this sprawling RPG.

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It may be difficult to believe, but it's been four years since The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt made its debut on consoles and PC. Fans were immediately enamored with the sprawling fantasy adventure as well as the supplementary content that debuted in the form of Hearts of Stone and Blood & Wine later on. It's widely agreed that The Witcher 3 is one of the best RPGs and you should make some time to play.

But one of the things that make The Witcher 3 such a memorable experience is particularly how breathtaking its visuals can be on consoles as well as PC. Graphics hardly make the game, but they do go a long way when it comes to immersion and performance these days. With that said, the Switch version of The Witcher 3, known as The Witcher 3: Complete Edition for Nintendo Switch is a middling edition of the adventure so many gamers swear by.

The hardware runs it, albeit begrudgingly, as the game takes a massive graphical and performance hit in exchange for making it portable. As I've often said, not every single game needs to be on the Switch, and this is one that would have been better served skipping the handheld/console hybrid. Simply put, it's not a game that you should have to "settle" for this version to experience if you truly plan to run through it in its full glory. 

The package is ambitious enough. It packs the 16 free DLC packages previously released for Wild Hunt into one massive collection in addition to the main campaign. It also includes, as previously stated, Hearts of Stone and Blood & Wine. There's an overwhelming amount of things to do in-game that could take you dozens of hours to complete if you planned on going through it all.

It's a massive time investment, and anyone who's played the game on other platforms knows how much you need to be willing to commit if you ever want to finish it. That's part of the reason, most likely, anyone ever found it to be a good idea to pack down for the Switch. People like to chip away at games little by little, and with so much going on in this one, it made sense to offer a way to do just that on the go or in bursts of free time that people often have. It's more convenient, for sure, in many situations. 

That's the thing: convenience. As it turns out, the Switch is hardly a convenient console, especially if you own a primary unit and a Switch Lite. Without a constant internet connection to call home to, you'd be out of luck playing on a secondary console if you decide to play this anywhere but home (like I tried to), and there's really no other point to playing a game like The Witcher on Switch unless you refuse to play it on another platform for some bizarre reason. That's something to consider if you're someone who recently adopted a new console and planned on using one as your "travel" version and one for your "main" Switch. 

Here's the thing, though: The game is playable (just fine, of course). It just looks like it's covered in a dense layer of fog in most areas. The game runs at 540p in handheld mode compared to a docked 720p. When docked, the game is, well, not great. If you're playing on a massive 4K TV like I was, you're going to wonder why you spent more money on this version than the PC version on Steam. There's also a massive amount of lag as a result, which makes the entire package offensively awful for playing at home on the sofa.

With that in mind, the handheld version is likely the way most who pick up the game will play it in - there's absolutely no reason to opt for the Switch version as your home console choice for The Witcher 3 otherwise. Handheld, as I said, is at least playable and looks alright. The text is nicely legible, most textures are crisp, and the character models are acceptable. But none of it is going to win any awards for looking fantastic. Further, it can sometimes feel like moving Geralt through water, especially when locked in combat with multiple enemies.

The idea that it was just okay to play through what should be a game that takes your breath away and makes you think "wow" at several moments was silly to me. Sure, the game was playable and all, but it was doing The Witcher 3 a disservice for those who hadn't been fortunate to already have experienced it.

As such, I'd only really feel great about recommending this version of the game to anyone who either doesn't mind if there's a noticeable graphical or performance hit on Switch, or for anyone who owns a Switch as their primary console (in which case we really need to get you a secondary system.) This is a game that deserves to be experienced the way its creators meant for it to be. If you don't mind cutting corners, then, by all means, have at it.

Senior Editor

Fueled by horror, rainbow-sugar-pixel-rushes, and video games, Brittany is a Senior Editor at Shacknews who thrives on surrealism and ultraviolence. Follow her on Twitter @MolotovCupcake and check out her portfolio for more. Like a fabulous shooter once said, get psyched!

From The Chatty
  • reply
    October 21, 2019 10:00 AM

    Brittany Vincent posted a new article, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt on Nintendo Switch impressions: Hardly bewitching

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      October 21, 2019 10:03 AM

      They need to implement cross saves for your PC, if they did that I would pick it up. Be nice to just go on monster missions as I'm on the go and then load it up from there on PC when I want to do a story mission.

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      October 21, 2019 10:25 AM

      I liked that this review called out the (horrible) visuals. People keep saying it's "impressive" that this game runs at all on a Switch - but why is it that impressive? It's not like the game is that crazy complex or anything, it's just another open world game. If you crank down all the visuals to GTA: San Andreas quality I'm no longer that impressed. There are games on everyone's phones that look massively better than TW3 on Switch.

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        October 21, 2019 10:26 AM

        review impressions

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        October 21, 2019 10:36 AM

        Idk Bout most peoples phones, maybe top end stuff.


        Idk, I thought it looked pretty good.

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        October 21, 2019 10:44 AM

        I've been pretty impressed with the visuals and playability. This is my first real play through on Switch (because I don't have any other console or PC able to run it) and I've been taking tons of screen caps like in BotW. Looks beautiful to me on a hand held. Think it speaks to how great the game is if the lower graphic quality doesn't really effect the enjoyment. Probably the best and nicest looking OW game on Switch besides BotW for me.

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        October 21, 2019 3:27 PM

        It's quite impressive imo, I'm playing both side by side

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        October 21, 2019 3:30 PM

        What's wrong with being impressed with the visuals of a game given the constraints of a platform? If we judged every game's visuals based only on what it could theoretically look like on better hardware, than any game not running on a PC would get marked down for visuals. I'm impressed that they took a game that's as good looking as the Witcher and figured out how to preserve so much of the quality in lighting, facial textures and draw distance, while sacrificing things that were less critical to allow me to still enjoy the feeling of being in an open world.

        And yes, it could probably look as good or better on an iPhone 11, if it was rebuilt from the ground up to use Metal. But I've played GTA San Andreas on my iPhone and it looks a lot better than that.

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      October 21, 2019 2:39 PM

      A non primary switch only needs to connect to the internet when you launch a game, not for the entire time. I have a pixel 3 and setting up a hotspot to connect is trivial. YMMV.

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        October 21, 2019 7:36 PM

        Issue is you shouldn't have to. The convenience and portability aspect is lost if you need to perform extra steps every time.

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      October 21, 2019 2:44 PM

      I’m with Cory on this one: http://www.nintendolife.com/news/2019/10/random_god_of_war_director_praises_witcher_3_on_switch_says_its_some_kind_of_dark_sorcery

      The trade offs are worth it IMO purely for the portability. I play it handheld most of the time and for what they were able to fit on a 32GB cartridge is astounding. Not for everyone though because yeah, if you want the best presentation from a graphics standpoint you would choose the PC.

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        October 21, 2019 8:55 PM

        Yeah, totally. Being able to explore, grab a quest and take out some dens on lunch break is awesome. Graphics are consistent enough to still be really immersive. I think the sound takes over for the graphics as well.

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      October 21, 2019 9:01 PM

      I only wish milleh was still alive to see it :(

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      October 22, 2019 9:35 AM

      Why did you get the digital version!? Being unable to play offline is a restriction you imposed upon yourself, you complain about shooting yourself in the foot in an article about a game that has nothing to do with it

      And even without that, its a 30+ GB game, why would you deliberately burden your storage with that?
      You chose that path yourself

      There is no restriction whatsoever with the physical version, and it being the largest game available in the west, why not get the physical copy?

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