The Switch is a magical device! You can play it at home. You can play it on the go. You can play it in a box. You can play it with a fox. Perhaps even more importantly, you can play pretty much anything on it, since it seems like every game ever seems to have been ported to it. Sometimes these ports are great (DOOM, Wolfenstein), making you wonder what voodoo magic the developers had at their disposal. Other ports…not so much, as is the case with the Switch version of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Complete Edition. Yes, The Witcher 3 is on Switch. No, it’s not especially great.
Before we talk about the Switch version, though, what’s the base game all about? The Witcher 3 follows our hero, the professional monster slayer Geralt of Rivia, on yet another journey. This time he seeks his adopted daughter Ciri, who is being pursued by the wraiths known as the Wild Hunt. As always, the Witcher runs into plenty of adventure along the way and the tale takes a number of twists and turns. There’s monsters to slay, coin to earn and women to bed as awkwardly as only a video game can – it’s all in a day’s work for Geralt.
We can easily compare The Witcher 3 to something like Dragon Age: Inquisition – they’re both open-world action-RPGs with a focus on packing an overwhelming amount of content into the game. Geralt controls much as he always has, so he’s still got that slightly awkward turning radius, though there’s a bit more of a focus on vertical movement this time around. You can jump at will and climb around on cliffs, for instance; it’s worth keeping in mind that Geralt is absolutely brutalized by fall damage so it’s best to be careful. There’s also a horse available for quick travel, as well as mounted combat. The odd quest here and there even allows you to play as Ciri herself, though these segments tend to be fairly short and Ciri is usually fairly overpowered compared to Geralt so they’re over quickly.
Speaking of which, combat is the focus of the game and it plays out in a manner largely similar to the The Witcher 2, though things have been simplified a bit with the removal of traps. Geralt now has a crossbow for long-ranged combat; while the damage on this is abysmal without specialization and crafting, it’s a great tool for bringing flying foes down from the sky and for self-defense during the new underwater segments. The aforementioned mounted combat is a nice addition to the series, though it can be a little awkward to aim your slashes until you’ve gotten the hang of the trajectory of Geralt’s swing.
The usual array of Witcher Sign magic is available as well, as are upgradable forms of the various spells. The usual Igni fireblast can now be converted into a flamethrower, for instance, while Quen can be changed from a personal shield into a defensive bubble that heals Geralt when he’s attacked. Meanwhile, traps might be gone but bombs certainly aren’t, and these tend to be hilariously destructive affairs that reduce foes to chunky salsa.
As we’ve come to expect, Geralt battles both human and monstrous foes, wielding a steel sword for the former and a silver sword for the latter. Battles against larger monsters are easily the highlight of the experience here. These are no joke; it behooves you to read the in-game bestiary and study up on your foes’ weaknesses before going hunting. Fighting creatures like wraiths, griffins and wyverns ends up playing out a bit like the Monster Hunter series, and much as in those games the odds against you aren’t even remotely fair, so preparation and smart play are key to victory. Putting the alchemy and crafting systems to work is a must as well.
There’s an absolutely mind-boggling number of quests available that lead you to these giant monster hunts, as well as plenty of other dark fantasy fare that we’ve come to expect from the series. I’m not even remotely exaggerating here. The first area alone, intended as a sort of introduction to the game, contains at least four or five hours’ worth of things to do – and that area’s simply dwarfed by those that follow. You certainly won’t run out of interesting quest lines to follow, and I rarely ran into anything that felt like a dull “kill ten rats” sort of experience. It’s also interesting that the game’s leveling curve is fairly slow and the upgrade tree is fairly extensive, so you won’t be capping out long before seeing everything there is to see as is the norm for this sort of open-world RPG.
So you’ve got all that, you’ve got the absurdly content-packed DLC and you’ve got it all on Switch. How did that turn out? Poorly! From a technical standpoint, it’s an absolute miracle The Witcher 3 runs on the Switch at all. When it comes to an enjoyable game experience, however, the Switch is largely not up to the task. The framerate chugs, performance is almost universally iffy and heaven forbid you visit more complex areas like the larger cities. If you play in handheld mode the situation becomes even worse.
Even without considering The Witcher 3’s performance on Switch, you’d also have to think about the graphical quality. This is a very, very nice-looking game on other platforms. Compressed down on the Switch, well…it’s passable. If you’ve played the game on other platforms, you’re not going to be impressed, but the fact is that this game probably shouldn’t be running on the Switch in the first place. The fact that it doesn’t look like a Nintendo 64 game (just a PlayStation 2 game) is impressive in itself.
If this is the only option you have for playing The Witcher 3, I suppose you should probably give the Switch version a look. It’s a contemporary classic for a reason, after all. Geralt’s adventures are still worth exploring after all these years, and you’ll get all of them collected here. If, however, you have a PS4, Xbox One or – ideally – a graphically capable gaming PC, then you can safely skip the Switch version of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Complete Edition. The price you pay for portability is just too high.