The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt Nintendo Switch Review
Admittedly, this is the first Witcher game I have had the absolute pleasure of playing, and I have very quickly come to understand why it is a series that carries so much weight within the epic-fantasy fan realm. The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt was originally released in May of 2015 for PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 and has finally been released for the Nintendo Switch Console. Having to quickly get up to speed, and with countless hours of slaughter behind my belt, I am certain I can now confidently and accurately answer the burning question that many fans are asking: “Is it worth buying again and investing over 400 hours of grind into completing the game and the included DLC bundles?”
If you are also a “first-timer”, let me quickly give you the down low before we explore the fundamentals behind the version released for the Nintendo Switch. If you are not a Witcher newbie, you can skip to the section below titled, “All Hail The Switch”.
The Main Protagonist and cause of “many-a-heart-throb”, Geralt of Rivia has completely evolved from a young brash sword-swinging Witcher (The Witcher 2) to a sort-of father figure (enter Cirilla), hot on the trail of the woman he once loved (Yennefer) after receiving a letter from her calling for an urgent reunion. To find her, both him and Master Vesemir (the head of the Witcher “clan”) will first need to battle Men, Beasts, Spirits and Otherworldly forces in the starting area called White Orchard, all while getting involved in situations that affect the fate of nations. Once cleared, you are found by Yennefer and high-tail it out of White Orchard while being chased down by The Wild Hunt and end up at the Royal Palace in Vizima, where the story really begins to unfold.
Welcome To The World Of The Witcher
While getting used to the mechanics of the game in White Orchard, you will very often be guided by an in-game tutorial system that shows you what to do, how to do it, and why you should do it. One of the most important tips, that I thought I could just “brush off” was the crafting suggestion that encourages you to prepare before taking on main story (or side quest) enemies by brewing potions.
Make no mistake, some battles can be “half-arsed-flailed” successfully, but for the most part, you do need to prepare your arsenal against the magical enemy encounters, because Necrophages come at you in numbers and could catch you outnumbered. To be a true Witcher, you need to very quickly learn how to chain your magical abilities into your physical attack combinations to ultimately gain the upper hand, especially when being “ganked” (ganged up on) by Wraiths, because you have an ability that once cast, forces the Wraiths to materialize and take way more damage when being attacked by Geralt.
As part of the main story, you get to play as Cirilla, who has a fantastic magical dodge ability that counters the fact that she does not utilize the same skills that Geralt possesses, however, I have just digressed by skipping a few chapters. Another important part of the crafting system, is being able to have your own weapons and gear crafted by NPC’s (Non Player Characters) throughout the world, known as “The Continent”. Crafting can be accomplished in three ways, by either collecting materials from creatures and plants you encounter on your travels; by looting random sacks and chests guarded by swarms of enemies or by purchasing them from the vendors in towns or cities.
Invest Time In Your Loadout Master Witcher
Apart from your progression through the story, it is very important to keep an eye on your character development glossary, where you will find your Crafting, Bestiary, Books, Inventory, Quests, Skills and Tutorials Menu (should you forget some of the basic or advanced functions).
Due to the fact that Witcher’s are basically “Paid Magical Mercenaries” (yet also very passionately hated), employed to cut down magical creatures or rid areas of curses (through slaying magical creatures), you need to make sure that your Alchemy is on point, because you also make use of Mutagens to infuse and “mutate” your skills by improving your core abilities by “buffing” traits like Vitality as an example. Mutagens are mainly obtained by killing magical creatures found wandering the open world for Minor Mutagens, but there is the rare occasion that a random enemy will also drop a Minor Mutagen which you then Alchemize into a Major Mutagen to infuse yourself with.
As mentioned above, once your path crosses with Yennefer and you end up at the Royal Palace, you are tasked by Cirilla’s Father, Emhyr (Emperor of Nilfgaard) to track down his daughter, who is the main reason that The Wild Hunt (The Main Antagonists) are out in full force and wreaking havoc across The Continent. At this point, the World Map opens up and you can start to travel the vastly huge semi-sandbox “kingdom”, and this can be done either on Foot, by Horseback (with your “trusty” steed named Roach) or via Fast Travel Points.
In the introduction, I also briefly touched on the Decision Based Outcome System when I said, “getting involved in situations that affect the fate of nations”. What I came to deeply love about the gameplay, was that every part of the game can be played according to personal preference, and your actions or decisions will alter the way the game plays out. In no way does this mean alternate endings “as such”, but in a nutshell, much like “All roads lead to Rome”, you can complete a quest by either choosing to be Aggressive or by showing Mercy/Apathy, which will still reward you with what is required, but it does strongly influence your in-game “reputation”.
