It’s been four-and-a-bit years since the original release of the incredibly awesome The Witcher III, and yet this game feels every bit as fresh and relevant as it did in a year dominated by man buns and adult colouring books.
Nintendo, and the wonderful folks down at CD Projekt Red, have collaborated on this modern-day port of the 2015 game of the year. We can tell you right now, this game has not been toned down even one single fraction. This is the full blood and bone experience that you would get on any other platform. For those of you who like to play their Switch on public transport, be warned, the full-frontal experience is on display here!
Let’s get the obvious out of the way up front. First, how they didn’t go with The SWitcher for the title, I will honestly never know. The sense of missed opportunity is palpable. Second, congratulations, you’ve just purchased a new MicroSD card. The storage space required to house this bad boy is more than the humble Switch can offer on its own. This game tops out at a whopping 28GB (which also includes the two expansion packs). If you think about it, the same edition of the game on PS4 was around 70GB, so it’s incredibly impressive to think they could even make it work with less than half the storage space. It’s the mini-me of RPGs!
If you’ve never played the game before, boy oh boy are you in for a treat. When it comes to RPGs, The Witcher III really does set a new standard. There’s a deep and interesting world lore, rich character backstory and development, intelligent skill tree and inventory management systems, exciting and technically difficult combat systems – it’s one of the most fully-developed games in recent memory. A further warning here for anyone not quite… of age. This is a game made by adults for adults with plenty of adult content, suggested and otherwise.
There will be inevitable comparisons between this game and its bigger brothers on the other major platforms and the other versions look far prettier and run much smoother, how could they not? To be honest, the conversation is completely pointless. The real question should be whether the game work well enough on the smaller platform and in the handheld format. All of the following commentary considering the look and feel should take that into consideration.
The graphics have been stylised to fit into the Switch format, and it still manages to stay true to the established aesthetic of The Witcher. While the experience is muted when the Switch is in the cradle, the handheld screen is as detailed as you could hope for. It almost looks like an updated version of one of the original Fable titles.
The recommendation here, as with any screen you have in your possession, is to turn off the motion blur function, which tends to distract in some of the more graphically demanding scenes.
It’s a real shame that they chose not to make the most of the touchscreen functionality with this game, because The Witcher III could really use it. All that inventory management and card playing, it seems like this would’ve been an absolute no-brainer. Instead, players are restricted to the standard controls, which is another missed opportunity.
Speaking of which, let’s talk about the real reason we’re all here, Gwent. It’s back, and it makes it as awesome as ever to steal money from peasants in broad daylight in the middle of the street. If you haven’t had the pleasure of playing the king of minigames before, what rock have you been living under? It’s since been released in several iterations as a standalone game and deservedly so. Now you can experience where it all began. What starts out as a small feature quickly becomes an equal partner in the overall experience of The Witcher III. You’ll lose many hours playing cards with shopkeepers, innkeepers, beekeepers and assorted other keepers. Once you get bitten by the Gwent bug, there is no cure.
When considering all that The Witcher III has to offer and the amazing experience that you can have in this world, it seems a shame that the graphics on the Switch, while stylised, might not match up with the demanding standards of modern titles. It truly is impressive to see what they’ve managed to do with the compressed game size, and you can only hope that this sets yet another benchmark for other developers to aspire to. Its good to see one of the best platforms getting a release of one of the best games that you’ll play this side of 2015.