The Witcher 3 Nintendo Switch gameplay preview – how does it compare?

“Is Geralt looking forward to the Nintendo Switch Lite, and what colour would he choose?” That’s the kinds of questions I eventually resorted to when sat in a round table interview with Senior Producer Piotr Chrzanowski. The Witcher 3 is coming to the Nintendo Switch – the Switcher, if you will – but it quickly becomes clear that the only real surprise to be had here is that the port is happening at all and that it manages to run as well as it does.

Is CD Projekt Red working on the port themselves? Nope, they’ve brought Saber Interactive (last seen throwing thousands of zombies at you in World War Z) in to do the port. So it’s really got all of the content in the game with no cuts? Yup, the main game, expansions and all. But how did you fit that on a mere 32GB cartridge when it’s over 60GB on PS4 and Xbox One? Well, you can just not include the highest resolution assets that won’t get used and compress some things like audio quite a bit more.

It quickly becomes clear that the only questions to ask are the silly and preposterous. So sadly we won’t be seeing a Geralt amiibo any time soon, there’s no amiibo functionality from those Nintendo have already released, and no, there’s no bonus cameos or sly nods to the likes of Mario or Link.

But as fruitless as that particular fishing expedition was, that doesn’t make The Witcher 3 on Switch any less remarkable. There’s obviously some clear graphical compromises to get the game to run on the lower powered hardware, but it plays incredibly well despite this.

If you look for it, you can see exactly where those graphical cuts and compromises have been made. The game can look surprisingly good when dealing with close up models and facial animations, but as soon as you look a few metres into the distance you can see the first step down in the level of detail, and again a few meters after that. Grass and foliage in general is noticeably thicker and blotchier, compared to the finer lines and detail that are present on other systems and, indeed, within the rendered cutscenes. Grass also fades in, sprouting out of the ground well within the middle distance as you canter along a road or path on horseback, though trees and bushes fare quite a bit better. Shadowing, ambient occlusion and other post processing effects have also been dialled back down or almost turned off, it seems.

In general, playing the game handheld, it’s clearly not a native 720p – CD Projekt Red have stated that it will be 540p with a dynamic resolution in handheld – and softer through being upscaled to fit the screen. One thing that really helps is that, while the game graphics are on a dynamic resolution, scaling up and down as needs be, the UI is at 720p, adding a layer of crisp detail on top of proceedings. However, what really helps is just how well the game performs at 30fps with few noticeable drops. Even venturing into some notorious performance hotspots from the other versions of the game plays really well.

While there’s comparisons to be made to other ports that have graced the Switch, and the fuzziness of The Witcher 3 on Switch is indeed comparable to Doom and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, it feels much better than those ports. The key difference? Well The Witcher 3 was always a 30fps game, while Doom and Wolfenstein II started at 60fps and had to trade in one of the core pillars of a slick and fast-paced id Software shooter on the way.

Of course, we’ll have to wait until the full game is released – it’s still simply listed as Fall 2019 – before we can make definitive impressions about the game’s performance, but from this showing it feels like a comprehensive and assured port. If you’re thinking of playing it on TV, then you’re most likely going to want to pick up the cheaper, prettier and already available versions that are already out – and honestly, as one of the most critically acclaimed games of this generation, I don’t know what you’re waiting for – but as a handheld game, as a showcase of the kinds of grand games that the Switch can deliver despite its mobile-oriented hardware, this could be almost without compare.

Oh, and though there’s no official declaration, it’s obviously the yellow Switch Lite.

It’ll really bring out Geralt’s eyes.

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