Your “reputation” is quite vital, because The Wild Hunt is a very dark game, due to the fact that wherever you find yourself you are reminded of the ongoing war between Empires, where the ordinary folk are suffering brutally and injustice runs rampantly unchallenged, and too often you are tempted to sometimes turn a blind eye. The Decision Based Outcome System gives you a real feeling that what you say and what you do is changing things for the better or even the worse at times, may it simply be clearing a farmstead or a small port of monsters and allowing the locals to get back to their poverty stricken lives without magical hindrances.
All Hail The Switch
This past Saturday, we did a Facebook Livestream that properly showcases the graphics, sound and controls of the game, which you can skim through by [clicking on this text]. In the video showcase, we discussed a lot of the game features, answer many questions posed by viewers and also reveal a lot of unknown facts about The Witcher 3 and the South African influence through Megarom Interactive (we do encourage you to take a peek).
With this being the first Witcher game that I have played, it was important for me to gain a point of reference when drawing an accurate comparison between the original 2015 release on other platforms to motivate why you should potentially re-invest your money and time into getting the Nintendo Switch release. I also needed to see whether starting off the series with the third installment was also possible without me loosing out on too much lore to appreciate it. Needless to say, I managed to watch enough content and read up on enough lore to come to the conclusion that I did not miss any pivotal points that would negatively influence this review.
What I did however realize, is that the scale of The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt was by far a lot larger than I had initially anticipated, and that the requirements to run the game on PC alone required something quite special, which immediately brought about the thought, “How did the developers manage to get such a huge and demanding game to run so well on the Nintendo Switch?”. I then delved into gameplay videos and immediately saw that the graphical differences between the PC and Nintendo Switch version were quite drastic, but that the actual gameplay itself did not suffer the same fate. It goes without saying that the Nintendo Switch does not particularly pack a very “next gen” processor for handling graphics, and past experience with other game ports did expose the Nintendo Switch’s shortcomings, but I am very pleased to go on record and say that The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt runs smoothly on the Mobile Nintendo Console.
Let’s face it, this game is huge, not only in scale, content and graphical glory, but it also holds a very soft spot in the hearts and minds of the fans, which makes a game port of this type a very volatile risk to the developers, publishers and global fans of the franchise. The timing of this release for the Nintendo Switch could also not have been timed more perfectly, because on 20 December 2019, we will see the launch of the official Witcher TV Series on Netflix, and what better way to celebrate the expansion of the franchise by expanding the platforms that you can play the game on.
The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt Complete Edition for the Nintendo Switch, does not only come with the original base game, but also with the DLC Expansions Heart of Stone and Blood and Wine, which kick in once you reach the Velen Region and start your search for Princess Cirilla, but you obviously cannot play them yet due to your level restriction.
The strength of this release lies within it’s portability or mobility, being able to play it whenever and wherever you want. When testing the framerate of the game in the console’s Handheld Mode it achieved an average of 23 frames a second, even in the most pixel populated sections of the game, and in Docked Mode, when playing on a screen and during the livestream, there was not a noticeable change when upscaling to 720 resolution. This very swiftly solidified my opinion, that the only real difference or “compromise” experienced players would need to deal with is the numbed-down textures of the environment and non-essential characters, because Geralt, Yennefer, Cirilla and Vesemir all still look great and the cut-scenes are glorious, meaning that the developers only down-scaled on the rendering of textures, to make the port a rip roaring success.
Quoting Jason Broeders, one of the OG CodeBro readers and community members right after I had finished my livestream, “I know I caught the tail end but good stream bro. Genuinely making me want to rebuy the Witcher for the third time”, and I was even more pleased when he added the last message before we said good night, “I was worried about how it’d run on the switch but it seems they’ve optimized the game well. Peace bro”. If I only had to go by what Jason said, the texture drop is by no means a deal breaker.
The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt Complete Edition is developed and published by CD Projekt and was released for the Nintendo Switch on 15 October 2019. At the time of this review, it is unclear which retailers will be stocking the game, but you could order a physical game cartridge online from Takealot for R989.00, alternatively, if you are a fan of keeping titles in a digital library, the game can be bought from the Nintendo eStore as well. Whether you are a die hard fan of the Witcher series or a newbie like me, there is without a doubt, solid motivation to get your hands on this release if you have the extra money. If you do, I am sure I am not exaggerating when I say, “kiss your social life goodbye”.