The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Complete Edition Review
CD Projekt Red and Saber Interactive have worked some dark magic and potentially signed a deal with the devil to unleash the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt upon the Switch. This is a game that shouldn’t be possible on the Switch, yet here we are. Not only that but it is the full definitive edition, with two sizeable DLC stories on top of a lengthy conclusion to The Witcher trilogy. But just because they’ve made it run on the Switch, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it runs well though, does it? Let’s find out.
The conclusion of the Witcher trilogy is a strange place to start. A lot of names and assumed knowledge will get thrown at you. The game begins with the Witcher, Geralt of Rivia (also Butcher of Blaviken) searching for the sorceress Yennefer. It’s not too long before it’s revealed that the adopted daughter of Geralt and Yennefer, Ciri, has reappeared and supernatural warriors known as the Wild Hunt (hence the title) are in pursuit. In the background the Continent is being ravaged by war and monsters, which means a Witcher’s job is never done. The Witcher’s exist as a group of monster hunters trained from a young age, travelling from town to town looking for bounties so they can get paid. Because of their abilities and appearances they are often feared or reviled by humans. This isn’t a treatment unique to Witchers. There are other beings who inhabit the world such as dwarves and elves, who are often treated as second class citizens compared to humans. While there are plenty of horrible things happening across the Continent, there is hope and Geralt helps when he can if you choose to.
Something the Witcher 3 cannot avoid is that it is the third game at the end of a massive trilogy that spanned nearly a decade. Even going into The Witcher 2 without prior knowledge of the first game feels daunting. It is possible to be able to enjoy this game, there are tutorials to explain all the different systems as well as information about the big players in the story. There is exposition throughout to help give you an idea of what happened.
There is a lot to do in the massive open world of The Witcher and with the Wild Hunt on…well there is a lot for a Witcher to do. If you played The Witcher 2 then you’ll be very familiar with this 3rd person action RPG. As Geralt you need to slash, parry and dodge through bandits and other various creatures that want you dead. It’s often not enough to just hack and slash, so it’s a good thing that Geralt knows several magical ‘signs’ that can help turn the tide of battle. Along with a new crossbow and other tricks of the trade, you have an extensive arsenal to take on whatever the game throws at you.
Life on the Continent is often grim, filled with all kinds of moral quandaries that Geralt must face. In the course of helping others, you must make decisions that can have unexpected consequences, with rarely a clear good and bad option. It is always worth doing a proper investigation into any job, like any Witcher worth their salt would. Then when the time comes you can do your job and bring about the better outcome, and at least pick the lesser of two evils.
Geralt carries two swords on him, silver for monsters and steel for people. The steel blade is pretty straightforward, stick em with the pointy end. When it comes to the variety of creatures big and small sometimes the silver blade will be enough, others require more. You can coat your blade with liquids for various effects, as well as use alchemy to make potions, bombs and runes. The Witcher 3 contains a glossary that will tell you more about the dangerous creatures roaming around, once again doing some investigating is key. On the tougher difficulty settings it is vital to properly prepare to be able to damage some of these creatures. On more story-focused difficulties it’s much more optional.
Being the complete edition there is also the two-story expansions. These are self-contained and can be played separately to your main save file. If you don’t want to wait until Geralt has levelled up enough to take on this content, you can start it with a level 35 Geralt and jump right in. As someone who played the original version on PC as the expansions and updates changed the game, it’s nice to have a version that has everything from the very beginning.
I can’t say enough how wild it is that The Witcher 3 is running on the Switch. One of the main reasons why is the visuals. The Witcher unsurprisingly makes a lot of compromises to get the game running at all. With the Switch docked you’ll be getting 720p and 540p in handheld. Of course this is more noticeable in handheld, everything looks a little blurry or smudgy. Character models in cutscenes and dialogue scenes manage to retain a lot if not all of the details they had in other versions. That’s not to say it goes for all characters, some NPC models can look absolutely horrific if you take the time to see their faces. Pop-in happens constantly. The draw distance is another casualty, along with reduced foliage, shadow effects and I could go on. All this was known already so we’ve been prepared, and people knew what to expect. But for all the visual downgrades it still manages to surprise.
While trees and foliage aren’t as detailed they’re still there, and you’ll constantly see it all moving in the breeze or whipping around in the wild winds. The sky and effects the sun has on it look better than it has any right to be, given everything else going on at the same time. For everything that has been downgraded there are more visuals that impress and help capture the look and feel of The Witcher that everyone else got on other platforms.
One of my concerns was that the text would be difficult to read in the handheld mode, as is often the concern with text-filled games. Personally I didn’t have an issue reading it, but I can understand it might not be the case for everyone. Unfortunately, there isn’t an option to increase the text size if you do struggle with it, but for anyone used to the handheld mode, you’re likely used to this issue.
All the dialogue in The Witcher 3 is spoken. There is a lot of talking going on in this game as well as a lot of music. I was expecting the audio to be compressed to the point of a noticeable drop in quality. Thankfully Doug Cockle’s voice acting for Geralt sounds as good as it ever did, as well as everyone else. The music is impressive, when you get away from the crowds in the towns and cities you can hear how much detail is put into the soundtrack. While I’m sure there had to be a downgrade somewhere, it’s likely not noticeable unless you know what to look for.
Now let’s be honest here, it’s already a miracle that they managed to get The Witcher to work on the Switch in the first place. I remember scoffing at the rumours when it showed up on an online listing, I was gladly wrong. It was hard not to think about how the base models of the other current-gen consoles struggled running this game. The good news is that The Witcher 3 does indeed run on the Switch, it is unmistakably the same game. It’s going to be important to temper expectations, for some the hit in performance may not be acceptable enough. The frame rate is aiming for 30fps, while it can dip lower than that there was never a point where gameplay actually suffered.
I found the frame rate is more noticeable when docked, same as everything else visual when it’s on a big screen. It’s most notable in areas like the city of Novigrad and Crookback Bog, especially when moving the camera. This is hardly a situation unique to this game, the lower resolution and smaller screen in handheld mode does hide the game’s blemishes better. In handheld, the frame rate is noticeable too, although much less egregious.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has set a new benchmark in what you can squeeze out of the Switch. Despite all the compromises that had to be made to ensure the steadiest performance possible, it is still a beautiful game. Being the complete game there is 100-200 hours worth of gameplay to explore, with all the DLC and updates through the games life span all included. This isn’t some compromised, cut down version of the Witcher, you’re getting the whole game and you can play it anywhere you take your Switch.
+ The Witcher 3 is on the Switch
+ Runs better than it has any right to
+ Happens to be a great game with enough story and quests to last well over 100 hours
- Story and lore can be daunting without playing the rest of the series
- Can’t change the size of text