The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Nintendo Switch Review: Geralt on the Go
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt changed RPGs forever. With questlines that unravel and intersect in memorable ways, characters as interesting and fleshed out as any there have ever been in the medium, and a reactionary world that bends to the player's decisions, The Witcher 3 ended 2015 with more Game of the Year awards than any game that year.
Four years later, it's somehow been ported to the Nintendo Switch. The proposition of Geralt on-the-go was an exciting one from the start. But players were rightly skeptical before it released on the eShop given the ambition of the project and the perceived limits of Nintendo's hybrid console.
Fortunately, there isn't much to worry about in the end. Yes, if you want the very best technical version of The Witcher 3, "The Switcher" isn't it. But to bring one of gaming's greatest and most ambitious games anywhere is a profound promise for the future of gaming and a worthwhile port in its own right.
My earliest impressions of The Witcher 3 on Switch were concerning. I elected to take the optional combat tutorial since it had been three years since I played the game on Xbox. Early on, as Vesemir and I were showing Ciri the way around a simulated battlefield, my game kept jamming up. Vesemir's commands and my actions would de-sync in a way that prevented me from finishing the tutorial. "Uh, oh," I thought.
After a few restarts, I was able to push through, and honestly, that was the last time I felt negatively about The Switcher. For the remainder of my experience, I was nothing short of totally invested. Often, I found myself exhilarated all over again — like it was my first time in this fantastic world. I was playing The Witcher 3 on a handheld, and it was stunning. For all you can rightly say about some noticeable visual downgrades, none of that matters when I can play The Witcher 3 anywhere I go. It's simply too cool to ignore.
Yes, textures look worse on Switch than anywhere else, and in docked mode, these issues are even more apparent. Sure, colors and lighting may not pop as much as they would on a high-end PC or mid-gen consoles like the Xbox One X or PS4 Pro. Heck, I can even clearly see the game doesn't look as good on Switch as it does on base model consoles. But who expected anything but that?
No, if you're playing The Witcher 3 on Switch, it's for one of two reasons: either it's the only platform you have, or it's because the prospect of portable Witcher excites you as it does me. Both of those reasons are totally valid, and you shouldn't feel discouraged from playing it on the new platform. Quite honestly, the tradeoff of visuals for portability is so cool.
It's both a promising vision of gaming's future and a great effort in its own right. Saber Interactive did a standout job getting this to work on the allegedly underpowered Switch, and it consistently boggles my mind with joy as I play it. "This is really working, isn't it," I'd ask myself.
Yes, it really is. I didn't notice any egregious load times, either, and I never again ran into any technical issues across my 30 or so hours with the game.
Outside of the game's technical efforts, the rest of The Witcher 3 still holds up four years on from its original release. It still stands as one of gaming's finest achievements. Questlines are stunningly brought to life, intersected by others in ways you won't see coming, and even the briefer side missions are consistently written so well that they put many other video game stories to shame.
Geralt and the massive cast of characters all beg for further exploration in every dialogue tree, just as its world deserves painstaking inspection. Leaving a dialogue option untouched or a side quest passed over feels blasphemous, because every moment has the potential to be memorable.
Movement controls are still as annoying as they were four years ago, but it's an issue I forgive pretty quickly considering everything else the game does well. There is no waste in The Witcher 3, either. CD Projekt put their hearts into this game in a truly astounding way. I can honestly say that there are few other times I have felt this way in my 25 years of video gaming. Both of its expansion stories feel like proper sequels, too, especially Blood and Wine.
It's simply a joy to play on any platform, but here on Switch, if this is your first playthrough or you're excited to bring Geralt on the train, to the hotel, or even to work — I won't tell — it's absolutely worth it.
- The greatest RPG ever made is now portable
- Everything that was great about it in 2015 remains great today
- Visual downgrades are apparent
- Movement controls are still janky
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt remains one of gaming's most significant achievements in 2019, just as it was in 2015. Playing it on Switch means accepting a visual downgrade, but you probably knew that already. With the tradeoff being the infinitely alluring proposition of playing The Witcher anywhere, it's more than a fair deal. It realizes the full potential of Nintendo Switch.
In years to come, playing the greatest games ever made on a portable device will seem like a foregone conclusion. Still, for now, The Switcher is a monumentally exciting trailblazer, and it forges a path well worth walking whether you've never played it before or are looking to saddle up on Roach once more.
For on The Witcher 3's story, mechanics, and technical achievements, be sure to read our original review of the game as it still holds up today.
[Note: A copy of The Witcher 3 on Nintendo Switch was provided by CD Projekt Red for the purpose of this review.]