Libra is a series which provides first impressions of games before their full review. These are generally spoiler free, however, some base plot points – as well as some mechanic/system reveals – could lurk ahead.
It was bound to happen, right? On many game of the year lists for 2015 – for some, one of the greatest of all-time – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was a welcome addition to the Switch RPG library back in late 2019. Dozens of hours of meaningful open-world content, with on-the-go capabilities? “Sign me up,” said every RPG fan ever. The dense, robust nature of this game does come with a caveat, however; the base game alone can easily take upwards to 100 hours to complete, not even counting the substantial expansion packs in the form of Blood and Wine and Hearts of Stone – also included in this Switch version.
Like any reliable reviewer would, it will take quite some time for me to get through The Witcher 3 – for the second time, might I add. For now, here’s my takeaway from the 30 hour journey thus far.
The Witcher 3 follows the adventures of Geralt of Rivia – the legendary monster hunter “Witcher” – as he reunites with his former lover, Yennefer, only to learn that someone dear to them both may be in trouble. While not the most Witcher-centric job at face value, it is of the utmost importance to Geralt not just because of those involved, but also for the disaster that might accompany it.
The Wild Hunt is a worlds-spanning, antagonistic group whose icy touch spells doom for those unfortunate enough to be in their crossfire. The Hunt now pursues Ciri – Geralt’s former pupil and basically goddaughter – for her unique powers, brought about by her rare (and powerful) ancient bloodline. It now falls to Geralt to find Ciri, and put an end to the Wild Hunt’s plans.
The Witcher 3 boasts an enormous amount of content. At almost any time, the player is free to explore the open world, take on a multitude of sub-quests – including formal Witcher (monster slaying) contracts, and otherwise – or follow the lengthy, ever-twisting main story objectives. Geralt will have to make decisions that can forever change the course of history surrounding him, and these are not to be taken lightly.
Available choices on any given quest almost always boil down to one thing: which do YOU consider the “lesser evil”? Geralt will be constantly bombarded by morally-dense decisions that may not feel completely “right,” no matter the choice you make. It is a level of quality choice and consequence that is rarely achieved in any game, let alone one at this scale.
Geralt can be customized through gear – found, purchased, and/or crafted – alchemical concoctions, like Witcher potions and blade oils, and a relatively small (but finely tuned) skill tree. And if you dig the cosmetic side of things, you can also change up Geralt’s hair and beard style, as well as eventually dye your armor. There’s a mind boggling amount of things to see, do, and of course, kill.
Being an “enhanced” monster hunter by trade, Geralt can impressively dispatch even the most fear-mongering of adversaries with relative ease. Through his two swords – one for humans, one for monsters – the magic-based “signs”, bombs, crossbows, and innate “Witcher Senses;” Geralt is able to quickly and efficiently take care of things that would otherwise be impossible for the average adventurer. The combat can be quite entertaining as a result, even after putting 70 hours into the PC version just last year and an additional 30 in the Switch version. In my opinion, combat is at its best when Geralt must deal with multiple adversaries, or a particularly cunning (or dangerous) foe, as he must use both strategy and brawn to bring them down.
With all this in mind, we must also cover the flaws of the Switch version. Performance can be quite rough depending on location and current weather effects, as can textures, dynamically adjusting to “best suit” any scenario. Assets will appear muddy at times, but generally upscale when it matters the most: in cutscenes. I say “usually” because there are a few times where I noticed hair textures popping in and out of existence.
Despite the low quality graphics overall, The Witcher 3 still boasts an impressive draw distance and usage of shadows. I’d even argue that the graphical depth is on par with other versions, albeit at a much lower quality. Even so, I found myself constantly stopping in awe of the game world’s many locations and vistas, just to snap some screenshots. No question – it is impressive to see such a massive game running on the Nintendo Switch, and I can’t wait to see what the upcoming “large patch” will bring to the Switch version – whenever it is released.
But I’m not just hoping for graphical improvements – I REALLY hope it irons out some of the software crashes that myself (and others) have experienced. While I went a solid 20 hours without a single crash, I’ve had at least a half dozen in the following 10 hours – most which have happened in the city of Novigrad. Auto saves somewhat help keep these in check, but they can only be so reliable. This is where the Switch version is at its worst, and I sincerely hope that they resolve some of it with the upcoming patch.
Issues aside, The Witcher 3 remains a must-have for any Nintendo Switch RPG fan – whether you’ve played it already or not. Truthfully, I did not expect it to grab me again, since I just finished the base game last year. But now, I’m having just as much fun as before, repeating quests and discovering new ones, and I’ll eventually have the two expansions worth of content to enjoy on top of it all. Issues or not, this game is an essential part of any RPG fan’s library.
- An enormous amount of quality content.
- Rich lore awaits fans and newcomers alike.
- Geralt, as always, is a badass.
- Combat remains consistently fun, striking a balance of feeling OP (as a witcher should) with moments of intensity (with enemy upscaling + an adequately chosen difficulty level)
- On-the-go capabilities – need I say more?
- Docked framerate is relatively consistent despite other technical issues
- Gwent is basically a game in itself – if you like card games.
- Overall technical/graphical performance is low.
- Overall technical/graphical performance is low.
Be on the lookout in a few years for my complete review of the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Complete Edition!