How did CD Projekt Red and Saber Interactive get the gorgeous, resource-hungry role-playing game The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt running on Nintendo’s plucky hybrid handheld? Lots and lots of compromise and a fair amount of blur.
The Witcher 3 is now available for Switch. On the tiny console, the lighting is flat, the textures are rough, and the game looks like it was filmed by a camera with vaseline smeared on the lens. Compared to the PC version running at 1080p on a modestly powerful gaming laptop, the Switch version running at a docked 720p looks downright shabby.
Judged solely as a Switch game " that is to say a resource-intensive PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 game scaled down to run on what's essentially a souped-up Nvidia Tegra Android tablet " The Witcher 3 is actually pretty impressive. God rays from the sky filter through the windblown trees. Shadows dance across the ground. The world feels alive, packed with people, creatures and fauna.
More importantly, the game runs well. Thanks to dynamic resolution scaling, The Witcher 3 on Switch maintains a stable framerate whether I'm engaged in battle, galloping full-tilt through a tempest-tossed forest, or wandering a busy village. The only significant slowdown I've encountered has been during scripted cutscenes, as well as with the odd bit of stutter here and there during lengthy horse riding sessions.
For those excited about taking the epic adventure on the road, The Witcher 3 also performs well in handheld mode. The resolution drops to 540p, but it's not a dramatic shift considering the small size of the Switch screen. Menus scale dynamically, so there's no squinting at small text. The dream of a portable Witcher is real.
If you've played The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt on PC, PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, you'll have to weigh to graphical downgrade against the convenience of having Geralt on-hand at all times. If you've never played The Witcher 3 before then you're in for a treat, no matter the resolution.