Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is not on the Switch. Neither is Watch Dogs Legion. The only one of this fall’s three vast, open-world Ubisoft games to grace the Switch is Immortals: Fenyx Rising. It doesn’t look as good or run as well as it does on Xboxes and PlayStations, of course, but for a Switch game it’s pretty damn impressive.
We’ve been having so much fun with the flood of games on the Nintendo Switch over the past few years that it’s easy to forget that the hardware powering the convertible console/handheld is basically Android phone tech. It’s got that Nvidia Tegra processor, similar to the one used in Nvidia’s Shield streaming box. It’s never going to deliver the same experience as a brand-new console outfitted with the latest AMD tech, like the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S. Hell, it couldn’t keep up with the original PS4 or Xbox One.
Comparing a demanding, open-world game running on the Xbox Series X to the same game running on the Nintendo Switch is not at all fair. The Switch is at a severe disadvantage. That said, Immortals, by virtue of being available for Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony hardware, gives us a feel for just how big a technology gap there is.
The GIFs I am featuring in this article are at 1280 x 720 resolution, aka 720p. That’s because the Switch version runs at 720p. The Xbox Series X screens were captured at 1080p — running in high-resolution mode, which favours graphics to framerate — and then downsampled to 720p for the GIFs.
The most noticeable difference between the two versions, purely going by screenshots, is the lighting. The lighting on the Switch version is harsh and flat. On the Xbox Series X the lighting is more dynamic and subtle. The Switch version looks a bit muddy compared to the Xbox Series X.
The differences are even more apparent when looking at one of the sweeping ancient Greek vistas seen topping many of the Immortals reviews that went live this morning, including our own. The draw distance on the Xbox Series X is much further. The dynamic lighting turns the grass atop the statue Fenyx stands upon a fiery reddish orange. On the Switch version, the grass is straw-coloured.
This all reminds me of the old Nintendo 64 versus PlayStation comparisons. N64 games were infamous for using copious amounts of fog to cover up their low draw distances. The Switch screen sure looks foggy.
That foggy feeling grows when looking at video of the Switch version compared to the PlayStation 5 game. GameXplain compared the two over the weekend, and the Switch version looks all sorts of cloudy:
The video also highlights one of the biggest disadvantages of the Switch version, the framerate. It struggles to maintain 30 frames per second, especially during busy battles in the open-world areas. In self-contained challenge dungeons the performance is more consistent, but there’s a whole lot going on outside to make things chug.
I’m not surprised the Switch version of Immortals: Fenyx Rising doesn’t run or look like the next-gen versions. I’m impressed it exists at all. Imagining all the little tweaks and downgrades the developers had to make to get this vast adventure running on the Switch makes my head spin. It’s definitely no Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but that game was developed by a Nintendo team with intimate knowledge of the hardware, taking all sorts of shortcuts to make the game run smoothly. Immortals: Fenyx Rising feels like it was built for modern consoles and PC and then pared down to make it work on Nintendo’s hardware.
It works rather well, all in all. It’s very playable and quite entertaining. None of the game’s humour was lost on the Switch version, and that’s Immortals’ best feature. Just don’t do like I did and try to go from the Switch to Xbox Series X and then back. That’s just sad.